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Reporter Charles Michael Ray interviews Mark Tilsen and Karlene Hunter
after they took the call from SVN headquarters

Tanka founders win top award, year of mentorship
from Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry's

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buffaloKyle, S.D., Aug. 10, 2011 -- Karlene Hunter, CEO of Native American Natural Foods, and Mark Tilsen, president, have been named 2011 recipients of the Social Venture Network Innovation Award. They are the first leaders of a Native American company to receive the award.

Established in 2007, the prestigious award recognizes the most promising social ventures and innovative entrepreneurs working to create a more just and sustainable world. The award ceremony will be Oct. 28, in Philadelphia, during the 2011 Social Venture Network Fall Conference.

Deborah Schoenbaum, deputy director of SVN, who delivered the news to the entire staff at Native American Natural Foods via speakerphone, also revealed that Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry's and a SVN lifetime member had personally requested to serve as mentor to Hunter and Tilsen for the next year.

"We are both honored and humbled to have our work recognized by the social entrepreneurs who have pioneered using business as a catalyst for social change," Tilsen said. "As an emerging brand from an isolated Indian reservation, all of us here at Native American Natural Foods view this as an opportunity to increase our triple bottom line. We're looking forward to working with the SVN mentors and its network to become a high-impact brand that has the strength to bring needed change to our community."

According to Karlene Hunter, they were surprised at the news that Ben Cohen had asked to be their mentor.

"This award and Mr. Cohen's mentorship represents a wonderful opportunity for us," she said. "We can't wait to meet him and to personally invite him to the reservation."


Native American Natural Foods, which is based in Kyle, S.D., on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, provides a category of natural healthy products by adding value to traditional Native food products, using modern scientific methods, the least amount of processing, and the lowest-stress animal handling methods possible.

For more information, photos or a full press kit, please call Linda Crider at 214-789-8642 or e-mail Linda at