News Column

Entrepreneurs Wanted for Santa Fe Accelerator Program

Sept. 10, 2012

Julie Ann Grimm

Entrepreneurs who could use help getting their businesses off the ground are the targets of a new city-funded program aimed at economic development in Santa Fe.

The City Council last month approved an $84,000 contract for a pilot "business accelerator." Organizers hope to first seek applications for what they are calling "The Velocity Project" in early October and plan to kick off the program after the first of the year.

The contract with the city requires the MVM Group to pick at least five entrepreneurs to complete an eight-week course designed to give them mentorship and other resources, but project leader Yasine Armstrong said that depending on the number of applicants and the diversity of business specialties, the actual number of businesses selected for the program could be higher.

"One of the things we need to work on with the accelerator is to make sure that the entrepreneurs that have been successful are available to share their story and how they were successful, with the entrepreneurs who are just starting out or the ones who are in the early stages of building their business," she said. "That peer-to-peer learning means this really is possible -- that people don't have to reinvent the wheel because one of their peers has already figured it out."

Business accelerators are a trend in economic development programs, said Armstrong, and the pilot project here will incorporate ideas from Techstars in Boulder, Colo., and other successful models such as The Idea Village in New Orleans. The focus isn't on turning little companies into big ones, she said, but on making small endeavors work.

"A lot of the entrepreneurship in Santa Fe is kind of the micro-entrepreneurship," she said. "These are smaller companies with two or three or five employees that are doing interesting things and really creating good jobs. They are not necessarily going to grow to be huge companies. They can really have an impact on the economy."

The course will culminate in a demonstration day for participants to appeal to potential investors and to get community exposure.

Armstrong is one of three partners in the MVM Group, a strategic consulting firm that works on business and public policy. The others are Lillian Montoya-Rael and DeAnza Valencia Sapien.

Santa Fe's Economic Development Division spends hundreds of thousands of dollars each year on contracts. Its budget for contracts this fiscal year is about $755,000. The division continues to support the Santa Fe Business Incubator and other projects.

Source: (c)2012 The Santa Fe New Mexican (Santa Fe, N.M.) Distributed by MCT Information Services

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