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Arrowhead Center at NMSU, U.S. Sen. Tom Udall sponsor Women’s Career Success Conference

Arrowhead Center at New Mexico State University and U.S. Sen. Tom Udall sponsored a successful conference last month to foster innovative economic development through entrepreneurship, and empower women as part of the entrepreneurial population.


Photo of woman speaking at a podium next to people seated at a table
Marie Frías Sauter, superintendent of White Sands National Monument, speaks at the Las Cruces Women’s Career Success Conference, sponsored last month by NMSU’s Arrowhead Center. The conference was a full event with more than 100 attendees, presenters and organizers. (Courtesy photo)

The Las Cruces Women’s Career Success Conference took place May 4 with more than 100 attendees, presenters and organizers. There were a limited number of spots available to registrants, and the conference quickly reached capacity. Griselda Martinez, program manager for the NMSU branch of the New Mexico Small Business Assistance (NSMBA) Program, said the involvement of numerous local organizations on the conference planning team was the reason for the event’s overwhelming success and rich content

“Reaching capacity so quickly during registration reflects the strong interest from women in these type of events. The group of leaders behind this conference is committed to continue being a catalyst for other opportunities relevant to women in our region,” Martinez said.

Arrowhead Center’s sponsorship of the conference represented Arrowhead’s mission to foster innovative economic development through entrepreneurship. Its mission also encompasses a focus on empowering women as part of the entrepreneurial population. In the context of the conference, this meant having an overview of credit, available resources in the region, learning from others who were willing to discuss both failures and successes, and an opportunity to meet mentors and engage with a community network.

The first morning session featured Gina Vincent, Community Affairs Specialist for the FDIC-Dallas Region, Rodolfo Acosta-Pérez, director of Family Empowerment at the Community Action Agency of Southern New Mexico, and Manny Morales Jr., regional manager of WESST-Las Cruces. The presenters offered information such as how credit scores are figured and the negative consequences of bad credit, including its links to poverty. They highlighted economic traps such as payday loans with extremely high interest rates. The speakers emphasized the importance of keeping track of all interest rates, minimum payments and balances on credit cards, bills and student loans. One presenter encouraged the audience to think of a financial adviser as a personal trainer.

After a networking break, Udall, along with Kathryn Hansen, director of Arrowhead Center at NMSU, and Alice Loy of Albuquerque-based Creative Startups Accelerator, offered a welcome and keynote address. Udall said the 78 cent to $1 pay disparity between women and men is one reason for events like the Career Success conference, which focused available resources and promote continuous economic growth among women.

Hansen highlighted Arrowhead’s mentorship of women-owned businesses, such as Mercedes Colato’s Roots Leather Company, Nicole Jaynes’ Equus software, Angela Simental’s QE Style app, Brooke Higginbotham’s Abspective Labs and Marina Cardona’s Revolve Cases, and referenced NMSU Regent Jerean Hutchinson’s insightful presentation on her entrepreneurial experience as the co-owner of La Posta, for Arrowhead’s Entrepreneur Encounters speaker series in April.

Loy said her passion is unleashing entrepreneurism in the creative economy. She set out to bust some prevalent myths about entrepreneurs, including one that “entrepreneurs do it alone.” Loy said relationships and teams build businesses, not lone wolf entrepreneurs. She also countered the myth that entrepreneurs are simply in the right place at the right time.

“A lot is luck, but some is betting on knowing the market will follow and timing will catch up,” Loy said.

Loy later told attendees, “If I don’t know how, I’ll learn. Don’t wait for the ‘right moment’ when an opportunity comes along – say ‘yes’ and figure it out. Also, don’t be afraid to find your tribe.”

A three-woman panel of Karen Kendall, owner of Karen’s Animal House Inc., Marian Baca Kotkowski, owner of Omega Trucking, and Marie Frías Sauter, superintendent of White Sands National Monument, spoke about challenges not always having to be perceived as negative. Rather, challenges can be seen as opportunities for change. The panelists said they were not afraid to discuss failures and instead looked at them as learning moments. When asked what they would have done differently in their respective trajectories, the panelists said they would have started earlier, traveled farther while younger and pushed more boundaries sooner.

During lunch, the conference offered a chance to be part of an artistic presentation by Irene Oliver-Lewis, founder and Artistic Producer of the Court Youth Center and Alma d’arte Charter High School, followed by a mindfulness exercise led by Colleen Boyd, owner of Downtown Desert Yoga.

Afternoon sessions included interactive group activities, such as a workshop on creating a powerful mission statement and breakout sessions within two tracks, a Career Track and a Business Track, depending on the individual goals of the women in attendance. Attendees also had the opportunity for resume review and an interview tips session provided by NMSU’s Career Center.

In addition, the conference offered a resource guide with information on small business resources, training opportunities, transportation and childcare resources, and veterans’ assistance.

For more information about the conference, contact Martinez at grismc@ad.nmsu.edu.