Los Alamos Business Accelerator Helps Startups Get Going

Owners Scott Baird and Kate Kudynska of Wolf & Mermaid Enchanted Roasters at their newly leased space at 181 Central Park Square. Photo by Eric Burnside

Los Alamos Daily Post


Los Alamos MainStreet and the Los Alamos Chamber of Commerce helped two new businesses get their start through the 2022 Business Accelerator Program. Scott Baird and his wife Kate Kudynska own Wolf & Mermaid Enchanted Roasters and Joe Johansen owns Los Alamos Golf & Games. The two businesses were selected for a two month “pop-up store” program, allowing them to jump start their businesses before finding a permanent location.

Golf & Games is now operating at SALA. Wolf & Mermaid was able to get a lease on the space where the program hosted the two pop-ups, 181 Central Park Square. The space is being renovated. In the meantime, people can get their favorite Wolf & Mermaid blends at Bathtub Row Brewing until 2 p.m. daily.

The entrepreneurs, along with 10 others, successfully completed the 6-week Phase I training of the 2022 Los Alamos Business Accelerator Program, Los Alamos Commerce and Development Corporation (LACDC) Executive Director Lauren McDaniel said. The cohort meets for two hours once a week for six weeks. Speakers cover such topics as Business Model & Customer Discovery; Branding, Marketing & Social Media; Business Process; Ordering, Inventory, Layout & Sales; Organization & Accounting; and Building Your Company (Culture & Workforce). Speakers include representatives from Los Alamos County, local and national business people, Sandy Jones of the Small Business Development Center and others with a perspective to share.

This is the second year for the program, which helped four new businesses to open in 2021. In addition to the complimentary training program, rent, utilities and insurance, the Business Accelerator Pop-up entrepreneurs also receive assistance with merchandising and fixtures, graphic design services, and a one-year Los Alamos Chamber of Commerce membership.

“The Accelerator program enables participants to de-risk their entry into Los Alamos retail,” said Los Alamos Chamber of Commerce Director Ryn Herrmann. “It’s an honor to work with these entrepreneurs.”

The program is focused on starting a retail storefront in Los Alamos.

“Filling empty storefronts in our town is a major goal for us,” Herrmann said. “We want to help diversify local retail.”

MainStreet, the Chamber and LACDC are gearing up for next year. Applications will be available in August or September.

“We’ll try to continue this program as long as there is interest, McDaniel said.

Baird said he and Kudynska had careers on the east coast before they began the business. Kudynska was a molecular biologist and Baird was a commercial builder.

“We decided we wanted to work together and make people happy,” Baird said. “Our coffee comes from farms in central and South America. We import it directly from them. We currently roast our coffee in small batches at our home in Santa Fe, but we plan to roast right here in our retail space in Los Alamos once it’s renovated.”

Wolf and Mermaid has four different coffees, including Flamingo, their decaf. All four are named for birds.

“We’re currently experimenting with some African coffees,” Baird said. “We also sell through our website (https://www.wolfandmermaidenchantedroasters.com).”

Baird was full of praise for the Business Accelerator Program.

“It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen,” he said. “It’s extremely practical. I was amazed at how much help and support they gave us. It’s like an invitation to Los Alamos. It’s the red-carpet treatment.”

Since Baird had run a business before, he didn’t think he’d learn that much in the classes, but he was wrong, he said.

“I learned so much from the presenters,” he said. “Hearing from people who went through the program last year and are now in business was inspiring. There was a designer from Ikea who shared the company’s theories on how to design a store, and much more. It was amazing!”
Business owners from the 2021 pop-up cohort have been in business for a year and are using their skills to run successful small businesses.

They believe in the Accelerator so much that they contributed to it this year so others could have the opportunity to attend.

Joanne Kozuchowski of Little Studio on the Mesa, at 113 Longview Dr., said one of the biggest benefits of the program was getting established in Los Alamos.

“I was given the chance to get out there,” she said. “It really helped as a networking opportunity. I recently got together with my cohort from the program and just talked about how it’s going. That’s a great resource that’s ongoing.”

Jill Lang of Samizdat Bookstore and Teahouse at 174 Central Park Square agreed.

“The program encouraged me to take the risk of opening a storefront,” she said. “I got to try out my idea at very low risk. I got to find out what the community wanted. The program is great. They did a wonderful job.”

An ongoing event at Samizdat is a manga and cartooning workshop for kids with professional cartoonist Tracy Bailey. Kids can stop “at 10 a.m. to noon Saturday mornings and hone their skills with someone who makes a living cartooning for a $5 fee. Bailey is taking this week off, but she’ll be back the following Saturday. Call the store at 505.412.0238 to learn more.

The Accelerator Program was made possible through a partnership with New Mexico MainStreet and HatchForm, as well as grants from the New Mexico Economic Development Department through a LEADS Grant, LANL Foundation, New Mexico Resiliency Alliance, LANL Community Partnerships Office, Enterprise Bank & Trust, Del Norte Credit Union, as well as Cohort 1 Los Alamos Business Accelerator graduates, Wheeed, Samizdat Bookstore & Teahouse, Little Studio on the Mesa and Inspired Jewelers.

Herrmann and McDaniel also are grateful to Philip Kunsberg and Patrick Sullivan with Central Park Square, Los Alamos County, Sandy Jones of the Small Business Development Center and all the program speakers, they said.

To learn more about the Business Accelerator, visit https://www.losalamosmainstreet.com/business-accelerator.


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