Starlight FUNiture
The Starlight FUNiture team members included (l. to r.): Drew Wayner, Peter Ray, Eric Nelson, Owner Starlight FUNiture, Max Ebnother, Stacie Nowell and Kevin Roybal.

Students from the UNM Anderson School of Management earned top prizes at this year’s Small Business Institute’s Case of the Year Competition held recently in Las Vegas, Nev. Anderson Professor Dimitri Kapelianis and the Starlight FUNiture LLC student team captured first prize at the graduate level of the competition.

The student team, which consisted of Max Ebnother, Stacie Nowell, Peter Ray, Kevin Roybal and Drew Wayner won in the Comprehensive Consulting Category, which was the most competitive. At the undergraduate level, the Speakeasy LLC team of Jennifer Walker, Christine Shields, Andres Perez and Maximo Lopez won third prize in the Business Plan Category.

This is the second year UNM Anderson has captured top honors at the national SBI competition. Last year projects completed by Anderson SBI students earned second and third honors in their respective categories. These honors rank Anderson SBI as one of the top Small Business Institutes in the nation.

“Small businesses are the principal drivers of the New Mexico economy, and we are pleased to provide resources in support of their success,” said Anderson School Dean Doug Brown.

“It’s a great feeling. We have the best students and great professors, a combination that is always winning,” said SBI Director Dr. Raj Mahto. “Our supporters and donors also deserve recognition for helping us in building this program.  Congratulations to all of them as well and we look forward to continuing this momentum next year!”

The UNM Small Business Institute program, led by Mahto, was also awarded the prestigious ‘Showcase Program of the Year’ award.  The Showcase Award identifies the SBI program and its director that is deserving of recognition for innovative development or management or because their SBI efforts contributed to a true small business client success story.

Michael Harris, past president and current vice president of Membership for the National Small Business Institute had praise for Dr. Mahto and the UNM program.

“I am pleased to let you know how impressed our Board of Directors is with the work of Dr. Raj Mahto," Harris said. "Raj won the prestigious Small Business Institute National Showcase Award, as well as two awards for his Small Business Institute projects. He has quickly become an outstanding leader and scholar in the field of entrepreneurship and small business management, and I am very proud of his work.”

Founded in 1978, the SBI at UNM Anderson has successfully assisted more than 600 businesses including startup companies, expanding businesses, non-profit organizations, and family businesses. To participate in this program small business owners should submit an application online.  

For more information on the Small Business Institute program, contact David Hammitt at or (505) 277-8869.