This Indigenous Mom’s Love for Fashion Led to a Business

Norma Baker-Flying Horse is the founder of Red Berry Woman, a thriving fashion brand. Here's her story and best tips for other entrepreneurs.

Norma Baker-Flying Horse grew up watching her mom be thrifty—and that meant putting her seamstress skills to use by making her children’s clothes. “She was so crafty, creating things, people would want to buy things from her,” recalls Baker-Flying Horse, who comes from the Hidatsa, the Dakota Sioux, and the Assiniboine tribes. Her dad was in the Army and also aimed to pinch every penny, so she remembers seeing her parents collaborating to hustle and pay the bills.

She believes they inspired her own hustle and her ability to use her talent to pay her bills and feed her five children—four of whom her husband brought into their marriage and a son who was born in 2017. “That mentality is the backbone of how I started my business,” says Baker-Flying Horse, who is also expecting a daughter in December. 

One of her talents has always been her eye for fashion. Beginning by choosing the colors and designs of her cultural outfits, she was soon applying the same creativity to contemporary clothing she’d wear to school or various events. “I've always been the type that if I see a garment, I always wanna do something to alter it, or I wanna do something to add to it or to take from it,” says Baker-Flying Horse. “I never imagined it would transition into a full-blown business.”

Baker-Flying Horse also found inspiration from her Native given name: Red Berry Woman. “We believe that our names are spirits,” she explains. “We believe that they really can guide us and they push us towards where we're supposed to be.” So, when she started her eponymous fashion business, Baker-Flying Horse believes she gravitated even further toward her purpose. The brand sells contemporary couture garments inspired by Native American traditional garment styles. “There’s a spiritual aspect to everything that I do,” adds Baker-Flying Horse.

Her desire to create special garments escalated when Baker-Flying Horse was a government staffer for her tribal government. “That was a very demanding job, but it was wonderful to be able to travel and to see my tribe making decisions on behalf of their nation,” she recalls. “And I always felt like being there and then being asked to create things for people to wear, it wasn't just about fashion; it was about the fact that I was able to help them represent who they were.” 

She soon was getting recognized. In 2018, Baker-Flying Horse became the first Indigenous contemporary designer to have a gown worn at the Academy Awards. Then in 2020, after suffering infant loss following the birth of a baby girl with trisomy 18, Baker-Flying Horse opted to leave her government job and dedicate her time to Red Berry Woman.

Her mom, a computer technician, setup her company's website and Baker-Flying Horse leaned on TikTok to see how other creators were starting their businesses. “I've been winging it ever since,” says Baker-Flying Horse, who has showcased her designs all over the world at events like Vancouver Fashion Week and Paris Fashion Week. “I have no book to follow.”

Here are Baker-Flying Horse’s best tips for other parents hoping to follow their passion.

Involve Your Kids

When Baker-Flying Horse’s kids have free time, they come over to help her prepare for fashion shows. Her eldest son “does the heavy lifting at shows,” and her nieces are involved as well. “They've gotten to the point where they'll take turns and travel with me and be my assistant for whatever show I'm doing,” notes the designer. “My daughter was saying the other day, ‘It’s so funny to travel with you now, because when we first traveled, nobody knew us. And now we go places, and you get stopped, and people say, ‘Can I get a picture with you?’ The hard work is paying off, and my kids are getting to see that as well.” 

Baker-Flying Horse believes experiences like these will also help children find their own voices too.

Know That Your Relationship With Money Matters

Reflecting on how you can save—and where you spend—is a key move that she recommends entrepreneurs invest their time and energy into, as it can make the difference between success and failure. In her case, that has meant taking on multiple roles whether it’s working a camera at her launches, photo editing, or running her website. 

“Your relationship with money and how you spend it is such a huge deal,” she notes. “And don't worry about figuring it all out because you figure it out as you go if you have the determination and the desire. Don't wait for anybody to come along and do it for you.”

Seek Advice and Give Back

While watching TikTok for tips on starting a business, she felt it was important to give back to creators who offer advice based on their research. “I would try to send them coffee money if they had a link to a Venmo,” she remembers. After all, their tips saved her hours of research, she says. “I always tell people if you're gonna get information from someone who has worked really hard to research it, try to give a little bit back, however that may be.”

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