MIX founders say they decided to end the program because of funding shortfall, but they also say the program has served its purpose.
"We're putting on our flight suits and calling 'mission accomplished,'" Fischer writes, detailing the successful arc of a project that began as the brain-child of the City of Santa Fe Economic Development Department's "Talent Retention Task Force" led by MIX co-founder Kate Noble.
It was 2008, the economy was in the midst of collapse, and Santa Fe was practically bleeding young people. MIX attempted to serve young professionals and creative talent in town by finding out what Santa Fe was lacking and creating something to fill the void.
For the last decade, MIX Santa Fe events provided intentionally cool networking soirees packed with young Santa Feans on the hunt for new friends, romance and business contacts. Each event took place at a different location, typically with a businesses partner in the venue or attendees.
Organizers also launched the bizMIX accelerator program on a shoestring budget to help local entrepreneurs get their fledgling business off the ground. Left intentionally open to anyone with a good idea in any economic sector, bizMIX alumni are an eclectic mix of 98 companies that include food startups such as Honeymoon Brewery, a popular kombucha brewery and event space, and the Cheesemongers of Santa Fe, product companies such as Stalworth Shoes and Boots, and businesses that defy classification such as Parting Stone, a company that turns cremated bodies into beautiful ceramic stones.
As Fischer writes in his post, many of the problems MIX aimed to address, such as lack of nightlife or professional and creative networking opportunities, feel at least partially resolved.
"We may not have a public transportation gondola yet, but we've got an impressive trail network that can spit you out next to an ecosystem of cool cafes. The city itself is far better networked through individual, organizational and professional connections," he writes.
But after more than a decade, the end of MIX signals the end of an era for Santa Fe in some ways, and co-founders Daniel Werwath and Kate Noble tell SFR the announcement is bittersweet.
"I'm really quite disappointed about it," says Werwath. "What we were doing was honed by 10 years of really on-the-ground work and understanding what the entrepreneurial community needs, and was designed around it."
MIX got its initial start as an economic development program underwritten mostly by the City of Santa Fe, and has continued to depend on a city contract along with community donations.
When the contract came up for renewal at the end of the fiscal year in June, the city put out a request for proposals for a four-year $200,000 economic development contract for business accelerator and social networking programs. MIX lost the bid to Creative Startups, a Santa Fe based accelerator program focused on the creative sector.
"We had sort of been moving in a direction to really up our game …" Co-Founder Kate Noble tells SFR. "We were making moves to professionalize the program, make it into its own nonprofit, increase the staffing and professionalism there, and then it was a bit of a blow when we found out that the city funding wouldn't be there."
MIX was also awarded a $25,000 contract to continue its networking events, but founders say this wasn't enough to keep the program true to its mission.
"Frankly it's been an underfunded project running on a lot of volunteer labor, sponsorships and community good will, in some parts by design, but we just couldn't keep going," says Noble. She adds that bizMix, the program's entrepreneurial incubator program, is at the heart of the project. "It just doesn't make sense to continue MIX in this incarnation without being able to continue bizMIX," she says.
Founders say they don't know yet what will be next, but they also know this won't be the end of the road. "It's been an incredibly collaborative partnership, and I think we will almost certainly do something wonderful in its next iteration," says Noble.
>Join MIX to say goodbye and celebrate 10 years of success and experiments at 6 pm Thursday, Nov. 21, at SITE Santa Fe, 1606 Paseo De Peralta.