LAS CRUCES – There’s something to be said about the loyalty of a good dog. There’s also something to be said about the local small businesses trying to stay loyal to Las Cruces and hunt economic opportunities where possible.
What if local economic developers joined with a Las Cruces company to fetch business for a new doggie smoothie that is healthful? Well, it has come to pass. Bow Wow Blends has joined three other local startups to form the first group to take advantage of CrucesKick.
The Mesilla Valley Economic Development Alliance and the Arrowhead Center at New Mexico State University have launched a new program, CrucesKick, which will foster local businesses as they wind their way through the process of fundraising and marketing to bring their ideas to fruition.
The program, which is unique to the city, draws on the expertise of local business incubators as well as the fundraising and marketing skills of our local economic development community to foster home-grown businesses, said Davin Lopez, executive director of MVEDA.
“We, like many other communities across the country, want to inspire and foster innovation in our back yards,” Lopez said. “As a state and community we have struggled to have the resources that support local innovation, access to capital being one of them.”
To address the hurdles, the CrucesKick program has taken on four local businesses. EcoSeal is marketing an environmentally-friendly, organic pesticide. Roots Leather offers leather gear and outerwear. The New Mexico Shrimp Co. is an aquaculture startup that not only grows shrimp in the desert, but is exploring ways to use the lightly-salinated water to grow crops. And then there’s Bow Wow Blends, which produces a fruit smoothie that is all natural and organic for dogs.
The CrucesKick program will hand-hold these companies through crowdfunding efforts and marketing plans. A portion of the money raised — a “small percent” — will revert to MVEDA and Arrowhead to foster the next group of startups, Lopez said.
“In this program, we are utilizing new resources that are being provided to us through different technology like crowdfunding to help these companies grow,” Lopez said. “The importance, in part, is this relationship with Arrowhead. We can bring our resources, both financial and our networks, to help build campaigns to be more successful than they can be on their own.”
Lopez said the program was unique and, to his knowledge, the first attempt of it’s kind nationally to partner economic development resources and business incubators specifically to foster local small startups.
“This is a new approach at economic development,” Lopez said. “I think what’s important is that we too often try to bring in best practices from other places and this is a program where we are trying to design something unique to our growth needs here.
For Vic Villalobos and Shannon Murray, a husband and wife team that founded Bow Wow Blends out of a need to care for their golden retriever, Ruby, when she developed digestive issues. Now, with the help of CrucesKick, they hope to get expand the states in which they can offer the product, which was developed in cooperation with the New Mexico Department of Agriculture at NMSU and the NMSU Food Science Department.
The urgency to get Ruby in better health came partly from the fact that Villalobos and Ruby work with the Mesilla Valley Search and Rescue, and the pooch — along with her furry companions Star, Scout and Lucy — benefit from the all natural treat.
And, since it is all natural, Villalobos and Murray are exploring the possibility of getting the smoothie certified for human consumption. The puppy-smoothie is bottled in Las Cruces.
All of the four participants in the first round of CrucesKick have benefited from the video production capabilities and the social media marketing skills of NMSU students and faculty.
To check out more about the companies and to explore their crowdfunding efforts, visit http://arrowheadcenter.nmsu.edu/cruceskick.
Jason Gibbs may be reached at 575-541-5451 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @fjgwriter.
Arrowhead Note: CrucesKick is sponsored in part by the U.S. Economic Development Department’s University Center Program