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This week, the Native CDFI Network and Tribal Business News are launching a yearlong podcast series highlighting how Native community development financial institutions (CDFIs) work alongside their small business clients to accelerate change and create economic opportunities in Native communities.

In the absence of traditional banks, Native CDFIs have been critical to driving economic development and access to capital in Native American communities. Today, there are 69 Native CDFIs operating in 27 states throughout Indian Country, according to the Native CDFI Network. 

Hosted by podcaster, journalist and content creator Elyse Wild, the Difference Makers 2.0 series  takes listeners across Indian Country to meet Native CDFI leaders and their small business clients who are making an impact on their Native communities. Native CDFI Network, sponsor of the podcast and a related content series, is co-producing the  digital media project with Tribal Business News Content Studio to raise awareness of the impact Native CDFIs have on Native communities. 

The first episode of the 20-part series features NACDC Financial Services Inc., a Montana-based Native CDFI, and their small business client, Big Sky Cafe, in the small border town of Cut Bank, Mont. Cafe owners and married couple Gary and Sue Raccine (Blackfeet) faced rejection after rejection from banks before connecting with an old friend working as a loan officer for NACDC Financial Services.

"We went to NACDC again to talk to them about it. We didn't talk long when they said, 'We're going to back you,'" Sue said. 

Today, the Big Sky Cafe is one of two sit-down restaurants in Cut Bank and is a gathering place for the community. NACDC Financial Services Executive Director Angie Main underscores the close, mutual partnership between the two.

"They have been committed since day one; they jumped right in," Main said. "We wanted to champion them, and in turn, they always champion us, too. It's a team effort and we are all a part of the team." 

Difference Makers 2.0 debuts Thursday, May 9. Tune in wherever you listen to podcasts and visit Tribal Business News to read along.