The Interview That Kick-Ass Entrepreneurs Founder Didn’t Want Shared

This is the Albuquerque Business Podcast with your host Jason Rigby. Each week we interview leading local business leaders to inspire the vision and the spirit that is in every entrepreneur. We discuss strengths, weaknesses, strategies, systems, and the problems we can all solve together to fulfill a shared vision of a new future for Albuquerque.

One woman’s desire to hear local entrepreneurs’ stories and share that experience with others started as a Meetup Group launched in January 2018. Since then Kick-Ass EntrepreneursTM of Santa Fe (KAESF) has grown to 480+ members and our monthly-ish Santa Fe-based Entrepreneur Story TimeTM events are consistently attended by 25-65+ local fans of entrepreneurship and entrepreneur ecosystem partners each month. Our entrepreneur storytellers hail from across industries – from food to tech and from startups to multi-million- dollar moguls kicking ass for years. They generously share their insights and experiences so others can learn what it takes to make it in the Land of Enchantment and beyond. By leveraging the well-researched and documented power of storytelling, we’re helping to establish a truly engaged entrepreneur ecosystem for our community and we’d like to see that success spread across the state, and then the nation.

What makes KAESF’s Entrepreneur Story Time events unique?

  • We provide Santa Fe entrepreneurs with an opportunity to share their story with an engaged audience of local fans, curious community members and potential partners.

  • We ask our entrepreneurs to share beyond what they do and what you can read about online. No sales pitches, just stories.

  • We engage entrepreneurs of all ages and stages and across industries.

  • We ask our entrepreneur storytellers to be real – to share what it’s really like launching and growing a

    business in our community.

  • We ask our entrepreneurs what worked for them – what resources and people helped them along the

    way, this way the audience can benefit from their experiences and these resources.

  • We provide time for schmoozing a 1/2 hour before and after events, so those who come to hear stories

    get to mingle, meet and make friends with people with similar interests.

  • We ask our storytellers to share what’s next for their entrepreneurial endeavor, leading to announcements

    about job openings, business expansions and relocations and providing an opportunity for interested

    audience members to share helpful info.

  • We conclude each Entrepreneur Story Time with Q&A time, giving the audience a chance to get their

    questions answered, share their insights, or offer more helpful info.

  • We put on events that are always different. By orchestrating events at different local bars and restaurants

    each month, we’re introducing our community to businesses they might not otherwise think to visit and


  • We provide each event venue owner the opportunity to share their short story (up to 5 minutes), creating

    a community of fans more likely to come back and support these businesses again in the future.

  • We craft creative monthly Entrepreneur Story Time announcements chock full of interesting tidbits and links to give our entrepreneurs, venues and sponsors recognition while providing them with links to share

    with their community of followers and fans.

  • We post each Entrepreneur Story Time event on Meetup, Facebook, Instagram and our website, send out a Mailchimp newsletter to our subscribers,

    and post a minimum of 2 social media reminders leading up to each event.

  • We regularly share entrepreneur-related info, events, opportunities and entrepreneur storyteller alumni

    wins on our Facebook Page.

  • We have a hell of a lot of fun while building social capital.

    Our KAESF Entrepreneur Story Time Alumni Falling Colors (coming June 4, 2020) | B.PUBLIC (coming May 7, 2020) Simply Social Media | Parting Stone | Squash Blossom | OneForNeptune | TARTLE ITConnect | Bow Wow Haus | Verde Foods | Wander New Mexico | Xerb | HANGTIME NMCFO | Madre Foods | HoneyMoon Brewery | Dashing Delivery | Tall Foods | Flow Science Woodruff Scientific & SciVista | Fab Lab Hub | DeployHub | EMR-Bear | VIZZIA Technologies

Funding would help Kick-Ass Entrepreneurs pilot Entrepreneur Story TimeTM events within other NM communities, from small, rural towns to bigger cities – surveying, testing and refining along the way to improve its ability to succeed and deliver value in communities not just across the state, but across the country. If success can be proven within NM, then packaging KAE Entrepreneur Story Time in a model similar to the Kauffman Foundation’s 1 Million Cups would be the ultimate goal. For those unfamiliar with 1 Million Cups, it started in 2012 in Kansas City and is now a program of the Kauffman Foundation with weekly events organized in 40+ states, one U.S. territory and six time zones, including FatPipe ABQ any Wednesday at 9 AM. Two entrepreneurs each week are given 6 minutes to present, followed by up to 20 minutes of Q&A. Like Entrepreneur Story Time, 1 Million Cups events are a powerful way for entrepreneurs to get feedback and connect with their community, but 1 Million Cups is geared toward providing entrepreneurs the opportunity to refine their presentations and elevator pitches, while Entrepreneur Story Time is all about using the power of story to create connection and community (no presentations or pitching allowed!).

Funding would enable KAE to not only test out expanding events to other NM cities and eventually CO as our 1st KAE state, but would enable us to survey, collect and analyze data as we go to measure, document impact, recognize areas of improvement and establish best practices. Furthermore, surveying the impact of our 2+ years of events in Santa Fe has not occurred due to lack of funding, yet could be a key factor in helping us secure buy-in and position us as a solid contender for additional funding necessary for expansion. While I’ve not officially collected data from our local entrepreneur ecosystem, its partners, event attendees or our alumni storytellers – those who’ve been experiencing Entrepreneur Story Time and its benefits over the past 2+ years – some big and small off-the-top-of-my-head examples are:

  • The Founder of Verde Foods, Kelly Egolf, approached Madre Foods Founder, Katelyn Hilburn, at Katelyn’s Story Time, and soon after Madre Foods products were being sold at Verde Foods locations and Madre Foods was able to expand their operation by switching to using kitchen space at Verde Foods.

  • Following the sharing of her story, Squash Blossom Owner, Nina Yozell-Epstein, was approached by folks from the City of Santa Fe’s Office of Economic Development (OED) (regular event attendees) to serve on a panel at the City’s 2019 Santa Fe Food Summit: Sparking Entrepreneurship in the Food Industry, attended by nearly 100 industry enthusiasts.

  • Upon hearing that ITConnect was looking to expand, one of the City’s OED employees introduced himself and told ITConnect Owner, Kareem Edwards about the Local Economic Development Act (LEDA), a program designed to assist qualified expanding or relocating businesses. The next day he connected Kareem with two business expansion support strategies SMEs, the City’s Business Growth Manager and the State’s Economic Development Representative.

  • Parting Stone founder, Justin Crowe, was approached by an event attendee so moved by his story and product that she asked if he were seeking additional investors.

  • EMR-Bear Co-Founder, Jay Heneghan, shared her Story Time spotlight with a Las Cruces native, Lyn Graft, by making us aware of his book, Start with Story: The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Using Story to Grow Your Business, and giving away a copy at the event.

  • Verde Foods Owner, Kelly Egolf, helped orchestrate a fundraiser as part of her Story Time. Kelly donated her juice products to be mixed with OM Spirit’s liqueurs (donated by OM Partner Natalie Bovis) and got the new Terra Verde Owner to kick in some munchies. The folks from the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market Institute (SFFMI) collected the $10/person donations, which went to support the SFFMI’s superb work.

  • After learning that Haj Khalsa, Owner of HANGTIME and KOALA Inventor, was desperate for someone with TikTok social media skills, I was able to connect him to a local I happened to meet with those very skills.

  • When Simply Social Media mentioned they were in desperate need of office space with conference room access, the owner of The Alley offered up their conference room any time.

  • Connected a women with background and experience in accelerators interested in being a mentor for a new social enterprise business accelerator, Santa Fe Innovates, to accelerator founder.

Beyond those specific examples above, I would expect that surveying would bring to light many other examples of the benefits derived from Entrepreneur Story Time events and the network that KAE has created here in Santa Fe. Some other benefits I’ve seen and heard are:

  • Huge value in real people getting to meet and chat with those who’ve actually used our local resources

    and participated in the programs themselves. What comes out at these events essentially serves as free advertising for local accelerators, incubators, grant programs, funding sources, programs, and people. Plus, with so many of the folks who represent those accelerators, incubators, grant programs, funding sources and programs attending our events (something that happened organically), it’s wonderful to see those in need of help make that in-person connection right then and there.

  • Research shows that people connect with people, and Entrepreneur Story Time puts the people in front of the business. By providing a safe space for entrepreneurs to be vulnerable and give voice to some of their challenges, the entrepreneurs have earned community empathy and connected with others with similar challenges, helping them to feel less alone and supported on their entrepreneurial journey.

  • Introducing folks to our local crowdfunding success stories and the entrepreneurs behind them helps other entrepreneurs see how they too can capitalize on a broader audience for their product.

  • Whether it’s a new bar or restaurant, I’ve heard oodles of times, I’ve never been there, which thrills me to introduce people to new places. When I later hear, I go to so-and-so place all the time since that KAE event, I’m even happier.

  • Entrepreneur storytellers and the venues who welcome us stand out as community supporters, willing to give their time and space to help strengthen our entrepreneur ecosystem.

  • We have a lot of folks who are new to Santa Fe find us on Meetup, start coming to our events and feel welcomed instantly. We’re proud to be a gateway for newcomers to our stellar community.

    In additional, the potential benefits for the person who takes on the role of Entrepreneur Story Time event organizer within their community is tremendous and can be a gateway for a business, local program personnel or government office to truly reach their entrepreneurs and those who support them. Just by organizing these events over the past 2+ years, I can attest that:

  • I’m now seen as a go-to person for local, state, and other entrepreneur-related inquiries.

  • I’m so in-the-know that I’m often able to connect entrepreneur storytellers with community-members who

    can fill their needs or help solve their problems.

  • I’ve become an expert on local venues, bars ,and restaurants and the folks who own and run them and

    have the privilege to continue to support them by recommending them to others.

  • I have so much knowledge about our entrepreneur storyteller alumni and their products and services that

    I’m constantly recommending them to others, helping to keep business local.

  • It’s a hell of a lot of fun and I get to experience that warm fuzzy feeling on a regular basis.

    The spread of KAE Entrepreneur Story Time across the county, and eventually the world, would likely spur similar benefits as those derived in Santa Fe, but by creating a broader network:

  • People would have a trusted brand to turn to to find like-minded people and a supportive entrepreneur

    base wherever they may move, travel or want to expand their business to.

  • The fun and comfort in making true connections would spread!

Please go to where you can get show notes, resources,and links to everything we talked about today to help you navigate your journey as an entrepreneur and business owner in ABQ. Follow me on instagram at @abqjasonrigby or sign up for my email list here where I drop marketing secrets to help your ABQ Business!