Note From the Director
There has been a tremendous amount accomplished at Arrowhead Center in 2016. In February, we held the first meeting and reception for the Board of Directors of the Arrowhead Innovation Fund, our early-stage investment fund managed by Arrowhead team member and Kauffman Fellow Estela Hernandez. As you will read below in our Meet the Staff feature, Estela, an innovation strategist, followed an engaging and circuitous career path. Her current work with the Arrowhead Innovation Fund will provide seed funding for promising client ventures.
In good news regarding funding, in addition to the $300,000 grant for the Innovation Corps (I-Corps) Sites program, NMSU/Arrowhead is one of the 25 awardees that will receive funding under the Economic Development Administration’s 2015 Regional Innovation Strategies program. Arrowhead will use this funding to establish student business incubators at each of the NMSU community colleges.
Initiatives like these allow us to foster innovative projects such as EcoSeal’s NMX, an essential oil based, eco-friendly pesticide developed at New Mexico State University by Dr. Geoffrey Smith and Dr. Hugo Morales. Luke Smith, founder of EcoSeal who recently received his masters in accountancy at NMSU, developed a business plan for the pesticide during his participation in National Science Foundation’s i-Corps and Studio G. This month, as part of CrucesKick, EcoSeal is crowdfunding in order to set up field trials in California and New Mexico, and to register the product with the Environmental Protection Agency.
CrucesKick is a unique economic development partnership between the Mesilla Valley Economic Development Agency (MVEDA) and Arrowhead Center, which leverages the resources, networks, and expertise of each organization to develop and launch crowdfunding campaigns of Doña Ana County-based companies. In addition to the EcoSeal NMX project, BowWow Blends smoothies aims to expand distribution online and throughout the United States and register their pet product with the New Mexico Department of Agriculture. The New Mexico Shrimp Company also aims to create an online sales distribution of their fresh, all natural shrimp so anyone in the US will have access to the company’s quality seafood. To support CrucesKick, visit arrowheadcenter.nmsu.edu/cruceskick.
It is the people and projects we serve that make our work rewarding. Growing the local economy is key in the health of the regional ecosystem. This year we’ve launched a podcast series to highlight the successes and stories of Arrowhead Center clients and staff, including the companies mentioned above. I invite you to subscribe to the Arrowhead Podcast Series on YouTube, or visit arrowheadcenter.nmsu.edu/studiog.
Thank you for taking time to read our newsletter and please be in touch with stories and successes from your own communities.
Director of Arrowhead Center
Meet the Staff
Estela Hernandez Hartley, Enterprise Advisor and Fund Manager
Much of the success of Arrowhead Center lies within its knowledgeable staff and the unique opportunities for collaboration within the organization. Estela Hernandez Hartley, a native of Las Cruces, joined Arrowhead in 2013 after an engaging and circuitous career path. The common thread of Estela’s diverse career path has been the purposeful use of her skills and knowledge to improve quality of life for others.
As an innovation strategist, Estela’s unique professional background combines business and creative thinking. Art and architecture were always a part of Estela’s personal interests. As an undergraduate, she audited one art course every semester. In an interview in Hispanic Executive magazine in 2012, Estela explained, “I offer an equal distribution between left-brained logic and right-brained creativity and I am able to lead and manage business innovation projects from concept to completion.”
Post-college, her first professional experience was working with the Lake County Health Department in Illinois as a health educator, where she was quickly promoted to serve as the HIV Surveillance Officer for Lake County. After working with HIV patients for several years, she felt compelled toward pursuing opportunities to enrich patients’ quality of life through design.
After she learned of the design-related community service organization VISioN (Volunteering Innovative Solutions in our Neighborhoods) at the Illinois Institute of Art (ILIA) in Chicago, she seized the opportunity to take a creative sabbatical. VISioN was a chance to fuse her public health skills with her interest in design. As the President of VISioN, Estela collaborated with the CEOs of Chicago nonprofit health and wellness organizations, including Gilda’s Club Cancer Support Center and CommunityHealth, to provide them with volunteers to complete interior design projects and provide students with relevant service experience.
After completing her creative venture at ILIA, Estela sought an MBA program that would allow her to apply her newly acquired design methods and perspectives. The MBA in Design Strategy program at California College of the Arts in San Francisco was a perfect fit—an opportunity that allowed her a supportive environment to integrate and build on her past creative experiences. It was a groundbreaking program that utilized systems and design thinking by integrating the studies of design, business, ethnography, sustainability, and adaptive leadership into a holistic strategic framework for developing innovative and sustainable businesses, services, and products.
Upon completing her MBA in 2012, Estela returned to Las Cruces where she launched E. Hartley Consulting, a business design strategy firm, and serves as an Enterprise Advisor at the Arrowhead Center at NMSU advising clients of the Arrowhead Technology Incubator and Studio G on business design, start-up team formation, user research, and business model innovation. In 2015, Estela became only the second person from New Mexico accepted into the prestigious Kauffman Fellows, a highly selective program in which a cohort of business and investment professionals completes a two-year apprenticeship to lead venture capital, government, corporate, university, and startup innovation in their community. The program is the only of its kind that incorporates an individual development plan with executive coaching, facilitated mentoring and peer learning in innovation investing. Because of this, Kauffman Fellows have contact with the most elite venture capitalists in the world.
Estela’s diverse background makes her an ideal fit in her newest role at Arrowhead Center as the fund manager, President and Chairman of the Arrowhead Innovation Fund. The seed fund, initially named the Aggie Innovation Fund, will support NMSU’s most commercially promising new technologies – those identified by Arrowhead Center as likely to have a significant market impact in a relatively short time with capital and business development support. The fund is advised by Beto Pallares. Dr. Pallares is a Kauffman Fellow, El Paso-based venture capitalist, Arrowhead Center Investor-in-Residence and is on the board of directors of the Arrowhead Innovation Fund.
It is with great excitement and engagement that Estela continues her work at Arrowhead. This February, the Arrowhead Innovation Fund board of directors met a milestone with a first meeting and reception. Her continued guidance and management will ensure the AIF becomes an essential part of economic development at NMSU and for the State of New Mexico. “At my core, I’m a designer,” Estela explained, “whether I’m designing facilities, programs, products, businesses, or funds. That is the lens through which I see and approach every opportunity.”