Meet the Staff
Interview with Zetdi Sloan, Director of Arrowhead Technology Incubator (ATI)
by Lauren Goldstein, Arrowhead Technical Writer and Researcher
Did you grow up in Las Cruces?
I’m actually originally from the interior of Alaska, around Denali National Park. My parents raced sled dogs—when they retired, we first traveled south to Mexico, then later traveled north and landed in Cliff, New Mexico, outside of Silver City, in time for my siblings and I to start school in the fall. I went to high school in Cliff and then moved to Las Cruces to attend NMSU as an undergrad.
What made you interested in local business?
My parents were both self-employed, so that had an influence, but what really fed my interest was marrying a local business owner, a farmer. I see the successes and challenges of being in local business every day in both my personal and professional life.
How did you become associated with Arrowhead Center?
I was a GA at Arrowhead as a student. It was a huge part of my life and the support I found here was key. After graduating with my MBA, I decided to pursue my Masters of International Business Certification from Université d’Angers in France. Dr. Boberg was very supportive, and it was through an Arrowhead scholarship that I was able to attend that program. After my international certification I came back to NMSU and joined Arrowhead as a full-time staff member in 2010.
Your experiences studying abroad seem to have had a big impact on you. Can you speak more to what you learned through those programs that you may not otherwise have learned by staying stateside?
Yes, the study abroad programs had a big impact. As an undergrad I also traveled to Costa Rica and Peru as part of a study abroad program for Spanish language learning. I’d say that one of the biggest aspects I gained was confidence—through traveling on my own—and I learned how to be resourceful. I wanted to study abroad, so I worked, saved, and found scholarships—I was financially independent, so I figured out how to fund myself.
Another interesting bit of knowledge I gained was the notion of cultural differences and similarities—that “foreign” really isn’t that foreign when you are in the middle of it. Does that make sense? That people are people and places are places regardless of the location. There were unexpected similarities to my home in all of the places I traveled.
In this month’s newsletter, we are featuring the companies you have been working with for the CrucesKick campaign. Can you talk a little bit about the CrucesKick? Is this the first year it is taking place?
Sure, yes, this is the first year it is taking place. It’s a collaboration with the Mesilla Valley Economic Development Alliance The initial aim from Arrowhead was to collaborate with the Las Cruces community and evaluate community needs. It was definitely a team effort from multiple colleagues at Arrowhead and at MVEDA to get it off the ground. The current cohort of small businesses—Bow Wow Blends, EcoSeal, New Mexico Shrimp Co., and Roots Leather Company—all started together in the fall of 2015.
And you are lead on the program?
Yes, I put the programmatic piece in place, but it was based on prior success with Kramer’s (Dr. Kramer Winingham) Kickstarter campaign for his solar technology. Arrowhead Center had been involved in the licensing process for his technology when he was a graduate student.
What is the most interesting aspect of working with this cohort and running CrucesKick?
It’s truly a unique opportunity for everyone who participates. For the business owners in the cohort, they learn from each other in a sort of non-traditional way. During meetings and presentations, the business owners were able to trade information on best practices, funding opportunities, financing, customer channels, and other aspects. Part of this arose because they found unexpected similarities between one anothers’ businesses. For example, Eco-Seal is a plant-based product, Bow Wow blends uses naturally derived, simple ingredients, New Mexico Shrimp Co.uses eco-friendly practices, and Roots Leather employs ethical business practices regarding fair trade and fair pay and treatment of artisans that produce their goods. This common ground allowed for a lot of ideas to circulate. It was the ground for innovation.
Zetdi Runyan Sloan serves as the Director for the Technology Incubator. She is responsible for overall incubator operations, including the development and implementation of business support programs to help start-up businesses maximize growth and success. Zetdi also serves as the Arrowhead Innovation Network Coordinator, creating ecosystems that link inventors, researchers, entrepreneurs, investors, and mentors. She is a board member for the Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce, Community Action Agency of Southern New Mexico, and the Las Cruces Young Professionals.