Home-business project, Live/Work Los Lunas, moves closer to launch
The Live/Work Los Lunas home-based business initiative, which is part of the village’s economic development plan, is close to launching services, officials say.
“We’re just about ready to plug this in and see how it runs,” private business counselor Ken Vincent, a member of the program’s executive committee, told a sparse crowd at a recent Live/Work public meeting. “We’re very close.”
Live/Work Los Lunas is a pilot program funded by a state grant, with support from the village, to provide guidance, resources and support for entrepreneurs who have or want to start a home-based business.
One of the program’s goals, Vincent said, is to create an owner-friendly home-based business atmosphere to attract new residents to Los Lunas who might want to start an enterprise, and to attract respectable companies that use independent home-based workers as part of their business.
There have already been some positives emerge from the program.
For one, many home-based businesses may soon have an easier time obtaining conditional-use zoning permits required by the village.
Diana Crowson, a planning technician in the Community Development Department, said revisions are in the works to planning and zoning regulations that would allow conditional-use permits to be issued administratively to home-based businesses that have no disruptive impact on the neighborhood.
Businesses that would increase neighborhood traffic, noise or other disruptions would still be required to go through the Planning and Zoning Commission hearing and approval process to get a permit.
Another potential positive for the northern half of the county is that the program may move beyond village boundaries.
“We’ve been getting interest from Bosque Farms and Peralta about participating,” said Vincent, “so we’re looking at that.”
Vincent said the final step before the project officially launches is completion of a “user’s manual” or “owner’s manual” for current or potential business owners that will serve as a guide to the process, with 10 “activities” users need to work through to fully prepare themselves to successfully operate a business. A draft of the manual has been completed and is being circulated among appropriate officials for review and mark-up.
A website is also being developed.
As an initial step, Vincent said, project officials have compiled a list of “competencies” entrepreneurs need to possess to improve chances for success.
These range from developing business and marketing plans to practical steps such as obtaining permits, licenses and tax ID numbers.
Vincent said the project assumes that program applicants will already have some of the “competencies,” and screening will help direct entrepreneurs to resources in the areas where they need help.
Many of those resources, he said, can be found at the Small Business Development Center at UNM-VC, which he described as a significant asset to any type of business and “the masters of the business plan.”
Best of all, said David Carlberg, an adviser at the SBDC, all of the center’s services are free.
The center also sponsors or has connections to a wide variety of mostly free or low-cost workshops featuring experts on topics of importance to small businesses.
Vincent said there will be four “entry points” into the program: new business starts; existing businesses that need help; people who want to be mentors; and people who want to be business start-up coaches.
Entry in each of the four starts with an application and evaluation.
Vincent said the program recognizes that different people have different levels of need, so part of the initial process involves determining the entrepreneur’s level of need. The results may determine whether the person is directed to resources, paired up with a mentor or possibly referred to a business start-up coach. The “user’s manual” the person has to work through, especially for start-ups, plays a role in this too.
Vincent said the Live/Work project is designed under a recognized instructional system model that makes certain assumptions and tests them through task analysis and focus group results.
The program conducted a focus group with about 15 local home-based business owners in February that changed officials’ assumptions in several areas.
The results, Vincent said, led the executive committee to adopt a “guided, coached performance” approach for the program. The elements of the program flow from that, he said, but he also noted that system design can only go so far.
“After the user’s manual is done, I want a live trial,” he said. “I’m eager to test-drive this thing and see how it works.”
He suggested that may involve beginning with a small group of applicants and adding more as the program is tweaked.
“I see this as an ongoing process,” he said.
For information about Live/Work Los Lunas, contact village Economic Development Manager Ralph Mims at 839-5654.
Contact Dana Bowley