ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Dozens of New Mexico-based Native American businesses are getting a huge boost from a novel program that’s focused exclusively on building tribal entrepreneurship.
New Mexico Community Capital, a nonprofit that started out as a local venture investment fund, has expanded and blossomed into a bustling center in Downtown Albuquerque for existing and aspiring Native American entrepreneurs to get the assistance they need to launch and grow businesses.
Backed by about $5 million in federal funding and grants, the NMCC’s flagship Native Entrepreneur in Residence Program has helped more than two dozen companies since launching in 2014, many of which are now flourishing. The program functions as an incubator and accelerator for tribal enterprises.
“At last count, the 26 companies that have graduated from the program have generated 84 new jobs and over $7 million in gross revenue,” said NMCC Managing Director Peter Holter.
“That includes pre-revenue startups that launched through the program, early-stage businesses looking to grow, and established firms seeking to expand.”
The program provides a culturally appropriate, supportive place for Native American participants to gain confidence, grow and become successful, Holter said. It offers intensive, one-on-one mentorship stretched over six months to dive deep into every aspect of a business.
That includes essential skills of financial and cash management, marketing, sales, production and administration, plus supportive mentoring to manage the unique pressures entrepreneurs face.
It also includes a $12,000 stipend and modern office space for companies that need it. In addition, financing from the federal Community Development Financial Institution allows NMCC to invest up to $150,000 in businesses graduating from its program.
A new, $1.2 million grant from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation in October will also allow NMCC to launch a financial literacy and business basics program in January for Native American parents with young children. And, the program is now supporting a new Native Women Business Summit that held its first conference in October, with another one planned for February.
Program graduates say NMCC provided critical support.
Mahadevi, a combination health beverage business and support network for new mothers, is now expanding its reach online through a new website and email system NMCC helped build, said founder and owner Lisa Foreman, a Shawnee who grew up in Albuquerque.
“The program taught me the nuts and bolts of everything I need to succeed,” Foreman said. “They helped me talk through my ideas, get clear what I actually wanted to do, and then break things down into doable, bite-size pieces.”
Cochiti Pueblo member Phoebe Suina, co-founder and owner of environmental consulting firm High Water Mark LLC, said NMCC helped her create a “growth action plan.”
“I expect to expand from eight employees now to 20 to 30 in the next three to four years,” Suina said. “I can’t say enough about all the knowledge, skills, mentoring and support NMCC has provided.”