UNM Rainforest Innovations

When it comes to entrepreneurship and university economic development programs, the goal is to cultivate a mindset that drives students not only to get a job, but to create them.

Entrepreneurship is no small feat. It requires drive, discipline, risk and the ability to seize opportunity. Entrepreneurs are not afraid to fail and are usually those who reach out for help, utilizing the people and resources around them to learn, grow and succeed. This is the case when it comes to former UNM student and Entrepreneurial Capabilities Certificate recipient Christian Slough (CJ).

In February 2020, prior to the state cjCovid-19 shutdown CJ participated in a CTSC Health Hackathon where he and colleague Amelia Bierle brainstormed an idea for a “Smart Inhaler.” From this hackathon came a chain of events that eventually led to the formation of the start-up company, Thuvia Systems LLC. As this venture unfolded, CJ discovered all the resources and trainings available to student entrepreneurs through the NM Rainforest University Center, a program funded by the U.S. Economic Development Administration, to provide entrepreneurial training and technical assistance to individuals or small businesses who are looking to start or grow their idea.

In August 2020, CJ participated in the Create.Sell.Bank! for the Community Course where he learned various eCommerce techniques and strategies which are essential skills for any entrepreneur to learn especially in today’s economic climate. Additionally, CJ engaged with the NM Rainforest University Center content, videos and officer hours. The training videos and office hours helped him gain valuable insight regarding important aspects of entrepreneurship and in December 2020 he earned his Entrepreneurial Capabilities Certificate after viewing 7 webinars and completing each of their associated quizzes.

Based on concepts learned through the University Center videos and advice received while attending Virtual Mentoring Office Hours, CJ realized that a key step to help drive the Smart Inhaler and Thuvia Systems LLC forward was to engage in in-depth customer discovery. Mentors from the University Center advised CJ to begin engaging in customer discovery through customer interviews and encouraged him and Amelia to apply for the Spring 2021 Lobo Rainforest I-Corp Cohort where they received further guidance.

“In addition to the mentoring and trainings received from University Center, I-Corp really helped our idea evolve. Through customer interviews we realized that if we wanted to fully deliver our value proposition, we needed to bring in all players in our ecosystem; from the physicians and patients, to the pharmacists and caregivers,” CJ states.

Since their final I-Corp presentation, CJ and Amelia have helped Thuvia Systems apply for an STTR grant and the startup has partnered with Dr. Ramiro Jordan’s Why Lab at UNM.

Most recently, through connections made within the NM Rainforest Entrepreneurial Ecosystem, CJ has started a position in sales and marketing for the New Mexico startup company Build with Robots, who builds turn-key robotic solutions that enable the world’s workforce to be healthier, more productive and more fulfilled.

Over the past year, CJ has learned and benefitted from the multitude of opportunities provided through the NM Rainforest University Center and the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Albuquerque. As he reflects he states:

“One thing I’ve learned is that there are so many resources here in New Mexico and through UNM, it’s just a matter of letting yourself be vulnerable, going to mentoring office hours, reaching out via email and not being afraid to ask questions or reach out for help.”

One of the goals of the NM Rainforest University Center is to help students like CJ develop an entrepreneurial mindset and access the resources available to them in order to help their ambitions and ideas thrive.

If you are interested in earning your Entrepreneurial Capabilities Certificate, attending office hours or connecting with any of the programs and resources mentioned above, email Cecilia Pacheco at cpacheco@innovations.unm.edu. UNM Rainforest Innovations will help get you started.

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