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Catalyst Week ignites entrepreneurial engines

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Catalyst Week executive director Nick Williams, left, and Babierge founder Kerri Couillard at the FreeRange co-working space. (Kevin Robinson-Avila/Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Starting Friday, about two dozen startups and entrepreneurs will pull up their sleeves for a collective Catalyst Week workfest to propel their projects forward.

Participants will dive head first into critical, but often neglected tasks that can slow, or even derail projects if left to fester on the back burners. Over two consecutive weekends, they’ll put their nose to the grindstone to tackle and resolve issues, said Nick Williams, executive director of the nonprofit organization Catalyst Week.

“It’s about getting un-stuck,” Williams said. “Participants focus on problems or issues they need to resolve. It can help them break through to free up the creative juices and get things flowing.”

The program, now in its third year, provides experienced mentors to assist participants in achieving their goals, plus networking opportunities, workspace, office resources and classes in everything from legal issues to marketing and accounting.

“We ask participants to set specific, attainable goals and we match them with mentors skilled in the things they’re working on,” Williams said.

For Kerri Couillard, who participated in the program last year, that meant building and launching a scheduling app for the multiple business partners who use her share-based, online baby equipment rental firm Babierge, or baby concierge.

“To scale up my business, I needed to develop the app to allow multiple partners to make reservations at the same time, but I was putting it off,” Couillard said. “By defining and publicly setting my goal with some accountability during Catalyst Week, I was able to get it done.”

With the new app in place, Couillard has rapidly scaled her business, with 45 partners now renting baby equipment through Babierge in 35 metropolitan zones in the U.S. and Canada.

Alfredo Rivera, another participant last year, said he received critical assistance from Peter Rinn, a lawyer and nonprofit management expert who served as a program mentor. Rinn helped Rivera build a workable business model for a new, community-based lending service for Main Street companies. The two are now partnering to launch the service this year.

The program works for both startup entrepreneurs and seasoned businesspeople looking to improve or expand their businesses. Nonprofit professionals can benefit too.

Participants paid for past programs. But this year it’s free, thanks to about $5,000 in cash and in-kind donations from the city and other sponsors. People not interested in the work sessions can pay to just attend classes and workshops at the new FreeRange co-working space at Central and University.

Although the program begins Friday, Catalyst Week actually kicks off Thursday with a presentation and mentoring sessions with national venture investor Paul Singh.

For more information, or to sign up for Catalyst Week, visit catalystweek.org.

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