Lineus, Hello Cocoa Among Fast Rising Startups in Northwest Arkansas

The Northwest Arkansas startup scene evolves every day, but the region itself has already changed from a place where early-stage startups are viewed as a shiny new object to a place where they are part of the established culture.

Community support and entrepreneurs willing to share their own ideas helped companies such as Field Agent, Riff Raff, Movista, James + James, RevUnit, Collective Bias, Menguin, Fayettechill and Lauren James take shape. The companies used Northwest Arkansas as the springboard to advance from small beginnings to businesses that now employ 10 to more than 100 people in the region.

So many factors will determine which companies are the next ones to join that larger group, but we’ve identified a few with plans to make significant moves in the coming months that should bode well for the future.

Consider these possibilities:

  • Hello Cocoa. The company started in 2014 by Preston Stewart and Lauren Blanco selects cocoa beans from around the world to make high-quality chocolate in Fayetteville. The company will relocate to the Eighth Street Market in Bentonville later this year. “We plan to create a go-to chocolate/dessert experience in Northwest Arkansas over the next couple of years,” Blanco said. The company’s chocolate products are available at Whole Foods, Ozark Natural Foods and coffee shops across Northwest Arkansas, but the larger plan includes national and international distribution.
  • 3E Software Inc. The Springdale company with 12 employees expects to double its staff within 18 months. It sells Teslar, software that helps banks and credit unions with the complete lifecycle of a loan or deposit account. A handful of Northwest Arkansas banks are among its customers, said company founder and Fayetteville native Joe Ehrhardt.
  • Ozark Integrated Circuits Inc. With nine full- and part-time employees, the company manufacturers electronic circuits and systems that operate effectively at extremely low and extremely high temperatures. It’s also working to develop products capable of advanced ultra-violet detection. It could employ 20 to 30 people in five to 10 years, company founder Matt Francis said.
  • Black Apple Crossing. Located in downtown Springdale, the cidery founded in 2014 has seven full- and part-time employees. It provides its product to 60 bars and restaurants in Northwest Arkansas. There’s strong interest in canning the cider, meaning it would be available at liquor stores and other retail outlets.
  • Lineus Medical. The Fayetteville company has four employees now, but could grow to 30 in five to 10 years, said Spencer Jones, who started the company in 2015. It makes medical devices, namely infusion disposables such as its flagship product SafeBreak Vascular.
  • Cave Cloth. Wilson and Beth Allison started the company in 2012, designing and printing eco-friendly T-shirts in a Fayetteville industrial space. With one part-time employee now, Wilson Allison expects to have 15 to 20 workers in five years.
  • Bike Rack Brewing. You didn’t think this list would skip all the region’s craft beer producers, did you? The company has 20 employees and two Bentonville locations, selling kegs and cans statewide. Its revenue should grow to near $4 million within five years, company CEO Jeff Charlson said.

"All of these organizations are high-potential ventures, creating not just jobs that our community loves and needs, but they are creating livelihoods for our residents, while bringing products, services, and solutions to market that our community and country not only loves and wants, but needs," said Brett Amerine, chief operating officer at Startup Junkie, a Fayetteville company that assists companies during their startup phase. "Whether it's that local beer, food, or that electronics solution that could help NASA take us to Mars, you can thank these entrepreneurs."