30 Years of Impact
2019 marked the 30th anniversary of WESST’s impact in NM and we celebrated all year long! Due to the generosity of an anonymous donor, WESST made twelve $1,000 investments in client businesses that recognized the contributions these businesses make in their communities every day. We also highlighted a number of individuals, businesses and organizations that demonstrated a key role in WESST’s growth over the past 30 years in our “30 Faces of WESST” feature.
Many thanks to our 30th Year Anniversary Sponsors: Affordable Solar, Garcia Automotive Group, New Mexico Gas, PNM, Presbyterian, Southwest Capital Bank!
WESST 30th Surprises
To kick off our #WESST30thSurprise we surprised Caterpillar Clubhouse Daycare with $1,000 investment. Silvia Vasquez is a graduate of the IDA program, an active participant in WESST training and has instructed training on how to run a successful daycare at WESST.
Caterpillar Clubhouse Daycare provides a safe environment, where your child will learn through creativity and play. The mission at Caterpillar Clubhouse Daycare is to partner with the family to educate and shape bilingual and caring future leaders.
This month WESST surprised Amy England with Zeniscapes with $1,000 investment. Amy has been attending classes and meeting with WESST-Las Cruces consultants to help her develop her business plan, work on sales projections, product pricing, and marketing.
Zeniscapes are table top Zen gardens that help de-stress and relax you when you need a breather from life. They provide an escape for an instant of contemplation and meditation. They are also used to evoke feelings of tranquility, calmness and peace as wells just a moment of swift and indulging fun!
For March we traveled to Mora, NM to surprise Anita Moss owner of UpCycledFasion.com with $1,000 investment.
Upcycled Fashion, is a line of unique gifts that are made exclusively from repurposed materials. Inventory includes women’s and children’s fashions, home décor, and green arrangements. All of the items are crafted by artisans in rural New Mexico. Customers often wonder if products are really “upcycled” as the attention to detail and quality makes it hard to tell what the item was before it was transformed into the current treasure.
For April we traveled to Roswell, NM to surprise Dora Paz owner of Crossroads Mediation with a $1,000 investment.
Crossroads Mediation Services, LLC facilitates and enables positive and productive communication between parties in a safe and neutral environment while working towards dignified solutions. They also provide a safe haven for children during supervised visitations and safe exchanges, and they provide the highest quality level of service to all their clients.
For May WESST decided to surprise Guadalupe Hernandez of H&C Handyman Cleaning with a $1,000 investment during one of her consulting sessions at the WESST Enterprise Center.
Guadalupe has been a WESST client since 2015, attends regular consulting sessions with WESST staff, participated in the IDA Program, and attended several WESST classes. Those classes include the DreamBuilder Business Plan series, Learn the Language of Your Business Finances series, and the La Escalera forum where participants shared new ideas on how to solve their business problems.
We are half way through our surprises! For June WESST decided to surprise Jennifer and Premal Patel of Hit Fit Club with a $1,000 investment.
The Hit Fit Club turns the fun and excitement of kickboxing and mixed martial arts into a challenging workout that incorporates interval training and the functional movements of mixed martial arts. There is always a coach present to encourage, motivate, and challenge any fitness level. Workouts start approximately every 3 minutes, with the total circuit lasting roughly 30 minutes. They encourage their members to walk in, warm up, and workout – no wait!
WESST Rio Rancho is working with Jennifer and Premal on marketing and promotional ideas, identifying KPIs (key performance indicators) to help track and manage sales results and operational efficiencies, developing a strong value proposition, improving business processes, and human resources.
For July WESST decided to surprise Gail Jenkins of Handigirls Groundskeeping with a $1,000 investment.
Gail’s story is unique but is also similar to the experiences of many WESST clients, especially those in WESST’s financial literacy program, who have hit hard and extremely painful times. Many of them have suffered abuse, emotional distress and are financially ruined. Drugs often play into the situation as well. Then, something inside them is sparked and an interest in life and the promise of a new future makes them want to do more.
Gail showed up at WESST one day not knowing exactly what WESST could do for her, but when she read in a brochure about an IDA program, she felt it might be her next step.
For August WESST decided to surprise Pablo Bolivar and Cristol Alderete of Showtime Auto Detail with a $1,000 investment.
Showtime is an auto detailing shop that provides a complete service car wash to produce a show-quality cleanliness and polish.
Showtime received a small loan from WESST that helped them purchase equipment, revamp their logo and purchase shop shirts. They also participated in the WESST IDA Program where participants complete a ten-week money management course that focuses on budgeting, saving, and credit. With lots of hard work and help from WESST they are now working on their social media marketing.
For September WESST decided to surprise Rosa Galvez and her husband Genaro who own GT Tire Shop with a $1,000 investment. GT Tire Shop was founded in April 2013 in a small rural community with a population of 94. Amid the peaceful plains of McDonald, NM sits an old barn turned into a tire shop with big dreams of growth and renovation. The tire shop serves many who live in the rural area as well as travelers between Ruidoso, NM and Texas. “I am so grateful to WESST for all the help and support over the years. I have learned so much and never thought it would be possible to ever come this far. But with the training at WESST and their continued support with our financials, I know we will successfully continue to grow and be able to expand our business for generations to come.” – Rosa Galvez
For October WESST decided to surprise Laura Martinez with Tinconnection with a $1,000 investment.
Tinsmithing is a time honored work of art created in the 19th century by putting punches and mallets to metal to create both simple and elaborate designs. Each piece is unique and Laura often incorporates her own photography in many of the designs.
Laura has been a WESST client since 2009, has attended consulting sessions with WESST staff, participated in the Enhancing Employability for Women 50+ and Etsy Craft Entrepreneurship programs, and attended several WESST classes. Those classes include QuickBooks, Learn the Language of Your Business Finances series, and LLC Basics in New Mexico.
For our November 30th Surprise, we are featuring Mayte Cardena with Superior Casting Services.
Mayte and her husband, Jacinto, worked steadfastly from their garage for two years to create Superior Casting Services (SCS) – a business that proudly provides top quality jewelry castings.
Immediately after Mayte connected with WESST, she began taking advantage of all the business and professional support that was available to her. She regularly attends workshops, one-on-one consultations and reaches out to other collaborative business entities – many of which are WESST clients she has met over time.
It’s a wrap! For our final surprise, we are featuring Cecilia Portal of Valley Community Interpreters (VCI).
WESST Enterprise Center Incubator Member Valley Community Interpreters (VCI) is a New Mexico based nonprofit organization committed to improve and increase language access by training community/medical qualified interpreters to meet national professional standards.
VCI has been a WESST Enterprise Center Incubator Member since 2018 and has been working with WESST Consultants on HR, Marketing, managing growth, financial literacy, applying for grants, social media, layout and language for her brochures and a complete reconfigure of her website.
30 Faces of WESST
As part of our 30th anniversary, we are highlighting a number of individuals, businesses and organizations that demonstrated a key role in WESST’s growth over the past 30 years in our “30 Faces of WESST” feature.
In late 1988, Joellyn Murphy, Carol Radosevich and Jessica Glicken learned of a new program model for assisting women in New Mexico who wanted to start or grow their own business. By 1989, the Women’s Economic Self-Sufficiency Team was launched with a mission of being a home for entrepreneurs – particularly women, people of color and low-wealth individuals in New Mexico. Murphy was the Senior VP for Regulatory Policy at PNM at the time; Radosevich was the Director of Economic Development at PNM and Glicken became WESST’s first Executive Director.
The inspiration for WESST’s founding began with Murphy. She had met an organizer of a women’s business development program in Minnesota called WEDCO and was so impressed with the program, she raised seed funding for the first six months of WESST’s operating expenses from Meadows Resources which was a subsidiary of PNM in the late 1980’s. “One of the things that struck me about WEDCO,” says Murphy, was that they were serving the whole person; this means teaching a woman how to write a business plan, cope with her family and approach the banker with the confidence they want to see.” Murphy was also motivated by the fact that “economic development seems to be focused on the big catch – 500 jobs, or on high tech. That leaves out a whole lot of folks, women who want to be self-sufficient but may not have grand ideas,” noted Murphy in 1988. Although Murphy relocated to California in 1992, she continues to be a WESST donor and a huge fan of WESST’s ongoing success. Following her tenure with PNM, Murphy started a global energy consulting practice.
Radosevich says she was motivated to be involved in WESST’s founding because there was an unmet need for helping women go through the business planning process. She also notes that at the time, the birth of the women’s business center movement had just gotten underway and the sentiment among the three founders was “If they can do this in Minnesota, we can do it in New Mexico. After serving as an original WESST board member until 1991, Radosevich returned to chair the Board in 2008 during a critical time when WESST was raising money for the construction of the WESST Enterprise Center in downtown Albuquerque. Notes Radosevich, “I can’t help but be proud every time I drive by the WEC; the business training and education WESST provides is so critical and as relevant today as it was 30 years ago – perhaps even more so given the changing competitive landscape.” Following a 42-year career with PNM, Radosevich continues to consult on energy and economic development issues.
Glicken recalls being asked by Murphy and Radosevich to serve as WESST’s first Executive Director. She was intrigued by the idea and thought an organization like WESST could be very useful to New Mexico. For 6 months, she worked on a business plan for WESST which outlined the consulting and training programs WESST planned on offering; the plan also incorporated a volunteer consulting and mentoring program so that experienced entrepreneurs and business professionals could share their expertise with those aspiring to start/grow their own business. The WESST Business Plan authored by Glicken also provided the impetus for WESST’s first $50,000 program investment from the Sisters of Charity which launched the WESST Loan Fund in 1990. Glicken served as the Executive Director until 1991. She has had a long career in organizational development consulting, policy analysis and national security consulting for Sandia labs and the private sector.
In addition to the three WESST founders, WESST’s first Board of Directors included Roberta Cooper Ramo, Ruth Frazier, Debbie Johnson, Ann Silva, Laura Threet and Chuck Wellborn. To our founders and early supporters, THANK YOU for launching an idea that has since impacted the lives of so many New Mexicans!
WESST’s founding in late 1988 was made possible through a $25,000 seed grant from PNM. Since that time, PNM has been a great corporate partner who has supported WESST’s mission in countless ways over the past 30 years. From nominating PNM executives to serve on WESST’s board to providing in-kind office space for 18 years, WESST has been blessed by PNM’s leadership and support. Highlights of PNM’s support include:
- Two of WESST’s three founders were PNM execs (Joellyn Murphy and Carol Radosevich) who were supported in this effort by then CEO Jerry Geist.
- In 1999, PNM made a multi-year commitment to sponsor the annual statewide Entrepreneurial Leadership Awards Program designed to recognize some of New Mexico’s most successful, yet often overlooked women and minority-owned small businesses. Under then CEO Ben Montoya, this innovative awards program continued until 2008.
- When planning for the WESST Enterprise Center commenced in 2004, then CEO Jeff Sterba played a critical role in the Capital Campaign for the building. Sterba met with public and private officials on WESST’s behalf and PNM made the first corporate commitment to the campaign. Carol Radosevich returned to the WESST Board in 2005 and then stepped up as Chair of the Board to help WESST complete its successful $10.0 million campaign.
- In 2012, under the leadership of CEO E, WESST’s Technology Toolkit Initiative was launched with the support of the PNM Job Growth Fund. This continuing program is designed to assist small businesses in New Mexico to incorporate technology tools into their businesses and maximize their online presence in order to facilitate revenue growth and job creation.
- In 2017, PNM made a multi-year commitment to support Power Up Your Biz, a unique program designed to facilitate business growth.
- Through the years, many PNM employees have shared their time and talents by serving on the WESST Board of Directors. In addition to Murphy and Radosevich, these individuals include Chris Olson, Ron Talbot, Judy Zanotti, Barbara Barsky, Rick Brinneman and Shirley Ragin.
“WESST and PNM share a commitment to supporting local small businesses, especially those that reflect and celebrate the wonderful diversity of the people and culture of New Mexico,” says Pat Vincent-Collawn, Chairman, President and CEO of PNM. “From the beginning, WESST has grown and evolved to offer entrepreneurs across the state access to the most current and effective tools and resources, access they might otherwise not have. This helps make our community stronger and more successful. We’re proud to continue to support this important mission.”
In the late 1980’s, Ginny Stanley first became involved with WESST as a volunteer consultant. She can still see the face of a client she worked with as Ginny advised her on pricing and cost accounting. After several hours of working with this single mom who wanted to start a business, Ginny says that the lightbulb finally went on for the client and this was a source of great satisfaction both for the client and for her as a consultant. Shortly thereafter, Stanley took on all of WESST’s bookkeeping work and provided these monthly services pro bono until the mid-1990s. This in-kind support was of tremendous help to WESST in its early years when it didn’t have a budget for financial services.
A CPA for over 30 years, Stanley ran her own practice in the 1990’s and for the past 19 years, she led the Wealth Management Division of REDW Financial and Business Consultants. Along the way, she served on the Board and several committees of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and as the President of the New Mexico Society of CPAs. In the fall of 2018, she left REDW to pursue her own full-time business – Family Mediation and Peace Making Center, LLC (gstanley@fmpmc) which provides mediation services for divorcing couples, trustee and conservatorship services. Something Stanley loves about her current work is the opportunity to help people during one of the most difficult periods of their lives and of course, “the hug at the end” when clients have concluded a successful negotiation.
Stanley is a passionate supporter of WESST and was a Founding Circle Member of WESST Visionaries. “WESST fills such a critical role for small businesses throughout New Mexico. I’ve always been so impressed by the passion of its leadership, staff and volunteers and the impact WESST is making in terms of new business startups, job creation and access to resources, says Stanley.
She’s bullish on the future of WESST and believes WESST will continue to maintain and attract strong leadership that will help WESST move to the next level of development and remain an integral part of the New Mexico small business landscape for decades to come.
Kim Blueher came to WESST 29 years ago when Jessica Glicken appeared at her desk and asked if she wanted to start and run a microloan program at the then nascent non-profit called WESST. Kim immediately said yes, and has been an integral member of the WESST staff ever since.
Kim has always been passionate about lending, and she was especially excited to direct her energy towards a lending program that provided funding to women who might not otherwise have access to loans. This was a unique and cutting-edge program, with few other organizations providing lending of this kind at the time. Kim felt lucky to work in an environment that made the client’s best interest the priority.
As the program grew, Kim found her skills growing as well. She honed her ability to teach financial literacy, answer client questions, and provide critical consultations, helping clients meet with greater success as a result. She felt she was really making a difference in the lives of the small-business owners who came to WESST. Along the way, WESST also received its CDFI certification from the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
One of her favorite examples of the difference that a loan can make is the story of Vapour Organic Beauty. When Krysia Boinis came to WESST, she couldn’t get a regular bank loan due to her financial situation. She had private label orders with a large company for her new beauty line and needed financial support to make it happen. Kim found creative ways to make the loan work for Krysia and for WESST. Today Vapour Organic Beauty is an internationally successful brand.
Over the years, the loan program at WESST has grown in capacity and in the type of clients that come seeking funding. Kim says that with the growth, the guiding principles of the program have stayed the same. She and her department are always considering how best to serve the client and are always looking for creative solutions to the funding needs of New Mexico small businesses. Under Kim’s leadership, the WESST Loan Fund has extended 877 totaling $8,910,785; 58% these loans have gone to women, 47% to people of color and 41% to low-wealth individuals.
Kathy McCormick volunteered for the WESST Loan Fund Committee while working at the NM Economic Development Department in the 1990s. Given that her professional efforts focused on creating jobs primarily in rural communities, she thought WESST’s mission fit nicely with her day job. McCormick has served as Chair of the WESST Loan Fund Committee for over 20 years and she stays involved because she’s proud to be associated with WESST staff and other Loan Fund Committee members. She also enjoys supporting entrepreneurs and is amazed at the variety of businesses they create.
The WESST Loan Fund Committee has approved over 900 loans since inception and as McCormick points out, all of the applicants have been risk takers, willing to start or expand a business and worthy of admiration. A few that she remembers well include the single mother from a Sikh community in northern New Mexico who had a herd of goats and sold goat milk primarily to local restaurants. Another one was with two young men from Albuquerque, including a youth pastor, who designed and operated a haunted house at Halloween. Then there was the young man from the Middle East whose father had been killed. His mother wanted a better life for him and allowed him to immigrate with the help of a local Catholic charity. His sponsor cosigned on a WESST loan to support the young man’s purchase of a gas station/convenience store. McCormick found him to be an inspiration.
Serving on the Loan Fund Committee is a challenge. Applicants appear before the Loan Fund Committee in person, and members of the Committee must consider whether or not the loan can be repaid. Committee members are also able to take some risks, however. Kathy is, more often than not, proud of the risks the committee takes on behalf of applicants.
WESST gives entrepreneurs a fighting chance at success by providing technical assistance and access to financing. Most of the loans considered by the Loan Fund Committee can’t be financed conventionally, often because the business is a start-up or doesn’t qualify for a bank loan if an existing business.
McCormick envisions that WESST will “keep on keeping on” in the years to come. There will always be those with an entrepreneurial spirit. And there will always be entrepreneurs in need of the hands-on support provided by WESST. She is now retired and caring for a family member, traveling and giving back to her community by serving on two non-profit Boards. She continues to serve on the WESST Loan Fund Committee as part of her ongoing contribution to the Albuquerque community.
Since the early 1990’s, Wells Fargo has provided ongoing support to WESST’s training, consulting and access to capital programs for New Mexico entrepreneurs. The Bank recognizes WESST as an important business resource throughout the state and believes WESST’s work has improved the lives of small business owners and families.
Specific initiatives supported by Wells include:
- From 2003-2018, Wells Fargo was the Bank partner on WESST’s Individual Development Account (IDA) Program. In this capacity, the Bank provided service-free savings accounts for all IDA participants. During this period, over 500 low-wealth individuals were able to meet their individual savings goal and with matching funds from WESST, were able to use their savings for small business development, higher education or a down payment on a first home. Wells has also provided grant funding to support WESST’s financial literacy training initiatives.
- The Bank has been a major supporter of WESST’s Technology Toolkit Program which is designed to help small business owners incorporate technology tools into their businesses.
- Wells was a major private contributor to the capital campaign for the WESST Enterprise Center which is celebrating its 10th Anniversary in 2019.
- The Bank has also shared their talent with WESST with several Wells employees serving on the WESST Board over the years. These include Sharen Ramirez, Ryan Parker and Joe Trimble.
- Pat Nie and the late Jennifer Riordan have been invaluable resources as well – lending their time and talents to addressing ways and means to better serve New Mexican entrepreneurs. Pat is particularly complimentary of “WESST’s great staff.” Says Nie, “WESST has shown how committed they are to the small business community in New Mexico; the collaboration and innovativeness WESST has exhibited will continue to make WESST a leading CDFI for New Mexico.”
WESST has been blessed by its long-standing partnership with Wells Fargo. From the Bank’s perspective, “We consider it an honor at Wells Fargo to partner with WESST for the crucial work they do to increase financial awareness and support our small business owners. We are a stronger community because of the efforts of WESST! “ said David Hockmuth, Wells Fargo Region Bank President for New Mexico.
Joanie Griffin was one of the first women to benefit from WESST services in the early 1990s. At the time, she had started her own firm – Griffin and Associates — to provide marketing, advertising and public relations services. She was a “one woman executive suite” and struggled with the question of whether she should remain a solopreneur or proceed down a growth path. She came to WESST and through a series of consultations and coaching sessions, Griffin decided to grow her firm. She credits WESST with giving her the confidence to go forward and soon after she hired her first employee.
Over the next 25 years, Griffin built her firm steadily into one of New Mexico’s premier marketing and public relations firms. The company has served over 500 private and governmental agencies in the Southwest with a staff committed to creating, learning and always having fun. In the fall of 2018, Griffin and Associates merged with a former competitor based in Santa Fe and created a new company called sunny505. The new company boasts a staff of 14 and has an expanded footprint with offices now in Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Las Cruces, Durango and Pensacola, Florida.
Griffin’s energy for her business is matched by her commitment to giving back. She is a long-time WESST donor, a Founding member of WESST Visionaries and an annual sponsor of Silver Soiree. In addition to financial support, her company has provided significant in-kind support over the years, including the design and production of many of WESST’s annual reports. The company also raises money annually on behalf of the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation via an annual bike ride and supports numerous non-profit missions such as Go Red for Women, the New Mexico Jazz Workshop, Fathers Building Futures, among many others. Griffin’s philanthropic commitments were recognized this past fall when the company was awarded AFP’s Outstanding Corporation in New Mexico Philanthropy Award.
When asked why she continues to support WESST, Griffin notes, “I wouldn’t be where I am today without WESST. My responsibility is to give back and hopefully make a difference for other business owners who follow in my footsteps.” She has been excited to witness WESST’s growth over the past 30 years and envisions that WESST will continue to be New Mexico’s premier organization for supporting small businesses in New Mexico. She’s bullish on New Mexico’s economic future and is grateful WESST will be there to help start and grow the state’s small business stars of tomorrow.
US Small Business Administration
Office of Women’s Business Ownership
One of the most important pieces of legislation for women-owned businesses was the passage of the Women’s Business Ownership Act of 1988. In addition to creating the National Women’s Business Council, the Act also created a Demonstration Program for Women’s Business Centers (WBCs) as a response to women’s organizations that presented evidence to Congress that women face discrimination in starting and running small businesses. A leveraged federal investment in women’s economic development, the WBC Program quickly demonstrated its value and has enjoyed consistent, wide-spread, bi-partisan support from Congress over the years. The WBC Program was made a permanent SBA program with the passage of the WBC Sustainability Act of 1999.
WESST was among the first organizations in the country to receive federal funding to support the establishment of a Women’s Business Center in Albuquerque in 1989. Subsequently, 5 additional WBCs were funded in New Mexico, including Santa Fe, Roswell, Las Cruces, Farmington and Rio Rancho. The program is housed in the SBA’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership, the only federal program specifically targeted to women business owners.
As a long-time partner, the WBC program has enabled WESST to bring federal dollars into the state every year which has in turn supported the comprehensive business support services WESST provides to women throughout New Mexico. Our sincere thanks to all of our wonderful partners at OWBO!
SBA’s Microloan Program
In 1993, the SBA started a Microloan Demonstration Program in response to the significant gaps in capital access for diverse and underserved entrepreneurs. WESST’s application to participate in this new SBA program was accepted and we’ve been an active SBA Microloan lender ever since. Under the guidelines of the program, WESST borrows money from the SBA to relend to small businesses in New Mexico. The borrowed capital is accompanied by a technical assistance grant to WESST that supports our capacity building technical assistance to borrowers before and after a loan is extended. Over the past 25 years, WESST has borrowed and repaid millions of dollars to the SBA. On behalf of WESST Microloan borrowers, thanks to the SBA Microloan Program for helping WESST make affordable capital available to New Mexico’s Small Businesses.
SBA District Office
WESST’s participation in the WBC and Microloan Programs wouldn’t be possible were it not for our great, on-the-ground relationship with the SBA’s District Office for New Mexico located in downtown Albuquerque. Over the past 30 years, District Office and WESST staff have forged a close working relationship which includes cross-promotion of products and services available to small businesses throughout the state. In the past 5 years, the WESST Enterprise Center has frequently hosted the SBA’s Emerging Leaders Program which is designed to accelerate the growth of mid-size companies. WESST has had the pleasure of working with some wonderful SBA staff over the years including Susan Chavez and Marta Nesbitt during our first 15 years and with the current District Office staff which includes John Garcia, Ivan Corrales, Alice Mora, Shelly Brown, Mary Drobot and Josh Baca. Thanks to you all!
Seton Enablement Fund
Long before the alternative loan fund movement took hold in the United States, the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati were among the early pioneers who supported non-profit organizations who wanted to make loans to those who could not access capital elsewhere. Founded in 1809, this women’s religious group exists to carry out the Gospel of Jesus through service and prayer in the world. Currently, there are 275 members of the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati who serve in 20 dioceses and two foreign countries, including dioceses in Las Cruces and Santa Fe, New Mexico.
In 1989, WESST’s founders contacted the Seton Fund to inquire about support for launching a WESST Loan Fund in New Mexico. Using WESST’s business plan as security, the Seton Fund agreed to lend WESST $50,000 for five years for this purpose. The Seton loan was extended for an additional 2 terms and repaid in November, 2009. Over the years, WESST took great delight in sending periodic reports to the Fund about the level of loan activity and about the lives of women who had been forever changed because they could access capital for their business.
A special thanks to Sr. Mary Assunta Stang, Sr. Barbara Muth and Sr. Martha Walsh who served as Seton Fund Directors over WESST’s 15-year relationship with the Fund. “I never hesitate to share this story about how WESST’s Loan Fund got started,” says WESST President Agnes Noonan. “The fact is that women’s religious groups around the world have always been committed to social justice and standing in solidarity with people living in poverty. It is so fitting that WESST’s Loan Fund began with the Seton Fund’s belief that WESST could make a difference for women in New Mexico. We will forever be grateful to them.”
WESST is so grateful for the many individuals who have served on its Board of Directors during the past 30 years. Their advice, counsel, financial support and fiscal oversight have been instrumental in WESST’s ongoing growth and development. This month, we acknowledge the 4 individuals who each served for a total of 12 years on the WESST Board. Our sincere thanks and appreciation for these Board veterans.
A native of Albuquerque and the spouse of a small business owner, Mike Bickel has always been a champion for small business. He views small businesses as the life blood of our New Mexico economy and their success is essential to the growth and development of our state and its citizens.
With extensive experience in banking in Albuquerque, Bickel has a passion for knowing and working with small business owners. Joining WESST’s Board in 2007 was just another way to fulfill his goal of heling small business start and grow.
He had he privilege of Chairing the Board in 2009, the same year that the WESST Enterprise Center opened for business. During his 12 years on the Board, he served on the WESST Executive, Governance and Finance Committees. Following the end of his board term at the end of 2018, he continues to serve on WESST’s Finance Committee.
A long-time WESST donor, Bickel appreciates the comprehensive programming WESST offers to its clients throughout the state. He’s particularly impressed with WESST holist approach to helping small business through training and consulting that helps these business owners truly understand the financial side of their business. But the real key to WESST’s success are the staff. Mike feels grateful to be small part of this dedicated and inspiring team. “Teaching entrepreneurs about cash flow and break-even and helping them to pay constant attention to the financial side of their business is so very important,” says Bickel. “The WESST staff helps build these critical skills in these New Mexican entrepreneurs, providing them with the tools that are critical to their growth and success.”
In his current role as Senior Vice President for Bank of Albuquerque, Bickel is bullish on WESST’s evolution over the next 30 years. “There is a greater need for WESST today as our economy becomes more complex, competitive and global. I see WESST adapting to and staying current with these changes allowing them continue delivering relevant business assistance to New Mexican small businesses.”
Sharen Ramirez became a commercial lender because she wanted to help others, and she saw the impact that loans can have on people’s lives and dreams. In the 1980’s, she worked as a lender at a community bank in Albuquerque where she frequently received requests for loans from people who wanted to start a business. These individuals, often women, rarely qualified for commercial bank loans. Ramirez wanted to provide other routes to success for these clients, so she researched community resources and learned about WESST.
Ramirez served 12 years on WESST’s Board of Directors from 2004-2015. During that time, she also served as a member of the Loan Fund Committee, a volunteer position she continues to enjoy to the present day. Her deep experience and understanding of the internal workings of a variety of businesses has served as an invaluable resource to WESST, helping to make wise yet supportive choices on the Loan Committee.
During the Capital Campaign for the WESST Enterprise Center, Ramirez was instrumental in garnering a major gift from Wells Fargo Bank for construction of WESST’s award-winning building. While continuing in her role as a Senior Vice President for Wells, she has been a tireless advocate for WESST and says that she loves listening to clients talk about their business ideas with such passion and energy. Ramirez also notes that over the years, she has seen WESST clients in the media and been pleased to think, “I remember how they got started!” She’s confident that WESST will continue to grow and adapt with the times and believes that there will always be a need for WESST services.
Like many individuals who serve on WESST’s Board, Marjorie Rogers looks back on her 12 years of Board service as a very “rewarding experience.” She credits WESST as being the type of organization where you can see results and noted that watching someone realize their dreams has been personally and professionally rewarding. “Watching WESST grow from a very small organization to one with a statewide reach – always changing and adapting to better serve small businesses — impresses me tremendously,” notes Rogers.
Rogers’ 12 years of Board service ran from 2000-2011. During her tenure on the Board, she served on WESST’s Governance Committee and on WESST’s Executive Committee as Secretary, Vice Chair and as Chair of the Board in 2010. During the design and construction phases of the WESST Enterprise Center, she was instrumental in helping WESST, donating hundreds of hours of legal assistance to help WESST navigate the complex details of a public-private partnership. “I would never have made it through the legal challenges of the WEC project had it not been for Marjorie,” says WESST President Agnes Noonan.
As a Partner in the Modrall Law Firm and current State Chair of the American College of Trusts And Estates Council, Rogers continues to volunteer her time, serving on the WESST Governance and WEC Advisory Committees. She is a Founding Member of WESST Visionaries and has been a long-time donor throughout her association with WESST.
Rogers evaluates WESST’s biggest impact as its ability to facilitate job creation locally through its consulting, training, lending and incubation activities. “WESST has the best staff I’ve ever seen in a non-profit,” notes Rogers and she believes that “if Albuquerque is successful, it will be partly due to WESST.” She loves going into a small business who has been assisted by WESST. “If I have a choice, I’ll always go to a WESST client business.”
Mary Wiederholt met Agnes Noonan in 1996 at a women’s leadership conference. She saw in the WESST microlending program an important and valuable community resource. At the banks where she worked, funding was not readily available to startup and small businesses. She was impressed that WESST not only provided much needed capital to entrepreneurs who might not otherwise receive it, but also provided technical assistance and business consulting to loan clients so that they would meet with greater success.
Wiederholt wanted to get involved, so when she was approached to serve on WESST’s Board, she took advantage of the opportunity. She served on the Board for 12 years from 1997 to 2009. While on the board, she served on the Executive, Loan Fund, Finance and WEC Admissions Committees. She also served as Board Treasurer and Chair of the WESST Finance Committee for several years. Wiederholt says that she enjoyed serving on the Loan Committee because she loves helping entrepreneurs who bring such passion, drive, and commitment to their endeavors.
Additionally, Wiederholt helped break ground on the WESST Visionary Campaign as one of the first to make a 5-year commitment to supporting WESST. She continues to be an invaluable member of the WESST Finance Committee, always offering sage advice and asking the right questions.
In her current role as a Senior Vice President and Commercial Lender at Century Bank.,
Wiederholt remains an enthusiastic supporter of WESST’s services to New Mexican small businesses. Says WESST President Agnes Noonan, “Since that fortuitous day when Mary and I met by chance, she has been an incredible resource and supporter of WESST; even more importantly, I’m so lucky that our professional relationship has blossomed into a wonderful friendship over the years!”
Betty Bradbury, Regional Manager - Santa Fe
At the time of their first meeting, Bette Bradbury and Agnes Noonan had a lot in common. They both relocated to New Mexico in the Fall of 1991. They also both applied to be WESST’s second Executive Director. Noonan was hired in 1991 and as testament to Bradbury’s desire to give back and help other women identify and develop their entrepreneurial skillsets, she began volunteering for WESST, joined the WESST Board and served as Chair of the Board in 1993. In 1994, Bradbury was hired to oversee WESST’s statewide expansion and she worked tirelessly to set up WESST’s Regional office network in Farmington, Las Cruces, Santa Fe, Roswell and Rio Rancho. From 1996-98, she managed the New Mexico Women’s Business Conference hosted by WESST, a statewide event that attracted women business owners from all industries. In 1998, WESST hired Bradbury as the Regional Manager for Santa Fe, a position that has allowed her to share her entrepreneurial talents and corporate experience with thousands of women in Northern New Mexico.
Bradbury’s own small business career began at age 11 when she set up and managed a neighborhood babysitting coop. In high school, she participated in Junior Achievement and was ultimately honored as the JA President of the Year for the state of Michigan. With an extensive corporate background in marketing where she was often the only female executive, Bradbury loves putting her own skillsets to work to help create opportunities for bright, motivated women. To this end, she authored WESST’s award-winning Perfect PitchTM curriculum in 2004 and designed MARKETLINK, a multi-year initiative targeted to creative entrepreneurs seeking to grow revenues by expanding markets. Content from both continue to be incorporated into present-day WESST training and consulting initiatives.
With an academic background in communication and multi-cultural education, Bradbury is committed to identifying and delivering WESST programs and services that are user-friendly. Working with a broad array of socio-economic groups has provided innumerable opportunities to witness incredible results. “When a small business client says ‘this year I’m going to make a profit’ and does or when the child of a WESST client becomes the first in their family to go to college,” I am so very proud of the consistent and meaningful impact WESST has had for 30 years,” says Bradbury. Her commitment to the growth and success of her clients is unwavering, resulting in multiple recognitions and awards, including the SBA’s Home-Based Business Champion of the Year Award in 2009.
“Bette was instrumental in helping WESST grow from a tiny little two-person office in Albuquerque to a statewide player in economic development. I have been so grateful for her dedication and commitment to WESST’s mission and the many creative ways she keeps helping us evolve into a better organization,” says Noonan.
Bank of America
Bank of America has been a long-time advocate for WESST, providing ongoing financial support to key WESST initiatives. Most notably, the Bank has been a key funder of WESST’s financial literacy initiatives, including WESST’s Individual Development Account (IDA) Program as well as more recent initiatives focused on distance learning and business incubation. The Bank recognizes WESST as an important business resource throughout the state and is particularly grateful for its vision and leadership in helping women business owners achieve success.
“Entrepreneurs in New Mexico play a critical role in the economy and community, having created thousands of local jobs and generated hundreds of millions in annual revenue. But women owned businesses haven’t always been as prevalent or successful as they are today. Looking back 30 years, it was the vision and leadership of organizations like WESST that truly made the difference in empowering entrepreneurs, and specifically at their beginning, female entrepreneurs. More than 40% of all the small businesses that Bank of America serves today are women-owned. Bank of America has partnered with WESST for many of their 30 years to help get startups on the path to success – because we are not successful until our customers and communities are successful first. It’s that spirit of community and partnership that we congratulate WESST on its 30th anniversary,” says Paul Mondragon, the Market President for Bank of America in New Mexico.
The San-Francisco based Hearst Foundation has provided support for WESST programs since 2001. Founded by William Randolph Hearst in 1945, the Foundation “funds direct-service organizations that tackle the roots of chronic poverty by applying effective solutions to the most challenging social and economic problems. The Foundation prioritizes supporting programs that have proven successful in facilitating economic independence and in strengthening families. Preference is also given to programs with the potential to scale productive practices in order to reach more people in need.”
Hearst’s first grant to WESST (2001) supported our statewide MARKETLINK program, an initiative which helped micro and small businesses to identify and create new markets for their goods and services. A key part of MARKETLINK was the delivery of our award-winning Perfect PitchTM curriculum to over 1,500 rural artisans throughout New Mexico. General support grants from the Foundation during the same decade were instrumental in helping WESST launch its business incubation program. WESST’s Technology Toolkit Program was the beneficiary of Hearst support in 2014. This statewide program continues to educate small businesses about technology and how to incorporate tech tools into their businesses. In 2018, WESST welcomed a new two-year Hearst grant which supports La Escalera, an innovative program designed to accelerate the growth of businesses owned by immigrants and Limited English speakers.
“The Hearst Foundations look for outstanding institutions with transformative programming designed to ensure people of all backgrounds have an opportunity to build healthy and productive lives,” said Paul “Dino” Dinovitz, Executive Director. “We are pleased to partner with WESST.”
“Over the years, Hearst Foundation support has been catalytic for WESST,” notes WESST President Agnes Noonan. “It has been so instrumental is helping WESST take a leap forward in our growth and development. Ultimately, this support has made us a stronger organization which in turn means greater impact for our small business clients.”
McCune Charitable Foundation
Since the early 1990’s the McCune Charitable Foundation has been a key partner in WESST’s economic development efforts throughout New Mexico. Founded in 1989, the Santa Fe-based Foundation was established to continue the philanthropic legacy of Marshall and Perrine McCune who were long-time residents of Northern New Mexico.
Highlights of McCune Foundation support over the past three decades include:
- Multi-year support of WESST’s MARKETLINK Program, a statewide initiative which helped micro and small businesses identify and create new markets for their goods and services. A key part of MARKETLINK was the delivery of our award-winning Perfect PitchTM curriculum to over 1,500 rural artisans throughout New Mexico.
- Multi-year support during the planning and construction of the WESST Enterprise Center in the mid-2000’s. The initial vision for the WEC to be located in an underserved neighborhood (Martineztown) and create job opportunities for low and moderate income residents aligned well with the Foundation’s leadership in the redevelopment of downtown Albuquerque. Subsequently, the Foundation and the Pittsburgh-based McCune Foundation played a critical role in helping WESST raise nearly $2.0 million in private sector support for the WEC.
- Support for WESST’s Technology Toolkit which assists small businesses in New Mexico to incorporate technology tools into their businesses and maximize their online presence in order to facilitate revenue growth and job creation.
- WESST’s collaborative work with City Alive’s Molino initiative targeted to diverse entrepreneurs in Albuquerque’s underserved neighborhoods. This work is facilitated by WESST’s partnerships with the South Valley Economic Development Center, Encuentro, the New Mexico Dream Team and numerous neighborhood and community-based organizations.
“The McCune Foundation’s commitment to impacting positive social change aligns so well with WESST’s mission of creating sustainable economic opportunities for diverse populations throughout our state,” says WESST President Agnes Noonan. “The level of support we have been fortunate to receive over the years is directly tied to our long track record of economic impact.”
In January 1996, Diane Barrett visited the WESST office in Las Cruces with a friend on each arm and a smile on her face. She was a woman on a mission: to become self-employed. Shortly before her first visit to WESST, Diane moved to Silver City to open a restaurant with a friend. That friend backed out after Diane made the move. Only mildly concerned with the financial obstacles in front of her, Diane focused on her passion, baking, and on her belief that with her friends’ support and WESST’s help, she could do anything.
Armed with a tray of pastries and chocolate covered strawberries, Diane presented her $5,000 request to the WESST Loan Committee in Albuquerque which was subsequently approved. Her business started in a 760 square foot space on Bullard Street in downtown Silver City and doubled in size multiple years in a row. Several years after starting, she applied for and received an SBA 504 loan which financed the purchase of the building.
In 1999, Diane’s Bakery and Café was listed in the New York Times Travel Section as “the place to eat in the Southwest.” In 2000, she was honored as Entrepreneur of the Year by the PNM Entrepreneurial Leadership Awards. She also received a $5,000 cash prize for winning the Metropolitan Life “Achievement Against the Odds” award and a “Welfare to Work” award which was presented by then Governor Gary Johnson.
Diane has been a great role model for women like herself to follow and she has also been willing to help other entrepreneurs with advice and support. She credits WESST with being there every step of the way of her business journey. “WESST had faith in me she says, and helped me to believe in myself.” WESST President Agnes Noonan was so impressed with Diane’s grit and work ethic that she invited her to accompany her to Washington DC in the 2002 on a small business advocacy tour. The duo visited with every member of the New Mexico delegation and urged continued support for small business programs.
Diane sees a great future ahead for WESST, one in which WESST will continue to support and assist hard-working creative dreamers like herself to create new businesses and jobs and help build strong local communities. Among the challenges she faced in moving from welfare to successful entrepreneurship and owner of her own small business were: 1) overcoming the belief that women on welfare cannot make the move without years of planning, education, or financial support; 2) realizing that public opinion does not dictate success; 3) being an entrepreneur requires hard work; 4) learning that there is not a financial cushion to lean on (being forced to depend on her own skills and abilities); 5) finding out that her family had to make sacrifices as well; and 5) recognizing there is never enough time to do everything (learning to prioritize).
“I admire Diane tremendously,” says Noonan. “Imagine – a woman who started out on public assistance working hard to build a business that has been employing 30+ people a year for the past 22 years. This is an amazing accomplishment for any small business but particularly impressive in rural Silver City which has weathered the fluctuations of the mining industry. When I think of perseverance, I think of Diane Barrett. She is an incredible role model for women in business.”
Frank H. Martinez
Frank Martinez was the first Albuquerque resident WESST visited when the idea for the WESST Enterprise Center was envisioned. Since the plan included building the WEC in the Historic Martineztown neighborhood, WESST placed high value on briefing Martinez and securing his support for the project. A long-time neighborhood activist, Martinez says when WESST approached him about the vision, “it was a Godsend.” When he learned of WESST’s mission to serve the entrepreneurial development needs of women, people of color and low-wealth New Mexicans, he wholeheartedly threw his support behind the project.
As one of 16 children, Martinez was encouraged by his mother to get involved in neighborhood issues in 1970. At the time, Martineztown had been condemned as a blighted slum and residents were being offered $5,000 to abandon their homes and relocate elsewhere. “The neighborhood needs you now,” his mother told him. Soon after, Martinez helped form the Citizens Information Committee of Martineztown (CICM) whose first priority was to protest the Urban Renewal condemnation and develop a long-term Community Plan for the neighborhood. As a result of widespread neighborhood involvement, Martineztown has transformed itself over the past 45 years, creating an eastern gateway to downtown Albuquerque that maintains the residential character of this historic neighborhood. The neighborhood is located at the crossroads of the Camino Real and Tijeras Canyon Trails which is memorialized at Martineztown Park located at Edith and Roma Streets.
During the 5-year design and construction of the WEC, Martinez was a tireless champion for the project, assisting WESST with securing capital outlay funds from the State of NM and the City of Albuquerque. “WESST owes Frank a huge debt of gratitude,” says Agnes Noonan. “His early support paved the way for construction of the WEC and we are so very proud to now be a permanent resident of Martineztown.”
When asked about what’s needed to create a more equitable and inclusive Albuquerque, Martinez cited the growing wealth gap and suggested the country has arrived at a “come to Jesus” point with regards to the distribution of wealth. “We have got to provide opportunities for people to make money and I think entrepreneurship is a big part of the answer. Running your own business provides opportunities for people to be self-determinant,” says Martinez. “Entrepreneurship can not only help level the playing field, but it increases self-worth and provides a pathway to real economic self-sufficiency.”
Martinez is bullish on WESST’s future and looks forward to hearing about WESST alumni who have been able to bridge the wealth gap. “WESST gives you the ability to climb the ladder,” says Martinez “and in so doing creates hope for those who’ve been left out of the economic mainstream.” “I have been so blessed by my friendship with Frank,” says Noonan. His commitment to community, to equity, to diversity and inclusion is beautiful to watch and learn from. When I think of neighborhood advocacy, Frank IS the role model.”
Like many non-profits, WESST has had to rely on external consultants to assist with human resources needs. As the owner of her own small business, Human Resources Works, LLC, “Wendy Shannon has been incredibly supportive,” says WESST President Agnes Noonan. Noonan first met Shannon in the 1990s and recruited her to provide HR consulting and advice on a wide range of issues, including personnel policies, performance evaluations and coaching. A Senior Certified Professional by the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM) with a Masters in Guidance and Counseling from Texas A&M, Shannon has been a familiar face among HR professionals in Albuquerque over the past 30 years. Prior to starting her own firm, she worked with multiple organizations and is a former Director of the State Council of SHRM New Mexico.
Shannon has been an avid supporter of WESST’s mission and purpose and is particularly impressed with WESST’s ongoing commitment to improving current programs and services and designing new, cutting edge services which in turn benefit WESST clients. She applauds the impact WESST has made both in rural and urban parts of the state and believes WESST will continue to serve small businesses of the future with cutting edge services that meet the needs of clients.
At present, Shannon continues to provide consulting and coaching services and has also been doing some personal traveling. Among recent highlights was a month-long trip to China. When asked about the state of the HR sector in the future, Shannon points to the ongoing creation of new employment laws that, in turn, can frequently conflict with existing laws. “HR professionals will have to be more in tune with the constantly changing legal landscape,” notes Shannon.
“WESST owes a huge debt of gratitude to Wendy,” says Noonan. “In addition to considerable services she provided on a pro bono basis, her counsel and advice on challenging HR issues helped me get through some very difficult situations. Even in the face of a challenge, Wendy always brings a smile and a sense of humor to her work which ultimately leads to positive resolution; it has been a pleasure to learn from her.”
Economic Development Administration (EDA)
Planning for the WESST Enterprise Center commenced in 2004. Nancy Mahoney, WESST’s Development Director at the time, was instrumental in forging a vision for the design and construction of a multi-use facility that could house a business incubation program. Shortly thereafter, WESST had the good fortune of meeting Pedro Garza, then the Region VI Director of the EDA office in Austin. After being briefed about WESST’s vision, Garza was all in. Supporting an initial EDA grant of $300,00 for design expenses, the Agency subsequently approved a $1.25 million construction grant for the primary part of the WEC and a follow-on grant in 2010 to support the build-out of the East Wing and the digital media studio.
Instrumental to WESST’s successful EDA relationship was Ann Simon, long-time planner with the Mid-Region Council of Governments (MRCOG). A visionary herself, Simon was one of the first champions of the WEC project who tirelessly worked with WESST staff to eventually secure the EDA funding. “When I heard that a business development and lending organization serving women and diverse communities wanted to build a business incubator in downtown Albuquerque, I was all in. Although I was pretty new at the MRCOG and hadn’t done a large capital/construction project yet, I was excited to try my best, dig in, and learn a few things along the way,” says Simon. “It has been an absolute pleasure getting to know the hard-working WESST staff and even harder-working WESST entrepreneurs. I’m so happy I had even the smallest part in getting the organization to this 30-Year Anniversary milestone. Congratulations on the many lives you have changed and all you’ve accomplished.”
As with any successful partnership, WESST has benefitted tremendously over the years from hardworking and committed EDA staff with a special shout-out to Trisha Korbas and Dave Culbertson. Their support in helping the WEC vision become a reality has been invaluable. “We are so incredibly grateful for EDA’s support,” says Agnes Noonan. “Their investment in the WEC helped us leverage another $8.0 million in public and private funds and complete construction debt-free. We continue to enjoy a great partnership with EDA with a multi-year grant awarded in late 2018 to support craft entrepreneurship and job creation in rural New Mexico.”
Notes current Regional Director of EDA, Jorge Ayala, “EDA has been a partner of WESST for almost 15 years. Their goal of aiding entrepreneurship and building new businesses in economically distressed areas of Albuquerque and New Mexico are perfectly aligned with the mission of EDA. During this partnership, EDA has invested $2.6 million in funding for architectural and engineering design, incubator construction and technical assistance to entrepreneurs. It is wonderful to see how WESST has been able to leverage these investments into strong small businesses, new jobs and improved quality of life. Congratulations on 30 years of fostering Entrepreneurship in New Mexico!
Over the past 30 years, WESST has benefited tremendously from contributions of time, talent and treasure. We are particularly grateful for the support of several couples whose unwavering commitment to WESST’s mission has been integral to our growth and development. In July and August, we’re pleased to highlight the remarkable ways these WESST couples contribute to our community.
Beverly & Perry Bendicksen
Together and separately, Beverly and Perry Bendicksen have had a huge impact on WESST. Beverly joined the WESST Board in 2005 and went on to serve as a board member for 8 years. During that time, she chaired WESST’s newly formed Finance Committee in 2005 and Chaired the Board in 2011. “Beverly’s leadership during her time on the board was so beneficial for WESST,” says Agnes Noonan. “We had so many things to work on, particularly in the years leading up to the opening of the WESST Enterprise Center. I’m not sure we would have gotten through those years without her commitment and dedication to helping us build a strong organizational foundation.” In fact, it was the challenge of funding and building the WEC, including the launch of WESST’s mixed use incubator program, that prompted Beverly to get involved with WESST.
Perry joined the WESST Board in 2015 and he was elected Chair of the Board in 2018. As Chair of the 2019 Board, he is only one of a few people who have served two consecutive terms as Chair. A staunch supporter of economic development at the grass roots level, “Perry has been instrumental in helping to transform the WESST Board into one that has fundraising and strategic planning as core priorities,” says Noonan. “His ability to cut to the chase and keep the conversation strategically focused on WESST’s future has been the right kind of leadership at the right time.”
The Bendicksens have both worked extensively with entrepreneurs in their professional careers: Beverly in banking and private equity, and Perry as a lawyer. They both value entrepreneurship because it leads to increased prosperity and a more vibrant economy in New Mexico. “Economic development happens one business, one job, and one family at a time. We have been so impressed hearing the stories of entrepreneurs who are making life better for themselves, their families and their communities with WESST’s help, and we’re proud to have played a small part in making that happen,” state the Bendicksens.
At present, Beverly has her own company, performing CFO responsibilities for several businesses in New Mexico. She serves as the treasurer of the Albuquerque Community Foundation Board and a trustee of the Albuquerque Museum. Perry is with the Rodey Law Firm and he also serves as the French Honorary Consul for New Mexico and is on the Albuquerque Museum Foundation board.
As founding members of WESST Visionaries, Beverly and Perry say they want to be closely involved with the organizations they support. “We want to have faith in the organization’s leadership, and we want to know that our donation is making a difference. WESST gives us all of those and more. The need to assist entrepreneurs in New Mexico will always be there, and we expect WESST will still be meeting that need long into the future. Technology and the means of delivering WESST’s training will surely change, but the business basics that WESST imparts will not.”
Mary & Vic Jury
As entrepreneurs who each started a business with limited capital and who faced innumerable challenges associated with starting, running and building a business, Mary and Vic Jury feel a strong affinity with those who have the desire to pursue an entrepreneurial dream coupled with a commitment to do the hard work to make that dream a reality. They are strong believers in taking ownership of one’s own failures as well as successes and think that hard work and accountability play a critical role in creating a sustainable and thriving business model. Mary is the CEO of Workspace Dynamics (celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2019) and Vic is the CEO of Summit Electric which was founded in 1977.
Mary served on the WESST Board for 9 years, including Chair of the Board in 2012; Vic is currently serving on the WESST Board and the Governance Committee. Both are strong advocates for WESST’s mission and note that at its essence, “WESST invests in the people behind the ideas and through a holistic approach, helps create a solid foundation for those they serve.”
The Jurys feel they’ve been very blessed in their lives and see this as an opportunity to bless others. Their philanthropy is so much more than simply writing a check. “We need to understand the work we are supporting and the efficacy of the work. There are many opportunities to give in the local community and globally and we seek to think more like investors in impact rather than simply as givers. While we certainly do feel good about the things we invest in, this is far more than “feel good” giving, it is an investment in the future of our community,” the Jurys noted. WESST’s mission touches on a number of the Jurys’ objectives with regard to their local philanthropy. “We believe economic self-sufficiency provides individuals and their families the dignity that dependency can rob them of.”
Following the loss of her mother and son earlier this year, Mary says that 2019 has been a year of trust, faith and gratitude for her. “The loss of my mom and son 3 weeks apart are huge reminders of the fragility and uncertainty of life. The ‘gift’ has been a refocus on what truly matters, which are not things but people and experiences.”
In addition to running their own businesses, the Jurys find numerous other ways to give back to the community, through board service and personal involvement with organizations like World Vision in Rwanda which has an extensive Economic Empowerment program. WESST President Agnes Noonan is very grateful for the Jurys’ generosity and impressed with their approach to philanthropy. “There are so many worthy causes in our community and WESST is honored by Mary and Vic’s faith and confidence in how we support entrepreneurs. We are committed to transparency and accountability to our donors who depend on us to create impact through their ongoing investments in WESST.”
As Founding members of WESST Visionaries and significant contributors to the Capital Campaign for the WESST Enterprise Center, the Jurys’ have been active participants in WESST’s ongoing development at the board, committee and donor levels. They envision a future whereby “WESST is reaching into the far corners of New Mexico and beyond, enriching the lives of solopreneurs and entrepreneurs. They would love to see those who have been assisted by WESST to become donors themselves and advocates for those who come behind, reach for their hand and eventually the stars in pursuit of their dreams. WESST is an oasis in the desert of entrepreneurship, providing much needed support and guidance in an unforgiving market. Clients across New Mexico are still in business today because of the invaluable work of WESST.”
Jean Ann & Duffy Swan
During a particularly challenging time in WESST’s history, Agnes Noonan recalls that insight, encouragement and moral support from Duffy Swan made all the difference in the world. “Duffy has been a wonderful mentor to me,” says Noonan. “He and his wife Jean Ann are incredible examples of two people committed to their community and always willing to lend their time, talents and treasure to make this world a better place.” “Philanthropy for the two of us seems as natural as breathing.” say the Swans. “It has been an integral part of our lives from the earliest days of our marriage. Equally, it has consisted of a combination of ingredients—financial resources, certainly, but also, the use of our time or joining with others in some community initiative. The base or foundation for our commitment to philanthropy is deeply rooted in our application of core principles within the Christian faith. It is fundamental to every aspect of our lives. This means helping take care of one’s community—across a wide range of needs—so that all may benefit in some manner.”
It is this set of guiding values that underpin the Swans’ long-time commitment to making Albuquerque a better place. They believe in WESST’s mission because “entrepreneurship can be a significant means to transform and/or enhance several sectors in a community simultaneously. As jobs are created through entrepreneurship, it reverberates throughout the community in terms of new economic activity, new skillsets and knowledge, innovations and new sources of revenue. WESST has provided access for a broad range of people, many of whom might have had little to no opportunity to do so, to build pathways to more sustainable futures.”
As the Chairman of the Board for French Funerals, Duffy is delighted that he and Jean Ann now have the “privilege” of being very involved in the lives of their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Ultimately, they hope they have modeled community involvement and philanthropic lifestyles for future generations of their family.
Founding members of WESST Visionaries, the Swans believe WESST will look back 30 years from now and recognize that almost everything WESST will be doing then does not exist today. It had to be nurtured and spawned by risk-takers who had a vision and ignited a spark in the community around them to make it happen.
Ann & Tracy Utterback
Born and raised in Hobbs, New Mexico, Ann and Tracy Utterback have always been huge fans of local small businesses. “I really feel like small businesses are what makes a community special. I grew up in a small town, and it’s amazing how often my memories revolve around the small businesses there—a restaurant with my favorite food, a clothing store, a service provider—and how often I knew the people behind the business. These connections are important for creating a real community,” says Ann “and WESST is the best of the best at helping our community of small businesses start their businesses, stay in business and thrive. From Frontier Restaurant to Dion’s Pizza to our many local breweries, these companies make our community a community. ”
A former WESST staff member, Ann served as the VP of Development in 2012-15 and was elected to the WESST Board of Directors in 2018. She currently serves as Chair of WESST’s Development Committee and loves spending time “telling the story of WESST and its amazing clients.” WESST’s values of innovation, integrity, quality, excellence and accountability mirror those of the Utterbacks. “We tend to focus our own personal giving on helping people to help themselves, most often through educational avenues. There were so many who helped us in our journey, and we want to pay that back. WESST is at heart an educational and support program for entrepreneurs to get the skills they need to be successful in business. Oftentimes, business owners are good at their core business service (cooking, making something, etc…) but they don’t have the skills they need to run a business. That’s where WESST comes in and that resonates with us. We also love the fact that WESST is a statewide organization, given our southeastern New Mexico beginnings.”
“WESST’s development efforts in this decade have been highly successful,” says Agnes Noonan. “Ann and Tracy’s energy and enthusiasm for our mission and our fabulous small business clients makes it seem like they are our full-time marketing reps.” At the root of their philanthropy is their belief in New Mexicans who are on a path to self-sufficiency for the first time in their lives, sometimes leading them out of poverty, or even just a path to a normal family life. “WESST clients are creating jobs for our community and our state,” says Ann and Tracy. “These New Mexicans are creating jobs for themselves and others in a way that is truly impacting our state’s economy. We want these businesses and the people behind them and many more like them in all different neighborhoods, in all areas of town with all different people to thrive and succeed for many years into the future. Women-owned businesses like our eco-friendly cleaning service, Green Sweep, who has greatly benefited from their relationship with WESST.”
At present, Ann is Board Chair for the JF Maddox Foundation in Hobbs, NM, a family foundation that innovates primarily in education, community development and social services to ensure people are attracted to and thrive in Lea County. Tracy is CFO of Jaynes Corporation, a general contracting firm dedicated to building interesting projects, leading teams and growing people through culture. As Founding members of WESST Visionaries, the Utterbacks are bullish about WESST’s next 30 years. “The need to learn about business fundamentals from financial to marketing, will always be there. People will have different passions and the types of businesses of the future will change but business fundamentals will always be necessary. How services are delivered will change, but we have no doubt that WESST will stay true to its values and innovate with integrity, quality, excellence and accountability as they have for the first 30 years.”
WESST COUPLES Over the past 30 years, WESST has benefited tremendously from contributions of time, talent, and treasure. We are particularly grateful for the support of several couples whose unwavering commitment to WESST’s mission has been integral to our growth and development. In July and August, we’re pleased to highlight the remarkable ways these WESST couples contribute to our community.
Sally & Ken Adams
A native New Mexican, Sally Adams chose to get involved with WESST as a board member in 2009. She is passionate about the health and welfare of Albuquerque and New Mexico and was fortunate at the outset to offer support to WESST through some marketing access with the company she worked for at the time. Her initial involvement soon developed into her taking on more of a leadership role and becoming one of WESST’s biggest cheerleaders. In 2014, she chaired the WESST Board and in 2020, she will become the 5th individual to serve a total of 12 years on the board.
As founding members of WESST Visionaries, Sally and Ken are most interested in supporting efforts that provide equal access to educational and capacity building opportunities that help all entrepreneurs further their own dreams. Through WESST’s comprehensive business and financial services, the Adams’ have witnessed how lives are impacted forever when opportunity and access provide WESST clients empowerment to succeed at entrepreneurship. “WESST does this work with ethics and passion and that makes all the difference in the world to us.”
“It has been great to have Sally so involved with WESST,” says Agnes Noonan “because she always sees the glass half full. She has such a zest for life and always sees the best in people. This zest for life spills over into everything she’s involved with which means if Sally is on your team, you couldn’t ask for a more passionate and committed person. She is moved by the people whose lives have been forever changed due to WESST’s support because ultimately Sally is all about possibility.”
Sally feels that her eyes have been opened to the possibilities that individuals and small companies can achieve with the right training from the right people. “During my tenure on the board, I have watched WESST become essential and successful in our state. When we talk about systemic change, it means that root challenges can be resolved, unhealthy cycles can be broken and opportunities for success are dramatically increased when people work with WESST. I think the same goes for me, personally. I am a better human as a result of my interactions with WESST,” says Sally. “Over the next 30 years, we will be excited to watch WESST leading the ecosystem they swirl in, diverse and unified as the greatest business support team ever!
In addition to their various community activities, Sally and Ken are enjoying life and being very grateful to do so. Avid travelers, they recently returned from a extended trip to the Pacific Northwest and Vancouver. “We LOVE to travel in our 5th wheel with our dog to places that expand our knowledge of this beautiful state and country.”
Angela Anderson & David Hughes
As successful entrepreneurs each in their own right, Angela Anderson and David Hughes believe that owning your own business and providing employment for others can be one of the greatest gifts to our communities. From their perspective, the world needs all types of business owners to serve the ever growing needs of our communities. And when diverse entrepreneurs succeed at entrepreneurship, it catalyzes others in their families and communities to thrive. “Success is about community. When one succeeds, others will follow in their own way.”
Angela joined the WESST Board in 2009, the same year that the WESST Enterprise Center opened for business. She has been a very engaged board member, serving as Treasurer and head of WESST’s Finance Committee for several years and as Chair of the Board for two consecutive years in 2015 and 2016. “Angela’s leadership at the Board level has been invaluable,” says WESST President Agnes Noonan. What makes her kind of leadership special is her keen understanding about what it takes to start and grow a small business and her deep-seated caring and compassion about our community. She values human relationships above all and this is reflected by her passion for helping anyone with the drive and ambition to make a small business work.” She also believes that smart entrepreneurs use outside consultants, mentors, coaches, and cheerleaders and WESST can provide all of that.
David is the founder of Affordable Solar, New Mexico’s largest solar company and Angela has successfully run A. Anderson Consulting for many years. Their entrepreneurial mindset is couched in a belief that everyone deserves a chance to create their own future. They admire the complex set of services that WESST provides because they take into account the wide array of challenges that anyone faces in business such as a woman who can work when kids are at school but has to be home to care for them when they are not or a Cuban refugee who needs to adapt to living and working in a new environment. WESST’s IDA Program is a favorite of theirs. The program, which combines financial literacy training with a savings incentive, allows very low-income individuals to save towards the purchase of an “asset” – small business, higher education or a first-time home. Notes Angela, “I once was able to be there when a couple received their check to start a landscaping business; the smiles were so impactful you were moved to joy. Again, the opportunity to design and create a future. That is what WESST is to us.”
Founding members of WESST Visionaries, Angela and David give to organizations that have vision, impact, financial integrity, and serve a population of people that are interested in improving themselves. “Self-sufficiency is about your own success and giving permission for others to succeed around you. WESST incorporates all these values so it’s very easy to give to WESST. We are also very impressed with the staff at WESST and it’s not just because they are lucky, they have a robust hiring and vetting process that is top notch.”
These days, the couple is focused on their own well-being and the well-being of those around them. Engaged in the community, they are working with a local organization that is well-positioned to change the design of energy consumption in the future. They are also mentoring a young entrepreneur from Barbados who is importing reasonably priced goods into the U.S.
Reflecting on her 11 years of board service, Angela has been proud to serve on a board who is truly passionate about WESST’s mission which is reflected in the engagement of board members. “WESST is blessed with a talented, diverse group of board members who understand and fully support our efforts to provide economic opportunity to all,” says Noonan. “All non-profits should be so fortunate to have such an engaged board.”
Confident about WESST’s future, Angela and David think that WESST will continue to refine how it serves communities throughout the state and suggest that how WESST serves clients 30 years from now may be “unrecognizable” to us now given the rapid pace of technology changes. In any event, they’re grateful that WESST will always be about helping entrepreneurs make sound business decisions that will impact their communities and the lives of those around them.
Chet & Diana Stewart
Long-time residents of New Mexico, Chet and Diana Stewart love talking about their community and how every person in it has the capacity to give. Each was raised in families where they were taught about the importance of giving at a very early age. “Our Faith and life experiences have shown us that we have been very blessed,” say the Stewarts. “The real joy of giving comes when we share those blessings with those who have not been as fortunate as we have been.”
For the Stewarts, it is all about relationships – with family, with friends, with neighbors, with community. It’s also about living a life of service and giving. Agnes Noonan recalls when she first met Chet many years ago “he pulled out a video called The Ultimate Gift and suggested I watch it with my then young children. Since then, I’ve watched the movie over a dozen times because the lessons of the film — service, giving, putting others first — never go out of style.”
Chet is the grandson of Chester French who founded French Funerals and Cremations in 1907. While still in his 20’s, Chet was thrust into the leadership of the company when his grandfather passed away suddenly. He says one of the reasons WESST is special is that early in his own business career, “a local banker had the vision to risk helping us as young entrepreneurs, help that might not be readily extended in today’s banking environment. Organizations like WESST are helping to fill the gaps for entrepreneurs today.”
Long-time WESST donors, Chet and Diana understand the important role small businesses play in our economy. “Most jobs in New Mexico are provided by small businesses so the growth and the health of our economy depends on vibrant small businesses,” says Chet. “WESST is an incredibly important vehicle that trains, empowers and encourages people to start, grow and sustain small businesses which has a powerful impact on our community.”
The iconic Albuquerque couple is still involved in the company and in community activities, albeit on a more limited basis. They have been able to travel a good bit and when they do, “we love to tell people about the place we love so much—Albuquerque and New Mexico because we know it is the best place to live. We try to be good Ambassadors for our amazing city and state wherever we go.”
“When I hear the word selfless, I think of Chet and Diana,” says Noonan. “They are always focused on what they can do to lend a hand, an ear or a dollar. They are truly living a life of servant leadership and our community is forever blessed by their love for one another and their love of humanity.”
Judy Zanotti & Dave Davis
Judy Zanotti was the Senior Vice President for Human Resources and Governmental Affairs at PNM when she was introduced to WESST at the time of WESST’s founding. From the beginning, she was impressed with WESST’s dedication to helping small businesses through its comprehensive training, consulting and lending programs. For nearly 20 years, PNM provided in-kind office space to WESST and until her retirement, Judy was the internal corporate sponsor. “In the early years, WESST was so very fortunate to have its offices, supplies, printing, and telecommunications costs covered by PNM. All non-profits struggle in the early years and I don’t think WESST would ever have survived if it hadn’t been for PNM. Judy was a huge cheerleader during this time, and I will always be grateful for her support and encouragement during those formative years,” says WESST President Agnes Noonan.
As a native New Mexican, Judy and her husband Dave Davis care deeply about the welfare of New Mexico. “The businesses helped by WESST have created significant new jobs and generated millions of dollars in annual revenues in New Mexico. All of us benefit from the economic development fostered by WESST. People’s lives are changed, and our communities are better served because of WESST.”
Long-time philanthropists in the state, Judy and Dave are intentional with their giving so that it truly impacts New Mexico and fits with their passion for specific outcomes. “WESST’s track record of success is truly impressive. We believe small business is the life blood of New Mexico and we are particularly pleased and grateful for how WESST‘s support system is there for a company through successes and as well as challenges. One of our dear friends has personally benefitted from the support and guidance of WESST for her small business in areas such as developing a business plan, strategic financial management and marketing her products.”
In addition to her career at PNM, Judy also served as President of New Mexico First, a nonpartisan statewide non-profit that builds consensus on critical issues facing our state and communities and leads positive policy change through deliberative town halls, forums, and nonpartisan work. Now happy in retirement, Judy continues to be actively involved in various charitable efforts because she loves giving back to the community.
After working for Gas Company of New Mexico and PNM for twenty years Dave retired in 1993. Today, he works part-time for Aspen Leaf Landscaping company (owned by Judy’s son and daughter in-law) and he still enjoys his favorite hobby of dirt bike riding.
Judy and Dave are each founding members of WESST Visionaries. “Their belief in WESST and their commitment to our mission has been incredible,” says Noonan. We are so very fortunate to count them among our supporters. The couple is excited about WESST’s future and thinks WESST will continue to make a positive impact on micro and small businesses around the state. “WESST will continue to be innovative and we are very excited about that.”
Myra worked for Hyatt Hotels and Resorts for many years in Food and Beverage and had a thriving career, but when it came time to open her own business, she came home to Albuquerque to do it. She was raised in family that gathered over meals and shared the stories of their day during that time. The idea of creating a feeling of family and shared stories over a meal is part of what has driven her to this industry.
Myra got involved with WESST before she opened Slate Street Cafe 14 years ago. She attended one of our workshops about the basics of opening a business (this was still in the old WESST location on 4th street). Then, after she opened her restaurant WESST evolved to play an important role in her growth and success over the years. She has used WESST as a resource for loans, mentorship, coaching, leadership analysis (SWAT), and many other things. Myra says “Whenever I face a big challenge, I first turn towards WESST to help guide me to the right solution. As a business owner, WESST has been critical to my success. I have used many of their resources over the years and I have seen them grow into a support center for many new businesses. They have a dynamic group of people with expertise in a variety of areas including finance, marketing, coaching, funding and many more.”
Myra has slowly been growing her restaurant, Slate Street Café, over the last 14 years and now they also operate Slate at the Museum, the cafe in the Albuquerque Museum. They have expanded hours and offerings over those years. They have also grown tremendously in their catering arm of the business and are now catering some of the largest events in the city.
Most recently, Myra opened a new restaurant called Sixty-Six Acres that is on 12th street in the Avanyu development across from the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. While a different concept, it shares the same philosophies on making food from scratch with thoughtful ingredients, utilizing local vendors and products, and being a part of the community. Sixty-Six Aces is a modern bar and grill serving lunch, dinner, craft cocktails, and local beers.
Myra loves Albuquerque and believes in our community. She is here to stay and owning a few restaurants that offer amazing service, quality food and a team of locals will always be something she values.
When asked where she sees WESST in the next 30 years she replied “I have already seen WESST grow so much in the last 15 years, I am excited to see what the future holds for them. I think they are a catalyst in the entrepreneurship movement and that they will continue to grow and change in this area. I could see the “tech” side really changing and I could also see the business incubator doubling in size. Whatever they do, it is sure to be a vital part of our business community and a great part of Albuquerque’s future.”
Nancy McLain was working for Eclipse Aviation in 2008 when a friend, co-worker and WESST Board member introduced her to Agnes Noonan over a lunch at Yanni’s one afternoon. Approximately two months later she interviewed with WESST and the rest is history.
Nancy manages the data and reporting for all six WESST Women’s Business Centers (WBCs). In addition, she mentors WBCs all over the country on not only their data collection and reporting, but also client interaction and program services.
When she first started working at WESST, almost 11 years ago, WESST was in the PNM building. Her desk was positioned outside of Agnes’ office in a hallway alcove. Within a year WESST moved into the WESST Enterprise Center at 609 Broadway, had a new data system and the staff was creating great client business performance data for her to use in reporting and analytics.
When asked what has motivated her to work for WESST for all these years, Nancy said:
“I think the success of our clients is a great motivator. I also see great value in the work that we have done in our business plan classes. Clients come to us when they want to start a business, and some find that maybe their initial idea was not viable. We provide them with in-depth instruction and discussion and guide them through the process of starting a business, so they are making informed decisions. Our clients that are successful are fantastic but knowing that we helped someone rethink starting a business is really a good thing.”
WESST has given the opportunity for women in our community to start and grow their small businesses. Nancy’s favorite client is Myra Ghattas, owner of Slate Street Café. “She is so inspiring and a great friend, too.”
As Nancy looks back at the decade she has spent with WESST, she feels really blessed to have met and worked with some incredible people. The staff is full of warm, giving souls. We are a family and she would like people to know that.
When asked where she sees WESST in the next 30 years she replied, “I think the regional offices have room for lots of growth in their communities. I am looking forward to the impact that Spaceport America will make in our Las Cruces and Roswell WBCs. The expansion of services to our Native American clients is another area that is exciting and new. I see great things in the future of WESST!”
WESST has been blessed by the contributions of time, talent and treasure of so many individuals over the past 30 years. For this issue of 30 Faces of WESST, we look back and remember and honor those who made significant impacts before their passing.
A long-time business leader and noted philanthropist, Don Chalmers touched the lives of many, including the thousands of entrepreneurs served by WESST each year. Chalmers joined the WESST Board in 2010 and served until his passing in 2014. “Don was such an incredible mentor to me as he was for numerous business and community leaders in New Mexico,” says Noonan. “He was a tireless advocate for so many non-profit and community causes; when he passed our community lost one of the most selfless people I know.”
His support of WESST’s mission was unwavering and he demonstrated that commitment by serving on WESST’s Development Committee. His leadership helped WESST raise significant annual funding, including his own sponsorship of the WESST Enterprise Center Parking lot.
When former U.S. Senator Pete Domenici was first introduced to WESST in 1993, WESST had already been an early participant in the SBA’s Women’s Business Center Demonstration Program. In an effort to educate him about the important role women-owned businesses could play in the U.S. economy, WESST invited the 6 term senator to meet with a group of female business owners in Taos. Thereafter, Sen. Domenici frequently recalled the meeting and how impressed he was that women were starting businesses like plumbing and electrical services.
Over the ensuing 15 years, the Senator became a staunch supporter of federal funding for women entrepreneurs. Under two different administrations, the WBC program was zeroed out until Pete Domenici came to the rescue. In 1999, he sponsored the Women’s Business Center Sustainability Act of 1999 which subsequently led to legislation making the program permanent.
“Long before it became politically advantageous to do so, Sen. Domenici was the bandwagon,” says Agnes Noonan. “His support for women business owners was unwavering and WESST will forever be grateful for his leadership at the national level.”
Dr Sul Kassicieh
When he joined the WESST Board in 2006, Dr. Sul Kassicieh became an immediate champion for the WESST Enterprise Center (WEC) which would create Albuquerque’s first mixed use certified incubator. His love of entrepreneurship manifested itself in numerous ways starting with his long and illustrious career at the University of New Mexico. As the Anderson School of Management’s Endowed Chair of Economic Development, Dr. Kassicieh worked tirelessly to support local efforts to boost entrepreneurship. He was the founder of UNM’s Business Plan Competition which has today evolved into a statewide competition among key universities.
A gentle giant, Dr. Kassicieh became the first Chair of the WEC’s Advisory Committee in 2009 and he loved to meet individually with WEC company owners. His death in 2017 came as a shock to those who knew and loved him. WESST will forever be grateful for his leadership and advocacy of small business initiatives.
The entire WESST family mourned the death of Doug Lee who passed away unexpectedly in 2012 in Santa Fe. As the first Managing Director of the WESST Enterprise Center (WEC), Doug was the driving force behind the impressive growth of our flagship incubator, praised by CNN.com magazine in 2011 as one of the seven hottest start-up incubators in the United States. With a long career in entrepreneurship and business incubation, Doug’s positive outlook and can-do attitude was infectious — for the entrepreneurs he counseled and for the WESST staff and board who had the privilege of working with him. Doug was particularly proud of his role in overseeing the completion of the Comcast Digital Media Studio. When it opened in 2014, WESST dedicated the Studio in Doug’s honor. His vision for the WEC and the energy in which he tackled every challenge was amazing. Seven years after his passing, WEC company growth remains strong; Doug’s spirit lives on.
Ab and Cara Potter have had a tremendous impact on WESST. Ab joined the WESST board in 2007 and he and Cara (currently on the WESST Board) were lead private donors in WESST’s capital campaign to raise funds to open the WESST Enterprise Center, a small business incubator in Albuquerque. At the time, Ab and Cara made a mult-year commitment in the form of a challenge to the rest of the WESST Board of Directors to collectively match the contribution. Through the Potter’s example and leadership, the goal of a one-to-one match was achieved and exceeded. The $230,000+ contributed by the board was instrumental in helping WESST to leverage additional private sector support and get off to a fast start of achieving its goal of job creation from member companies housed in the incubator.
“Ab was a demanding kind of guy,” says WESST President Agnes Noonan. He did not suffer fools lightly, which was one of the most endearing things I came to love and respect about him. He never hesitated to ask the tough questions which resulted in numerous improvements to organizational policies and processes. He was passionate about entrepreneurs and showed an interest in everything related to our clients”.
Ab credited his parents, Albert and Kay Potter, with having a huge influence on his life. Though they grew up during the Depression and did not have much financial wealth, his parents were regular volunteers at social service agencies: his mother frequently prepared food baskets for the poor; his father was a volunteer fire chief. In short, Ab learned a great deal about philanthropy from the examples set by his parents.
Ab passed after a courageous battle with cancer in 2011. WESST will always be grateful for his philanthropic leadership.
Dr Jacki Riggs
Dr. Jacki Riggs served on the WESST Board of Directors from 2003-2009, chairing the Board in 2007. Early on, Jacki was a big proponent of the WESST Enterprise Center and utilized her experience and contacts in state government to help WESST raise $4.5 million in state capital outlay for the construction of the WEC.
“I have so many fond memories of our many trips to Santa Fe,” says Agnes Noonan. “Jacki was such an advocate for the WEC and she never hesitated to leverage her knowledge and relationships to help WESST raise the capital to build its award-winning small business incubator.”
An educator, a wife, mother and community philanthropist, Jacki served on the WESST Board at a critical time. Before her passing in 2011, she attended the Grand Opening of the WEC, noting that she was so proud to have been involved in a project that would create economic impact for decades to come.
While she served as WESST’s Development Director for only 3 years, Nancy Mahoney made a huge impact on WESST’s future. While developing a very successful track record as a grant writer and fundraiser, it was also Nancy’s vision for WESST to develop a bricks-and-mortar small business incubator. In 2003, Nancy spearheaded efforts for WESST to successfully apply to the City of Albuquerque for grant funds to purchase the land on which the WESST Enterprise Center now sits. Committed to locating the incubator in a strategic location, Nancy approached Martineztown advocate Frank Martinez early on to solicit his support of the WEC. Soon thereafter, Mahoney managed a community input process whereby WESST could explain its vision for the WEC and garner broad community support for moving forward.
In 2005, Nancy relocated with her family to Montana where she now resides. “I’m not sure the WEC would have ever become a reality had it not been for Nancy’s forward-looking vision for WESST. As a can-do person who never took no for an answer, WESST owes a big debt of gratitude to Nancy for her ability to dream big. The WEC’s legacy of job creation and successful start-ups is testament to Nancy’s thinking outside the box,” says President Agnes Noonan. “We were so fortunate to have her on board during one of the most opportune moments in WESST’s history.”
Belinda Jentzen stepped in as WESST’s Development Director in 2005 to help spearhead WESST’s $10 million capital campaign for the WESST Enterprise Center. With a multi-prong strategy for sources of funding, Belinda worked closely with the U.S. Economic Development Administration which eventually led to a total EDA investment of $2.5 million.
Perhaps Belinda’s biggest contribution was the tireless work she engaged in with New Mexico state legislators and the Office of the Governor. Determined to “paint the vision” for the WEC, she invited legislators to meet with her in the now demolished warehouse building that used to sit on the WEC site. Armed with a drawing of the architect’s vision for the WEC, Belinda briefed legislators about the vision for the WEC and how its development could spur job creation in one of Albuquerque’s oldest and most historic neighborhoods.
Legislators were convinced and ultimately, the WEC received $4.5 million in state capital outlay funds over a three-year period. Belinda’s tenacity drove the results with the WEC opening for business in January, 2009. Now retired and living in Santa Fe, Jentzen “was the right person at the right time,” says WESST President Agnes Noonan. “Our goal was to raise the capital for the building so WESST wouldn’t be saddled with a large mortgage. Due to Belinda’s efforts and Nancy Mahoney’s before her, we did it!”
Fred Mondragon will never forget a field visit to the EDA offices in Austin in 2005. Accompanying WESST President Agnes Noonan and Development Director Nancy Mahoney and her 3 month-old daughter Kaylie, Mondragon was then serving as the City of Albuquerque’s Director of Economic Development. WESST had applied for a large EDA grant for construction of the WESST Enterprise Center (WEC) and the happy trio traveled to Austin to make a presentation about the project to EDA Director Pedro Garza and his staff.
WESST was ultimately awarded a total of $2.5 million in EDA funds, but not before that entertaining trip which included a 10 minute frisking of Kaylie when passing through airport security and a building fire drill at EDA offices during the middle of WESST’s presentation. The presentation was never completed, but EDA was all-in about the project.
Mondragon has enjoyed a long and eclectic career in Hospital Administration (UNMH and Presbyterian), City Administration, Systems Development and Integration (BDM/TRW), and Economic Development (City and State). Now semi-retired, he serves on several Boards, including his recent appointment to the Albuquerque Development Commission. He is also devoting a lot of his time to promoting Cooperative Business Ecosystem Development, particularly through a statewide organization called the Cooperative Catalyst. He lives with his wife Connie Vance in Albuquerque.
“WESST has long been an inspiration to me due to its determined, successful commitment to establishing and growing small businesses. By so doing, they are elevating the economic level of minorities and women and helping address the community’s income gaps,” says Mondragon. Noonan is particularly grateful for Fred’s willingness to assist multiple economic development groups toward their respective missions. “Fred is a New Mexico treasure – he’s always willing to use his knowledge and contacts to advance worthy causes. His willingness to accompany us to Austin is testament to that. WESST and the State of New Mexico have been the real beneficiaries.”
City of Albuquerque
WESST has enjoyed a long-time partnership with the City of Albuquerque. In 1995, WESST was awarded a $250,000 grant from the City’s UDAG fund to establish a loan fund for residents and businesses located in Albuquerque’s low-income neighborhoods (initially referred to as the Pocket of Poverty). The fund has since lent nearly $1 million to 53 businesses and it continues to be an important and inexpensive source of capital for Pocket businesses.
In the early 2000’s, WESST applied for another City grant which was used to purchase the land on which the WESST Enterprise Center (WEC) now sits. This initial step toward the construction of the WEC subsequently led to WESST and CABQ partnering for the next 5 years as WESST sought to establish Downtown Albuquerque’s first mixed use certified business incubator in the historic Martineztown neighborhood.
Total construction costs of the WEC were close to $10 million and the City was instrumental in helping to leverage state capital outlay funds as well as significant support from the federal Economic Development Administration and the private sector.
The WEC is a LEDA (Local Economic Development Act) project with a mission of housing start-up businesses with the capacity to grow and create jobs. Since its opening in 2009, WEC companies have generated over $120.8 million in gross revenues, $54.5 million in payroll and created 385 new jobs.
The City of Albuquerque has also supported WESST’s IDA program over the years as well as provided grant support to deliver WESST’s core services of training, consulting and lending to special target populations.
“WESST is so proud of its long and successful history with the City,” says Agnes Noonan. “It’s been a true partnership in so many different ways and the beneficiaries have been local, small businesses here in the greater Albuquerque area. We’ve been blessed.”
Our committed team nurtures thousands of clients each year to help them build strong and sustainable businesses that support their families and communities throughout New Mexico.
WESST’s statewide team of nearly 25 strive every day to provide exemplary customer service. Our work begins from early morning meetings and continues to evening classes; from weekend outreach presentations to loan closings after our client doors are closed. We are active in our communities – from Roswell to Farmington. What binds us together is our care and commitment to improving the well-being of those we work with. It’s hard work, but it’s meaningful work.
While WESST continues to welcome new team members, we are also proud of the seasoned team that has chosen to work at WESST for many years. 11 individuals have been with WESST for more than five years to include Melissa Williams-Loan Fund Administrator, Michele Newman-WESST Enterprise Center Director, Antoinette Creel-Loan Officer, Roseanna Perea-Santa Fe Program Coordinator, Nancy McLain-Impact Manager, Zoe Otero-Martinez-Financial Literacy Program Manager, Rhonda Johnson-Roswell Regional Manager, and Lorena Schott- Director of Marketing Communications. And a few have helped WESST grow nearly from the beginning, passing the 20 year mark: Santa Fe Regional Manager, Bette Bradbury will soon be celebrating her 25th anniversary, VP of Lending, Kim Blueher will be celebrating 30 years in January 2020 and WESST President, Agnes Noonan will be celebrating 30 years in December 2021.
We couldn’t have come this far without the dedicated staff at WESST!