Successful NM entrepreneur says New Mexico best place to start business
Founder of homegrown solar company to accept entrepreneurial award May 8
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – While many have said that the New Mexico business climate is not the best, and some have called it the worst, one young entrepreneur says this is the best state in the country to start a business, and he went out and proved it with his solar energy business.
Ryan Wallace, the winner of the 2019 Small Business Association Entrepreneurial Success Award, started his homegrown solar product and installation business in 2015 and recently sold it to his employees after building it into a huge success in Albuquerque and the southern part of the state.
“People would ask, ‘Why New Mexico? It’s a terrible place for business,’” said Wallace. “But for starting a business, New Mexico is the best state in the country.”
It wasn’t always easy for Wallace, who grew up in Albuquerque and had several jobs before starting the solar company. He did landscaping, cleaned carpets, sold cars, worked in pest control, and alarm systems, to name a few. All that experience got him ready for starting his own business.
“All of that gave me good experience, but it wasn’t right,” said Wallace.
In the company’s first year, Wallace sold solar panels and installation to customers out of the garage in his rental house, working 70 to 80 hours a week, and clocking hundreds of hours on the highways and byways of New Mexico serving customers across the state.
“In the first year I sold every project personally,” said Wallace. “I wanted to be sure proper expectations were met on each job.”
Soon after, NM Solar Group had outgrown the garage and Wallace, along with his business partner Matt Schmutz (whom Wallace calls “the best electrician in the biz”), made the move to a rented commercial space in the heart of Albuquerque.
By 2016, in only its second year of business, the company did $3 million in sales and expanded to southern New Mexico, purchasing a building for a new office in Alamogordo.
“We have installed well over 100 systems in that part of the state,” said Wallace.
The company then expanded to Las Cruces and El Paso, and most recently, to Roswell. In their third year of operation, the company did over $9 million in revenue.
As the business continued to grow, Wallace decided that the best thing for the longevity of the company was for it to become employee owned and, on Oct. 31, 2018, he sold NM Solar Group to the people that helped build it—his 60 employees.
Now every NM Solar Group employee has a retirement plan and an ownership interest in the company as part of an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP).
“For me it was the only choice,” said Wallace. “We got to keep the culture and people in place. It was a win for everyone.”
And NM Solar Group is here for the long-haul. The company is projecting $20 million in revenue this year and will continue to operate in New Mexico. With the money from the sale of the business, Wallace purchased warehouses for the company in Las Cruces, Roswell, and Rio Rancho.
“I have been surrounded by great people,” said Wallace. “NM Solar Group has attracted amazing talent and together we have done incredible things, right here in New Mexico.”