ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Mike Sanchez’s first venture as an entrepreneur was selling Pop-Tarts in high school. It was an easy way to make money and he never had a problem selling them and he always sold out, he said.
“There’s always a market for Pop-Tarts, it’s a good market,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez is the President of the University of New Mexico Entrepreneurs (UNME). He is a senior, graduating this semester with a bachelor’s degree in general management. Sanchez plans to continue a career in marketing, sales and entrepreneurship, he said.
“We’re still in the early stages, but we are going to start managing this business accelerator/incubator called Studio G said Sanchez. “We’re going to be co-managing it with Innovation Academy and UNM Business Plan Competition.”
“What brings us all together is that we’re entrepreneurially minded, so not necessarily entrepreneurs yet or currently entrepreneurs or even want to be entrepreneurs, but we’re people that are interested in improving and self-growth and overcoming obstacles,” Sanchez said. “The definition of an entrepreneur is not necessarily starting a business but just creating stuff. Being in charge of your life.”
Sanchez emphasizes that the response from students and Albuquerque has been extremely supportive.
“Everybody from Innovation Academy, ABQid to FatPipe. Free Range is one of our biggest supporters. Even restaurants have started giving us money and just want to help out. So, I couldn’t ask for a better place and community to do this,” said Sanchez.
“We haven’t received any funds from the student government at all. We get donations in the form of popcorn, pizza and cookies. We have everything we need and we don’t even need to get any money from the student government,” said Sanchez. “We’re living the dream however small it may be.”
Sanchez said his advice to entrepreneurs is to, “First, figure out what you love to do and never stop until you figure that out. Keep trying new things, keep exploring, keep troubleshooting until you figure that out and it’s going to make everything so much easier.”
“Never stop being curious. Never stop asking questions. Questioning the status quo is what entrepreneurs do,” he said.
Before Sanchez graduates, he wants to double the size of UNME to about 40 members.
“I want to continue building this community and this vibrant place where people meet and bounce ideas off each other, and make it even more of a destination for folks,” said Sanchez.
Director of Innovation Academy Robert DelCampo said UNME is completely student driven.
“They don’t necessarily have a faculty member or staff person telling them, this is what you guys need or this is what you gotta do. They kind of make their own path and do their own thing,” said DelCampo.
Sanchez has been very proactive in finding ways for student entrepreneurs to be engaged, DelCampo said.
“He started working with the UNM Business Plan Competition and was able to get them to Facebook livestream their seminars, which is a big change. He’s been super interested in being as inclusive as possible. He’s real collaborative in terms of providing opportunity for everyone,” said DelCampo.
The response to UNME and Innovation Academy has been really strong, DelCampo said. Innovation Academy first started with a goal of about fifteen students per semester. As of Jan. 31, there are 770 students who represent about 85 different majors.
“Students are really interested in this kind of idea and I think it’s generational. Millennial’s, Generation Z kind of generation want to have options, not only in their career but also moving forward. They don’t want to have your typical report to a boss eight to five type of thing,” said DelCampo.
DelCampo wants to help entrepreneurs navigate and have more certainty, by providing the tools, he said.
“We’re seeing a lot of this stuff come together at the same time like UNME, Innovation Academy and around Albuquerque. We have the Innovative ABQ campus downtown. We have Rainforest; The idea is for students interested in entrepreneurship, to live there. We’ve got a lab with computers, 3D printers, cameras and different things for students to use,” said DelCampo.
“The City is interested in this form of economic development, the State, the University is jumping on board,” DelCampo said. “So, I think we’re just at the front edge of the explosion of this sort of thing. It’s good that UNME is here as well because students need to have their own organization to take ownership of.”
UNME and Innovation Academy have plenty of scheduled events this semester that are open to the public these events can be seen on their Facebook page. Furthermore, Innovation Academy and UNME are working together on a Create Your Own Job Fair scheduled for March 27.
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