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Entrepreneur brings new twist to cattle trading; Business owner shares advice during forum at NMMI

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“I think it is just part of life,” says William Wallace III, left, about business failures for entrepreneurs. “You stumble. You get back up.” Wallace, co-owner of Santa Teresa Livestock Auction on the U.S.-Mexico border and a New Mexico Military Institute alumnus, speaks with Brig. Gen. Douglas Murray, NMMI chief academic officer, after giving a talk at Saturday’s Forum on Entrepreneurship held at the Institute. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

William Wallace III, better known to some as Bilo, has given a new twist to a long-standing business in this area of the world, cattle trading.

He has brought international commerce and today’s technology to the fore as he works to build the young company he co-owns, Santa Teresa Livestock Auction LLC.

“There is a saying that I really like and it goes, ‘Everyone wants progress, but very few people are willing to do the change.’ And that is one of the biggest problems that I see in our industry,” Wallace said, as he shared information about his company and advice on starting and running a business at the 2018 Forum on Entrepreneurship held Saturday and sponsored by the New Mexico Military Institute’s Department of Business.

Wallace graduated from NMMI high school in 1996 and completed its junior college program in 1998. The son of cattle ranchers from Chihuahua, Mexico, he traded cattle on his own for a while but said he thought that there had to be a better way to market cattle. From that belief, came his new venture in 2017, an auction business in El Paso that also trades cattle via an internet auction. His company is involved in the sale of about 1,100 cattle a week from Mexico, he said.

About 90 people, most NMMI cadets, filled the Daniels Leadership Center Auditorium to listen to Wallace and two other two speakers. Open to the public, the forum has been held annually since 2015 and is sponsored by Class of 1962 NMMI alumnus Dick Varnell. Varnell was an oil and gas executive for many years and now is managing partner of firm he helped create, Spice Energy of Fort Worth, Texas. In addition to sponsoring the annual forum, Varnell donates funds to the Institute for curriculum related to entrepreneurship.

Saturday’s talks were preceded by a Friday evening presentation on volunteerism by Dorothy Eads and John Eads, a NMMI graduate, the directors of the Light of the Village Ministry International. Other speakers on Saturday were Varnell and Scott Bucher, director of the Roswell office of the New Mexico Small Business Development Center. Another scheduled speaker, Deborah MacArthur, the wife of a NMMI graduate and the mother of a current NMMI student, was unable to attend. She operates several businesses in Africa and the United States.

Wallace said that he appeared at the forum because he wants to inform younger people about opportunities in agriculture and international business.

“I think we need to get the new generations involved in the industry and give them the option, give them an idea about what international business is all about,” he said.

Wallace said that Chihuahua and New Mexico shares many similarities when it comes to their cattle industries, including that traditionally they were family-run operations. But, he said, he is worried about the future of agriculture, given the changes in cultural attitudes and economic forces.

“Very, very few generations are wanting to do the hard labor, the hard work of farming and ranching,” he said. “It is a dying breed on both sides (of the border). You go to California, you go to New Mexico or Kansas, Ohio, it is scary. It is scary to see the future, the way it is going. I say this because I’m in the industry. I’ve seen the need for laborers. No matter how many machines they can build, there are things that need a lot of labor. The thing that scares me the most is that very few people understand or know what it takes to produce something.”

He also said that his business relies on a continuation of open borders and the trade agreements now in place between the United States and its northern and southern neighbors.

One of the reasons for his company’s success so far, he said, is that it has put up money to guarantee cattle producers that they will be paid, and the company is looking at developing a low-interest loan fund to help producers, given the high cost of financing options in Mexico.

Wallace told those attending that they should expect at least one failure if they venture out on their own, but, he said hard work, a passion for the purpose of the business and a belief in one’s own abilities will help them succeed. He also said that they would need to build credibility in their fields by being organized, disciplined and committed.

“There have been two other auctions that were trying to do the same thing that we’re doing right now. Commitment,” he said. “The beauty of the auction that we have built is that it is the only livestock auction on the whole U.S-Mexican border. And the only one certified … and regulated by the U.S. (Department of Agriculture).”

Forum sponsor Varnell said entrepreneurship programs at the Institute and elsewhere are likely to grow as the U.S. economy and workforce continue to go through transitions.

“I am trying to give people a feeling that they have an option, they have the option to start their own business, and that is a career option,” said Varnell. “And young people want to do it. They feel they want independence and control in their lives.”

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 310, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.