Tim Turek’s EARTHWORX startup, a new Innovate Arkansas client, is featured this week in Arkansas Business.
He credits the startup environment in Arkansas with helping him launch his green venture.
Consider this post the director’s cut to that AB piece. Turek is an architect with pb2 architecture + engineering in Rogers (these kids with their lower cases and what not…). He’s developing a hybrid solar/electric power generation system for new construction and existing buildings.
Turek is a transplant to NWA from the Florida Panhandle whose move six years ago was prompted by the real-estate bust that hit Florida on its way inland. Here’s a little Q-and-A with Tim, covering stuff that didn’t make the AB profile.
INOV8: When did you start EARTHWORX? Give us some details about your background and how you came up with the idea for this startup.
Tim: I am a licensed architect who graduated from the School of Architecture at LSU in 1991 and began working in the field in 1993. I earned my registration in 2007. I am a native of Pensacola, Fla., and have lived most of my life on the Florida Panhandle. EARTHWORX began as a developing interest in straw bale construction around 2001. There was no conception of a company at that time, just an interest in alternative construction methods and how they could be used to create and advantage for developing real estate both residential and commercial.
I worked for Prescott Architects in Destin designing various project types, everything from single family residences to multi-tower, high-rise condominium complexes. All the while, continuing to read and learn everything I could about alternative construction and how it could best be utilized. I have explored numerous methods: earth block, adobe, cob, rammed earth, etc. In mid-summer 2005, the real estate market in Florida crashed; it was just a preview for the rest of the nation. Work began to dry up and I found my way to Northwest Arkansas by June of 2006. Just an aside, I love it here and you couldn’t pay me enough to go back.
INOV8: What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in launching this startup?
Tim: You mean, besides capitalization? All joking aside, the biggest challenge for me has been shifting from being an architect of buildings to being an architect of a business. Architecture education focuses heavily on design, and rightfully so, but practically ignores the ‘business’ of architecture. So, as a result, I am strong on design and weak on business. I knew I had to overcome this limitation, so I have read stacks of books on business planning and modeling and sought the tutelage of mentors and finally discovered something that works… Innovate Arkansas. The IA team is helping bridge the gaps in my skill set, teaching me what I need to know to make progress toward my goals.
INOV8: What’s been the most satisfying thing?
Tim: So much has been satisfying…it’s difficult to name just one, so I don’t think I’ll limit it. One thing would be the joy of the creative process and knowing that you are endeavoring to build something worthwhile. Another is meeting Jeff Amerine and becoming a client of Innovate Arkansas which has definitely been a positive experience for me. The exchange of ideas with other entrepreneurs and learning from their experiences has certainly been beneficial. These are but a few.
INOV8: What’s your take on the startup environment in Arkansas right now, specifically NWA?
Tim: Having move here from Florida only six years ago, I don’t have much experience with entrepreneurship anywhere else in Arkansas but NWA. So, I don’t think that I can comment on the rest of the state. But NWA…wow, it is really active, especially compared to the northern Gulf Coast of Florida, which is from where I come. Now it’s been six years and things could have changed. When I was living there, I didn’t see the kind of entrepreneurial activity or the kind of support that is available to entrepreneurs in NWA. I think that the University of Arkansas plays a significant role in supporting innovation and of course, you can’t discount the presence of Walmart, Tyson Foods, JB Hunt, etc. Their positive influence in the area helps to create a strong economic base from which entrepreneurs can work.
Also, Innovate Arkansas, Winrock International, and Arkansas Capital Corporation play a significant role in supporting entrepreneurship and had these support mechanisms been available to me in Florida, I may not have moved here.
Basically, I am very pleased to be starting a business in NWA, especially with the help of my Innovate Arkansas team.