Innovate Arkansas client firm ReBounces of Harrison is featured in the current issue of Arkansas Green Guide, out this month.
The Green Guide is the perfect forum for the story of ReBounces, from Bill Dirst, which developed the Green Tennis Machine to repressurize "dead" tennis balls and give them new life as practice balls.
Joining Dirst in the venture were Cannon Fletcher, Grant Garland and Eric Korita. Their GTMs can be found across the country.
Here's a sample from Jess Ardrey's good piece in the Green Guide:
It’s a win-win for everybody. Practice balls all get a consistent bounce, meaning less of them and their cans end up in landfills, and programs save significantly by getting an average of four times the usage out of their purchases, cutting costs by more than 50 percent.
It wasn’t until a few years later when Dirst joined forces with Cannon Fletcher, Grant Garland and Eric Korita and brought the GTM to market that things took off and they realized the business’s full potential. Support from Innovate Arkansas helped ReBounces grow, and now GTMs are used in facilities all over the country, everywhere from the Little Rock Racquet Club to the Billie Jean King Tennis Center in Flushing Meadow, NY, home to the U.S. Open.
Good stuff. Read the full story here.
The Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub is a bubbling caldron of activity these days, starting with an intrapreneurship workshop from Max Farrell's Create Reason, scheduled for March 17.
Plus, official memberships now are available in the Hub's maker space, The Launch Pad.
Let's take a look at what's coming up across the river in Argenta:
That's just a few of the activities coming up at the Hub. The place, literally, is hopping. Other upcoming events include Make Pi, the CARL robotics meeting and the Art Connection's involvement in the Art Walk. More details here.
In case you missed it, Charles Morgan, founder and CEO of IA client firm PrivacyStar, held court at the Arkansas Venture Center's Build IT series Tuesday night.
(Oh, Morgan was also involved in another Conway startup, Acxiom...You may have heard of it.)
Morgan shared some advice, not to mention great anecdotes, for today's generation of young entrepreneurs. He told them: Believe in yourself, surround yourself with good people, learn from your mistakes (which he says are inevitable), and by all means, make sure your venture is adequately funded.
Plus, he shared how PrivacyStar, the smartphone app that enables users to block spam calls and even report them to the feds, is off and running after a slow start.
Here's more from Arkansas Business coverage of the event, held at the Little Rock Chamber:
Morgan told a standing-room-only crowd in the chamber's AT&T Auditorium that entrepreneurs launching startup ventures must surround themselves with smart people.
"There are very few one-man bands in the world," he said.
Plus, successful startups are able to secure the funding necessary to guide them through the tough early stages of growth. To that end, he believes the startup ecosystem in Arkansas is making progress.
"One of Arkansas' most successful areas lately has been entrepreneurship," he said. "I applaud the Venture Center and the other resources that have popped up. They're all very important to what we're doing in Little Rock."
The SBA is seeking 17 Arkansas small businesses or startups to participate in its Emerging Leaders Initiative.
Chosen companies will work alongside the SBA's Arkansas District Office and local co-sponsors to develop a tailored three-year, strategic growth plan to help bring their business to "the next level."
Classes begin April 7 and registration ends March 31. Register here.
Interested founders should:
- Have annual revenues of at least $400,000;
- Have been in business for at least 3 years;
- Have at least one employee, other than self.
Here's more from SBA:
The SBA’s Emerging Leaders Initiative is a federal training initiative new to Arkansas that focuses on businesses poised for growth in historically challenged communities. This initiative will provide 17 business executives with the organizational framework, resource network, and motivation required to build sustainable businesses and promote economic development. Previous companies that participated saw 39% average revenue growth per business and secured an average of $1.4 million of new contracts in 2013.
SBA is proud to partner with the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce to host the classes beginning on April 7 from 6pm-9pm, and continuing one night a week, every other week through the end of October. While the executive-level course is free for businesses accepted into the program, executives must commit to approximately 100 hours of classroom and out-of-classroom work.
Charles Morgan is the subject of tonight's Build IT fireside chat series from the Arkansas Venture Center.
It starts at 5:30 from the AVC's new digs at 107 East Markham in downtown Little Rock (the former ARK space it shares with the Little Rock tech park).
Morgan helped found IA client PrivacyStar of Conway and serves as its CEO, but he may be remembered a little more clearly for his role as CEO of Acxiom, that other Conway startup, from 1972 to 2007.
Morgan grew Acxiom into a data gathering giant that was bringing in $1.4 billion in revenue when he retired from that post.
Now headquartered in the River Market District in Little Rock, Acxiom is a global leader in its field thanks to Morgan's leadership.
Morgan will tell his story as part of the AVC's Build IT series tonight, Tuesday, beginning around 6 following drinks and networking at 5:30.
Tickets are free for AVC members and $10 for non-members. Register here.
The University of Arkansas released findings Monday from a study that says its Arkansas Research & Technology Park had a $55 million impact on the the state economy in the fiscal year 2013-14.
The UA tech park is home to several Innovate Arkansas client firms.
The study was conducted by the Center for Business and Economic Research at the UA's Walton Business College as part of a larger study on the overall economic impact of the university.
More on that study here.
Specifically, the study found that the tech park "ended fiscal year 2014 with 38 public/private affiliate companies and 196 employees, resulting in a total employment impact of 385 jobs statewide."
Last fall, in a separate analysis, the center’s researchers determined that the research park has had an economic impact of more than a half-billion dollars since construction on the park began in 2003. The center found that labor income associated with the tenant companies totaled $189.5 million from 2005 to 2014, and the research park’s overall economic impact on the state from 2003 to 2014 totaled $522.9 million.
The mission of the University of Arkansas Technology Development Foundation is to stimulate the knowledge-based economy in Arkansas through partnerships that lead to new opportunities for learning and discovery, that build and retain a knowledge-based workforce and that spawn the development of new technologies to enrich the economic base in Arkansas.
Good stuff. Full story here at the revamped UA Newswire.
By Larry Alton
While dozens of globally-recognized brands and corporations call the state of Arkansas home, it’s possible that a state university is the organization with all the answers. In particular, the University of Arkansas’ once maligned athletic department may be able to teach state businesses a few helpful lessons on how to correctly run a multi-million dollar operation.
The Least Likely Example
Rewind to 2012 and it would seem pretty improbable that the Arkansas athletic department would be anything more than the butt of a joke. Athletic director Jeff Long had just announced the firing of successful head coach Bobby Petrino after his involvement in a motorcycle accident revealed he had been in an inappropriate relationship with a 25-year old female whom he had hired only four days earlier. In addition to the administrational issues, the football team, which was coming off consecutive 10 and 11 win seasons, was about to embark on a two-year stretch where it would only win a combined total of seven games.
What You Can Learn from the Hogs
However, fast forward to 2015 and Long and his staff have proven that it is possible to turn a bad situation into a good one. Specifically, the Razorback’s athletic department has provided local and state organizations with a few valuable lessons in business.
- Team first. After firing Petrino, Long explained to reporters the importance of putting the organization above the individual, saying, “Our expectations of character and integrity in our employees can be no less than what we expect of our students. No single individual is bigger than the team, the Razorback football program of the University of Arkansas.” Unfortunately, so many don’t take this value to heart. Instead, they seem to reward the individuals at the top of the food chain and ignore the hard workers at the lower levels. While everyone has different responsibilities within an organization, it’s important for businesses owners to put the good of the business ahead of what’s good for a single individual.
- Facilities matter. In the fall of 2012, the university opened the doors to a new 80,00 square-foot, state-of-the-art football center with team meeting rooms, equipment rooms, spacious locker rooms, coaches’ offices, a student-athlete lounge, and more. This investment in top-notch facilities has paid off, as the Razorbacks have been able to recruit some of the top athletes in the country. The lesson for businesses is that facilities matter. You can’t continue to thrive unless you invest in quality and progress. The Arkansas athletic department got this one right.
- Integrity is critical. Anyone who knows Bobby Petrino’s track record knows that he’s a very good coach, but with questionable integrity. After the Petrino debacle, AD Long and his peers conducted a search for high-integrity coaches that could not only win football games but also impact student athletes in a positive manner. They found their guy in Bret Bielema and are now showing improvements on and off the field. For businesses, the takeaway is this: skill and expertise aren’t enough on their own. When hiring top-level managers and employees, it’s important to invest in integrity and class.
Learn from Those Around You
No two businesses are the same and each model presents its own unique challenges and issues. However, by looking at successful organizations around you, you can better position your business to succeed in the future. As proud Arkansas-based businesses, it’s important for local companies to band together for the greater good of the state. While the Razorbacks athletics department was in a dark place three years ago, a commitment to putting the team first, building quality facilities, and focusing on integrity has once again placed them at the top.
Author Bio: Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business and entrepreneurship based in Des Moines, Iowa. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.
The Iron Yard coding school is setting up shop in Little Rock this May, an event that tech startup leaders in Arkansas consider significant.
The move was announced in January.
Developing a pool of homegrown tech talent is critical to the state's continuing growth as a tech startup draw.
Arkansas Business will feature Iron Yard founder Peter Barth and the efforts of Arkansas' own Kristian Andersen to lure his school to the state in next week's issue, out Monday.
Barth said once he met with Innovate Arkansas officials and saw the tech startup environment first-hand, expansion to Little Rock was moved up.
Here's a tease from the story:
Andersen looks at the Iron Yard as the topper to a decade of steady progress.
“Having a coding school like the Iron Yard here will help create more high-paying jobs, more wealth, more upward mobility and supercharge the growth of this tech startup ecosystem,” he said.
“The most successful startup ecosystems have some things in common. They are cool places to live, they have access to talent, and they have access to capital. Little Rock deserves a seat at the table when you talk about cities with those things.”
Check back for more next week.
The Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub will host a couple of upcoming workshops from the Arkansas Small Business & Technology Development Center.
Registration info below.
ASBTDC is based at UALR but has offices at universities across the state. It provides assistance and resources to small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs.
The Hub, of course, is the nonprofit organization behind the Argenta Innovation Center in downtown NLR. It includes the Launch Pad maker space; the Silver Mine coworking space; the STEAM Lab in partnership with EAST Initiative, where EAST students can tinker and experiment; and the Art Connection, where local students meet entrepreneurship through the arts.
The first ASBTDC workshop at the Hub will be "Commercializing Your Technology: Moving from Idea to Market." It goes down Thursday, March 19, from 7:30 a.m. to noon, and cost is $50. Brian Rogers of the ASU Catalyst Innovation Center will lead.
The second workshop, "Will Your Big Idea Succeed? Tools for Tipping the Odds in Your Favor," will run Tuesday, April 14, from 8 a.m. to noon, and cost is $50. John Riggins of the Riggins Group and ATU will lead.
Courtesy of Rebecca Norman at ASBTDC, here are synipses of each:
Date: Thursday, March 19th from - 7:30 AM to Noon
Title: Commercializing Your Technology: Moving from Idea to Market
Speaker: Brian Rogers, Director of ASU Catalyst Innovation Center
Cost: $50 per participant
Registration Link: http://bit.ly/ASBTDCTechMarch
Date: Tuesday, April 14th - 8:00 AM to Noon
Title: Will Your Big Idea Succeed? Tools for Tipping the Odds in Your Favor
Speaker: John Riggins, The Riggins Group
Cost: $50 per participant
Registration Link: bit.ly/ASBTDCTechApril
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You knew this was inevitable, right?
Those paying attention to the tech entrepreneur scene in the state over the past couple of years surely have noticed those upstart high-school students pitching startup ideas and -- gasp -- even launching them.
High-school kids have participated in Startup Weekends, launched their own high-school version and held their own competitions.
(We're looking at you, Noble Impact.)
Youth entrepreneurs indeed are a thing now, and Arkansas' own G60 pitch contest is hopping on the train.
(Seriously, a look in the Arkansas Business archive reveals too many stories and items to link them all, but the Noble link above will help provide an idea of what we mean.)
The first-ever G60 Youth competition will run Saturday, May 2, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., hosted by Startup Junkie at Centerspace on the square in Fayetteville.
It's open to all students in grades 9-12, and you can register here.
Good stuff. Event details below from Startup Junkie:
The G60 Youth Pitch Contest is an event created to promote entrepreneurship, improve communication skills, and to increase creativity and innovation for young students with a desire to become entrepreneurial.
Contestants: Open to students from 9th to 12th grade that attends high schools in Arkansas. No slides. No notes. Come pitch your story and seize some startup glory in 60 seconds or less. Attendees will be angel investors, business leaders, community supporters, entrepreneurs, and anyone looking to have a great time!!
PRIZES!!!! Two $500 prizes will be given. $500 will be awarded by audience vote, and the second $500 will be awarded by judges vote. More details on the event here: http://www.g60contest.com/
Come on out and have a great time!!!! Contestants & Guests please register here.
CONTESTANTS MUST SIGN UP NO LATER THAN April 24 @ 9am. Only one-60 second pitch per contestant is allowed.