NM Rainforest University Center Program Launches in January

The new year at UNM main and branches campuses is off to a good start with the launch of a new statewide program that promises to boost entrepreneurial activity in communities across the state.


The NM Rainforest University Center Program is funded by a grant from the federal Economic Development Administration (EDA) and will provide entrepreneurial training and technical assistance to students and community members at all UNM campuses statewide.  UNM is among 58 other University Centers across the nation who support and foster economic transformation of their state and regional economies.


Administered by STC and its partner, the UNM Innovation Academy, dedicated site mentors and staff visited UNM main campus in Albuquerque and branches in Taos, Los Alamos, Valencia and Gallup from January 16-23 to kick-off the program with a series of introductory seminars on program content.


The program is geared toward students (including faculty and staff) and community members with ideas for starting a new business and those with small companies who want to grow their businesses.  The training is based on an e-commerce platform.  The program’s theme, “e-commerce for all,” is an especially appropriate approach for New Mexico with its small population and rural environment.  Today, urban centers are not a requirement for starting a business.  Many businesses don’t necessarily need physical storefronts but they definitely need an online presence.  Being able to sell goods and services from a website is a key element for success.


Program content is twofold: a series of 12 free seminars for students and community members and a for-credit e-commerce course (already taught in the UNM Innovation Academy). The seminars focus on the basics for starting a business, such as how to generate a business idea, how to do market analysis, what is design thinking, and understanding financing—topics that are helpful for any kind of new business owner.  The e-commerce class, “Create. Sell. Bank.,” teaches students how to build an online storefront and drive traffic to it through social media advertising.


Site mentors and other expert instructors present onsite but seminars also are streamed via Zoom for anyone who wants to join from their computer, laptop or phone.  Soon, recorded sessions will be available for those wishing to view at another time.


A certificate program in entrepreneurial capabilities is available to UNM students and community members who complete seven of the 12 seminars through UNM’s Innovation Academy.


The EDA University Center Economic Development Program’s mission is to make University resources available to regions that are under chronic and acute economic distress due to, for example, high unemployment and low-income levels.  The EDA University Center Program encourages creating strong rural-urban linkages and collaborations, especially relevant to New Mexico.


STC CEO and grant PI Lisa Kuuttila sums up what the NM Rainforest University Center program aims to do:  “The goal behind this grant and program is for UNM to have a statewide impact in helping communities create jobs.  What better way to create jobs in your community than to create your own company.”


See also Shaquana Desiderio’s January 21, 2019 article, “Takin’ Care of Business,” from the Gallup Independent E-Edition and the KRSN radio interview with Lisa Kuuttila below.




For information on the February seminar, “How to Generate a Business Idea,” go to https://stc.unm.edu/event/how-to-generate-a-business-idea-nm-rainforest-university-center-seminar/.