The University of New Mexico Innovation Academy hosted a Create Your Own Job Fair for young entrepreneurs on Tuesday.
Setting it aside from a traditional job fair, the event was structured to support young people interested in starting their own business — essentially creating their own jobs.
Companies from across Albuquerque — like Nusenda, WESST, Sandia Labs, Air Force Research Labs, ABQid, SCORE Business Mentoring and many more — set up booths and talked to students at Lobo Rainforest.
Students had the opportunity to wander through the non-traditional job fair and discuss their business ideas with company representatives. They received advice and information to help them reach their business goals.
“It’s definitely helpful to have all these people in one place, because they’re all diverse and all from different companies and have different ways to help,” UNM student Katherine Brunner said.
Connor Lites, a graduate student at UNM, said it can be hard to start a business, and this event helped him to find his next steps.
“It’s difficult figuring out where to go when you’re an entrepreneur,” Lites said. “I’m looking to get funding and mentorship and consulting, so this event was really great.”
Robert Del Campo, director of the Innovation Academy, said the last time the Create Your Own Job Fair happened was several years ago, but he wanted to bring it back to benefit students.
“We have different ways that we try to help and fund students that are interested in starting their own enterprise,” Del Campo said.
Some of these funds come from competitions, such as the Innovation Academy’s pitch competition coming up in April, he said.
“There’s a lot of free help to small businesses that they don’t really realize,” said Sandia National Labs Project Manager Judy Hendricks.
Hendricks said a small New Mexico business can come consult with the engineers and biologists at Sandia Labs for free. Many of the other companies at the career fair offer free consulting and aid for young business people as well.
The Innovation Academy currently works with 34 student-run businesses, according to Del Campo.
Kyle Guin attended the event and is one of these entrepreneurs at the academy. He currently runs a company called Shutter Bombs, which sells smoke bombs for use in photography and art.
Students Katherine Brunner and Molly Schmeltzer also attended the event and said they are trying to start a membership subscription for beer coupons.
“We talk about how our economy is depressed here in Albuquerque, but there are actually a lot of efforts that are being made to build our economy and our businesses and our community,” Lites said. “It’s important that we take advantage of these opportunities.”
Catherine Stringam is a freelance reporter with the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @cathey_stringam.