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New business offers mobile service to repair vehicles on Navajo Nation
FARMINGTON — Min's Automotive does not operate like a traditional auto repair business because there is no bricks-and-mortar location.
Instead, Timothy Clani Jr., who started the business last year, will consult with a customer over the phone about his or her auto issue, then load his 2011 Nissan Versa with tools and drive to the customer's location to fix the vehicle.
Clani, an automotive technician and Upper Fruitland resident, would like to advance his business by setting up a mobile unit. One way he is moving toward that goal is using $5,000 in startup funding he received this month from the 2017 Innovation Challenge.
The challenge was set up in January by the Native American Business Incubator Network and Catapult Design to identify Native American entrepreneurs with business ideas to improve life in tribal communities.
Clani was among three winners to receive the funding to help his business, and he will receive a year of business counseling, advisement and access to business mentors from the Native American Business Incubator Network.
Clani said his business grew from understanding the importance of reliable transportation on the reservation, especially when the distance between a person's home and work can be an hour of driving.
He also understands the frustration that results when a vehicle breaks down, and there is no repair shop in the community.
Clani said he provides service within 180 miles of Upper Fruitland, but he has traveled as far as Klagetoh and Tuba City, both in Arizona.
"I do a lot of stuff in remote areas. I have to carry binoculars with me to see some of the landmarks," he said.
He said the most distance location he has traveled is to Twentynine Palms, Calif., to repair an engine timing system for a vehicle belonging to a relative of a Farmington resident.
"When you're able to fix a solution to get someone to work, they're very thankful for the services you provide, as well as maintaining integrity and honesty," he said.
Jessica Stago, program manager for the Native American Business Incubator Network, said Clani's goal to fill the void of auto repair shops on the reservation and his dedication to customer service were among the reasons his project was selected for the startup funding.
Stago said Clani's proposal and his presentation to a panel of judges was viewed as one that will continue to make a positive impact in communities on the Navajo Nation.
"His business was about providing a piece of mind," she said.
Clani said his long-term goal is to establish repair shops in tribal communities and hire employees from those areas.
"The way I see it, there's a big amount of talent that's yet to be discovered just because opportunities are not there," he said.
Clani can be reached at 505-444-0269 or Tclani@gmail.com.
Other recipients for the Innovation Challenge were Amber Kanazbah Crotty and Laura Clelland, who each received $5,000, according to a press release from Grand Canyon Trust, which houses the Native American Business Incubator Network.
Crotty, a delegate on the Navajo Nation Council, proposes to develop a model for financial sustainability and a network for farmers growing traditional foods, the release states.
Clelland, a certified orthotics fitter, seeks to provide foot care to Native American diabetic patients to reduce the risk of amputation, according to the release.
Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636.