New Mexico State University’s student business accelerator, Studio G, is helping a local soccer player and entrepreneur bring opportunity to the Mesilla Valley, both for athletes and fans. Football Club (FC) Grande starts its second season in May 2019, bringing to the area exciting matches for fans and chances for players to explore higher levels of the sport.
The club’s founder, Alexis Ruiz, a business major at NMSU’s Dona Ana Community College campus and lifelong soccer player, came to Studio G to get support in setting up the for-profit football club.
“I love this sport – it’s literally just my whole life,” Ruiz said. “I’ve been wanting ever since I was a kid to go professional. That’s kind of what led to starting the club.”
But Ruiz said he wasn’t sure how to turn his idea for a local team into a reality until one of his DACC instructors recommended he apply to Studio G for support.
“I just didn’t really know how anything in business went – I didn’t know how to start an LLC,” he said. “I was just looking for how to start.”
Studio G provides free entrepreneurial training and support to university students and recent graduates, and offers a full suite of services, including learning opportunities, guidance from Studio G staff members and an affiliated network of business and technical experts, and access to workspace and equipment. Members also gain access to funding opportunities and awards.
Studio G is part of the Arrowhead Center at NMSU, a community of programs designed to support entrepreneurship and innovation in New Mexico and the region. With support from a three-year Regional Innovation Strategies i6 Challenge grant Arrowhead received in 2016 from the U.S. Economic Development Administration in the Department of Commerce, Arrowhead Center expanded Studio G to each of NMSU’s two-year campuses, including DACC, NMSU-Alamogordo, NMSU-Carlsbad and NMSU-Grants. Since then, Studio G has expanded to 14 other sites in New Mexico, including the University of New Mexico and other two- and four-year campuses across the state, with support from the Daniels Fund.
Ruiz said Studio G helped him develop a solid business pitch for the club, which allowed him to secure sponsorships and launch the team last season. The team is sponsored by Caliche’s, Southwest Sport and Spine and eight other local businesses. He said they’re always looking for sponsors to support the team – including those who want to offer donations of services like photography or transportation.
He also tuned into the weekly Networking Hour sessions that Studio G provides for free through its Facebook feed. “When I had a question or needed a better idea on something, I’d look back through those sessions or ask the Studio G team for suggestions.”
Ruiz feels there’s a large pool of talented players in the area who are looking for an opportunity to compete at a higher level, and that’s what FC Grande provides.
One of the team’s players, Moses Rodriguez, has played in the U.S. Development Academy, a top youth development league where many Major League Soccer teams find potential players. Rodriguez, a former Mayfield High School player, won a national championship on that team and a national title with his junior college team. While Rodriguez is probably the team’s most experienced player, Ruiz said there are many players on FC Grande with the drive to keep playing at a competitive level, and the club is always looking to add players.
FC Grande is a member of the United Premier Soccer League, or UPSL. Comprised of more than 300 teams, the UPSL is a fast-growing Pro Development League with Youth Academy, Men’s Masters, and Open Women’s divisions. With a vision of “Connecting American Soccer,” the UPSL seeks to advance the sport and those involved through a professionally managed network providing playing and ownership opportunities.
This year, FC Grande has also added youth teams – three academies for ages 6, 7 and 10.
“These are competitive development teams that could potentially play for us one day,” Ruiz said. “Our goal is to grow as much as possible.”
Studio G Director Kramer Winingham said FC Grande is the first soccer team that the program has advised, but any type of business can benefit from Studio G’s approach to disciplined entrepreneurship and its network of advisors and mentors.
“Alexis joined Studio G and said he wanted to start a soccer team. It was great to help him out and see him put in the work to bring this idea to life,” Winingham said. “Now FC Grande is starting a second season. I’m very excited about Alexis’s vision for soccer in New Mexico – he’s got some great ideas.”
FC Grande competes in the UPSL’s Southwest Conference, which includes teams from El Paso, Midland, Amarillo and Phoenix. Games start May 4 and continue through July at the High Noon Soccer Complex in Las Cruces. General admission tickets are $5, and kids 5 and under get in free. For more information about the club’s schedule, follow FC Grande on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/nmfcg or contact Ruiz at email@example.com.