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NMSU’s Studio G helps launch homegrown businesses through community colleges

Entrepreneurial community college students and alumni across the New Mexico State University system are making their mark on their communities with support from Studio G, the student business accelerator at NMSU’s Arrowhead Center.


Teacher standing in classroom
Dona Ana Community College student Jesse Villareal describes his Green Piggie trash grinding device during a student pitch competition in October. Villareal won funding through the competition and has been selected for a semester-long Hunt Startup Sponsorship to continue working on his business idea. (NMSU photo)
Two people holding check
Grants Studio G champion Zac Smith congratulates Dana Eicher, who won $1,000 to support starting up her professional cleaning business during a student business idea pitch competition hosted by Studio G Grants last fall. (NMSU photo)
Man presenting
Studio G Director Kramer Winingham presents a free half-day business accelerator workshop at New Mexico State University Alamogordo. The workshop was offered to the community through the Next Gen Entrepreneurship program at NMSU’s Arrowhead Center. (NMSU photo)

Thanks to a three-year Regional Innovation Strategies i6 Challenge grant Arrowhead received in 2016 from the U.S. Economic Development Administration in the Department of Commerce, the university’s entrepreneurship and innovation hub was able to expand its reach with a program called Next Generation Entrepreneurship, launching Studio G at each of NMSU’s two-year campuses, including Dona Ana Community College, NMSU-Alamogordo, NMSU-Carlsbad and NMSU-Grants.

Since that time, students at these campuses have brought more than 90 new business ventures at different stages to Studio G for support. These Next Gen Studio G sites have also created student contests with cash prizes for the best business idea pitches and hosted free half-day business accelerators open to members of the community.

“Grants is a rural community where bringing in new resources like Studio G can make a big difference,” said Zac Smith, the Studio G champion at the NMSU-Grants campus. “Out of all of the new businesses registered in Grants in 2017, about 25 percent are Studio G clients.”

At a student business idea pitch competition hosted by Studio G Grants last fall, Dana Eicher won $1,000 to support starting up her professional cleaning business.

“This funding from Studio G really helped me by giving me the opportunity to invest in some advertising and equipment for my business,” Eicher said.

Smith said an added benefit for each of the competition’s participants was the opportunity to raise awareness of what they were doing. “All of our competitors walked away from the experience with at least one potential client, too.”

In Alamogordo, Studio G partnered in March with the Small Business Development Center to host a free half-day accelerator. Trish Livingston, director of the center, said the partnership brings a new perspective to the community for those new and existing businesses that her organization supports.

“This seminar really brought it all together and helped them with some valuable insights on the marketing and launch of their new businesses,” she said.

Livingston also served as a judge for the student pitch contest at NMSU-A, and said these types of opportunities are a great way to motivate students and others in the community.
“A lot of people in our community have an idea or a product, but they don’t know where to start,” she said. “Sometimes people just need more guidance and resources. We work closely with Studio G to get them the advising that will help them get started.”

At Dona Ana Community College, the largest of the four community colleges in the NMSU system, more than 56 new businesses have joined Studio G. DACC student Jesse Villareal won funding for his Green Piggie trash grinding device through a student pitch competition in October and has been selected for a semester-long Hunt Startup Sponsorship to continue working on his business idea. The Hunt sponsorships are made possible by a $2.5 million gift from the Hunt Family Foundation to Arrowhead Center in 2017.

“One of the key benefits of bringing students from our community colleges into Studio G is that they can then access many of the programs and resources that Arrowhead Center offers, from our sprint accelerators and startup sponsorships to Aggie I-Corps and Aggie Shark Tank,” said Studio G Director Kramer Winingham. “It opens the door for them to obtain the outside funding and support they need to take their business idea to market at a much faster pace.”

Studio G clients at NMSU’s community colleges have a wide variety of businesses. The nine ventures currently underway at NMSU-Carlsbad include a ballroom dance studio, a construction company, a wedding event center, a juice and smoothie bar, a candy shop, social media company, among others.

“Any type of business can benefit from Studio G,” Winingham said. “We see very high-tech companies with intellectual property that needs to be protected, and we also see service-oriented businesses that have a very specific market in their own communities.”

The success of the new Studio G sites through the U.S. EDA grant has served as a model to expand Studio G to six additional sites outside the NMSU system, thanks to a generous grant from the Daniels Fund. Studio G sites opened this semester at the University of New Mexico’s Anderson School of Business in Albuquerque, Western New Mexico University in Silver City, Eastern New Mexico University in Roswell, New Mexico Tech in Socorro, San Juan College in Farmington, and Santa Fe Community College. Studio G is also available at Navajo Technical University through a grant from the Kellogg Foundation.

For more information about Studio G and how to join, visit arrowheadcenter.nmsu.edu/studiog.