RIO COMMUNITIES — Entrepreneurs in Valencia County will soon have another resource to help launch their businesses as the Valencia County Business Incubator prepared for its soft launch this weekend.
Co-founder and interim director Ben Romero said the goal is to grow new businesses throughout the county.
“Do you have a business idea and you’re motivated to create a business? We’re here to support you and we’re here to guide you,” Romero said. “We’re here to make sure that you’re successful because at the end of the day … we want our entrepreneurs to stay here.”
Spearheaded by the Village of Los Lunas and City of Rio Communities, the incubator is available to anyone in the county. It will be housed at the Rio Communities City Hall complex and use space at the University of New Mexico-Valencia campus’s Workforce Training Center in Los Lunas for client intake meetings.
The concept of a county-wide business incubator surfaced in 2017 and, with the assistance of Incubation Operations, Training and Applications, a USDA-funded feasibility study was completed in early 2018. The study found a small business incubator was feasible in Valencia County, especially in the area of edible products, and indicated the county would eventually need a mixed-use, kitchen incubator.
The VCBI received its 501c3 status from the IRS last year.
“We got very lucky with the city of Rio Communities,” Romero said. “They’ve been very helpful in our mission and helping us get our feet underneath us. They’ve also done tons of working themselves to increase business in Rio Communities.”
While it was a soft opening, the incubator is now accepting clients, Romero said.
“We’ve already had seven local businesses in the last couple weeks reach out who are interested in becoming clients,” he said.
A business incubator is a home for entrepreneurs, Romero said, with staff and experts who provide consulting and mentorship training for new business owners, as well as programs to make sure the fledgling businesses succeed.
“In this first year, we’re looking at 10 to 15 clients, and we will make sure we hold their hand and guide them, but at the end of the day, it’s their business, their ownership,” Romero said. “We’re there to push them and guide them basically.”
Potential clients will pitch their business plan to an admissions committee made up of VCBI board members and community members. Romero said the board isn’t looking for specific types of businesses but rather specific types of people.
“The most valuable thing is they are coachable; they’re willing to learn and they are passionate about what they want to do,” he said. “We love hobbies but we don’t want them to come and think of this as a hobby. It’s a business. We want to increase entrepreneurship.”
Once accepted, clients will be charged a fee, Romero said, but the board hasn’t set it just yet.
Following the guidance of the feasibility study, the incubator will begin small. By 2025, the plan is to grow into a hybrid of mixed-use and kitchen incubator, assisting 30 to 40 clients. The average client will be at the incubator two to four years, Romero said.
Fellow board member and local real estate agent Loedi Silva said the incubator will be a great resource.
“It would have been great to have some of these resources in my business startup,” Silva said.
For more information, visit vcbi.org, or contact Romero by phone or text at 505-514-5555 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.