In 2005 Kelee Fourkiller-Wright and her husband, Kirk Wright, were considering starting a small business.
"My husband and I had talked a lot about starting our own company," Fourkiller-Wright said. "One night after he went to sleep I filled out all the incorporation papers."
The incorporation papers called for her to own 51 percent of the company and for Kirk Wright to own 49 percent.
"The next morning I told him that if he wanted to own 51 percent of the company he should have stayed awake longer," said Fourkiller- Wright, a member of the Cherokee Nation.
Their company, EquaCor Plastics and Packaging, is a Tulsa-based distributor of packaging, food service and janitorial supplies. In late 2008, EquaCor received the Indian Woman Owned Business of the Year award from the Cherokee Nation.
Initially, EquaCor's principal product was custom poly bags.
"Poly bags are what sustained us for the first two and a half years," she said.
That changed after EquaCor received a contract from the Cherokee Nation to provide trash bags for a casino.
"The contract opened a new door for us with janitorial supplies," Fourkiller-Wright said. "It allowed us to order enough volume of janitorial supplies to be more competitive."
EquaCor started offering additional janitorial supplies to an expanding customer base.
"From that contract for the one casino we have been able to offer the same supplies to other casinos and tribal businesses," she said.
EquaCor is a certified as an Indian-owned business by the Tribal Employment Rights Office, known as TERO. TERO maintains a list of Indian-owned businesses used by the Cherokee Nation and its entities and other tribes when letting contracts for bid. Certified companies receive Indian preference in the bid process.
It was Fourkiller-Wright's Indian heritage that led her to Oklahoma to attend the University of Tulsa after graduating from high school in Nashville, Tenn.
"Most of my Indian family lived in Oklahoma," she said. "I felt so far removed from them because of the distance. So I came to Tulsa to go to college."
Her goal was to be a social worker and after graduating from the University of Tulsa she got a job as a child welfare worker with the Cherokee Nation. …