Lakota business celebrates expansion after success in Old Town | News

Megan Schnitker gets excited when she talks about what it means to her children to own their own business that proudly displays her Lakota heritage.

“They can come here and their mom owns this store,” Schnitker said. “My 9-year-old definitely feels more confident telling people he’s local.

“When she was in kindergarten, she came home super upset that her peers didn’t believe she was real (Native American) because the public schools teach that we’re past tense, that we don’t exist,” she said.

“Now she wears her ribbon to school and 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 at her Lakota Made business since 2019. Schnitker sold all of her products online and at markets until last summer, when she opened a store in the Frost Plaza building in Old Town Mankato.

Greater Mankato Growth is helping celebrate the store’s move a block down, into the building of the former Bent River Outfitters location, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday.

“I think Megan and her family have such a great story to tell that recognizes the tradition of her family and her ancestry,” said Andy Wilke, director of business development and community affairs at Greater Mankato Growth.

“I think it provides important information for our community as well as educational opportunities to recognize the history and past and traditions of the Lakota people in our area.”

While Schnitker expected to remain in the Frost Plaza building for at least five years before expanding, the rapid growth of the business made that impossible.

These “medicinal firsts,” as Schnitker calls them, have proven to resonate with people around the world. Over time, she said, word spread internationally, and she receives customers every week who travel out of state to meet her and see the store for themselves.

“There was a couple that flew in from Alaska,” Schnittker said. “Husband was on a business trip in Florida and she made him stop in Minneapolis to come here. They rented a car and came here for the store, and she was here for half an hour to 45 minutes, asked a bunch of questions and got a bunch of stuff.

With a new baby hanging out behind the counter while Schnitker works, the big move wasn’t easy.

“Having the store was kind of a pipe dream,” Schnittker said. “And now we’ve gone from a tiny little shop to a whole building, which is a lot of stress, but a lot of good stress.”

And she’s not done dreaming yet.

Schnitker plans to add classes and workshops for the fall, teaching people about using local plants and creating their own products. She also has a list of new product ideas she’s shelved until she has room to develop them, one of which is a natural makeup 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 the home of Lakota Made,” Schnitker said.

Schnitker said she liked that the business brought her closer to the area, where she felt she had the opportunity to represent other Native American people 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 acknowledge that the city is on Native land and share its history.

“We don’t have a big indigenous population here, so I’ll do my best to help out and be a voice until I get old and my kids can take over or we grow our population here.”

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