Aug 6, 2015, 11:34am MDT

A new $2 million fund is in the works that could help Native American entrepreneurs find the early-round funding they need.

Wendy Sandidge, Managing Director of Entrepreneurial Services

The Native Entrepreneur in Residence program, — a New Mexico Community Capital initiative — specializes in taking startups through a six-month entrepreneurship program, said Wendy Sandidge, managing director of entrepreneurial services.

She said the companies that go through the program, like many in New Mexico, struggle to find investment dollars once they graduate.

“We hate to see them get through a program like ours and then fail because there’s no capital,” Sandidge said.

So, said Sandidge, NMCC and the NEIR program are committed to create a new fund to help. The fund has raised about $75,000 so far, with a goal of $2 million, said Sandidge.

“We’re hoping to hear on more funding. We’re fundraising with tribes around the country,” she said.

The program is funded through an Administration for Native Americans grant of $1.7 million to operate the program for five years. But, she said, that money doesn’t go far enough to help the companies after they’ve graduated. Each company does, however, get a $15,000 stipend during its time in the program.

The next class of companies that will go through the program will be announced August 7. The applications for this fall’s class, she said, range from water technology firms to a salon and a farm.

“It’s all over the place. We really accept anyone with a good idea,” she said. “We pair them with a mentor, we try to find someone who’s been there and done that.”

The program teaches the basics, such as filing taxes and accounting, as well as higher-level business strategies. The program was one of two that will be getting funds from the Small Business Administration’s new Growth Accelerator Fund Competition, which is supporting 80 accelerator and incubator investment programs from across the nation. The NEIR program and the Creative-Startups accelerator program will both receive $50,000 from the SBA as part of its competition.