Megan Schnitker gets excited when she talks about what it means for her children to own their own business that proudly displays their Lakota heritage.
“They can come here and their mom owns this store,” Schnitker said. “My 9-year-old definitely feels more confident telling people she’s local.
“When she was in kindergarten, she came home very upset that her peers didn’t believe she was real (Native American) because in public schools they teach that we are past tense, that we don’t exist,” she said. said
“Now she wears her ribbon skirt to school and she loves it because people ask her about it and she has the confidence to tell people about it.”
Schnitker has been selling all-natural products, such as teas, toners and acne care products, through her Lakota Made business since 2019. Schnitker sold all of her products online and at vendor markets until last summer, when she opened a store in the Frost Plaza building in Old Town Mankato. .
Greater Mankato Growth is helping to celebrate the store’s move a block down, into the building that formerly housed Bent River Outfitters, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday.
“I think Megan and her family have such a great story to tell that takes into account the traditions of her family and her background,” said Andy Wilke, director of business development and community relations for Greater Mankato Growth.
“I believe it provides important information for our community as well as an educational opportunity to recognize the history, past and traditions of the Lakota people in our area.”
Although Schnitker expected to stay in the Frost Plaza building for at least five years before expanding, the rapid growth of the business made that impossible.
These “first medicines,” as Schnitker calls them, have resonated with people all over the world. Over time, she said, word has spread around the world, and she welcomes customers from out of state every week to meet her and see the store for themselves.
“There was a couple that flew in from Alaska,” Schnitker said. “The man was on a business trip in Florida and she made him stop in Minneapolis to come here. They rented a car and came here to the store and she was there for about half an hour to 45 minutes and asked a bunch of questions and got a bunch of stuff.”
With a new baby hanging out at the counter while Schnitker works, the big move wasn’t easy.
“The store was a dream come true,” Schnitker said. “And now we’ve gone from a little tiny shop to a whole building, which is a lot of stress, but very good stress.”
And she hasn’t finished dreaming yet.
Schnitker plans to add classes and workshops in the fall, teaching people to use local plants and create their own products. She also has a list of ideas for new products she’s shelved until she has the space to develop them, one of which is a natural cosmetics line she hopes to launch this spring.
In the long term, Schnitker hopes to eventually open other locations in Minnesota and possibly in his home state of South Dakota.
“But Mankato will always be home to Lakota Made,” Schnitker said.
Schnitker said she liked that the business brought her closer to an area where she felt she had the opportunity to represent other Native Americans where their voices might not otherwise be heard.
She said she is working with the city of Mankato to write a “land recognition” book to recognize that the city is on Indigenous land and share its history.
“We have a small indigenous population here, so I’ll do my best to help and perform until I’m too old and my kids can take over, or we increase our population.”