Ecosystem Expo unites ABQ startup community
Community Foundation also showcases resources
COURTESY OF SANDY MWEI / ALBUQUERQUE COMMUNITY FOUNDATION Ink Theory screen printer Brian Drake stamps a T - shirt T-shirt at the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Event.

BY KEVIN ROBINSON - AVILA ROBINSON-AVILA

JOURNAL STAFF WRITER

Custom apparel startup Ink Theory was swamped Wednesday night by a crowd of eager patrons seeking slogan-stamped T-shirts at the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Expo Downtown.

The company, which two former university students started in Albuquerque last January, screen-printed the free shirts on the spot to promote its business at the event, which brought dozens of organizations and businesses together for a night of networking and celebration of the city's rapidly-growing startup economy. The Albuquerque Community Foundation organized and hosted the expo.

" We hope to turn this into an annual expo," foundation Vice President Kelli Cooper told the Journal." It's an opportunity to stop and smell the roses, to acknowledge how far we've come in building the local ecosystem and to create more connectivity among all of us."

Nearly two dozen nonprofit organizations gave lightning, 75-second presentations to encourage participants to take advantage of the resources they offer. That included some business accelerators and incubators, economic development groups, co-working spaces and entrepreneurial-focused community groups.

" We've created a vibrant support system for startups, but it's a challenge to make everyone aware of the resources available," Cooper said." This helps fill the gap by introducing everybody."

The foundation has helped build the ecosystem through charitable donations, including about $800,000 in Mayor's Prize grants to local nonprofits working with startups. It's also a participant in City Alive, an umbrella organization working to build resources and networks that bring all people, particularly low-income and minority groups, into the fold.

" We're celebrating a community that's wrapped itself around small companies with diversity and inclusivity at its core," Cooper said.

Attendees sampled local food and New Mexico beer offered by up-and-coming culinary startups, such as exotic flavored popcorn from the Cornivore Popcorn Co. and green chile scones by the Atomic Age Bakery, started by a graduate of Albuquerque's Street Food Institute. The mobile Munchies Truck, also started by institute graduates, hawked its goods outside.

Ink Theory gave away 164 custom-stamped T-shirts, providing a live demonstration of the company's screen-printing at the event. The startup, which employs nine people, will surpass $400,000 in revenue this first year, said co-owner Austin Wade.

" Our business took off from Day One," Wade said." We launched in January, and we've been rocking and rolling since then."