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New Mexico is the Land of Enchantment and Opportunity

New Mexico programs help promote Native American entrepreneurship in the area.

By Teree Caruthers on December 20, 2022

Used by permission from the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES), © 2022
Used by permission from the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES), © 2022

Diversity within technology-based industries gives New Mexico a competitive edge. An impressive roster of universities, business incubators and accelerators, and networking organizations help Native American entrepreneurs grow their careers and businesses in the technology sector — adding to the state’s dynamic workforce and cementing the state’s status as a hub for innovation.

People working together at New Mexico State University in New Mexico.
Courtesy New Mexico State University

Inclusion Leads to Innovation

“Startups are important to the economy at any level as they create new opportunities for the region. Startups bring jobs to the area and new products, as well as boost productivity and competition. Native American startups are unique in their own way; most tend to address specific issues and invest in their own. These types of practices attract others and promote collaboration,” says Brooke Montgomery, program director at New Mexico State University’s Arrowhead Center.

“Diversity is an important aspect of small business because it brings together different cultures, views, systems, experiences and more, which creates the opportunity to develop and share new ideas,” she says. “Diversity in small business ownership also influences the communities in which a company/individual represents, these individuals can lead others by example and provide support for other organizations and startups or for a fellow entrepreneur.”

Montgomery’s department runs the American Indian Business Enterprise (AIBE) at New Mexico State University’s Arrowhead Center. The AIBE works to grow and retain Native American entrepreneurial talent in New Mexico and promote special mobility in the Native community. The AIBE’s business incubator provides free business development resources, such as coaching, funding and technical assistance.

“Our entrepreneurial curriculum is either cloud-based so they can learn at their own pace or live cohorts that span four to five weeks. The classes cover topics such as bookkeeping, financial literacy and customer discovery. We also offer advising and mentorship and serve as a network that fosters collaboration,” says Rachel Livingston, AIBE program specialist.

Participants in Shark Tank competition at New Mexico State University in New Mexico.
Courtesy New Mexico State University

The Right Resources

The AIBE partners with other organizations with similar goals in assisting Native communities — from Native Community Development Financial Institutions to educational and professional development programs. Livingston says Native startups joining AIBE are invited to participate in the opportunities provided by the organization’s partners and are encouraged to take advantage of the Arrowhead Center’s free grant writing assistance.

At Navajo Technical University in Crownpoint, the Navajo Tech Innovation Center hosts a business incubator program that helps students and other tech entrepreneurs get their businesses off the ground. Access to these networks and resources is especially important for Native American entrepreneurs in tech industries, says April Armijo, director of digital media and communications for the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES), an international organization dedicated to advancing Indigenous peoples in STEM.

The AISES STEM and Business program provides opportunities and resources for members who want to use their STEM education and experience to start or expand their businesses.

“The program equips individuals with the skills and knowledge to develop individually owned businesses, help grow tribal enterprises and ultimately support tribal communities as they achieve economic independence and tribal sovereignty,” Armijo says.

Student working on a coding project at in New Mexico State University New Mexico.
Courtesy New Mexico State University

In addition to the organization’s STEM and business program, AISES hosts an annual summit in the spring and a national conference in the fall that provides professional development, business development and networking opportunities. Armijo says AISES membership is also a great way for Native American professionals and entrepreneurs to amplify their visibility and gain recognition among their peers and networks.

“We know that under a successful diverse economy, more people and more communities thrive. Native Americans are one of the most underrepresented groups across the country in almost every industry, institution and economic sector,” she says.

New Mexico has one of the largest populations of Native Americans, well-positioning the state for the opportunity to be one of the most diverse and inclusive economies in the country, Armijo says.

“Native Americans bring a unique strength to businesses, the workplace and the economy through an Indigenous worldview that values sustainability, community and reciprocity, contributing unique approaches to problem-solving and offering valuable diversity of thought,” she says. “All are critical components for innovation and economic development.”

Want to know more?

To learn more about New Mexico, check out the latest edition of New Mexico Economic Development

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