Santa Fe’s Secret Sauce for Economic Revitalization
Tender Fire exemplifies how creative entrepreneurs have transformed Santa Fe
If you love pizza and live in Santa Fe, you probably know about Tender Fire, which Ben Crosky started with a mobile pizza oven and a vision to bring people together with delicious food. Tender Fire has been a huge hit since it opened. Crosky, a Creative Startups alumnus, is currently raising funds for a brick-and-mortar location and to date has raised $55,400 in Mainvest, an investment platform that connects brick & mortar businesses with investors who care. There is only one day left in the fundraiser (so don’t miss your chance to invest!). That’s on top of having passed the $500k mark in revenue. This killer combination of creative, community-minded business and financial acumen is turning into a Santa Fe phenomenon.
Tender Fire is just one face of Santa Fe’s creative economy, which is revitalizing in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the Santa Fe Reporter, “Among New Mexico’s 33 counties, Santa Fe County had the second highest year-over-year gain in Matched Taxable Gross Receipts (MTGR) over the year—an increase of 32%, according to the state Economic Development Department.” Much of this revitalization is thanks to the efforts of the Santa Fe Office of Economic Development, which, in addition to being an information clearinghouse, provides resources for Santa Fe small businesses in the form of grants, training, and collaborations with organizations like Creative Startups.
Creative Startups is the world’s leading accelerator for creative companies and entrepreneurs, working with creative luminaries like Meow Wolf. With support from the City of Santa Fe, Creative Startups created Santa Fe Food LABS, an accelerator program for culinary entrepreneurs. Of the program, Ben Crosky, said that “[His] experience with the creative food lab not only helped me articulate my mission and solidify a powerful business plan with the thoughtful eyes of mentors and peers, it connected me to people and ideas that have been showing up to support my business in the months and years following the program.” That is, Creative Startups helped Crosky find both a path to revenue and helped him plug in to an economic ecosystem.
Another Santa Fe Food LABS alum, Brad Jarman of Overture Cake Shop, moved to Santa Fe and launched his shop in the midst of a pandemic. “Being shut in at home, with little outside contact, this program was a lifeline to both other small business folks, as well as experienced teachers, mentors, and business owners.” Despite these less-than-ideal circumstances, Jarman has been able to build his business and share his exquisite designs with customers.
A theme starts to emerge: Crosky and Jarman (and many other program alumni) had the creative know-how, they just needed the skills, the support, and the connections to take their business to the next level.
Creative Startups accelerators in Santa Fe have been a huge success, working with 61 entrepreneurs and creating 153 new jobs using an economic multiplier. Program alumni have generated $2.6 million in new revenue since March 2020. In other words, accelerator programs can empower local businesses to experience faster and more secure growth.
The creative entrepreneurial path, and the growth that comes from fostering it, is of course not limited to food. As Mayor Alan Webber wrote in the foreword of Creative Economy Entrepreneurs by Creative Startup’s Alice Loy, “Creative entrepreneurship is not only finding expressions in the marketplace where technology, experience, and design thinking come together. Creative entrepreneurship is on its way to transforming established fields like health medicine, education and teaching, banking and finance, travel and transportation—and more.”
Growth isn’t the only metric when it comes to business, diversity is also part of the equation. Among Creative Startups alumni, 50% self-identify as people of color, and 30% as women of color. Programs like Santa Fe Food LABS help bring diversity and equity to the entrepreneurial community, with the goal that the demographics of business owners more accurately reflects the diversity of Santa Fe. An emphasis on growth and diversity means that the residents of Santa Fe have a more robust community of local businesses (and a more delicious range of local foods).
Are you a Southwest based entrepreneur? We have a few programs in the works that might be right for you—Like our Creative Tech Innovation Challenge created with Vital Spaces or our Creatives Indigenous Innovation Challenge created with Native Max Magazine!
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