Startup Weekend Up Next in Entrepreneurs' Hub

Northwest Arkansas is recognized as a place for entrepreneurs to find the support they need to be successful, and great events drive entrepreneurs' success to a new level.

Ross DeVol, a Walton Family Foundation fellow, talk with Carol Reeves during Mentor Weekend at the Brewer Family Entrepreneurship Hub in Fayetteville. Reeves is associate vice provost for entrepreneurship at the University of Arkansas.

Ross DeVol, a Walton Family Foundation fellow, talk with Carol Reeves during Mentor Weekend at the Brewer Family Entrepreneurship Hub in Fayetteville. Reeves is associate vice provost for entrepreneurship at the University of Arkansas.

One of the most important will be Northwest Arkansas Startup Weekend, a 54-hour business development fast track for entrepreneurs with great ideas.

Participants will gather March 9-11 at the still-new Brewer Family Entrepreneurship Hub, an extension of the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. While there, participants will pitch their best ideas, form teams, work with mentors to develop prototypes of the best pitched ideas, and get feedback from experienced entrepreneurs.

It’s certain to be a whirlwind business development experience, and those interested in participating should register in advance.

"Our partnership with the Brewer Family Entrepreneurship Hub on the upcoming NWA Startup Weekend is a perfect example of the much-needed 'top of the funnel' initiatives to introduce new startups into the existing entrepreneurial community," said Haley Allgood, executive director of Startup Junkie Foundation, a nonprofit providing services to people interested in starting their own businesses. "The Hub is a perfect location for the event, as it is an intersection of students and the broader Northwest Arkansas community. We are excited about the energy that comes with a Startup Weekend and look forward to seeing the new innovations created on the weekend's last day."

It's the Brewer Family Entrepreneurship Hub that makes great events possible by serving as a fantastic venue for entrepreneurs who live and work in Northwest Arkansas.

The Brewer Family Entrepreneurship Hub opened in September just one block west of the Fayetteville Square.

The Brewer Family Entrepreneurship Hub opened in September just one block west of the Fayetteville Square.

Opened in September last year, the facility where it all happens is the former Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce building at 123 W. Mountain St. It serves as an interdisciplinary collaboration setting, co-working space, and training center for new and early stage entrepreneurs.

"The Hub creates a center of gravity for the students and alums who are in the trenches getting their businesses off the ground, the faculty and other mentors who support them, and our many community partners who are invested in their success," said Carol Reeves, associate vice provost for entrepreneurship and holder of the Cecil and Gwendolyn Cupp Applied Professorship in Entrepreneurship in the Sam M. Walton College of Business. "It is interdisciplinary by design and strengthens our ability to provide training, networking opportunities, and resources to entrepreneurs better than we can through curriculum alone."

Reeves said the entrepreneurship program "creates a pipeline from the university’s research laboratories to the marketplace."

The facility, which was made possible by a $600,000 gift from Jerry, Kay, Clete and Tammy Brewer, builds on the success of the University of Arkansas entrepreneurship program, which boasts more victories in national business plan competitions than any other school in the world – more than 22 since 2009.

The Entrepreneurship Hub features regular programming for students and alumni, including invited guest lectures and networking luncheons, as well as office hours provided by experts in fields such as marketing, design, accounting and the law. The services are designed around the needs of entrepreneurship program alumni, who participated in a feedback forum last year led by Reeves.

People will look back in 10 years and consider the establishment of The Hub as playing a major role in advancing the Northwest Arkansas entrepreneurial community, predicts April Seggebruch, one of two former University of Arkansas graduate students who created Movista while in a Reeves-led new venture development class. Bentonville-based Movista sells a proprietary field workforce management software.

"The Hub is special because of the community it has created," Seggebruch said. "Every time I step foot into The Hub, I feel that entrepreneurial rush. What’s the entrepreneurial rush? It is the freedom to innovate, the need to challenge status quo, and the adrenaline that comes with solving the next problem. You can’t create this type of environment without the right people involved.”

"The Hub is bringing together brilliant minds who get it.  They are winners.  And winning is not void of failures; it is void of quitting.”

To foster collaboration between disciplines, as well as between the university and community, the Entrepreneurship Hub provides full-time office space for faculty and staff from the Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation; STEAM-H, a program of the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Engineering that bridges health care, engineering, design, science and the arts; and the student-run and management business SAKE Forever Red.

Senior Krupali Krushiker, who is one of 20 honors students on the SAKE team for two semesters, said she’s learned about customer service, sales, marketing, accounting, operations and collaboration while involved with SAKE.

SAKE, which operates out of a room in the middle of the Brewer Hub, stands for Students Acquiring Knowledge through Enterprise. The students sell such things as framed college diplomas, framed prints of Old Main and framed rubbings of a person’s name on Senior Walk.

Anyone in the university community with an interest in entrepreneurship qualifies for free membership at the Hub, with special privileges reserved for active and alumni participants of the entrepreneurship program. 

Fayetteville is Nation's No. 1 City for Singles

The largest city in Northwest Arkansas gained national attention this week when it was identified as the No. 1 city in the U.S. for single people.

Money magazine put Fayetteville right at the top of its Best Places for Singles Right Now ranking published on Valentine's Day.

The magazine's researchers combed through its database of 2,400 Best Places to select those that are attractive for singles. It limited the cities to those with populations between 10,000 and 100,000 residents.

Many aspects of Fayetteville were noted in the magazine's article, including the Fayetteville Farmers' Market, Walton Arts Center, Dickson Street, the city's lakes and its 50 miles of bike trails. Dickson Street bars and music venues drew attention as well. Kingfish, Brewski's, George's Majestic Lounge and Willy D's Piano Bar were mentioned.

Fayetteville topped an impressive group. The other nine cities in the Top 10 were Somerville, Mass.; Clifton, N.J.; Santa Monica, Calif.; Lawrence, Kan.; Carmel, Ind.; Bismarck, N.D.; Ames, Iowa; Appleton, Wisc.; and Bozeman, Mont.

Pictured at the top: Joel Siemens and Jocelyn Coffman enjoy Thursday afternoon's warm weather on the deck at Kingfish, a popular bar that's just south of Dickson Street.

Allegiant Steps Up at XNA, Starts Destin Flights

Allegiant Air expanded its service at the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport, announcing today that it will begin summertime flights to the Florida Panhandle city of Destin.

The first of those flights takes off from XNA on June 6. Daniel Meier, Allegiant's airports manager, announced the Destin service at a morning press conference.

The Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport is one of Allegiant Air’s primary destinations along with Orlando, Las Vegas and several Florida cities. The low-cost carrier's Destin service includes flights from more than 20 U.S. cities, commonly on a twice-a-week basis. Flights from Northwest Arkansas will occur each Wednesday and Saturday.

“Allegiant is excited to offer Bentonville-area travelers their only ultra-low cost, nonstop option to visit Florida’s beautiful Emerald Coast,” said Lukas Johnson, Allegiant senior vice president of commercial.

For the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport, Destin becomes its 16th nonstop destination and its first new air service announcement since American Airlines announced it would make regular flights to Washington Reagan. Those flights started in April last year.

“Northwest Arkansas is a rapidly growing and economically diverse region of this country,” said Airport Director Kelly Johnson. “We appreciate the fact that our partners at Allegiant recognize the need for this service, and we thank them for their continued support and commitment to our community.”

While Allegiant’s expanded service at XNA is likely to be helpful in reducing fares to Florida, Northwest Arkansas needs daily low-cost air service to drive down fares to the majority of the passengers' final destinations.

High fares are what drove the Northwest Arkansas Council to start working more closely with the airport to attract daily low-cost air service. XNA passengers and the businesses who pay their fares for business travel spend tens of millions of dollars each year because fares are excessive.

Records kept by the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics show the average round-trip fare from XNA during 2017's third quarter was $534. The national average was $336 during the same time period.

That quarter wasn’t an anomaly. Federal data shows the 2016 average fare at XNA was $509 compared to a national average of $358.

It’s not known how much Allegiant’s non-daily service to Destin will impact XNA fares. A 2015 analysis did show the availability of Allegiant’s flights increased how many people traveled from XNA to both Orlando and Las Vegas.

It also showed the competition created by Allegiant may have factored into an overall fare decrease to those two destinations between 2009 and 2015. Fares to Orlando and Las Vegas decreased soon after Allegiant started flying the route and stayed down.

Fares to Orlando were about 30 percent less expensive in 2015 than they were in 2009. Las Vegas fares were 27 percent less than they were prior to Allegiant's arrival at XNA.

House of Songs Talent Collaborates in Northwest Arkansas

International songwriters and artists on their way to one of the world’s biggest folk music events will be among those taking part in two House of Songs Ozarks shows in Northwest Arkansas this month.

A Feb. 11 performance will be from 3 to 6 p.m. at Record, an events venue at 104 Southwest A Street in downtown Bentonville. Fayetteville’s Dickson Street Pub will be the location of a show from 7 to 9 p.m. on Feb. 12. The bar is located at 303 W. Dickson St.

Both performances are free and open to the public.

Many of the artists are joining The House of Songs Ozarks as part of larger trips on their way to Kansas City’s Folk Alliance International Conference, which has been described as the world’s largest gathering of the folk music industry and community. House of Songs Ozarks artists who will then travel to Kansas City include Tim Easton (Nashville), Ida Wenoe (Germany), Danni Nicholls (United Kingdom), Jaimee Harris (Austin), Dylan Menzie (Canada), and Eric Witthans and Meredith Kimbrough (Fayetteville).

“These local, regional, and international artists are defining the international music scene, and we look forward to celebrating their accomplishments with the local Northwest Arkansas community prior to attending such a prestigious event within the world’s music scene,” said singer-songwriter Troy Campbell, who founded the first House of Songs in Austin in 2009.

Campbell was inspired by the collaboration that had occurred between himself and Danish star Poul Krebs. That led to a one-year project to bring Danish artists to Austin, and House of Songs continues operation in Austin today. It’s constantly bringing international artists to the city that’s recognized as the Live Music Capital of the World.

Through a partnership with the Walton Family Foundation, a second permanent home for House of Songs was established in Bentonville in 2017. Using the Austin model, that partnership has allowed House of Songs Ozarks to bring the international creative sector to Northwest Arkansas.

Artists each month arrive in Northwest Arkansas for 10-day residences. While living together in a Bentonville home, international artists write music and collaborate with local and regional talent. The songwriters and musicians retain their publishing rights to the work that is created in-house.

Campbell said House of Songs in Austin “in its own way became a platform to enable better understanding of other cultures and an appreciation of what we actually have as a community to share.” He said that same platform now exists in Northwest Arkansas.

“Our recent months have allowed our artists and audiences to explore and discuss larger issues and unite the community just a bit more through music and its ability to get us together,” Campbell said. “Northwest Arkansas has a lot of incredible towns and neighborhoods, and the people who love them make it the reason we want to be a house right in the middle.”

The House of Songs participants have had internationally charted songs, have earned Grammy Award nominations and have headlined festivals. The artists are able to built lifelong bonds with musicians and fans.

“Northwest Arkansas has a vibrant music scene and The House of Songs Ozarks adds value to all of the happenings here,” said Kalene Griffin, president of Visit Bentonville, an organization promoting tourism.

“Our hope in the future is that the international artists become a draw for other artists to visit our city as a music destination. The opportunity for local artists to interact with the international artists creates a collaboration that we have not had in the past. The value of learning from another with the same passion and love of music in the beauty of the Ozarks is a story within itself.”

There are some fantastic resources that provider more information about House of Songs Ozarks. The Walton Family Foundation posted a House of Songs Ozarks video and wrote about the importance of songwriters and musicians being able to work with other creatives.

KNWA in December interviewed Campbell about how he first became interested in expanding House of Songs to Northwest Arkansas.

Additionally, House of Songs posted a video early last year about its Songwriter Summit, which was held in Northwest Arkansas.


'Soul of a Nation' Makes U.S. Debut in Northwest Arkansas

A presentation focused on the vital contributions of black artists makes its U.S. debut this weekend at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville.

The Northwest Arkansas museum's showing of Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power starts Saturday and will continue through April 23, 2018. Admission to Soul of a Nation is $10, but there is no cost for museum members or youth ages 18 and under. 

Developed by the Tate Modern in London, Soul of a Nation shines a bright light on black artists during an important period in American art and history. Featuring the work of 60 artists and including 164 vibrant paintings, powerful murals, photographs and sculptures, the exhibition is a rare opportunity to see era-defining artworks that changed the face of art in America.

Crystal Bridges is one of only two U.S. venues to host Soul of a Nation. Following its debut in Bentonville, the exhibition travels to the Brooklyn Museum in New York. 

The variety of artworks in the exhibition reflects the many viewpoints of artists and collectives at work from 1963 to 1983. Soul of a Nation examines the influences, from the civil rights and Black Power movements to Minimalism and abstraction, on artists such as Romare Bearden, Noah Purifoy, Martin Puryear, Faith Ringgold, Betye Saar, Alma Thomas, Charles White, William T. Williams, and Barkley Hendricks.

“Crystal Bridges welcomes this opportunity to introduce our visitors to artworks created by significant American artists at key moments in our nation’s history, and to tell a more expansive story of American culture,” said Rod Bigelow, Crystal Bridges executive director and chief diversity and inclusion officer. “We look forward to the much-anticipated U.S. debut of the exhibition, and to continuing the dialogue about the role of art in an ever-changing society.”  

The exhibition highlights key events, starting with the March on Washington in 1963, and considers cultural influences such as music, literature, and sports, on the artists of the time. Some artists, galvanized by the spirit of the civil rights movement, created images of solidarity, strength, and resistance, or paid homage to legendary African-American figures such as Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Angela Davis, musician John Coltrane, and sports hero Jack Johnson; while others focused primarily on color, form, and concept.

“We’re thrilled to host this exhibition and recognize these artists for their momentous contributions to American art,” said Lauren Haynes, Crystal Bridges curator, contemporary art. “This is a powerful show that reveals the vastly different ways artists respond to the world around them. We hope our visitors will come away, learning about their new favorite artist and the understanding that there’s no one way to be a black artist.”

The exhibition is organized into 12 sections, grouped by movements, geography, galleries, collectives, or the overall exploration of what it meant to be a black artist during this time.

The first section is dedicated to the formation of Spiral, a group of artists who assembled in New York to work out a shared position on what it meant to make art during the civil rights movement, and concludes with Just Above Midtown, a revolutionary gallery with the goal of giving a platform to the Black avant-garde.

The artists represented in the exhibition come from all over the U.S., with rooms devoted to groups such as AfriCOBRA, based in Chicago in the late 1960s, or East Coast Abstraction, which challenged the idea that art had to directly represent black communities, prompting debate about black aesthetics. One room is completely dedicated to Betye Saar, a visionary artist whose work often focuses on mysticism, gender, and race. This includes a mixed media assemblage, Gelede, 1971, recently acquired by Crystal Bridges.

 The Soul of a Nation exhibition will also be accompanied by a full roster of programs with highlights including:

February 28 — Spotlight Talk Panel Discussion: African-American Athletes in Arkansas.  Evin Demirel will moderate a conversation around his book with guest speakers such as former University of Arkansas basketball and NBA star Sidney Moncrief.

March 2 —  Performance Lab: The Last Poets perform a greatest-hits show from their spoken-word albums that inspired politically charged rap groups such as Public Enemy. The night will feature a vinyl signing.

March 15, 22, and 29 — Listening Sessions: Music from the 1960s, ‘70s, and ‘80s. Mark Anthony Neal will lead three listening sessions featuring selected tracks from the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s and inspired by the temporary exhibition Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power.

Special tours through Soul of a Nation are planned for Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 1 p.m. for the run of the exhibition. School tours will take place in the exhibition along with adult tours.



XNA Puts Up its Best Year; Boards 725K Passengers

XNA Puts Up its Best Year; Boards 725K Passengers

The Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport broke its record for the number of passengers boarding flights for the fourth year in a row.

The airport announced its record enplanements on Tuesday, saying 2017 saw 725,284 passengers depart from XNA. That was a 3.7 percent increase over 2016, and it was the first time the airport eclipsed 700,000.