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NMSU event helps small businesses and entrepreneurs 'GROW'

New name. New attitude.

Dean Garrey Carruthers talks to two people at an Arrowhead Center event.
NMSU College of Business Dean Garrey Carruthers (right) talks to Fred Owensby of the Dona Aņa Community College Small Business Development Center and Katie Hays of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce at Arrowhead Center's entrepreneur event last year. (Provided photo)

That sums up the revamp of an annual small business and entrepreneur conference hosted by New Mexico State University's Arrowhead Center.

Once called the Business Owners and Entrepreneurs Symposium, the name of the Nov. 4 half-day gathering has been changed to GROW: An Event for Entrepreneurs.

"We're going to have different experts sit down with people one-on-one to talk about (a business') specific problem," said Sara Pirayesh Sanders, entrepreneurship director for the Arrowhead Center. "The intention is for it to be a working, very tangible event. People come in with a problem and they leave with resources. It's targeted to those who want to start a business or who already may be in business."

In past years, the setting was more formalized, with a panel onstage taking questions from the audience. This year, the audience will sit through a few presentations and then have the opportunity to stop at various stations and talk directly to the experts. For example, a small business owner who has designed her own brochure will be able to show her work to a marketing expert who will provide a constructive critique and advice.

Theresa Gonzales, vice president of RTD Hardware, was a panel participant last year and is enthusiastic about the GROW changes.

"Not many people asked questions last year, so there really wasn't much interchange between the audience and us," she said. "Less formal is always less intimidating for a lot of people. This will probably be a much easier way for people to ask questions. It would have made me more relaxed as well. I'm not really big on speaking in front of people. I prefer one-on-one."

Despite running a business that has been operating in Las Cruces for 25 years, Gonzales said she is interested in attending GROW so she can learn more from the experts about social media and insurance issues.

"I can see myself sitting in front of an expert and asking questions for my business," she said.

Among the speakers at the GROW event are Michael Rivera, state director of the New Mexico Small Business Development Center Network; Bill Allen, president and CEO of the Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce; and John Woosley, director of the New Mexico district office of the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Chris Penner, director of the Arrowhead Technology Incubator, will give the luncheon keynote address. Penner will discuss his experiences as an entrepreneur. Garrey Carruthers, dean of the NMSU College of Business and vice president for economic development, will give the closing remarks.

For the one-on-one meetings, local experts will be on hand to help small business owners and budding entrepreneurs in a variety of fields such as Web design, marketing, commercial lending, taxes, insurance, information technology and international trade.

In addition to getting free advice from the experts, GROW attendees also will receive a jump drive that has templates, instructions, guidelines, checklists, information on how to open a Facebook account and more, Sanders said.

Along with the Arrowhead Center, GROW is sponsored by the Dona Aņa Community College Small Business Development Center and the New Mexico Procurement and Technical Assistance Program.

Peter Ibarbo, president of the Ibarbo Consulting Group in Las Cruces, said small businesses in the area have many resources available to them, but the Arrowhead Center fills a special and needed niche.

"The Arrowhead Center provides a specific, technology-focused type of business incubation," he said. "I think it is very critical to the economy to attract companies that require that connection with the university to provide them with research and with space."

GROW: An Event for Entrepreneurs takes place from 7:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., Nov. 4, at the New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum, 4100 Dripping Springs Road. The cost is $49 to the public and $35.50 for students. For more information and to register, visit Grow2011.eventbrite.com.