RIO COMMUNITIES — Entrepreneurs in Valencia County will soon have another resource to help launch their businesses as the Valencia County Business Incubator prepares for its soft launch this weekend.
One of VCBI’s founders and current interim director, Ben Romero, said the goal of the incubator is to grow new businesses throughout Valencia 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.
The Valencia County Business Incubator 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 the village of 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, and will have its soft opening from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, June 11, at Rio Communities City Hall, 360 Rio Communities Blvd.
“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 is a soft opening, the incubator will begin 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.”
To be a part of the incubator, 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.
“There will be a small cost associated because that’s part of the responsibilities in owning a business,” he said. “It won’t be outrageous.”
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 as a small business owner in the county for more than 25 years, the incubator will be a great resource.
“It would have been great to have some of these resources in my business startup,” Silva said.
According to the National Business Incubation Association, once a company graduates from an incubator, 87 percent of them stay in business for three years. Additionally, 85 percent of incubator graduates locate within a 15 mile radius of the incubator.
NBIA estimates last year, North American incubators assisted more than 27,000 startup companies that provided full-time employment for more than 100,000 workers, and generated revenue of more than $17 billion.
Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.