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.
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.
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.