A Focus on Support and Resources for Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders
Two community input sessions were held. The first was hosted at the Santa Fe Public Library – Main Library on July 21, 2022, and the second was hosted at the Santa Fe Public Library – Southside Branch on August 17, 20222. Over 30 participants joined the conversation at each location. While some attended both sessions, about 60 different perspectives are included in the summary report.
The sessions were a collaborative effort between the City of Santa Fe Economic Development Department, the University of New Mexico Anderson School of Management, Santa Fe Innovates, and Creative Santa Fe. I facilitated both sessions, but a significant amount of the time was spent in small collaborative groups with their ideas presented at the end of the time together.
The key objective was to gather input about how to best serve the Santa Fe and Northern New Mexico community with the newly formed UNM Anderson Center for Responsible Entrepreneurship. We focused on current strengths, limitations, and opportunities for our entrepreneurial and business ecosystem, emphasizing what should be done during the next three years.
Summarized Community Input
Outlined below are the summary input results from both groups.
1 – Develop and engage mentors.
- Training should be offered to mentors on how to best guide, challenge, and develop entrepreneurs. Mentors want to learn and grow, just as entrepreneurs do.
- Along with the training, bringing mentors together to develop a sense of community and belonging was also highlighted. Connection points within the mentoring community were viewed as a need and differentiator for our community.
- Another focus area centers on good matching between mentors and entrepreneurs. For example, matching a women entrepreneur with a women mentor can add to the value of the exchange. Another example is the industries in which the entrepreneur and mentor have experience.
2 – Develop entrepreneurs locally, starting in the schools with programs.
- Identifying opportunities to offer entrepreneurial training and motivation in high school specifically. An alternative career path for some high school students may be developing an idea and launching that business after graduation.
- Another potential area is to offer internships for high school students within various businesses and startups. It provides an apprentice-type model for students while offering businesses talent to help with operations, marketing, or other areas.
3 – Highlight and develop funding sources for new ventures.
- Highlight the availability of different funding opportunities for small businesses and startups.
- While New Mexico Angels and other funding sources are increasing, additional funding options must be explored and developed to assist entrepreneurs in seed to early-stage funding (and beyond).
4 – Identify the needs of Santa Fe’s different areas and regions surrounding our city.
- Identify the varied needs that other areas of the city might require—specifically the Southside of Santa Fe, Indigenous, and non-English speaking entrepreneurial community. Translating materials or offering workshops in Spanish should be explored. Consider establishing satellite programs that can be delivered in surrounding areas.
- Related to the different needs of Santa Fe, a strong focus should be placed on “who is here.” Rather than bringing entrepreneurs here, we should focus on developing our local entrepreneurial talent and skills.
- Strong sentiments were shared about supporting the startup/small business community that is already present before building a growth strategy.
5 – Publicize and celebrate success. Build excitement and social engagement.
- Identify the successes from the local area and perhaps create a theme highlighting how Santa Fe Startups are great at X, Y and Z – akin to branding what is happening here.
- Related to this element is identifying what our focus should be. Are there industries or areas of focus that should be developed in the beginning and then added to over time?
- During different times throughout the year, social engagement events should be for networking and strengthening social capital. Pitch events can include voting by the audience, as an example. Gaining community involvement is vital to building momentum and excitement.
6 – Identify and establish an engagement hub to guide new entrepreneurs to relevant support.
- This could be a common gathering place for multiple types of activity (office hours, events, etc.) – ideally, where people could show up to share ideas informally, etc.
- It also could serve as a place to direct individuals to the right resources (e.g, financial resources, service resources – marketing, functional services). Develop a online directory of resources. Longer term, it could be a place for an entrepreneur-in-residency offering, tapping into local entrepreneurs ready to give back or, eventually, entrepreneurs willing to spend 3-4 months supporting Santa Fe entrepreneurs and business leaders.
Overall, the two groups were energized by how we can better support our entrepreneurial ecosystem. As collaborating organizations, the sessions were energizing for us as well. A startup spirit is evident here, and now we need to put an added spark to it.
Based on the information provided, the steering group for the UNM Anderson Center for Responsible Entrepreneurship will thoughtfully craft a path forward for the next three years and continue to engage community members as needed to build a sustainable and equitable future for regional innovation through responsible entrepreneurship.
We are grateful for everyone that joined with their input and ideas. We look forward to further community engagement as the Center comes to life!