Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal
With contagion burning through the economy, businesses are turning to 21st century technology to survive, and the University of New Mexico is offering a helping hand.
UNM is launching a crash course online for all existing businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs statewide to learn how to immediately set up a virtual storefront and manage all related activities, from advertising to internet-based payments.
The six-week course, which begins April 6, could help keep revenue flowing during the crisis while providing struggling entrepreneurs, and others who want to boost their income through new entrepreneurial endeavors, with the basic skills needed to take their business online, or expand what they already offer, said Lisa Kuuttila, president and CEO of the Science and Technology Corp., UNM’s tech-transfer office.
“With the coronavirus, businesses need to rely on online ordering and management, whether it’s a restaurant or jewelry makers in Taos or Gallup,” Kuuttila said. “Many of them aren’t set up for it, so we want to reach them immediately.”
STC and UNM’s Innovation Academy are jointly coordinating the program through a five-year, $560,000 Economic Development Administration grant that UNM received in fall 2018. The grant has allowed the Innovation Academy to expand the entrepreneurial learning initiatives it manages at Innovate ABQ’s high-tech development zone Downtown to branch campuses around the state, including UNM sites in Rio Rancho, Taos, Los Alamos, Valencia and Gallup.
Last year, STC and the Academy developed a community-oriented online curriculum to broaden the program’s reach to all businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs statewide through a virtual, full-semester course. A dozen participants are now halfway through the first pilot community class.
But with the coronavirus outbreak, program managers have worked to condense the full-semester course into a six-week class that’s now discounted to just $17 for anyone who signs up.
“It’s a timely, non-credit course that we’ve put totally online,” Kuuttila said. “The content is well developed and includes everything from setting up a storefront to driving traffic to it.”
Participants can complete the course on their own time, watching lectures on video by course instructor Bill Szaroletta, who has built and taught the curriculum since the start of the EDA grant.
“STC and the Innovation Academy asked me to put it online for the semester-long community course now underway, but with the coronavirus, we’ve broken it down into a six-week version to help businesses recover during the crisis,” Szaroletta said. “We’ve built a vibrant online community structure that offers channels for participants to talk with me privately, and with one another.”
Depending on demand, the program can be scaled up to include hundreds of participants, Szaroletta said. To register, visit eventbrite.com and search for “New Mexico Small Business Recovery.”