Living and working in Los Lunas

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One Los Lunas program aims to hold small business owners’ hands through the growing pains they face in the beginning years as a home-based business.

Abigail R. Ortiz-News-Bulletin photo: Ralph L. Mims, village of Los Lunas economic development manager, left, and Christina Ainsworth, the village’s community development director, right, work collaboratively in assisting small business owners in overcoming growing pains they face their first year as home-based businesses. The village of Los Lunas sponsors the Live Work Los Lunas program.

Live Work Los Lunas, sponsored by the village of Los Lunas, helps business owners get to a point where their business is successful.

“Our job is to make you successful once you’re in the program,” said Ralph L. Mims, the village’s economic development manager.

The program is a support system that helps home-based businesses become successful by receiving advice from a business coach, attending informational meetings, networking with other small business owners and advertising on a city-sponsored website.

With the economic downturn, individuals are searching for ways to make money on their own from home, since technological advances have made it easy to do so.

“There are a lot of people that are looking to start a business out of their home,” said Christina Ainsworth, the village’s director of community development.

Those without employment are needing to reinvent themselves and choose to do so by establishing a home-based business, Mims said.

“A lot of people that go into a home-based business, they are either laid off, had a career change or they just like to work from their home instead of going into a traditional job,” he said.

Live Work Los Lunas aids business owners through multiple stages of growth, including those who are starting up and those with existing businesses, Ainsworth said.

It even offers volunteer opportunities, for those who have a thriving business, to mentor a small business owner.

“We’re at least filling some of the gaps for small business owners operating out of their home,” Ainsworth said. “They don’t have anyone to go to and they’re kind of out there by themselves and often they really don’t know where to go or what to do to get assistance.”

The program allows business owners to network with other business owners in Valencia County at monthly meetings, where attendees listen to speakers who offer advice affecting home-based businesses.

In meetings, speakers offer advice, such as funding sources, setting up a website, financial literacy, marketing and avoiding first-year pitfalls.

Participants can advertise their business on the program’s website, which helps get the word out to the community about home-based businesses and their services.

The program also connects businesses to existing resources available in Valencia County, such as the Small Business Development Center at the University of New Mexico-Valencia Campus.

For the first time business owner, LWLL provides a business development program consisting of a business coach and small business booklet on top of the other services provided.

The business coach, Ken Carpenter, aids existing and beginning business owners avoid some of the mine fields they can find themselves in financially during the first couple of years.

The Los Lunas business owner, who has also taught financial courses, created the 40-page document called “Owners Manual for Small Businesses” given to those who are starting up.

In the book, business owners work through 10 activities, alongside Carpenter, to get started on the right foot.

“Along the way, they are learning everything from, ‘Am I really well suited to run and own a company?’ ‘Do I have a clear vision of what my company and business would do?’ and ‘Is there a market for that product or service?’ all the way up to how to write a business plan,” Carpenter said.

The first-year business owners guide is set up to help businesses get up and running for long-term success.

The statistics for small businesses’ long-term success are alarming, Carpenter said.

“Generally, 90 percent of them will fail within five years,” he said.

This failure can be due to business owners going into business for the wrong reasons, not being well prepared for the challenges, an underdeveloped business idea or plan, success outpacing their capacity or that operating a business was harder than expected.

“Our idea is let’s work with these people and get knee cap to knee cap with you, walking you through the process,” Carpenter said.

To participate in the business development program, applicants must be serious about starting a business, have a viable idea for a business and time to develop the business, Ainsworth said.

The pilot program launched in 2010 by Community Economics Laboratory, an Albuquerque non-profit think tank searching for a way to stimulate economic development.

“What they found was that the fastest growing sector of the economy is the home-based worker at this point,” Ainsworth said.

The village of Los Lunas partnered with CEL to offer this program to Valencia County residents.

“We’re the only ones (in the state), apparently, that were willing to do it,” Ainsworth said.

To make this program a good option for residents, the village amended its ordinances to make it easier for individuals to work from home.

Before, residents were made to attend a public hearing to have an office in their home, but now residents can receive their business license without doing so, Ainsworth said.

Throughout its two years in existence, the free program has assisted about 10 Valencia County home-based businesses and about two residents who were tinkering with the idea of starting up a business.

Although its received interest from entrepreneurs, the program has struggled to maintain committed, motivated residents to start a home-based business.

“We’ve got a great program here that’s dying to be tried,” Carpenter said.

Business owners must be committed, serious and devoted to focusing on their business to succeed, Mims said.

“Any time you start any endeavor, you’re going to have stress — its frightening, you’re going to take a risk and you have to get beyond that. A lot of people can’t get beyond that,” Mims said.

Shirley F. Bailey, owner of Procurement Strategies, said the information she’s learned from attending LWLL meetings, open to the public, has been immensely useful in her own business.

For more information about Live Work Los Lunas, visit the program’s website at www.liveworkloslunasnm.org, or contact Ralph L. Mims at 839-5654.


-- Email the author at aortiz@news-bulletin.com.