New Mexico Businesses Start Big with Franchise Ambitions

Olo Yogurt Studio

Olo Yogurt Studio

Multinational franchises like McDonald’s and KFC started small and worked their way up the food chain over decades. That methodical approach to growth seems too slow for the owners of two Albuquerque businesses.

Before Olo Yogurt Studio opened its first store in 2010 and WisePies served its first pizza in 2014, the owners of both ventures planned to become franchises — and to waste no time doing it.

Olo Yogurt opened a second store — a carbon copy of its colorful original — within three years and was strengthening its brand for further expansion. Continue reading

Federal Program Offsets Cost of Solar Power for Belen Pecan Farm

Terry Brunner

By Terry Brunner, New Mexico State Director, USDA Rural Development

Mike and Kathy Mechenbier used to wait until night, when electricity was cheaper, to irrigate their pecan farm near Belen. Now the couple lets the sun create no-cost power to run the pecan farm’s irrigation pumps during the day.

With help from a $107,100 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Energy for America Program, or REAP, the couple installed a 564-panel solar array at the Burris Pecan Farm, which is owned by their Four Daughters Land and Cattle Company.

Because they will receive production credits from Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) for any surplus energy generated by their 147-kilowatt system, the Mechenbiers hope Continue reading

High-Flying Vista Photonics Recognized for Growth Potential

By Kathy Keith, Executive Director, Regional Development Corporation

By Kathy Keith, Executive Director, Regional Development Corporation

Jeffrey and Melissa Pilgrim launched Vista Photonics in 2003 to research how laser-based trace-gas sensors could be developed for a variety of commercial and project-specific uses.

Among other innovations, the company created an instrument that helps farmers plan harvests by measuring how much ethylene gas crops emit to accelerate ripening. But the couple’s favorite brainchild so far is the optical life gas analyzer they developed for the National Aeronautic and Space Administration. The device monitors gas levels on the International Space Station — a function that’s critical to maintaining a balance of oxygen, carbon dioxide, water vapor and ammonia in the craft’s controlled atmosphere. Continue reading

Return on Investment Begins at the Drawing Board

By Finance New Mexico

By Finance New Mexico

Businesses invest lots of human and capital resources into marketing, asset purchases and outreach. Their goal is to generate the best return on every dollar spent, every hour worked and every keystroke made.

Return on investment, or ROI, measures how much money or other tangible benefits the business makes on every investment.

For example, if a business invests in a modern computer system to expand its reach and improve its service to Internet shoppers, the return on investment would measure how many new customers it gained and how much these newcomers spent. Continue reading

Clovis Video Producer Gets Boost With Accion Loan

By Alfonso Ramos, Accion Loan Officer

By Alfonso Ramos, Accion Loan Officer

Randy Johnston needed working capital for his Clovis video production business two years ago and approached his banker for a loan.

Johnston had a decade of experience producing infomercials and videos and doing web design and computer animation through his company, 12th Gate Studios, but he needed a small infusion of cash to meet his ongoing financial obligations so he could pursue opportunities to build the business’s client base.

The bank wasn’t able to accommodate Johnston’s request because he hadn’t been an account holder long enough to qualify. But his loan officer referred Johnston to Accion New Mexico (Accion), a nonprofit community development financial institution that specializes in serving entrepreneurs whose businesses don’t yet qualify for traditional credit — startups, for example — and who seek a “microloan” of as little as a few hundred dollars or a larger loan of up to $750,000. Continue reading

WESST’s Digital Media Studio Drives Economic Innovation, Job Creation

By Julianna Silva, Albuquerque Regional Manager, WESST

By Julianna Silva, Albuquerque Regional Manager, WESST

The Comcast Digital Media Studio at the WESST Enterprise Center is more than the sum of its state-of-the-art parts. Under the direction of managing director Russell Combs, the studio is a hive of business networking and creation.

“We didn’t want this to be just another studio where you can produce a Kickstarter video,” said Combs, who led the Erie Technology Incubator at Gannon University in Erie, Pa., before taking the job at WESST in March 2013. “We want to combine technology and entrepreneurial aspects. And that only happens if we bring together multiple groups, multiple resources and multiple opportunities.”

The studio, which formally opened in October, features video, sound, editing, lighting and streaming equipment that clients can use to produce and distribute multimedia presentations for commercial or educational projects. Continue reading

Bloomfield Businesses See Benefits of Lean Inventory Management

Claudia Serrano

By Claudia Infante, Projects Coordinator, New Mexico Manufacturing Extension Partnership

Irene Salasar of Twin Stars Ltd. and Cari Drake of Air Star Inc. had a business-to-business relationship for years but didn’t meet in person until both attended an October class on inventory control sponsored by the New Mexico Manufacturing Extension Partnership.

Salasar is the warehouse manager at Twin Stars, and Drake owns Air Star with her husband, Kenneth. Both Bloomfield businesses supply parts and services to the oil and gas industry, and both began working with Denise Williams, MEP’s local representative, to improve their inventory management systems.

Interventions began with site visits; separate classroom sessions on lean manufacturing principles helped managers and employees compare the inventory management ideal against their internal procedures. Continue reading

Learning to Negotiate With Suppliers Is a Business Art

By Sandy Nelson, Finance New Mexico team member

By Sandy Nelson, Finance New Mexico team member

Many businesses rely on suppliers or vendors for inventory, raw materials or services, and that makes contract negotiation skills essential to securing the best prices, terms and product quality. Becoming a skillful negotiator requires a business owner to know what his business needs and can do without and what materials costs are common in his industry. It also requires flexibility and a willingness to compromise — qualities that can lead to a sustainable business-to-business relationship.

Price isn’t everything: Sometimes getting the best price for a product requires a business to buy in volume or agree to inconvenient delivery schedules. Sometimes it means getting a product of lower quality. Not all businesses can afford this. Continue reading

New Model for Artists Borrows From Business

By Finance New Mexico

By Finance New Mexico

Making a name in the art world used to mean the artist toiled in obscurity and poverty, dependent on galleries and patrons to exhibit and champion his work. This notion — that artistic creativity and business savvy occupy separate worlds — was reinforced by art schools that taught students how to make art but not how to market or sell it.

An emerging, 21st century approach is that art making is a business and the artist should be at the controls — the chief executive officer of her own production and distribution network. This model borrows many ideas from the business world.

Get serious about sales. Artists should tear down the contrived wall between the creative and the commercial, because distribution of artwork is just as important as production. Continue reading

Small Business Saturday Benefits Local Communities

Rich Williams

By Rich Williams, New Mexico MainStreet Director and Arts & Cultural Districts Program Coordinator

Maria-Alicia Cordova cares about her business and the community it serves. Besides offering manicures, haircuts and other personal-care services at Al’s Styling Salon in Belen, Cordova serves on the board of the Belen MainStreet Partnership — a community effort to improve the appearance and economic vitality of the city’s downtown.

Small Business Saturday — the Saturday after Thanksgiving — draws attention to the important role that Cordova and other independent merchants in New Mexico play in the local, state and national economy.

“Belen has always been good to my business,” Cordova said of the venture her father started 57 years ago. “My father raised our family on salon work.” Continue reading