When Ndidiamaka “Didi” Okpareke decided it’d be a good time to add employees, she found a way to get help paying for them: from the State of New Mexico.

In December, New Mexico’s Job Training Incentive Program (JTIP) awarded grants to six companies, including Okpareke’s Olive Tree Compounding Pharmacy in the Unser Corridor, for a total of $2.3 million.

The December awards funded a total of 196 trainees, with wages ranging from $15.56 to $33.75 an hour.

Four of the businesses received JTIP for the training of just one or two employees. It was the first time Okpareke had made such a request, and thus she was surprised and happy to hear it would be granted.

Unique to the City of Vision, Olive Tree Compounding Pharmacy, 1920 Westside Blvd., Suite B, will use its grant to train a full-time tech and a full-time pharmacist, Okpareke said, at an average wage of $33.75, amounting to $70,200 a year.

“The challenge is finding people to fit the roles,” she said, and it’s a business that experiences turnover. “COVID has really shifted the job market.”

Her patients typically can’t find the prescriptions they need at common pharmacies, like Walgreens and CVS.

“Our medicines are highly specialized and absolutely necessary for our patients,” Okpareke said.

Compounding pharmacies, she explained, account for “the art and science of creating medicine.”

Here for five years, her company has out-grown its site and, having purchased an acre of land a stone’s throw away, Okpareke will have a new building constructed where she can “set up my lab and teach them pharmacy.”

Olive Tree Compounding Pharmacy owner Ndidiamaka “Didi” Okpareke mixes prescription pharmaceuticals. (Gary Herron/Observer)

A first-generation Nigerian-American, she wasn’t sure what she wanted to be once she grew up.

She was raised in the San Francisco Bay area and graduated from Sandia High School in 2001, after the family relocated to Albuquerque.

“I always liked dancing; I’m also artistic and creative,” she said, adding she was fond of science, technology, engineering and math classes.

She attended the University of New Mexico, completing undergraduate work in three years and then receiving a doctorate in pharmacy in 2008.

She has extensive experience in hospital and retail pharmacy, and has a firm knowledge of pediatric, neonatal, general surgery and geriatric pharmaceutical care.

A mother of three, she became an entrepreneur in January 2016, with the founding of Olive Tree.

How nice to expand

“We are seeing more demand than ever from businesses that want to expand in New Mexico and hire more employees or train existing workers so they can learn new skills for higher salaries,” Economic Development Department Cabinet Secretary Alicia J. Keyes said in a news release.

“Even if it is one or two new employees at a time, JTIP is giving businesses an incentive to invest in their workforce today,” Keyes added, “so New Mexico can have a more robust and resilient economic recovery.”

Send the kids to camp

You’ve heard of, and maybe even attended, summer camp, sports camp, band camp, scout camp or other type of outdoors camp.

How about a compounding pharmacy camp?

Olive Tree Compounding Pharmacy touts it as an “intriguing and engaging program … designed to spark your child’s interest in science, math, technology and the daily life of a compounding pharmacist!”

It’s called the Children’s Apothecary; there, children hand-craft and take home their very own fun and child-friendly compounded products, such as flavored drops applied under the tongue; Vitamin E healing hand cream and Vitamin C lozenges.

For more information on Olive Tree Compounding Pharmacy, call 505-738-3328 or visit [email protected].