Wendy Stein



Santa Fe New Mexican



Growing up in Detroit, Wendy Stein, 52, wanted to be a doctor. And an artist. She started out in premed at Michigan State University before graduating with a degree in studio art. When she later moved to San Francisco, she made 3D art and animation for video games and new media. But the body still beckoned, so she went to acupuncture school, earned an MS, and hung out her shingle as an acupuncturist, serving underserved communities in her early 30s. After leaving the Bay Area and before relocating to Santa Fe, Stein served stints as a copywriter, a Peace Corps volunteer in Lesotho, and a health and wellness instructor. For the past few years, she’s also freelanced as a nature photographer. “People often ask me what career I haven’t tried,” she jokes. Her path had a few stumbles, including a short-lived relocation to Florida in 2020 after time abroad. “That was interesting,” Stein says of that COVID-19-clouded period. “I hit the ground running and then stumbled on a rock. . . . I learned to keep going no matter what. I learned that I can’t expect to come home and have things the same. I had to make a life with what was available.” A ghostwriting gig brought her to New Mexico and then Santa Fe, where she sought out help with her copywriting business from WESST, a nonprofit that provides entrepreneurial and small business consulting, training, and incubation help for women, people of color, and low-wealth New Mexicans across the state. She and her consultant clicked, so when WESST sought a new regional manager for the Santa Fe office, she applied and got the job. At first she was apprehensive about her position at WESST’s Women’s Business Center — a role her predecessor had held for more than 30 years. “I was concerned that I didn’t have a business degree, that I didn’t know enough technical skills to help people,” admits Stein. But she realized that she knew more than she thought and could tap into a support system of other small business support organizations. Plus, she adds, “I seem to always land on my feet, so I just trust in that process. And I have a wide skill set, so I could always find a way to make a living, either here or even returning overseas if I wanted to.” She now sees her position at WESST as likely being the last of her “career.” Even so, she remains philosophical about it all. “My mentor often told me to ask . . . ‘What else is possible?’ This has gotten me through tough times and helped open pathways.” It’s an outlook she’s happy to share with others. “Stay focused on your path,” she says. “If something doesn’t work out, look at what you learned from it so you can redirect. Keep moving forward. Also, make a plan before you leap.”