San Juan College grant to help Native American entrepreneurs develop business ideas

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FARMINGTON, N.M. – November is Native American Heritage Month, and one New Mexico College received a grant that couldn’t have come at a more perfect time.

The possibilities are endless, at the Maker Space in San Juan College.

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

It’s a space equipped with the tools to turn an idea into a product.

“Our latest and greatest machine can do printing of textiles, fabrics, T-shirts and we have one business here now that’s making native inspired apparel,” Krish added.

With the help of a new grant, the college is looking to increase the number of entrepreneurs that can develop their product at the Maker Space.

“In partnership with New Mexico State University we were able to apply for funding for business entrepreneurship. The purpose is to assist building new businesses in the region,” Associate Vice President, Dr. Lorenzo Reyes said. “The initial allocation is $900,000, and it could go up to $1.8 million in funding.”

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

“They will have the idea and then they will be able to have the resources here at the Makers Space, and then be able to build their products. Then with the assistance of experts and mentors be able to commercialize those products,” Reyes said. “The idea is not only for the small businesses to develop and incubate and grow but the opportunity to create new jobs and new employment opportunities for the community.”

And as for what ideas get developed.

“One of the things that was very deliberate is that we want to make sure we provide access to different ideas, different concepts, and different types of entrepreneurs,” Reyes added. “It could be pottery, it could be designing new prototypes on some of the local industries, like oil and gas, maybe renewable energy, you name it.”

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