Jen­nifer goes to things and does stuff Jen­nifer Levin finds her­self in MIXed com­pany

Pasatiempo - - NEWS - JEN­NIFER GOES

When MIX started Third Thurs­day net­work­ing events for young pro­fes­sion­als in Santa Fe, it sounded like the hip­ster an­swer to monthly Cham­ber of Com­merce events, where it can feel like ev­ery­one is try­ing to sell you life in­sur­ance. MIX is more like a cock­tail party with the cool kids. Five years and 55 schmooze-fests later, MIX has emerged as a force for good in the lo­cal econ­omy with bizMIX, its an­nual busi­ness-plan com­pe­ti­tion that awards start-up funds for each year’s best new busi­ness idea. Af­ter Santa Sidra, a lo­cal out­fit that makes hard ciders, won in 2013, its own­ers, Mike and Stacy Zercher, used their $8,000 prize money to buy their first crop of New Mex­ico ap­ples; now they op­er­ate a cidery on Camino Car­los Rey. The 2015 bizMIX prize, spon­sored by lo­cal banks and busi­nesses, has in­creased to $50,000.

Cider House MIX — all the MIX events have cre­ative names — was held at Santa Sidra on March 19. I went and talked to the peo­ple there. All ages were in at­ten­dance, in­stantly knock­ing out one of my pre­con­cep­tions. The crowd def­i­nitely veered to­ward the artsy and funky, but many pro­fes­sions were rep­re­sented, from teach­ers and artists to sci­en­tists and po­lit­i­cal aids. I talked to an ar­chi­tect named Michael Duty, who was sport­ing a phe­nom­e­nal waxed mus­tache and beard he grew on his hon­ey­moon in 1968. “With this beard I’ve been a hip­pie, a pro­fes­sional, a mem­ber of the in­tel­li­gentsia, and now a geezer. Same look, dif­fer­ent time,” he said. It was his first MIX event.

I talked to Brit­tany Smith, a twenty-four-year-old wed­ding plan­ner with Plum Stu­dio who hangs out at MIX with Tantri Wija, a videog­ra­pher with High Desert Dig­i­tal who also writes about food for The Santa Fe

New Mex­i­can . Santa Fe is the third most popular lo­ca­tion for des­ti­na­tion wed­dings in the United States, Smith told me, not­ing how para­dox­i­cal it is that the lack of wed­ding-re­lated busi­nesses here can make plan­ning wed­dings dif­fi­cult for lo­cals — most of her clien­tele is from out of state. Her job is al­ways dif­fer­ent, al­ways in­ter­est­ing. “At the re­cep­tions, the drunk moth­ers-in-law latch onto me and tell me all the dirty fam­ily se­crets,” she said.

Emily Geery, a wa­ter-re­sources spe­cial­ist with the New Mex­ico Of­fice of the State En­gi­neer, was there with her friend Jill Turner, who works for the New Mex­ico En­vi­ron­ment Depart­ment: They had heard MIX is a good place to meet friends for a cock­tail. There is al­ways a cash bar, and fill­ing out a sur­vey gen­er­ally en­ti­tles you to one free house drink, which this time around was a choice be­tween dry or sweet hard cider. Many peo­ple I spoke to were ex­cited that Cider House MIX was closer to where a lot of peo­ple ac­tu­ally live, in­stead of down­town, where MIX usu­ally takes place. Cle­mente McFar­lane, the owner of Sir­ius Cy­cles, a bike shop in Rodeo Plaza, wants to host a MIX and use the oc­ca­sion to high­light busi­nesses on Santa Fe’s south side. “I need to learn how to net­work, and MIX needs to get more com­fort­able with more di­ver­sity — maybe be less white,” he said.

I talked to MIX co-founders Zane Fischer and Daniel Wer­wath, who told me that this year’s theme is “Get­ting more out of MIX.” They want to spend more time tak­ing ac­tion and less time dis­cussing yet again what doesn’t work in Santa Fe. “We’re get­ting more introspective this year,” Fischer said.

This brings me to the crit­i­cal part of this col­umn. MIX is ob­vi­ously do­ing great things — check out its web­site for more in­for­ma­tion on grants and fund­ing — and the net­work­ing events can be en­joy­able. But much of what was sup­pos­edly hap­pen­ing at MIX was un­clear, though a story ap­peared in The Santa Fe New

Mex­i­can two weeks af­ter the Cider House MIX event. No an­nounce­ments were made about en­ter­ing bizMIX. No public re­marks were made and no lit­er­a­ture was dis­trib­uted about MIX; other than a drink ticket, the only thing I was handed was an in­vi­ta­tion to a Ro­tary Club lun­cheon. A cou­ple of peo­ple told me that there was a busi­ness launch tak­ing place for Slazer Tech­nolo­gies, a dig­i­tal sig­nage and me­dia com­pany, but there was no in­di­ca­tion what that meant for ei­ther the com­pany or the rest of us. Trucker hats, on which at­ten­dees com­pleted the sen­tence “Help­ing MIX shape the city,” pro­lif­er­ated atop heads as the evening wore on, but I couldn’t fig­ure out their ul­ti­mate pur­pose or who was el­i­gi­ble to wear one. While the over­all en­ergy of the event was pos­i­tive, there was an in-crowd at­mos­phere that I would have found in­tim­i­dat­ing if I wasn’t there as a re­porter.

The too-cool vibe be­gan be­fore the event, with its in­vi­ta­tion on Face­book. “What’s got 50,000 pounds of New Mex­ico ap­ples, 3 stain­less steel vats, a fork­lift, and a Third Thurs­day MIX event this March 19th?” it asked. The next sen­tence of­fered this an­swer: “If you guessed the ghost of John Irv­ing and his industrial noise band — good try!”

I called to check, and Santa Sidra ac­tu­ally does have four stain­less-steel vats. But the most perplexing as­pect was the thin con­nec­tion made to The Cider House Rules , the novel by John Irv­ing, who is def­i­nitely still alive. I can’t tell if MIX doesn’t know this or doesn’t care, and I don’t get the joke. I don’t know what to take from it, and it con­tin­ues to dis­tract me. Bet­ter ef­forts at com­mu­ni­ca­tion are needed if MIX wants more peo­ple to get in­volved and un­der­stand its mission. And while the food, which was pro­vided by chef Marc DeGio­vanni of lo­cal cater­ing com­pany Delun­c­hous, was ex­cel­lent and plen­ti­ful, the mu­sic was much too loud. Net­work­ing is ex­haust­ing enough with­out hav­ing to shout.

En­tries for the 2015 bizMIX com­pe­ti­tion will be ac­cepted through April 16 at

— Jen­nifer Levin

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