Central New Mexico Community College student Yolanda Armijo is the first tenant to set up shop at the new CNM Business Incubator, which the college officially opened Thursday at its Montoya branch campus in Albuquerque’s Northeast Heights.
Armijo will pay $80 per month for two workspaces, where she’s launching her new business, Mountain West Homecare, to provide non-medical services to people with disabilities and special needs.
The workspaces include computers and high-speed internet with access to small and large conference areas. Perhaps most important, Armijo can tap into onsite mentoring services, training programs and technical assistance from CNM’s Small Business Development Center, and from other entrepreneurial programs run by the college.
“It’s my first time in an incubator or any business program like this,” Armijo said. “The support services are key. I have real cheerleaders here with a full support team that provides mentoring and encouragement to help me move forward.”
The 1,900-square-foot incubator includes two large rooms with 13 cubicles, potentially enough to house more than a dozen companies with up to seven employees each, said CNM-SBDC Director Tim Harjo. Alternatively, one of the rooms could be occupied by a single company with larger space needs.
The incubator is part of a large, 6,700-square-foot suite that includes the SBDC and CNM’s Suncat Innovation Lab — a collaborative, entrepreneurial networking space set up by CNM’s School of Business and Information Technology, located at the Montoya branch campus.
Immersion in the broader suite offers incubator tenants wrap-around services to start and grow businesses.
“It’s a dedicated place where we can help aspiring entrepreneurs nurture a business idea into something viable,” Harjo said.
The SBDC offers free individual mentoring and technical assistance, plus training programs for businesspeople at all stages of development.
Program directors ramped up the SBDC staff and infrastructure alongside the incubator. SBDC staff increased from one to four, and the program moved into a 1,100-square-foot space next to the incubator, equipped with a full-size classroom to provide training and workshops.
One 767-square-foot space is also available within the broader suite for an existing business that might want to operate at CNM independent of the incubator, said Evelyn Dow, director for CNM Ingenuity, a nonprofit that manages the college’s commercial activities.
Startups can locate in the incubator for up to two years. Rent ranges from $40-$160 per month for businesses renting one or more cubicles, depending on the company’s stage of development. Tenants can apply for scholarships of up to $1,000 to help build their startups, funded by a $25,000 private donation to the CNM Foundation, said Donna Diller, dean of the School of Business and Information Technology.
The college is now reviewing applications from many prospective tenants. It expects three or four more by year-end.