It was only after moving away from his home in Albuquerque that Stephen Segura realized how New Mexico’s unique culture presented an opportunity that didn’t seem to be available anywhere else. After leaving Albuquerque Stephen set off for college at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas to study the hospitality and event industry. He was always attracted to the “bigger” city appeal, bright lights, and exciting events. While studying in Las Vegas, Stephen began to understand the amazing characteristics and how much natural value there was in the community where he was raised.
That when Stephen had an epiphany – it was then that he finally realized he wasn’t really drawn to big city life so much as he was the social opportunities. Thinking back, Stephen recalled, “It wasn’t really the city, it was the people – I wish I could have brought the people of Albuquerque with me.” Living in Las Vegas, newly educated, and ready to start a career, Stephen concluded that he needed to find some way to work with the people that he loved.
That was the beginning of Red Fish, Stephens first Albuquerque-based events company. “Red Fish started as a way to promote the city and people here that I love.” His company has seen explosive growth in the last 8 years, hosting over 500 ticketed events – 125 in 2017 alone. An incredible feat, for an incredible city.
Citing New Mexico’s low cost of living, Stephen has been able to spend more money on reinvestment projects and less on rent and utilities. Now, with his latest venture, Viva ABQ – an events production company focused on a creating a better quality of life for the unique New Mexico community, Stephen has supported massive renovation projects in the city focused on cultural landmarks. Specifically, the historic El Rey Theater he purchased in the middle of Albuquerque, which now hosts international tours. He also procured some of the surrounding property and developed it into a craft beer and wine taproom. “I wanted to take the elements of the big cities I loved and bring them to Albuquerque,” Stephen reflected. Stephen’s hard work and dedication was noticed earlier this year by Hollywood actor Shia LeBeouf who contacted Stephen, seeking to relocate his art installation from New York City to Segura’s El Rey Theater in downtown Albuquerque.
And while starting any business is hard work, every challenge is uniquely different. Stephen described that at first he “experienced some push-back” navigating the cultural sensitivities of the local community while trying to organize concerts and festivals that appealed to young people. Fortunately, for Stephen, it was easy to become part of the conversation with government and business leaders in New Mexico. What started as “push-back” turned into “push-forward” as the community recognized the economic and cultural benefits of Stephen’s work through Viva ABQ. He’s even noticed the changes have accelerated as young people raised in Albuquerque increasingly choose to stay and as bordering state millennials move into the Albuquerque area.
“Cities like Denver and Las Vegas have existing gate keepers when it comes to business,” Stephen said, “but in Albuquerque it’s easy to get in contact with key players. Plus, the quality of life is better here, and more of your profits can be reinvested back into your company, family, and community. If you are considering moving your family or business to Albuquerque – just do it,” said Stephen. “We’re on the cusp of a paradigm shift here in Albuquerque, and it’s not often that you have the opportunity to establish yourself in a city before it takes off.”