WESST’s Las Cruces Regional Manager Named SBA’s Minority Small Business Champion of the Year

WESST announced that Jennifer Craig, SW Regional Manager in Las Cruces, has been named 2011 New Mexico Minority Small Business Champion of the Year by the Small Business Administration (SBA) and will be honored along with other award recipients at a luncheon in Albuquerque on June 2, 2011.

Each year, the SBA recognizes individuals and organizations that support small businesses within their communities. The nominations for all SBA’s Small Business Awards were submitted to SBA several months ago when Diane Barrett, from Diane’s Restaurant in Silver City, nominated Craig for this year’s award.

Barrett has been a WESST client since 1996 when she received her first loan to open a small bakery/café in downtown’s historic section of Silver City. Over the years, Barrett has utilized WESST’s expertise in helping her grow the business, purchase her building, and expand into two locations (now employing over 40 people). According to Barrett, WESST has been instrumental in guiding her through tough times while she was learning about operations.

WESST, a nonprofit helping to grow small business statewide, has been in existence since 1989. Craig was hired sixteen years ago in Las Cruces to open an office that would serve Dona Ana, Otero, Sierra, Grant, Luna, Hidalgo, and Catron counties. During the following years, Craig has seen an array of clients ranging in age and need.

WESST’s services include business advice (from startup to expansion, business planning to loan packaging, marketing to product development, and beyond); business and computer training; and business loans (approved SBA micro lenders for NM).

Craig received SBA’s Women in Business Advocate of the Year in 1997, but she says that the experience is always humbling (especially when nominated by a client). She admits that every day is rewarding to her when she sees the excitement of a client who is opening their business for the first time, receiving a much-needed loan, or expanding.

“Being in business is not always easy anywhere these days,” Craig says, “But I think that it is especially difficult in New Mexico’s economy. However, I’ve seen small mom and pop operations grow and expand (much like Diane’s), adding jobs and benefits to New Mexico residents. That in itself is rewarding.”

WESST Corp is funded in part by SBA’s Office of Women Business Ownership in Washington, D.C.

WESST, www.wesst.org, is a non-profit small business development organization with offices in Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Gallup, Rio Rancho, Roswell and Las Cruces. The organization provides training, consulting and loans to entrepreneurs across New Mexico as well as business incubation services to members of the WESST Enterprise Center in Albuquerque.

For more information, please contact Jennifer Craig or Jo Ann Garay at WESST’s Las Cruces office: (575) 541-1583.