San Juan College Grant Helps Native American Entrepreneurs Develop Business Ideas

FARMINGTON, N.M. — November is Native American Heritage Month, and a grant to a university in New Mexico came at just the right time.

At San Juan College’s Makerspace, the possibilities are endless.

“This is where art meets technology, so we have high-tech machines and low-tech machines,” said Janice Krish, director of the Enterprise Center.

This is a space equipped with the tools to turn ideas into products.

“Our latest and greatest machines print textiles, fabrics, t-shirts and we now have a business of making homegrown garments,” adds Krish.

With the help of the new grant, the academy hopes to increase the number of entrepreneurs who can develop products in the Maker Space.

“Through our partnership with NMSU, we were able to apply for start-up funding. The intent was to assist in the establishment of new businesses in the region,” said Assistant Vice President, Ph.D. Lorenzo Reyes said. “The initial grant is $900,000 and can go up to $1.8 million.”

More specifically, the grant will support three cohorts of 20 Native American entrepreneurs from the Navajo Nation, Jicarilla Apache, Ute Mountain Ute and Southern Ute tribes over the next three years.

“They’ll have ideas, and then they’ll be able to get resources at Makers Space, and then be able to build their products. Then with the help of experts and mentors, they’ll be able to commercialize those products,” Reyes said. “The idea is not only for the development, incubation and growth of small businesses, but also for the creation of new jobs and new jobs for the community.”

As for what ideas were developed.

“One of the things that’s been thought through is that we want to make sure that we provide access to different ideas, different concepts and different types of entrepreneurs,” Reyes added. “It could be pottery, it could be new prototypes for some local industry, like oil and gas, maybe renewable energy, you name it.”

San Juan College plans to begin outreach to Native American rural communities as early as January.

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