The person: Connor Wilson has only lived in Santa Fe four years, but he is already interested in our local economics in a big way. To be fair, Wilson’s involvement with global equity investment at Thornburg Investment Management sees him literally looking everywhere but Santa Fe for investment opportunities, but as a civilian, Wilson is so concerned with local socioeconomic growth that he found himself looking for ways to help and eventually joined local organization MIX Santa Fe.
MIX, of course, is Santa Fe’s increasingly important connection-building machine/resource finder. Through monthly events, MIX’s crack team of young professionals and local entrepreneurs pulls together movers and shakers of all types and ages in a party-like setting. Each event asks the attendees a specific question about Santa Fe. For example, a few events ago, MIX wondered what the locals wanted more of (the answer was music, by the way). MIX then uses these data to better plan future events, as well as strategize how best to go about having a positive impact on the community. It is, in a word, killer.
The plan: Wilson spearheaded the BizMIX Challenge, a competition through which locals can submit business plans in the hopes of receiving a micro-stimulus grant to realize their vision. Any type of business will be considered, just as long as it is well thought out. “We are hoping for a lot of different types,” Wilson says. “We feel like there must be plenty of Santa Feans out there who are right on the cusp of exciting business developments and just need that final monetary push.”
How it works: Beginning March 15, interested parties can download the application from mixsantafe.com. During the judging period, competitors will have invaluable access to mentorship with local business owners, as well as MIX’s extensive network of professionals. “The idea is that maybe people aren’t sure what steps they need to take and in what order,” Wilson says. “We have the people willing to help, and I believe it will prove tremendously helpful to anyone who is in the beginning stages of a new business.” Semifinalists will be announced June 7 at the Chamber of Commerce’s Santa Fe Business Awards, and the winner at a MIX function scheduled for June 21.
Bottom line: According to MIX coordinator and After Hours Alliance co-founder Shannon Murphy, “Young people are really great at figuring out what a city is missing, and I don’t doubt that we’ll see some pretty innovative ideas.” MIX tends to benefit a younger demographic—a tragically underserved cross-section of the community. If there are 20-somethings who not only stay in Santa Fe, but open new businesses that target a younger audience, there is no end to the economic benefit. “We’re trying to foster an entrepreneurial subculture in Santa Fe, and MIX wants to provide young—or not-so-young—business-minded people with the support they need,” Wilson says. “Even if a business makes microchips to be sold in Taiwan, this business will be paying taxes here, and that benefits the city as a whole.”