Three members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation announced Friday $2.25 million in federal funding for Women’s Economic Self-Sufficiency Team, Corp. (WESST) in their work to expand opportunities for underserved entrepreneurs and drive economic development in New Mexico.
WESST, which has a location in Rio Rancho, aims to be a home to New Mexicans starting or growing a small business. WESST provides a support system of consulting, training, incubation and lending to help women, people of color and low-wealth entrepreneurs successfully strengthen and grow their businesses through sustainable sales, financial knowledge and job creation.
The funding comes from the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) of the U.S. Department of Commerce and U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).
“We are honored and thrilled about this multi-year grant award from MBDA,” Agnes Noonan, president of WESST, said. “For WESST to be one of 43 organizations to be selected for this award is a testament to the hard work of our incredible staff who are committed to a more inclusive economy for women, persons of color, immigrants, LGBTQ and other diverse individuals. With this new MBDA award, WESST will launch a four-year CAP-Ability Project which will provide financial capability training and assistance with accessing capital for New Mexicans who have experienced systemic barriers when starting or growing a business.”
U.S. Sens. Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Luján and U.S. Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández welcomed the federal support for WESST.
“We can’t grow New Mexico’s economy without the incredible talent and potential of the aspiring entrepreneurs in our state. That is what this investment is all about,” Heinrich said . “By equipping New Mexicans with the tools they need to successfully own and operate their small businesses, we’re creating more pathways to the middle class, driving economic development, and investing in our communities for the future.”
WESST received $2 million in federal funding from the MBDA’s Capital Readiness Program to launch the WESST CAP-Ability Project in mid-2023.
This project will provide comprehensive small business capacity-building services, access to capital, and access to networks that will help socially and economically distressed individuals (SEDI) in both rural and urban areas of New Mexico start new businesses and scale existing ones.
The project aims to have 663 program graduates, with 333 improving their creditworthiness and making pitches to capital providers. Additionally, it will assist SEDI entrepreneurs raise $10 million in capital, with 387 SEDI-owned businesses formed and/or scaled.
WESST also received $250,000 through SBA’s Program for Investment in Microentrepreneurs (PRIME) to enable WESST to offer comprehensive, bilingual entrepreneurial development services to disadvantaged New Mexicans.
These services will be targeted to native Spanish speakers throughout the state and individuals residing in rural New Mexico. WESST will serve a total of 400 rural and Spanish-speaking individuals, which will result in the start-up of 50 new businesses, the stabilization or growth of 50 existing businesses, and the creation or retention of 150 jobs.
“In New Mexico, small businesses play a vital role in our communities and serve as the driving force behind our local economies,” Luján said. “That’s why I’m pleased to welcome strong federal investments to help New Mexico’s underserved entrepreneurs overcome the systemic barriers that they face every day. WESST is committed to growing a diverse entrepreneurial workforce, and these investments will expand its capabilities to promote opportunities for local entrepreneurs and bolster our state’s economy.”