Scaling the Most Epic Wave of Comeback Stories the World Has Ever Seen with Chris Thompson of Sober Sidekick

January 30th, 2023

Summary
On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell is joined by Chris Thompson, Founder and CEO of Sober Sidekick, a free sobriety app that helps users maintain their sobriety by connecting with a community of people who can empathize with where they are. Sober Sidekick allows users to become the hero of their own recovery and helps them reach unimaginable new heights. Following his own battle with addiction, Chris created Sober Sidekick to be a support system for individuals in their darkest moments and to show them that no matter what, they are never alone. Throughout the episode, James and Chris discuss the inspiration behind Sober Sidekick, who Sober Sidekick aims to help and why Sober Sidekick was established in Bentonville.

Thanks for tuning in!

Show Notes
(0:53) Introduction to Chris
(2:31) Founding Sober Sidekick
(6:19) About Sober Sidekick
(9:38) Sober Sidekick’s Users
(12:15) Why Northwest Arkansas?
(17:37) About Bentonville’s Startup Ecosystem
(20:17) Benefits of Living in Bentonville
(28:33) What’s Next for Sober Sidekick
(33:00) Closing Question

Links
James Bell
Bentonville Economic Development

Chris Thompson
Sober Sidekick

Quotes

“As I began my own recovery journey and reflected on all the different factors that kept me down for so long, I asked, ‘How could we build something that creates a world where it’s easier for people to climb out of this pit?’” - Chris Thompson, (2:55)

“It’s an app available in app stores for iOS and Android, and it’s endless support around the clock in real time. The one thing I’ll say is people don’t use [Sober Sidekick] for its features, they come back for each other and that’s the difference maker, community.” - Chris Thompson, (8:19)

“What I found the most positive [about Bentonville] is the intentionality. Here are our goals. Here’s what we want to see happen in the alignment of leaders across the different spaces. That’s what has been the most exciting to me, the willingness to collaborate and seeing each other as teammates versus strangers.” - Chris Thompson, (17:58)

“Our mission is to scale to the most epic wave of real life comeback stories the world has ever seen. That’s a mission that won’t end until all twenty-two million Americans who are chronically suffering have found their journey.” - Chris Thompson, (28:33)

Inspiring Recovery with Chris Thompson of Sober Sidekick
On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell is joined by Chris Thompson, Founder and CEO of Sober Sidekick, a free sobriety app that helps users maintain their sobriety by connecting with a community of people who can empathize with where they are. Sober Sidekick allows users to become the hero of their own recovery and helps them reach unimaginable new heights. Following his own battle with addiction, Chris created Sober Sidekick to be a support system for individuals in their darkest moments and to show them that no matter what, they are never alone. Throughout the episode, James and Chris discuss the inspiration behind Sober Sidekick, who Sober Sidekick aims to help and why Sober Sidekick was established in Bentonville.

The Mindset behind Sober Sidekick
Sober Sidekick operates as a social network that allows users to post anonymously. The app’s mentality is the more support you give to other members, the more you will receive in return. Sober Sidekick believes that something as simple as congratulating another member on their sobriety will positively impact their journey. Addiction often thrives in isolation, and Sober Sidekick’s goal is to ensure that nobody is battling their addiction alone.

“As I began my own recovery journey and reflected on all the different factors that kept me down for so long, I asked, ‘How could we build something that creates a world where it’s easier for people to climb out of this pit?’” - Chris Thompson, (2:55)

Some features of Sober Sidekick are a sobriety counter, AA meetings, messaging, daily motivations and professional help. Features like the AA meetings and instant messaging provide users with the opportunity to find accountability partners. Furthermore, users can unlock new daily motivations by offering support to others. Sober Sidekick prides itself on being judgment-free, offering users the safe space they need to achieve their comeback story.

Sober Sidekick Guarantees
Sober Sidekick has what it calls an empathy algorithm, which guarantees a response from a member of the community every time a post is written. It’s not a response from artificial intelligence or members of the Sober Sidekick team, it’s a genuine response from another individual going through their own recovery journey. As a result, since Sober Sidekick’s launch in January 2019, there hasn’t been a member who posted and didn’t get a response.

“It’s an app available in app stores for iOS and Android, and it’s endless support around the clock in real time. The one thing I’ll say is people don’t use [Sober Sidekick] for its features, they come back for each other and that’s the difference maker, community.” - Chris Thompson, (8:19)

Moreover, Sober Sidekick elects to remain a free app for users because the community of the app is the value proposition instead of a one-time purchase fee or monthly subscription. The majority of Sober Sidekick members join the app in the first week of their recovery journey, meaning they most likely aren’t necessarily in the financial position to make a purchase. Additionally, Sober Sidekick doesn’t want to scale to a size where it’s successful while its members are relapsing because they’re being charged to access the app.

Get Connected!
Thanks for tuning in to this episode of The Bentonville Beacon! Join us weekly for more stories from entrepreneurs and business leaders who are making a positive impact on Bentonville’s culture, community, and lifestyle. Don’t forget, Bentonville is a place where you can have more of what you want and less of what you don’t!

Helping Online Communities Connect and Engage with Derrick Reives & Venki Mandapati of UpSquad

January 23rd, 2023

Summary
On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell is joined by Derrick Reives and Venki Mandapati, Co-Founders of UpSquad, an on-demand engagement platform that helps organizations connect, communicate and collaborate. With over twenty-four years of experience working for Fortune 100 companies, Derrick serves as the CEO of UpSquad, and Venki is UpSquad’s CTO with over a decade of experience as a technology and data science leader. UpSquad’s custom, peer-to-peer platform assists nonprofits, schools and businesses in efficiently managing skill building, work-readiness, mentoring and more with shared equity that encourages support. Throughout the episode, James, Derrick and Venki discuss how UpSquad is advantageous to organizations, the startup path that led to UpSquad and how Bentonville is a positive place to work and live. 

Thanks for tuning in!

Show Notes
(0:54) Introduction to Derrick and Venki
(1:25) About Derrick
(2:53) About Venki
(4:21) The Ideation of UpSquad
(6:42) What UpSquad Provides and Who They Serve
(12:33) UpSquad’s Success
(16:38) From Corporate to Startup
(23:52) UpSquad’s Experience with Delta I-Fund
(33:22) UpSquad’s Participation in 1 Million Cups
(39:02) How Living in Bentonville Has Changed 
(46:19) #Bentonville Story
(50:15) Closing Questions

Links
James Bell
Bentonville Economic Development

Derrick Reives
Venki Mandapati
UpSquad

Quotes

“What we do is take programs from nonprofits, schools, government agencies and businesses, and we put them in a virtual space. Virtual is the need of the hour, specifically hybrid where they can have both in-person and virtual activities going at the same time. We make it very easy for their members to collaborate in this innovative space.” - Derrick Reives, (6:55)

“That’s another milestone. As entrepreneurs we’ve had to learn to communicate what we’re doing and how it’s helping people. That’s priceless.” - Derrick Reives, (15:26)

“One of the main reasons we decided to open offices here in Northwest Arkansas and Bentonville is because we saw the entrepreneurial support for organizations like us. Not only that, but there’s this ecosystem across the entire state trying to pull in those that are out-of-state.” - Derrick Reives, (29:52)

“Entrepreneurship is difficult, and sometimes we need that environment to really succeed because it’s not going to be a day, it’s not going to be a month, it’s going to be years. We need to work together in order to really create something out of nothing.” - Venki Mandapati, (49:17)

Building Dynamic Ecosystems with UpSquad
On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell is joined by Derrick Reives and Venki Mandapati, Co-Founders of UpSquad, an on-demand engagement platform that helps organizations connect, communicate and collaborate. With over twenty-four years of experience working for Fortune 100 companies, Derrick serves as the CEO of UpSquad, and Venki is UpSquad’s CTO with over a decade of experience as a technology and data science leader. UpSquad’s custom, peer-to-peer platform assists nonprofits, schools and businesses in efficiently managing skill building, work-readiness, mentoring and more with shared equity that encourages support. Throughout the episode, James, Derrick and Venki discuss how UpSquad is advantageous to organizations, the startup path that led to UpSquad and how Bentonville is a positive place to work and live.

Creating an Engaging Community
Since 2018, UpSquad’s mission has been to make the management of an organization’s members a seamless process. It offers unique solutions for member collaboration with meeting rooms, workshops, conferences and classrooms, as well as modern communication tools with social feeds and instant messaging. Furthermore, within the platform, individuals and groups are invited to join a community where the tangible growth of their online spaces is instantly measured for analytical purposes.

“What we do is take programs from nonprofits, schools, government agencies and businesses, and we put them in a virtual space. Virtual is the need of the hour, specifically hybrid where they can have both in-person and virtual activities going at the same time. We make it very easy for their members to collaborate in this innovative space.” - Derrick Reives, (6:55)

Some features of UpSquad are video sharing, where users can capture video in-app and share it to a community social feed. There is also an UpSquad emotions wheel based on specific feelings that users can search through and react to content with. With UpSquad, organizations are able to streamline their digital presence and establish an online ecosystem to grow their operations.

UpSquad’s Entrepreneurial Journey
UpSquad got its start at the University of Memphis, where the concept won an entrepreneurial pitch competition, and Venki was advised to apply to the Delta I-Fund. The Delta I-Fund was UpSquad’s first exposure to an Arkansas accelerator. It received five thousand dollars to build the first prototype, and once the prototype was completed, it was time to focus on customer discovery. Although UpSquad was not located in Arkansas at the time, two of its first clients were UAMS and the Arkansas Economic Development Commission.

To date, UpSquad has over twenty organizations utilizing its platform and has raised more than one million dollars in funding. Currently, UpSquad is raising its next round of seed investment following the redesign of its website homepage to more accurately explain what it is UpSquad offers and who they help. UpSquad has expanded its offices to Bentonville and continues to reap the benefits of the region's entrepreneurial ecosystem where the sky’s the limit.

“One of the main reasons we decided to open offices here in Northwest Arkansas and Bentonville is because we saw the entrepreneurial support for organizations like us. Not only that, but there’s this ecosystem across the entire state trying to pull in those that are out-of-state.” - Derrick Reives, (29:52)

Get Connected!
Thanks for tuning in to this episode of The Bentonville Beacon! Join us weekly for more stories from entrepreneurs and business leaders who are making a positive impact on Bentonville’s culture, community, and lifestyle. Don’t forget, Bentonville is a place where you can have more of what you want and less of what you don’t!

Enabling eCommerce for Makers, Bakers and Shakers with Edwin Ortiz of Rejoicy

January 17th, 2023

Summary
On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell is joined by Edwin Ortiz, Co-Founder and CEO of Rejoicy, a platform designed to help local shoppers support small businesses through digital storefronts. Rejoicy makes local goods available everywhere and to everyone by facilitating sellers and shoppers through an easy-to-use online marketplace. With over fourteen years of experience, Edwin is also the founder of Luncher, a company dedicated to delivering food from your favorite restaurants to your workplace. Throughout the episode, James and Edwin discuss Bentonville's entrepreneurial resources for founders and how Rejoicy helps businesses go from brick and mortar to click and order.

Thanks for tuning in!

Show Notes
(0:53) Introduction to Edwin
(1:33) About Edwin
(4:00) About Luncher
(10:38) Pivots in the Startup World
(12:19) About Rejoicy
(16:39) Rejoicy’s Recent Work
(20:00) Edwin’s Experience with Techstars
(23:01) Advantages of Being Located in Bentonville
(26:53) Local Resources for Entrepreneurs
(31:44) Why Founders Should Have a Presence in Bentonville
(37:06) Bentonville Favorites
(42:07) Bentonville’s Contributions
(44:53) Closing Questions

Links
James Bell
Bentonville Economic Development

Edwin Ortiz
Rejoicy

Quotes

“When you look at what we’re doing with Rejoicy, it’s ‘What would people do if we make it easy to pursue their passion?’ The reality is that’s its core. The goal is to help people do what they love.” - Edwin Ortiz, (8:53)

“We make it super easy for them to get started. They can start their store in one minute, and they can be selling in less than ten minutes. That is the core of what we want to do.” - Edwin Ortiz, (13:34)

“There’s this feeling, this energy happening in Northwest Arkansas. It almost feels like the Renaissance. You have big companies, but you also have this growing number of startups.” - Edwin Ortiz, (23:51)

“I think for people who are interested in ecommerce, retail, products, the future of work, medtech (and more). Northwest Arkansas is the right place. Northwest Arkansas is the place that will attract all those things because it has the right ingredients to help those businesses succeed.” - Edwin Ortiz, (32:01)

Helping Local Business Flourish with Edwin Ortiz of Rejoicy
On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell is joined by Edwin Ortiz, Co-Founder and CEO of Rejoicy, a platform designed to help local shoppers support small businesses through digital storefronts. Rejoicy makes local goods available everywhere and to everyone by facilitating sellers and shoppers through an easy-to-use online marketplace. With over fourteen years of experience, Edwin is also the founder of Luncher, a company dedicated to delivering food from your favorite restaurants to your workplace. Throughout the episode, James and Edwin discuss Bentonville's entrepreneurial resources for founders and how Rejoicy helps businesses go from brick and mortar to click and order.

Turning Passions into Careers
Rejoicy was created to empower the passions of makers, bakers, movers and shakers, making it easy for them to create online shops. With Rejoicy, it takes sellers about one minute to create an online store, and once they do, they will have access to a variety of business management tools. These tools help them manage their orders, fulfillment and inventory, as well as allow them to complete transactions within the platform.

“We make it super easy for them to get started. They can start their store in one minute, and they can be selling in less than ten minutes. That is the core of what we want to do.” - Edwin Ortiz, (13:34)

What Rejoicy offers that larger platforms like Shopify, Wix and Squarespace don’t is a space where local businesses can thrive. These larger platforms are more geared toward direct-to-consumer brands, not individuals who start small, local businesses. Because of this, Rejoicy operates under the mentality that you shouldn’t have to choose between pursuing your passion and making a living.

Bentonville’s Advantages and Opportunities
One of the biggest advantages of being established in Bentonville is having the ability to tap into the local talent pool. With over fifteen hundred consumer packaged goods suppliers in the region, the number of skilled individuals is exponential. Plus, these companies having such an impactful presence in the community makes meeting with high-caliber professionals much more accessible.

However, even with these large corporations being located in the region, there’s undoubtedly a growing startup scene. This ecosystem of global brands supporting small businesses is a benefit of Bentonville that cannot be easily replicated. The mindset behind Bentonville’s culture is “you might not be my customer, but you’re somebody else’s, and I’m going to treat you amazing either way.” Being the best version of oneself is woven into Bentonville’s DNA, and it’s showcased every time a startup is effortlessly assimilated into the community.

“There’s this feeling, this energy happening in Northwest Arkansas. It almost feels like the Renaissance. You have big companies, but you also have this growing number of startups.” - Edwin Ortiz, (23:51)

Get Connected!
Thanks for tuning in to this episode of The Bentonville Beacon! Join us weekly for more stories from entrepreneurs and business leaders who are making a positive impact on Bentonville’s culture, community, and lifestyle. Don’t forget, Bentonville is a place where you can have more of what you want and less of what you don’t!

Using Tech to Revolutionize Jewelry Stores with Andy Martin of Wishfluence

January 9th, 2023

Summary
On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell is joined by Andy Martin, Owner and CEO of Moonlight Games, a video game company dedicated to developing mobile apps. Moonlight Games’ extensive list of applications includes Wishfluence, the first branded wishlist app to provide luxury jewelry stores with the means to connect every customer with their dream product. Andy founded Wishfluence with his wife to streamline how jewelry stores manage their customer’s favorite pieces. Throughout the episode, James and Andy discuss Andy’s entrepreneurial journey, the pros of being located in Bentonville and what it’s like to build a company with your spouse.

Thanks for tuning in!

Show Notes
(0:52) Introduction to Andy
(26:07) Gauging Competition
(30:33) Andy’s Experience with Innovate Arkansas
(39:04) Benefits of Establishing in Bentonville
(49:21) How Families Thrive in Bentonville
(58:00) Advice to Couples Starting a Business
(1:01:12) Future Plans for Wishfluence

Links
James Bell
Bentonville Economic Development

Andy Martin
Wishfluence
Moonlight Games, LLC
Carin Martin
Northwest Arkansas Technology Summit
Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC)
Jeanette Collins
Northwest Arkansas Council
Yee-Lin Lai
Walton Family Foundation
Sarah Goforth
University of Arkansas Office of Entrepreneurship & Innovation
Innovate Arkansas
Arkansas I-Fund
1 Million Cups - Bentonville
Exchange Bentonville
Joe Saumweber
RevUnit
Edwin Ortiz
NWA User Unity Group
Dr. David Fredrick
University of Arkansas Tesseract Center for Immersive Environments and Game Design
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
Catherine Corley
David Sanders
USC Cycling: Bentonville Becomes Home for U.S. National Mountain Bike Team
Slaughter Pen - Oz Trails Northwest Arkansas
8th Street Market
28th Street Park - Cricket Pitch
Helen R. Walton Children’s Enrichment Center
Book: Sam Walton, Made In America

Quotes

“I said, ‘I’m going to do this wishlist thing, and I’m going to do it right.’ Because I’m passionate about startups and I really like how this is solving a problem.” - Andy Martin, (21:30)

“I realized I was in the same position I’d been in building the technology based on what I think the people need without a real avenue to get it to them. And the thought that it will just be good enough and they’ll sign up is not how it works.” - Andy Martin, (30:42)

“..another thing about LA is how cutthroat it is. Why would someone tell me about an opportunity that could help me if it in any way diminished their chances of being helped by that thing? Where I don’t think we have that mentality here at all…the thought is there’s plenty for all to share and we can grow it all together.” - Andy Martin, (39:23)

“I received this advice a lot, and hopefully one day I can take it, which is to leave the work at work.” - Andy Martin, (59:44)

Turning Wishes into Sales with Andy Martin of Wishfluence
On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell is joined by Andy Martin, Owner and CEO of Moonlight Games, a video game company dedicated to developing mobile apps. Moonlight Games’ extensive list of applications includes Wishfluence, the first branded wishlist app to provide luxury jewelry stores with the means to connect every customer with their dream product. Andy founded Wishfluence with his wife to streamline how jewelry stores manage their customer’s favorite pieces. Throughout the episode, James and Andy discuss Andy’s entrepreneurial journey, the pros of being located in Bentonville and what it’s like to build a company with your spouse.

The Impact of Wishfluence
Wishfluence’s mission is to convert customers’ jewelry wishlists into sales. Wishfluence helps jewelers serve their clients through the entire customer experience, including clienteling, marketing, texting, email, prospecting and fulfillment. Wishfluence allows customer information to be readily available, making the in-store experience personalized and professional.

“I said, ‘I’m going to do this wishlist thing, and I’m going to do it right.’ Because I’m passionate about startups and I really like how this is solving a problem.” - Andy Martin, (21:30)

One of the most unique qualities of Wishfluence is that it allows jewelers to utilize their own branding to stay aligned with their company’s look and feel. When the app opens, jewelers will find an Instagram-like arrangement where they can make notes or reminders to follow up with their customers. Furthermore, Wishfluence provides insights into which customers might need to be contacted and sends weekly reports to staff members, sharing which pieces have been added.

The Beauty of Bentonville
In recent years, there’s been an exponential increase in the number of individuals in the tech industry that have migrated to Bentonville. Oftentimes this influx is attributed to Walmart establishing its headquarters here along with its staggering amount of suppliers. However, no matter the reasoning for their arrival, the one thing most agreed upon is that Bentonville’s entrepreneurial ecosystem rivals that of larger tech hot spots like Silicon Valley.

“..another thing about LA is how cutthroat it is. Why would someone tell me about an opportunity that could help me if it in any way diminished their chances of being helped by that thing? Where I don’t think we have that mentality here at all…the thought is there’s plenty for all to share and we can grow it all together.” - Andy Martin, (39:23)

When asked about what makes Bentonville so special, the most common answer is its approachability and affordability. Entrepreneurs are welcomed with open arms and can readily obtain access to entrepreneurial programs and industry leaders in world-renowned companies. Other than offering startup opportunities, Bentonville also boasts incredible experiences pertaining to the arts and outdoors with its exceptional museums and mountain bike trails.

Get Connected!
Thanks for tuning in to this episode of The Bentonville Beacon! Join us weekly for more stories from entrepreneurs and business leaders who are making a positive impact on Bentonville’s culture, community, and lifestyle. Don’t forget, Bentonville is a place where you can have more of what you want and less of what you don’t!

Transforming Retail Execution and Workforce Management with Stan Zylowski of Movista

January 2nd, 2023

Summary
On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell is joined by Stan Zylowski, CEO and Co-founder of Movista, a software development company that provides an all-in-one platform for retail execution and workforce management. Movista integrates a multitude of disparate systems into a single user-friendly interface where everyone can manage, review, and approve work. With more than fifteen years of experience in sales, marketing, and general business, Stan has had great success in brand and account management, sports marketing, and operations. Throughout the episode, James and Stan discuss how Movista’s core values are the foundation for its success and best practices for developing a future workforce.

Thanks for tuning in!

Show Notes
(0:54) Introduction to Stan
(7:09) About Movista
(12:59) Local Entrepreneurial Restaurants 
(19:45) Movista’s History
(26:37) Movista’s Success
(33:42) Movista’s Core Values
(36:51) Cultivating a Future Workforce
(42:36) Bentonville’s Development
(47:06) #Bentonville Story
(49:53) Bentonville Favorites
(53:10) Closing Questions

Links
James Bell
Bentonville Economic Development

Stan Zylowski
Movista
Daniel Hintz
Downtown Bentonville Inc.
Tusk & Trotter
Chef Rob Nelson
Trash Creamery
Butcher & Pint
High South Catering
The Bend
Burg der Gustropub
Carol Reeves
Sarah Goforth
University of Arkansas Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation
Brewer Family Entrepreneurship Hub
University of Arkansas
Ignite Professional Studies | Bentonville Schools
Jon Cadieux
Carl Garrett
Table Mesa Bistro
Tavola Trattoria
21c Museum Hotel
Pedlar’s Pub
“Stella” Sculpture
8th Street Market
Hillfolk
Markham & Fitz
Bentonville Christmas Parade
Mayor Stephanie Orman

Quotes

“Our secret sauce at Movista is that we were the first to market on mobile and we give a single user interface to field teams.” - Stan Zylowski, (8:52)

“I sometimes say we took the dirt road so others can take the superhighway, and that’s great. That’s totally fine. We learned a lot of lessons along the way, but hopefully, we left a lot of breadcrumbs to help people follow the path.” - Stan Zylowski, (12:21)

“It’s about giving back, and the last anchor, the bedrock of the whole thing, is let’s have fun. We have to be here. We have to work. Let’s make it fun. So yeah we’ve lost some deals, but we’ve never lost a party.” - Stan Zylowski, (35:25)

“What I love about Northwest Arkansas is that any company you can think of would be able to be started here. Everyone that has products signed to Walmart, when they send people here, they don’t send the drags, they send the best and brightest…It’s this crazy combination of wealth gained in a conservative way.” - Stan Zylowski, (39:30)

Making Retail Run Right with Stan Zylowski of Movista
On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell is joined by Stan Zylowski, CEO and Co-founder of Movista, a software development company that provides an all-in-one platform for retail execution and workforce management. Movista integrates a multitude of disparate systems into a single user-friendly interface where everyone can manage, review, and approve work. With more than fifteen years of experience in sales, marketing, and general business, Stan has had great success in brand and account management, sports marketing, and operations. Throughout the episode, James and Stan discuss how Movista’s core values are the foundation for its success and best practices for developing a future workforce.

Inspiring Excellence with a Winning Culture
At the heart of Movista, you’ll find a team whose culture is fueled by the desire to make the lives of their customers easier while also having fun. Their core values are based on innovation, a service-first mentality, positivity, agility, responsibility and excellence. They operate off of the mindset that their success is defined by the customer’s success. Likewise, fun, laughter and joy are always invited into their workplace in an effort for their peers to see them as assets to the business.

“It’s about giving back, and the last anchor, the bedrock of the whole thing, is let’s have fun. We have to be here. We have to work. Let’s make it fun. So yeah we’ve lost some deals, but we’ve never lost a party.” - Stan Zylowski, (35:25)

Furthermore, Movista and its employees strive to improve themselves daily and have no interest in being ordinary. Being exceptional is the expectation. Although high standards form the foundation of Movista, its beliefs are effective in motivating employees to proactively seek to aid others and take responsibility for their work. No matter the situation, Movista team members always do what is needed to deliver a best-in-class product or experience and focus on actively utilizing creativity.

Fostering Talent in the Community
One thing Movista is intent on doing is giving back to the community, whether it be community service or collaborating with the next generation of workers through various local programs. Movista has worked with kids in Ignite, a Bentonville school program, and it offers internships through the University of Arkansas. Moreover, it welcomes anyone who wants to shadow employees for the day.

Movista also does its best to stay involved in the entrepreneurial ecosystem of Bentonville by being tapped into local businesses or providing funding. At the beginning of each year, Movista sets a goal to complete five thousand hours of community service and to give at least ten thousand dollars in donations. All of Movista’s community work is done to help cultivate the next wave of talented workers that are already located in Bentonville.

“I sometimes say we took the dirt road so others can take the superhighway, and that’s great. That’s totally fine. We learned a lot of lessons along the way, but hopefully, we left a lot of breadcrumbs to help people follow the path.” - Stan Zylowski, (12:21)

Get Connected!
Thanks for tuning in to this episode of The Bentonville Beacon! Join us weekly for more stories from entrepreneurs and business leaders who are making a positive impact on Bentonville’s culture, community, and lifestyle. Don’t forget, Bentonville is a place where you can have more of what you want and less of what you don’t!

Providing Game-Changing Consumer Data with Mike Steely of Veriphix

December 26th, 2022

Summary
On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell is joined by Mike Steely, Commercialization Officer at Veriphix. Veriphix is a behavioral dynamics platform that leverages behavioral science and machine intelligence to empower individuals to turn chaos into creativity. Along with his role at Veriphix, Mike is an Arkansas startup champion and angel investor focused on identifying innovative ideas that can be molded into investable companies. Throughout the episode, James and Mike discuss Veriphix’s experience with Fuel Accelerator, why Bentonville is an optimal place to establish startups and how to prepare startups to become enterprises.

Thanks for tuning in!

Show Notes
(0:53) Introduction to Mike
(3:05) History of Veriphix
(6:11) Veriphix’s Experience with Fuel Accelerator
(8:54) Getting Enterprise-Ready
(13:39) A Day in the Life at Fuel
(15:56) Bentonville’s Entrepreneurial Environment
(22:52) #Bentonville Story
(30:25) Bentonville Favorites
(36:19) Why People Should Visit Bentonville
(40:43) Advice to Entrepreneurs
(47:20) Most Memorable Moment
(50:22) Closing Questions

Links
James Bell
Bentonville Economic Development

Mike Steely
Veriphix
John Fuisz
Mark Walsh
Adam Hesch
Jeff Amerine
Startup Junkie
Fuel Accelerator*
Toby Teeter
Steve Case
University of Arkansas Bentonville Collaborative
The Momentary
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
House of Songs
Black Fret
21c Museum Hotel
Plug And Play Tech Center Northwest Arkansas
Osage Park
Thaden Field
Bentonville Brewing Co.
Zipline
DroneUp
1 Million Cups - Bentonville

*Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning

Quotes

“I would tell a founder, ‘If you don’t have a lot of enterprise experience, there’s nowhere better you can come to learn than Fuel because you’re living and breathing it everyday.’ Because of all the mentors that are brought into the program, you’re living and breathing how a major corporation makes decisions” - Mike Steely, (9:36)

“If you want me to give you a secret sauce to why we’re positioning ourselves here, we can talk about lifestyle and other things, but number one is I can get business done here more efficiently.” - Mike Steely, (18:22)

“...from a business standpoint, and even from a personal one, what people don’t understand about this area is that there is a mentality in this city that is ‘rising tides lift all boats.’ That means everyone you bump into and have a meeting with is truly interested in what you’re doing.” - Mike Steely, (32:46)

“You’re not going to leave [Bentonville] thinking you have wasted your time because there’s not a person I know that has come to the area that hasn’t enjoyed the experience.” - Mike Steely, (37:46)

Fostering Entrepreneurship in Bentonville with Mike Steely of Veriphix
On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell is joined by Mike Steely, Commercialization Officer at Veriphix. Veriphix is a behavioral dynamics platform that leverages behavioral science and machine intelligence to empower individuals to turn chaos into creativity. Along with his role at Veriphix, Mike is a startup champion for the South and an angel investor focused on identifying innovative ideas that can be molded into investable companies. Throughout the episode, James and Mike discuss Veriphix’s experience with Fuel Accelerator, why Bentonville is an optimal place to establish startups and how to prepare startups to become enterprises.

Making Startups Enterprise-Ready
Mike’s first piece of advice to entrepreneurs working to get their startups enterprise-ready is to improve their LinkedIn skills, especially if they’re located in Bentonville. Most of Bentonville’s startup community conducts business on the relationship level, and there’s no better professional networking platform than LinkedIn. Knowing how to connect is as important as knowing how to generate sales because you must get in front of corporations in order to convince them of your startup’s value.

Secondly, Mike advises aspiring entrepreneurs to participate in an accelerator program, such as Fuel. The list of advantages to participating in Fuel is extensive, but one of the greatest pros is having the opportunity to experience an enterprise environment at a high level. The goal of Fuel is to establish relationships and then pilot programs that allow entrepreneurs to test their products or services. Moreover, corporations are more willing to assist with accelerator programs and network with their participants rather than connect with a one-off entrepreneur.

“I would tell a founder, ‘If you don’t have a lot of enterprise experience, there’s nowhere better you can come to learn than Fuel because you’re living and breathing it everyday.’ Because of all the mentors that are brought into the program, you’re living and breathing how a major corporation makes decisions” - Mike Steely, (9:36)

Knowing Where to Establish a Startup
For small startups, deciding where to establish your business should not be taken lightly. There are strategic advantages to being located in various regions. For example, Bentonville is an exceptional area to found a startup because there are over fourteen hundred brands located here due to Walmart's presence. Moreover, since Bentonville’s entrepreneurial community is so welcoming and helpful, these brands are incredibly accessible to new founders.

“If you want me to give you a secret sauce to why we’re positioning ourselves here, we can talk about lifestyle and other things, but number one is I can get business done here more efficiently.” - Mike Steely, (18:22)

When entrepreneurs are looking at places to focus their efforts, it’s imperative they assess whether there are business models in the area that can be repeated to increase revenue and growth for their startups. For instance, if there are multiple mountain bike companies located in the mountain bike capital of the world and they all fail, there should be an assessment of why they didn't make it before another mountain bike company puts down roots. When deciding on where startups should open their doors, it’s vital they find the largest mass of people and companies that fit with what they do and where they’re headed.

Get Connected!
Thanks for tuning in to this episode of The Bentonville Beacon! Join us weekly for more stories from entrepreneurs and business leaders who are making a positive impact on Bentonville’s culture, community, and lifestyle. Don’t forget, Bentonville is a place where you can have more of what you want and less of what you don’t!

Accelerating Inclusive Entrepreneurship in Bentonville and Northwest Arkansas with Rodrigo Salas from EforAll NWA

December 19th, 2022

Summary
On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell is joined by Rodrigo Salas, Executive Director at Entrepreneurship for All Northwest Arkansas. EforAll is a non-profit organization that works to accelerate economic and social impact in NWA through inclusive entrepreneurship. With over twenty years of experience, Rodrigo is also the founder of Kualli Foods, a business that sells Hispanic cooking sauces and marinades, and a passionate community advocate who serves on multiple local boards and committees. Throughout the episode, James and Rodrigo discuss EforAll’s mission and who can benefit from it, how the community can contribute to EforAll and why it’s advantageous for EforAll to have a Northwest Arkansas location.

Thanks for tuning in!

Show Notes
(0:55) Introduction to Rodrigo
(5:36) About EforAll
(8:14) Why Rodrigo Joined EforAll
(10:16) Businesses EforAll Has Served
(19:32) How EforAll Works
(31:22) How the Community Can Get Involved
(36:24) Why Rodrigo Moved to Bentonville
(41:43) Advice for Business Leaders
(48:49) Businesses That Can Benefit from EforAll
(50:40) The Development of Bentonville
(52:22) Bentonville Favorites
(58:25) #Bentonville Story
(1:00:13) Closing Questions

Links
James Bell
Bentonville Economic Development

Rodrigo Salas
Entrepreneurship for All (EforAll) Northwest Arkansas
Molli Sauces
Ana Ortiz
Walton Family Foundation
University of Arkansas
Northwest Arkansas Community College
Greater Bentonville Area Chamber of Commerce
Sweet Freedom Cheese
Yeyo’s El Alma de Mexico
Crepes Paulette
Oven & Tap
Tusk & Trotter
Scotch & Soda
The Preacher’s Son
Bentonville Dive
Tower Bar | The Momentary
Coler Mountain Bike Preserve
Airship Coffee at Coler
The Rise @ Coler Mountain Bike Preserve
Beaver Lake
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
Downtown Bentonville Square
Museum of Native American History

Quotes

“I think one of the major things the Walton Family Foundation, and all the major players in Northwest Arkansas, wants is to create an environment where everybody has an opportunity and a place to be because they belong in the community.” - Rodrigo Salas, (6:56)

“...all of them have been an inspiration to me. It’s incredible the amount of energy, dedication and passion they have for their business and what they want to build. No one has disappointed us in any way. On the contrary, I think they’ve exceeded our expectations by far.” - Rodrigo Salas, (11:04)

“One of the key elements of our program that’s not a cookie cutter kind of thing is that it’s customized to each one’s experience. That’s what we make sure each of our entrepreneurs and mentors understand.” - Rodrigo Salas, (21:40)

“The new generations are thinking more about quality of life rather than building a career in a big corporation. They want to have a little bit of both. And [Northwest Arkansas] is the perfect place for that because you have all these outdoor activities and things you can do.” - Rodrigo Salas, (45:30)

Making Business More Accessible with Entrepreneurship for All
On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell is joined by Rodrigo Salas, Executive Director at Entrepreneurship for All Northwest Arkansas. EforAll is a non-profit organization that works to accelerate economic and social impact in NWA through inclusive entrepreneurship. With over twenty years of experience, Rodrigo is also the founder of Kualli Foods, a business that sells Hispanic cooking sauces and marinades, and a passionate community advocate who serves on multiple local boards and committees. Throughout the episode, James and Rodrigo discuss EforAll’s mission and who can benefit from it, how the community can contribute to EforAll and why it’s advantageous for EforAll to have a Northwest Arkansas location.

Encouraging Entrepreneurship Equality in NWA
Entrepreneurship for All, also known as EforAll, was founded in Massachusetts in 2010 with the idea to help close the opportunity equality gap and create employment in cities that are economically challenged. Would-be entrepreneurs exist in every community, and EforAll works to support them on their journey. Since 2010, EforAll has expanded to twelve other office locations, including Northwest Arkansas, after it was informed by the Walton Family Foundation that its business knowledge and tools were needed to make NWA’s startup community a more equitable space.

“I think one of the major things the Walton Family Foundation, and all the major players in Northwest Arkansas, wants is to create an environment where everybody has an opportunity and a place to be because they belong in the community.” - Rodrigo Salas, (6:56)

With Northwest Arkansas’s Hispanic population now at 17 percent, the region’s community and business leaders want to ensure all residents have the same opportunity to start and grow a business. EforAll’s values are:
- Always put the entrepreneur first
- Proactively seek inclusivity and diversity
- Connect deeply with the communities it serves
- Foster a collaborative and supportive culture
- Embrace change
- Take the time to celebrate

EforAll’s programs are run simultaneously in English and Spanish in order to serve a wide variety of people. It’s also completed two accelerator programs since the NWA office opened in July of last year and thirty-two entrepreneurs have gone through the program.

“...all of them have been an inspiration to me. It’s incredible the amount of energy, dedication and passion they have for their business and what they want to build. No one has disappointed us in any way. On the contrary, I think they’ve exceeded our expectations by far.” - Rodrigo Salas, (11:04)

Entrepreneurship for All’s Program Process
Fortunately, with funding from the Walton Family Foundation, EforAll is able to offer its year-long programs for free. Throughout the first three months of the program, participants are expected to attend classes twice a week for two and a half hours each class. During these classes, they will learn the basic knowledge needed to start a business successfully. In addition, they are required to meet with their mentor teams for an hour and a half each week to discuss what they learned and how they can apply it to their business.

Simply put, the first three months of the program are when entrepreneurs develop their business plans so they can spend the rest of the year executing said plans. Not everyone will be at the same stage in their business venture, not everyone will have the same experience and not everyone will move at the same pace. That’s why the last nine months of the program are spent on bringing their business planning to life, expanding their network and setting goals.

“One of the key elements of our program that’s not a cookie cutter kind of thing is that it’s customized to each one’s experience. That’s what we make sure each of our entrepreneurs and mentors understand.” - Rodrigo Salas, (21:40)

Get Connected!
Thanks for tuning in to this episode of The Bentonville Beacon! Join us weekly for more stories from entrepreneurs and business leaders who are making a positive impact on Bentonville’s culture, community, and lifestyle. Don’t forget, Bentonville is a place where you can have more of what you want and less of what you don’t!

Building an Evergreen Technology Services Company with Exceptional Culture in Bentonville with Jared Smith

December 12th, 2022

Summary
On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell is joined by Jared Smith, President and CEO of Kitestring Technical Services, a leading technology services firm. Kitestring brings together talented people, influential ideas and a mission-driven culture to turn business visions into tangible value. Jared has led Kitestring for nearly ten years, scaling it from fourteen employees to more than 150, and he is also a board member of STOPWATCH, another local tech firm that provides cloud-based commerce software. Throughout the episode, James and Jared discuss the evolution of Kitestring, the importance of workplace culture in retaining employees and the benefits of establishing a business in Bentonville.

Thanks for tuning in!

Show Notes
(0:54) Introduction to Jared
(6:43) About Kitestring
(8:58) Jared’s Proudest Moments at Kitestring
(11:23) Challenges Kitestring Has Faced
(14:04) How COVID Effected Kitestring
(18:24) Leaving a Legacy
(19:35) Employee Retention
(25:28) Sustainably Attracting Employees
(31:00) Advantages to Being Located in Bentonville
(34:07) Bentonville’s Culture and Evolvement
(40:33) #Bentonville Story
(42:37) Closing Questions

Links
James Bell
Bentonville Economic Development

Jared Smith
Kitestring Technical Services
Onyx Coffee Lab Bentonville
Michael Paladino
RevUnit
Jeff Clapper
8th & Walton
Meagan Kinmonth Bowman
STOPWATCH
Dave Gandy
Font Awesome

Quotes

“What we’re doing in essence is helping our customers solve hard problems. That’s what we do, and we bring in knowledgeable people. Currently, there’s 185 kitestringers who are really smart people dedicated to solving really hard problems for our customers, which are anywhere from startups to the world's largest company.” - Jared Smith, (7:42)

“I think about legacy a lot, and I would love to leave something and build something that’s bigger than me. That’s a part of what motivates me…we’re evergreen versus exit-focused companies. We’re building companies for the long haul, and when you have this long perspective, it’s easier to absorb challenges as they come.” - Jared Smith, (15:33) 

“I think the key to keeping people in your company where it’s more than just a paycheck is it has to be something they get real fulfillment and joy out of. I think that fulfillment and joy is going to come from the work they do, but also the people they work with.” - Jared Smith, (20:49)

“I’m hiring talent that already lives here, and there’s a lot of talented people living in Bentonville that have a ton of great experience that have worked for some of the big companies here. So there's a good talent pool that has gotten better and better over the years.” - Jared Smith, (32:21)

Tackling Technical Problems with Jared Smith of Kitestring
On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell is joined by Jared Smith, President and CEO of Kitestring Technical Services, a leading technology services firm. Kitestring brings together talented people, influential ideas and a mission-driven culture to turn business visions into tangible value. Jared has led Kitestring for nearly ten years, scaling it from fourteen employees to more than 150, and he is also a board member of STOPWATCH, another local tech firm that provides cloud-based commerce software. Throughout the episode, James and Jared discuss the evolution of Kitestring, the importance of workplace culture in retaining employees and the benefits of establishing a business in Bentonville.

Kitestring Solutions
As a part of its technical services, Kitestring offers what it calls strategic consulting, where it helps executive-level positions create a roadmap for their technology. Furthermore, the business specializes in implementation work called co-engineering, where it builds software alongside its client. Kitestring also provides durable product teams. These are complete teams that are designed to solve a specific problem for customers having issues with that particular problem.

Lastly, Kitestring executes custom software development for customers that need software solutions. Ultimately, Kitestring’s clients contract the business to solve technical problems they don’t have the bandwidth to solve. Kitestring currently operates in five countries and has employees in thirty different states.

“What we’re doing in essence is helping our customers solve hard problems. That’s what we do, and we bring in knowledgeable people. Currently, there’s 185 kitestringers who are really smart people dedicated to solving really hard problems for our customers, which are anywhere from startups to the world's largest company.” - Jared Smith, (7:42)

Putting Employees First
In a recent anonymous survey, one hundred percent of Kitestring’s employees said Kitestring was a great place to work. This is a result of the business’s mission to intentionally put its employees first. Kitestring believes that happy consultants lead to happy customers. If it puts its employees first, they will go to bat for the customer, and those customers will feel that difference. The client recognizes when the employee is excited about the company they work for.

“I think the key to keeping people in your company where it’s more than just a paycheck is it has to be something they get real fulfillment and joy out of. I think that fulfillment and joy is going to come from the work they do, but also the people they work with.” - Jared Smith, (20:49)

In the current economic landscape, there are between four and six job openings for every job seeker, which makes it difficult for mid-sized companies like Kitestring to offer the highest salary. If they cannot offer a competitive salary, businesses must find non-monetary ways to compensate their employees. Kitestring successfully retains its employees by providing an amazing workplace culture that proves the company is supportive and inclusive to all team members.

Get Connected!
Thanks for tuning in to this episode of The Bentonville Beacon! Join us weekly for more stories from entrepreneurs and business leaders who are making a positive impact on Bentonville’s culture, community, and lifestyle. Don’t forget, Bentonville is a place where you can have more of what you want and less of what you don’t!

Bonus Episode | NWA Tech Summit Live, Featuring Alex Howland, Craig Immel, Caleb Talley, Katie Thompson, Kirt Gill & John Wilcox

December 9th, 2022

Summary
The NWA Tech Summit is the Heartland’s premier technology conference and serves to enhance, prepare, and diversify the local Northwest Arkansas economy. In its ninth year, the NWA Tech Summit came back with 1,700 registered attendees when it returned in-person to downtown Bentonville. The NWA Tech Summit is an event hosted by the Greater Bentonville Area Chamber of Commerce, and it is supported by the Walton Family Foundation, Northwest Arkansas Council, Walmart, J. B. Hunt, Tyson Foods, Salesforce, and the University of Arkansas Blockchain Center of Excellence.

Show Notes
(0:52) Introduction to Alex Howland
(13:26) Introduction to Craig Immel
(30:44) Introduction to Caleb Talley
(36:05) Introduction to Katie Thompson
(44:32) Introduction to Kirt Gill
(59:15) Introduction to John Wilcox
(1:06:33) Closing Thoughts

Links
James Bell
Bentonville Economic Development

Kris Adams
Northwest Arkansas Technology Summit
Alex Howland
Alex Victtoria Events
Craig Immel
GoKey Network
The Momentary
Freshgrass | Bentonville
FORMAT Festival
Blockchain NWA
OZDAO
Caleb Talley
Startup Junkie
Jeff Amerine
Startup Junkies Podcast
Katie Thompson
Science Venture Studio
Winrock International
Fuel Accelerator
Aayush Thakur
FR8Relay
Pressroom
The Preacher’s Son
Scott Family Amazeum
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
Kirt Gill
NeuraStasis
VIC Technology Venture Development
Whole Health Institute
Alice L. Walton School of Medicine
John Wilcox
Diatech Diabetes
Walmart (new home office)
Ledger
Table Mesa Bistro
Museum of Native American History
21c Museum Hotel

Quotes

“We’re in a place where people care about the future of our built environment, and that’s so powerful. I think they’re building the right way. I think there’s some important people here doing the right type of work in figuring out what’s next and how we’re going to plan for the impacts of what we build now and what it’s going to mean for future generations.” - Alex Howland, (8:03)

“I’m happy to be here in Northwest Arkansas and blown away by all the changes I’ve seen…the changes have been significant, but they’ve also been really nice. I see a lot of quality development, and it’s cool to see quality of growth and not just quantity.” - Craig Immel, (13:37)

“I think it’s a testament to how much the community’s grown and the effort of the Chamber and other stakeholders in Northwest Arkansas, Bentonville specifically, to develop what is here, add onto it and do the things that are enticing the talent and culture to put down roots.” - Caleb Talley, (35:17)

“I have a six and an eight year old, and we love coming up to Bentonville…I grew up in a small town in Texas and didn’t have the opportunities to see artwork, so to be able to take them to places like Crystal Bridges at no cost to me is always amazing.” - Katie Thompson, (42:36)

“It’s my first time coming to Northwest Arkansas, and it’s really beautiful…I went to Crystal Bridges, and there’s certain art pieces that really spoke to me…It’s hard to imagine what America looked like before all this development, and how beautiful this country is from a natural perspective, and you get to imagine it through some of the artwork that’s there, and I think that’s special.” - Kirt Gill, (53:43)

“We were able to see the Walmart campus being built and that total bikeable building, everything is so modern…Bentonville is beautiful, and I’ve been very impressed with the urban planning and the restaurants…The infrastructure is incredible, and I saw the bike pass too, so that’s been awesome. I want to come back and do some more riding.” - John Wilcox, (1:03:29)

Get Connected!
Thanks for tuning in to this episode of The Bentonville Beacon! Join us weekly for more stories from entrepreneurs and business leaders who are making a positive impact on Bentonville’s culture, community, and lifestyle. Don’t forget, Bentonville is a place where you can have more of what you want and less of what you don’t!

Winning Commerce through Bentonville's STOPWATCH with Meagan Kinmonth Bowman

December 5th, 2022

Summary
On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell is joined by Meagan Bowman, Founder and CEO of STOPWATCH, a cloud-based commerce software. STOPWATCH allows businesses to thrive in the blinding speed and complexity of commerce by optimizing profit across retailers in real time. In addition to leading STOPWATCH, Meagan is also a member of Fast Company’s Executive Board and a full-time contributor to the Forbes Technology Council. Throughout the episode, James and Meagan discuss how COVID impacted supply chain management and consumer behavior, the specific challenges women in business face and the specialty of Bentonville’s startup ecosystem.Thanks for tuning in!

Thanks for tuning in!

Show Notes
(0:57) Introduction to Meagan
(5:35) A Recovering Supply Chain
(8:04) How COVID Changed Consumer Behavior
(12:54) About STOPWATCH
(17:14) Meagan’s Experience with Fundraising
(23:19) Advice to Women Raising Capital
(27:13) Balancing Motherhood with Entrepreneurship
(29:11) Why Bentonville is Right for STOPWATCH
(32:29) Bentonville’s Startup Ecosystem
(37:12) Bentonville’s Past, Present and Future
(40:29) #Bentonville Story
(45:29) Closing Questions

Links
James Bell
Bentonville Economic Development

Meagan Bowman
STOPWATCH
Michael Paladino
Endeavor Heartland
Atento Capital/412 Angels
Bentonville Square
Wright’s BBQ
Medical Device Guru

Quotes

“When you have a barcode on the back of a product, a different barcode could be on the back of the same product in a different retailer. So what stopwatch does is reverse engineer and put the genie back in the bottle and ask, ‘If you had one sky how would you build this out differently?’” - Meagan Bowman, (15:20)

“Developer talent is fantastic here. It’s very prevalent in things like Walmart and JB Hunt. It’s stuff that’s organized and it’s stuff big money gets made off of. So I knew from a culture perspective, [Bentonville] is going to be a really good place to build a team.” - Meagan Bowman, (30:14) 

“I like that type of energy. It’s kind of like get-up-and-go energy. I think one thing I really love about Northwest Arkansas is it doesn’t feel to me like you have to work super fast and be really flashy to make friends.” - Meagan Bowman, (34:18)

Streamlining the Supply Chain with STOPWATCH
On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell is joined by Meagan Bowman, Founder and CEO of STOPWATCH, a cloud-based commerce software. STOPWATCH allows businesses to thrive in the blinding speed and complexity of commerce by optimizing profit across retailers in real time. In addition to leading STOPWATCH, Meagan is also a member of Fast Company’s Executive Board and a full-time contributor to the Forbes Technology Council. Throughout the episode, James and Meagan discuss how COVID impacted supply chain management and consumer behavior, the specific challenges women in business face and the specialty of Bentonville’s startup ecosystem.

Putting a Stop to Muddled Logistics
It’s a vast understatement that the pandemic caused a multitude of problems within the supply chain. And as a result, the world is still experiencing side effects. To put it into perspective, the situation equates to when a sailboat’s guidance is off one degree and it ends up on the other side of the world. Unfortunately, COVID was a mountain of little one degree issues that caused commerce to die by a thousand cuts on a mass scale. Every phase of a product's life was impacted, from its production, to its transportation to the middleman, and then to its purchase by the consumer.

Companies continued to suffer even when the supply chain started recovering because they were employing outdated resource planning systems that haven’t adapted their dynamic connections to outside feeds. This means companies weren’t up-to-date on factors like volume of materials and lead times. To combat this, STOPWATCH focuses resource planning around a single product and inputs all necessary data, whether it be syndicated, social, political, etc., so the company can make informed decisions about the creation and distribution of that product.

“When you have a barcode on the back of a product, a different barcode could be on the back of the same product in a different retailer. So what stopwatch does is reverse engineer and put the genie back in the bottle and ask, ‘If you had one sky how would you build this out differently?’” - Meagan Bowman, (15:20)

The Benefits of Doing Business in Bentonville
Undeniably, Bentonville has been the best place for STOPWATCH for several reasons. The first is the affordability of living and starting a business here, and the second is how economically driven the state of Arkansas is. The state wants people to move here and start businesses. Therefore, it allows tax credits for investors and has a fund that provides non-dilutive capital.

“Developer talent is fantastic here. It’s very prevalent in things like Walmart and JB Hunt. It’s stuff that’s organized and it’s stuff big money gets made off of. So I knew from a culture perspective, [Bentonville] is going to be a really good place to build a team.” - Meagan Bowman, (30:14)

Moreover, with the number of startups and large companies located in Bentonville alone, there are ample opportunities for education. There is always something to be learned, and people in Bentonville are excited to share their knowledge. They want to help. They want to make friends. And they want to see others succeed, whether it’s something as small as winning a community basketball game or as large as obtaining funding to start a new business.

“I like that type of energy. It’s kind of like get-up-and-go energy. I think one thing I really love about Northwest Arkansas is it doesn’t feel to me like you have to work super fast and be really flashy to make friends.” - Meagan Bowman, (34:18)

Get Connected!
Thanks for tuning in to this episode of The Bentonville Beacon! Join us weekly for more stories from entrepreneurs and business leaders who are making a positive impact on Bentonville’s culture, community, and lifestyle. Don’t forget, Bentonville is a place where you can have more of what you want and less of what you don’t!

Bonus Episode | NWA Tech Summit Live, Featuring Andres Lazarte, Aaron Ivy, Amir Hoss, Liam La Fargue & Eugene Park

December 2nd, 2022

Summary
The NWA Tech Summit is the Heartland’s premier technology conference and serves to enhance, prepare, and diversify the local Northwest Arkansas economy. In its ninth year, the NWA Tech Summit came back with 1,700 registered attendees when it returned in-person to downtown Bentonville. The NWA Tech Summit is an event hosted by the Greater Bentonville Area Chamber of Commerce, and it is supported by the Walton Family Foundation, Northwest Arkansas Council, Walmart, J. B. Hunt, Tyson Foods, Salesforce, and the University of Arkansas Blockchain Center of Excellence.

Show Notes
(0:54) Introduction to Andres Lazarte
(5:43) Introduction to Aaron Ivy
(15:52) Introduction to Amir Hoss
(25:25) Introduction to Liam La Fargue
(38:15) Introduction to Eugene Park
(47:03) Closing Thoughts

Links
James Bell
Bentonville Economic Development

2022 Northwest Arkansas Technology Summit
Andres Lazarte
Harry Lazarte, MD
Basis Health
Aaron Ivy
CatalyzeH2O
Amir Hoss
EAIGLE
Liam La Fargue
Mycelium Networks
Eugene Park
Kitestring Technical Services
Northwest Arkansas Square 2 Square Bike Ride
Onyx Coffee Lab
Plug And Play Tech Center Northwest Arkansas
21c Museum Hotel - Bentonville
8th Street Market
Bike Rack Brewing Co.
Bentonville Brewing
Osage Park
Buddy Pegs
Coler Mountain Bike Preserve
Airship Coffee at Coler

Quotes

“You get the best of both worlds. You have all the innovators and you have all the resources from Walmart and all the other companies. That culture made it a no-brainer to build [Basis Health] here…There’s a lot of other places in the world I could probably be, but Bentonville is the only place where I can walk down the street and go fishing in the morning and meet billion dollars of investment money in the afternoon.” - Andres Lazarte, (3:52)

“I’ll lead in with talking about how incredible Northwest Arkansas is. It’s really all become one community with different sub-sectors and cultures within that. Rogers, Bella Vista, Bentonville and Fayetteville are all very different from each other but are very much one big economic powerhouse.” - Aaron Ivy, (11:52)

“What I’ve been seeing is that a lot of executives and enterprises we have relationships with have moved to [Bentonville] over two to five years ago. It’s been amazing. So the conversation I have with them is that you come here and you never expect that what you see here is far beyond what you expected before coming here.” - Amir Hoss, (19:45)

“What I’ve really enjoyed at this tech summit is the presence and support that emerging technology companies are receiving from Fortune 500 companies and the recognition from huge corporate partners. I find that inspiring and extremely relieving.” - Liam La Fargue, (34:11)

“I love all the family things that are going on…I love the fact there are wonderful bike trails and restaurants. Everything here has grown so fast, but it feels like very thoughtful growth and growth that’s been designed for families. That’s what keeps us here.” - Eugene Park, (42:46)

Get Connected!
Thanks for tuning in to this episode of The Bentonville Beacon! Join us weekly for more stories from entrepreneurs and business leaders who are making a positive impact on Bentonville’s culture, community, and lifestyle. Don’t forget, Bentonville is a place where you can have more of what you want and less of what you don’t!

Touring the World's Best Mountain Biking Trails with Mark Marsiglio & Charles Greathouse of TrailPilot

November 28th, 2022

Summary
On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell is joined by Mark Marsiglio, Co-founder of TrailPilot, and his business advisor, Charles Greathouse. TrailPilot is an iOS and Android audio guide app designed to help mountain bikers navigate off-road adventures. The app gives riders expert advice on trail features and provides turn-by-turn directions based on their GPS location. Throughout the episode, James, Mark and Charles discuss the ins and outs of TrailPilot, their experience with being a Greenhouse Outdoor Recreation Program cohort and how Bentonville is working to be ‘unrecreateable.’

Thanks for tuning in!

Show Notes
(0:56) Introduction to Mark and Charles
(2:52) About TrailPilot
(5:35) Accessibility for Beginners and Visitors
(8:40) The Cost of TrailPilot
(9:47) Next Year's Forecast
(11:03) Being a GORP Cohort
(16:41) Advice for Those That Want to Join GORP
(20:47) The Past and Future of Bentonville
(28:26) Bentonville Favorites
(36:01) #Bentonville Story
(38:53) Closing Questions

Links
James Bell
Bentonville Economic Development

Mark Marsiglio
Charles Greathouse
TrailPilot
Latinas en Bici
Dean Matt Waller
Toby Teeter
Phil Shellhammer
Greenhouse Outdoor Recreation Program
University of Arkansas
Pedro Somarriba
Lacaida Ropes
Morgan Baumgardner
Tyler Baumbgardner
Encore Bike Rentals
Nick Olano
American Hunt
Slaughter Pen Trails
Lady Slipper
Fuel Accelerator
Downtown Bentonville Inc.
Fitzgerald Mountain
Castle Hub
Bar Cleeta
Roll and Fold
Beaver Lake
Ozark Adventure Trail, Day 3
Ozark Adventure Trail, Day 4
Yeyo’s El Alma de Mexico
Table Mesa Bistro
The Preacher’s Son
Onyx Coffee Lab
Airship
The Meteor
Thaden Field
OZ1 Flying Club
Coler Mountain Bike Preserve
Bentonville Bike Fest

Quotes

“They don’t have to wonder where they are, and most importantly, they don’t have to wonder what things the trail has in store for them that they might not expect. We want a rider to enjoy the trail more on their first run and be able to have a safer experience that is not going to surprise them.” - Mark Marsiglio, (3:12)

“It turned out to be a great opportunity, and I learned a lot and got a lot of resources and education focused on personal commitment from my side to have the accountability of the program behind me. It resulted in great progress for the building of the business.” - Mark Marsiglio, (11:50) 

“I would say that if you’re the next Austin or the next Silicon Valley, there’s two things you must do that you don’t want to do to be the next version of somebody else. Number one, you must take their problems and number two, you must accept you can only be second.” - James Bell, (26:47)

Making Trails Safer and More Accessible with TrailPilot
On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell is joined by Mark Marsiglio, Co-founder of TrailPilot, and his business advisor, Charles Greathouse. TrailPilot is an iOS and Android audio guide app designed to help mountain bikers navigate off-road adventures. The app gives riders expert advice on trail features and provides turn-by-turn directions based on their GPS location. Throughout the episode, James, Mark and Charles discuss the ins and outs of TrailPilot, their experience with being a Greenhouse Outdoor Recreation Program cohort and how Bentonville is working to be ‘unrecreateable.’

The Usefulness of TrailPilot
TrailPilot allows riders who have never ridden a trail before to experience the trail like a local without having to look at a map throughout their ride. All riders have to do is open TrailPilot, choose what trail they want to tour, and wear an earbud that will audibly describe the trail to them as they ride. The app informs the rider what features or hazards are upcoming and will even describe what the trail bed looks like as far as gravel, smooth dirt, steepness, etc. 

“They don’t have to wonder where they are, and most importantly, they don’t have to wonder what things the trail has in store for them that they might not expect. We want a rider to enjoy the trail more on their first run and be able to have a safer experience that is not going to surprise them.” - Mark Marsiglio, (3:12)

The way TrailPilot works is that a local expert rides the trail and records the tour in their voice while their audio is being queued by GPS. Therefore, at any particular point in the trail, the audio will be relaying something along the lines of, “Around this corner there’s a rock garden and an optional alternate line on your left with a rock drop.” This information allows the rider to make decisions on how they want to proceed with their ride before they even arrive at that location.

A Prosperous Partnership
TrailPilot is a cohort company of the Greenhouse Outdoor Recreation Program, which is a business incubator through the University of Arkansas focused on outdoor recreation entrepreneurs. GORP helped Mark better understand the process in which entrepreneurs and companies position themselves to talk with venture capitalists. Although TrailPilot didn’t intend to receive funding at the time, it was important to set the business model up where that opportunity could be taken advantage of in the future. 

“It turned out to be a great opportunity, and I learned a lot and got a lot of resources and education focused on personal commitment from my side to have the accountability of the program behind me. It resulted in great progress for the building of the business.” - Mark Marsiglio, (11:50)

TrailPilot’s original approach was to have in-app purchases of the trail tours. This was valuable for individual riders, but TrailPilot didn’t have a reliable way to reach those riders, leaving the uptake low. Therefore, GORP advised TrailPilot to shift its business model in order to grow the idea. As a result, TrailPilot partnered with tourism agencies and bike brands to amplify their message while also creating value for riders by keeping the app free for them to use. 

Get Connected!
Thanks for tuning in to this episode of The Bentonville Beacon! Join us weekly for more stories from entrepreneurs and business leaders who are making a positive impact on Bentonville’s culture, community, and lifestyle. Don’t forget, Bentonville is a place where you can have more of what you want and less of what you don’t!

Bonus Episode | NWA Tech Summit Live, Featuring Jennifer Thomas, Amy Hopper Swan, Clark Cogbill, David Sanders & Andy Martin

November 25th, 2022

Summary
The NWA Tech Summit is the Heartland’s premier technology conference and serves to enhance, prepare, and diversify the local Northwest Arkansas economy. In its ninth year, the NWA Tech Summit came back with 1,700 registered attendees when it returned in-person to downtown Bentonville. The NWA Tech Summit is an event hosted by the Greater Bentonville Area Chamber of Commerce, and it is supported by the Walton Family Foundation, Northwest Arkansas Council, Walmart, J. B. Hunt, Tyson Foods, Salesforce, and the University of Arkansas Blockchain Center of Excellence.

Show Notes
(0:55) Introduction to Jennifer Thomas
(13:11) Introduction to Amy Hopper Swan
(22:25) Introduction to Clark Cogbbill
(32:10) Introduction to David Sanders
(41:58) Introduction to Andy Martin
(49:28) Closing Thoughts

Links
James Bell
Bentonville Economic Development

2022 Northwest Arkansas Technology Summit
Jennifer Thomas
Plug and Play Tech Center
Amy Hopper Swan
Arkansas Research Alliance
Horizon Health Solutions
Clark Cogbill
Arkansas Economic Development Commission
David Sanders
Innovate Arkansas at Winrock International
Andy Martin
Wishfluence
Arkansas I-Fund & Delta I-Fund at Winrock International
University of Arkansas
Bob Kurcheravy
Kris Adams
Greater Bentonville Area Chamber of Commerce
The Preacher’s Son

Quotes

“Now we have this robust market of startups that are providing new opportunities for chronic health, are meeting consumers where they are and are changing how you approach healthcare…consumers have started driving their own healthcare in ways they hadn’t previously.” - Jennifer Thomas, (3:44)

“Arkansas Research Alliance has been around for fifteen years, and we exist to keep scientific talent in our state and recruit scientific talent here. We see this as a means to economic development. It’s a long-term outlook, but our scientists are pushing research forward, partnering with industry and creating their own companies and jobs for Arkansas.” - Amy Hopper Swan, (17:28)

“The whole mission and goal of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission is to increase jobs in the state and increase the average salary. To do that we help businesses that are already here grow, and we recruit businesses to the state.” - Clark Cogbill, (23:15)

“...it’s a wonderful program that really is a lead commercialization agent for the state. Our team of business and industry advisors help knowledge-based ventures grow in Arkansas. We focus on accelerating the business model and how we develop the talent and get founders and CEOs investible.” - David Sanders, (33:20)
“The ideal customer is selling the higher-end jewelry for us, and that’s because they’re probably a bigger store and just a little more sophisticated…A one to two store company, ten to twenty staff selling high-end jewelry items. That’s the exact type of company we’ve helped a few times already.” - Andy Martin, (44:05)

Get Connected!
Thanks for tuning in to this episode of The Bentonville Beacon! Join us weekly for more stories from entrepreneurs and business leaders who are making a positive impact on Bentonville’s culture, community, and lifestyle. Don’t forget, Bentonville is a place where you can have more of what you want and less of what you don’t!

Transforming Workplace Mobility with Kourtney Barrett of WalmarT

November 21st, 2022

Summary
On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell is joined by Kourtney Barrett, a serial entrepreneur and the current Director of Workplace Mobility at Walmart. Kourtney launched Junk Brands, a successful direct-to-consumer headwear brand, and is a co-founder of Women of OZ NWA, an inclusive nonprofit and the largest women’s mountain biking organization in the USA. Curious by nature and motivated by fun, it’s no surprise Kourtney was hired to lead workplace mobility efforts for Walmart’s new corporate campus. Throughout the episode, James and Kourtney discuss Bentonville’s bike-friendly environment, Walmart’s emphasis on mobility, and how to encourage more people to ride bikes.  Thanks for tuning in!

Show Notes:
(0:53) Introduction to Kourtney
(1:58) Kourtney’s Role at Walmart
(6:07) A Mobility-Centered Walmart Campus
(8:43) Getting People on Bikes
(10:38) Shared Mobility Options
(12:37) Making People Comfortable on Bikes
(14:44) A Company that Cares
(17:32) The Future of Bentonville
(20:43) Ten Quick Favorites
(24:04) Mountain Bike Capital of the World
(26:58) Closing Questions

Links
James Bell
Bentonville Economic Development

Kourtney Barrett
Walmart (corporate)
Walmart (new home office)
Women of OZ NWA
JUNK Brands
Greater Bentonville Area Chamber of Commerce
Bar Cleeta
Ozark Mountain Bagel Co.
Conifer
Coler Mountain Bike Preserve
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art | Nature & Trails

Quotes

“From an entrepreneurial standpoint, the best way I know to build something is to first hear from your customer and my customers are the associates. So we have had a number of information gathering events and bike demos.” - Kourtney Barrett, (6:31)

 “When there’s less automobiles, people seem to breathe a little easier and there’s a little less stress. So working together with the city, with trailblazers, and with different organizations, has provided quick access to researching best practices.” - Kourtney Barrett, (9:22)

“We have the city focusing on helping us have safe routes on the street infrastructure…That’s very important when it comes to associates and residents that haven’t been on a bike in a while. It needs to be a fun and good experience and safety is paramount. You have to feel safe to want to do it.” - Kourtney Barrett, (12:47)

“This campus is a game changer and it’s an example to the rest of the world on how to have an environment that is a winning working environment for the associates and what happens when you provide outdoor spaces for them to work and connect with others and promote movement throughout the day.” - Kourtney Barrett, (16:00)

How Walmart’s New Campus Is Tackling Mobility with Kourtney Barrett
On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell is joined by Kourtney Barrett, a serial entrepreneur and the current Director of Workplace Mobility at Walmart. Kourtney launched Junk Brands, a successful direct-to-consumer headwear brand, and is a co-founder of Women of OZ NWA, an inclusive nonprofit and the largest women’s mountain biking organization in the USA. Curious by nature and motivated by fun, it’s no surprise Kourtney was hired to lead workplace mobility efforts for Walmart’s new corporate campus. Throughout the episode, James and Kourtney discuss Bentonville’s bike-friendly environment, Walmart’s emphasis on mobility, and how to encourage more people to ride bikes.   

Encouraging Customer Discovery
In an effort to build a foundation of mobility on Walmart’s new corporate campus, Walmart placed bikes in different modalities in front of their associates and offered them the opportunity to ask questions and be curious about them. This helped Walmart answer questions like: how do I ride it, where do I ride it, what do I wear, and is it safe? In addressing these concerns, Walmart was able to present its strategy for mobility to its team members as well as gauge what barriers they needed to break down. “From an entrepreneurial standpoint, the best way I know to build something is to first hear from your customer and my customers are the associates. So we have had a number of information gathering events and bike demos.” - Kourtney Barrett, (6:31) Walmart’s goal is for no less than ten percent of their employees to commute to work via alternate mobility. Alternate mobility is considered anything outside of single occupancy driving. Therefore, carpooling, walking, biking, and even riding a scooter, longboard, or one-wheel are all considered alternate forms of mobility. The mission of mobility is to encourage the community and its residents to move their bodies more and be active outside.

Communal Efforts Towards Mobility
Although Walmart is working to make its campus more mobility friendly, it’s still a collaborative effort within the Bentonville community. There are multiple bike advocacy groups that are pulling in the same direction as Walmart as far as wanting Bentonville to be a healthy place to live and work. When people connect to nature, most times they are much happier. Therefore, there’s strong merit behind the idea of decongesting the roadways and encouraging people to commute using paved or dirt trails. “When there’s less automobiles, people seem to breathe a little easier and there’s a little less stress. So working together with the city, with trailblazers, and with different organizations, has provided quick access to researching best practices.” - Kourtney Barrett, (9:22) Currently, mobility is moving in an upward trajectory. This trend is being supported by the Bluetooth and GPS technologies being integrated into mediums for mobility in order to elevate our experience and make it more efficient and fulfilling. Because of this, one of the aspects of Walmart's new camps will be to incorporate technology with mobility in a way that makes the most sense for the associates.

Get Connected!
Thanks for tuning in to this episode of The Bentonville Beacon! Join us weekly for more stories from entrepreneurs and business leaders who are making a positive impact on Bentonville’s culture, community, and lifestyle. Don’t forget, Bentonville is a place where you can have more of what you want and less of what you don’t!

Bonus Episode | NWA Tech Summit Live, featuring Phil Shellhammer, Mike Steely & Connor Pocta

November 18th, 2022

Summary
The NWA Tech Summit is the Heartland’s premier technology conference and serves to enhance, prepare, and diversify the local Northwest Arkansas economy. In its ninth year, the NWA Tech Summit came back with 1,700 registered attendees when it returned in-person to downtown Bentonville. The NWA Tech Summit is an event hosted by the Greater Bentonville Area Chamber of Commerce, and it is supported by the Walton Family Foundation, Northwest Arkansas Council, Walmart, J. B. Hunt, Tyson Foods, Salesforce, and the University of Arkansas Blockchain Center of Excellence.

Show Notes
(0:51) Introduction to Connor Pocta
(11:29) Introduction to Mike Steely
(26:37) Introduction to Phil Shellhammer
(34:53) Closing Thoughts

Links
James Bell
Bentonville Economic Development

2022 Northwest Arkansas Technology Summit
Connor Pocta
Mike Steely
Veriphix
Fuel Artificial Intelligence Accelerator
Phil Shellhammer
Greenhouse Outdoor Recreation Program
University of Arkansas
Toby Teeter
Bentonville Collaborative
The Rise of the Rest by Steve Case
Osage Park
Thaden Field
Bentonville Brewing
Table Mesa
The Hub Bike Lounge
Buffalo National River
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
Museum of Native American History

Quotes

For me, [an automation and robotics engineer] is somebody who’s taking things like robots and making that work for our company. So we’re taking the robots and we’re seeing how we can make it do a job that works for our company and with COVID and the labor shortage, these robots are a necessity…It’s really making a big difference right now.” - Connor Pocta, (3:32)

We’re reshaping the way you understand how to interact with a customer. We can identify through a small survey the beliefs of a group and then how to actually nudge or influence those beliefs over time on behalf of a brand or organization.” - Mike Steely, (12:27)

GORP is an incubator for startups and for early stage entrepreneurs. They’re trying to build some solutions with outdoor recreation specifically. It could be products, services, digital solutions, anything that has to do with trying to solve a problem with outdoor recreation.” - Phil Shellhammer, (27:37)

Get Connected!
Thanks for tuning in to this episode of The Bentonville Beacon! Join us weekly for more stories from entrepreneurs and business leaders who are making a positive impact on Bentonville’s culture, community, and lifestyle. Don’t forget, Bentonville is a place where you can have more of what you want and less of what you don’t!

Making High-Quality Fertility Care Accessible to Everyone with Tammy Sun

November 14th, 2022

Summary
On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell is joined by Tammy Sun, Founder and CEO of Carrot Fertility. Tammy founded Carrot with the mission to provide fertility care for all, inclusive of age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, race, marital status, and geography. Today, Carrot is the leading global fertility benefits provider for employers with their coverage of millions of people in over 120 countries. Throughout the episode, James and Tammy discuss the historic lack of infertility care, how Carrot Fertility is improving employee health benefits, and the complexities that women founders face.Thanks for tuning in!

Show Notes:
(1:10) Introduction to Tammy
(2:34) The Frequency and Struggles of Infertility
(4:27) About Carrot Fertility
(5:37) The History and Growth of Carrot Fertility
(7:38) The Scale of Carrot Fertility
(8:31) Tammy’s Journey to Bentonville
(10:18) Lack of Fertility Benefits
(14:28) Funding for Female Founders
(17:05) Navigating Rejection
(19:40) Advice to Other Female Founders
(21:58) Bentonville’s Influence
(26:50) Closing Questions

Links
James Bell
Bentonville Economic Development

Tammy Sun
Carrot Fertility
Natalie Shew
Elizabeth Prenger
April Roy
FemHealth Founders

Quotes

“We make it easy for companies to give employees financial and emotional coverage and physical support for every aspect of lifelong fertility healthcare. Starting from before you’re ready to achieve pregnancy through egg freezing and pregnancy itself.” - Tammy Sun, (4:36)

“When you think about compensation and benefits, what’s included as part of your healthcare is  really important because if it’s not covered, what happens is you ultimately have to pay for it yourself.” - Tammy Sun, (10:36)

“Women already make eighty cents on the dollar. When you think about having to then forgo making an investment in a retirement account or real estate, it actually widens the pay gap because they're going into their personal accounts to pay for it.” - Tammy Sun, (11:28)

“I think for any female founder who is thinking about starting a business, I would encourage them to stick very close to their customer.” - Tammy Sun, (14:53)

“If you’re a female founder, building resilience early on and understanding your problem, your solution, and your customer, all you need is one investor to support you.” - Tammy Sun, (17:57)

Making IVF More Accessible with Tammy Sun of Carrot Fertility
On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell is joined by Tammy Sun, Founder and CEO of Carrot Fertility. Tammy founded Carrot with the mission to provide fertility care for all, inclusive of age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, race, marital status, and geography. Today, Carrot is the leading global fertility benefits provider for employers with their coverage of millions of people in over 120 countries. Throughout the episode, James and Tammy discuss the historic lack of infertility care, how Carrot Fertility is improving employee healthcare, and the complexities that women founders face.

The History and Effects of Unavailable Infertility Care
Historically, IVF goes back roughly forty years in which infertility treatments were not traditionally covered by health insurance. In some ways, IVF was considered a luxury consumer good because only those who could afford to pay for it were allowed access to it. Therefore, with infertility affecting around one in eight opposite-sex couples, the lack of availability of IVF treatments left a vast majority of people helpless when it came to their infertility struggles. 
“When you think about compensation and benefits, what’s included as part of your healthcare is  really important because if it’s not covered, what happens is you ultimately have to pay for it yourself.” - Tammy Sun, (10:36)
In America, most citizens receive their healthcare through their employers, which is more than Medicare and Medicaid combined. However, if infertility is not covered by their health benefits, they’re left to pay tens of thousands of dollars out-of-pocket. Unfortunately, this is a number few can afford, and if they ultimately foot the bill, it means large amounts of money are taken away from future endeavors.    
 “Women already make eighty cents on the dollar. When you think about having to then forgo making an investment in a retirement account or real estate, it actually widens the pay gap because they're going into their personal accounts to pay for it.” - Tammy Sun, (11:28)

The Struggles of Obtaining Funding as a Woman Founder
At the height of female founders accessing venture capital dollars, only three percent of female founders were able to do so. Currently, that number has dropped back down to two percent. This is a result of structural challenges baked into how capital is distributed and who has access to it. It’s not uncommon for women to be rejected because their business is too niche and because it isn’t something men would engage in or care about.
“I think for any female founder who is thinking about starting a business, I would encourage them to stick very close to their customer.” - Tammy Sun, (14:53)
When female founders are told no left and right, it’s more important they focus on seeing if their prospective customers will say yes. Investors may turn them down, but people who need their product or service are saying they can’t wait to get their hands on it. Because of this, female entrepreneurs are more likely to receive funding when they focus on identifying who their target customer is and what solution they’re offering instead of if an investor thinks there’s merit to their idea. 
 “If you’re a female founder, building resilience early on and understanding your problem, your solution, and your customer, all you need is one investor to support you.” - Tammy Sun, (17:57)

Get Connected!
Thanks for tuning in to this episode of The Bentonville Beacon! Join us weekly for more stories from entrepreneurs and business leaders who are making a positive impact on Bentonville’s culture, community, and lifestyle. Don’t forget, Bentonville is a place where you can have more of what you want and less of what you don’t!

Bonus Episode | NWA Tech Summit Live, featuring John Wilcox, Jo Lynn Clemens, Tom Douglass & Megan Werner

November 11th, 2022

Summary
The NWA Tech Summit is the Heartland’s premier technology conference and serves to enhance, prepare, and diversify the local Northwest Arkansas economy. In its ninth year, the NWA Tech Summit came back with 1,700 registered attendees when it returned in-person to downtown Bentonville. The NWA Tech Summit is an event hosted by the Greater Bentonville Area Chamber of Commerce, and it is supported by the Walton Family Foundation, Northwest Arkansas Council, Walmart, J. B. Hunt, Tyson Foods, Salesforce, and the University of Arkansas Blockchain Center of Excellence.

Show Notes

(0:55) John Wilcox
(14:44) Jo Lynn Clemens
(27:21) Introduction to Tom Douglas
(35:36) Introduction to Megan Werner
(42:17) Closing Thoughts

Links
James Bell
Bentonville Economic Development

2022 Northwest Arkansas Technology Summit
John Wilcox
Diatech Diabetes
Jo Lynn Clemens
RiskKarma.io
Tom Douglass
Catapult Consulting
Megan Werner
Attraversiamo Technologies
Fuel Accelerator

Quotes

“The Northwest Arkansas Tech Summit is an interesting opportunity for startups in the southwest and mid-south to check out…between the pitch competition, connecting with the region for investment opportunities, and hearing about other technology, it makes it all worth it to come to Bentonville.”
- John Wilcox, (13:27)

“...people are approachable, so it maintains what’s valuable and important for families and companies that wish to grow. You have that diversity of thought here from all over the country because these companies attract talent from everywhere. It really is a mecca.”
- Jo Lynn Clemens, (24:01)

“I can go into any office or restaurant and have a conversation with somebody that ultimately could help my business from a small business growth perspective…in terms of friendliness, acceptance, and everything else, it’s unique across the country.”
- Tom Douglass, (30:19)

“I’ve already had an abundance of ideas pop up in my head of, ‘I can talk to this person and they can help us with this or we could help them with that.’ It’s a great hub for connecting and resourcing and growing our economy.”
- Megan Werner, (40:37)

Get Connected!
Thanks for tuning in to this episode of The Bentonville Beacon! Join us weekly for more stories from entrepreneurs and business leaders who are making a positive impact on Bentonville’s culture, community, and lifestyle. Don’t forget, Bentonville is a place where you can have more of what you want and less of what you don’t!

Funding Northwest Arkansas' Next Generation of High-Growth Startups with Sterling Smith

November 7th, 2022

Summary
In this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell sits down with Sterling Smith, Managing Director of Atento Capital’s Northwest Arkansas hub. Sterling spent time as a computer program analyst and software engineer before starting his journey as a serial entrepreneur and VC. His experience in operations has shaped his entrepreneurial and VC development, but ultimately, his drive to add diversity to the investment world sets him apart. Throughout the episode, he and James discuss his career, Atento Capital’s investment in the Heartland, the reasons for Bentonville’s success, and much more.
Thanks for tuning in!

Show Notes

(0:53) Introducing Sterling Smith
(4:37) Sterling’s Passion for Entrepreneurship
(8:39) Introducing Atento Capital
(12:09) Atento’s Presence in NWA
(19:25) 412 Angels
(23:12) How Bentonville Has Changed in the Last Fifteen Years
(29:09) Comparing Bentonville to Other Prominent Markets
(30:25) What Sets Bentonville Apart for Founders and Startups
(34:21) How Operational Experience Benefits a VC
(37:48) Sterling’s Strengths and Weaknesses as a Founder
(41:28) Closing Thoughts

Links
James Bell
Bentonville Economic Development

Sterling Smith
Atento Capital
Black Freelancer
Graham Cohen
412 Angels
Northwest Arkansas Technology Summit
Fuel Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Accelerator
Startup Junkie
Cartwheel Studios
University of Arkansas
Blockchain Center of Excellence
Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation
Venture Intern Program
Whole Health Institute
XNA - Northwest Arkansas National Airport

Quotes

“It took none other than for me to revisit Bentonville after being gone for so long for me to touch down and feel the energy that exists here.”
- Sterling Smith, (13:16)

“I feel the same energy today in Bentonville that I felt eight years ago when I first came to Austin, which is a much larger city, but the same fundamentals that existed there are in this region as well.”
- Sterling Smith, (13:46)

“Investing in startups is on the riskier side of investing in assets, generally speaking, and I’ll say that the approach that we take—we do everything we can to derisk and provide investors that participate in 412 Angels with an unfair advantage when making those decisions.”
- Sterling Smith, (21:37)

“For people that want to be around other passionate individuals and passionate organizations that care about producing world-changing and practical solutions, I think that if you are in any of these spaces—B2B SaaS, direct to consumer, CGP, logistics…this is a great place to be for that.” -
Sterling Smith, (31:54)

Funding Northwest Arkansas' Next Generation of High-Growth Startups with Sterling Smith
In this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell sits down with Sterling Smith, Managing Director of Atento Capital’s Northwest Arkansas hub. Sterling spent time as a computer program analyst and software engineer before starting his journey as a serial entrepreneur and VC. His experience in operations has shaped his entrepreneurial and VC development, but ultimately, his drive to add diversity to the investment world sets him apart. Throughout the episode, he and James discuss his career, Atento Capital’s investment in the Heartland, the reasons for Bentonville’s success, and much more.

Diversifying Investment
While countless programs, resources, funds, and organizations are building into the Heartland, Atento Capital stands out from the crowd. The Tulsa-based investment firm prioritizes diversity, equity, and inclusion on all fronts. During his interview with James Bell, Sterling Smith made something crystal clear: We need diverse representation on both sides of the investment space—not only starting companies but also determining who gets funded. As one of the country's most diverse venture capital funds, Atento is taking the bull by the horns.

While the fund’s diversity creates a significant social impact, it also generates an investment advantage. With an abundance of worldviews and perspectives on the team, Atento sees things that other investment firms do not. This advantage is passed on to its network of investors, lowering investment risk through Atento.

Investing in startups is on the riskier side of investing in assets, generally speaking, and I’ll say that the approach that we take—we do everything we can to derisk and provide investors that participate in 412 Angels with an unfair advantage when making those decisions.” - Sterling Smith, (21:37)

Why Bentonville
Headquartered in Tulsa, Atento’s expansion into Northwest Arkansas was a no-brainer. With three Fortune 500 companies, numerous promising startups, and a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem already in place, this area remains a prime partner in Atento’s mission in Tulsa and the rest of the Heartland region.

“For people that want to be around other passionate individuals and passionate organizations that care about producing world-changing and practical solutions, I think that if you are in any of these spaces—B2B SaaS, direct to consumer, CGP, logistics…this is a great place to be for that.” - Sterling Smith, (31:54)

Sterling’s return to Northwest Arkansas was also an easy choice. Although he lived in Bentonville fifteen years ago, he was surprised with what he found upon his return. Now swarming with top-tier restaurants, bike trails, music festivals, and much more, the city sold itself.

It took none other than for me to revisit Bentonville after being gone for so long for me to touch down and feel the energy that exists here.” - Sterling Smith, (13:16)

Get Connected!
Thanks for tuning in to this episode of The Bentonville Beacon! Join us weekly for more stories from entrepreneurs and business leaders who are making a positive impact on Bentonville’s culture, community, and lifestyle. Don’t forget, Bentonville is a place where you can have more of what you want and less of what you don’t!

Attracting Supply Chain and Innovation Startups from Around the World to Bentonville with Josh Saffran

November 4th, 2022

Summary
On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell sits down with Joshua Saffran, Director of Plug and Play Northwest Arkansas. Plug and Play is an open innovation platform that connects its corporate partners with startups to fill needs and drive innovation forward. Originally based in Silicon Valley, Plug and Play added a hub in Northwest Arkansas to serve its corporate partners in the region, as well as mine for new, innovative startups in the area. Throughout the episode, James and Joshua discuss Plug and Play, Bentonville’s value to businesses, and how startups can stand out from the crowd.
Thanks for tuning in!

Show Notes

(0:50) Introducing Joshua Saffran
(2:45) The Gents Place
(4:00) Plug and Play
(7:05) Why, How, and When Plug and Play Came to Northwest Arkansas
(8:05) How Plug and Play Connects Corporations with Startups
(9:37) Stories from Plug and Play’s Live Events
(13:38) Sourcing Startups
(14:40) Why Business Leaders and Startups Need to Be In Bentonville
(16:43) Joshua’s #BecauseBentonville Story
(19:40) How to Connect with Joshua and Plug and Play
(20:06) Joshua’s Family
(23:06) How Founders Can Make Their Startups Standout
(24:03) Closing Thoughts

Links
James Bell
Bentonville Economic Development

Joshua Saffran
Plug And Play Tech Center Northwest Arkansas
The Gents Place
Saeed Amidi
Plug and Play Tech Center

Quotes

“Most folks are working specifically with the startups, but we’re working with the startups and bringing them to the corporate partners…So it’s a win for Walmart in this example because we’re bringing them technology. It’s a win for the startup because they don’t have that relationship [previously]. So there’s a lot of pluses for both sides in this.” - Joshua Saffran, (5:40)

“Having a global company based out of Silicon Valley with a local hub here in Northwest Arkansas, to me, is a tremendous value to everybody within our ecosystem.” - Joshua Saffran, (6:43)

“[Bentonville’s] community is fascinating—it’s like nowhere else I’ve ever lived, and I’ve lived in Minneapolis, Boston, Chicago, New York…What’s on the horizon to come here is so incredible, and the growth we’ve seen in the last couple years is nothing compared to what’s going to happen in the next few years. The cost of living is great. The technology is coming here…You have three major corporations in Walmart, JB Hunt, and Tyson all here. Anybody that sells to Walmart has an office here. There’s so many reasons to be here.” - Joshua Saffran, (14:54)

“I’ve never seen anything like this—what’s going on [in Bentonville]. The way people interact, connect, help, and pay it forward. It’s such a cool spot.” - Joshua Saffran, (17:22)


Attracting Supply Chain and Innovation Startups from Around the World to Bentonville with Josh Saffran
On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell sits down with Joshua Saffran, Director of Plug and Play Northwest Arkansas. Plug and Play is an open innovation platform that connects its corporate partners with startups to fill needs and drive innovation forward. Originally based in Silicon Valley, Plug and Play added a hub in Northwest Arkansas to serve its corporate partners in the region, as well as mine for new, innovative startups in the area. Throughout the episode, James and Joshua discuss Plug and Play, Bentonville’s value to businesses, and how startups can stand out from the crowd.

Plug and Play Tech Center
While most accelerator and startup resource programs prioritize VC investment, Plug and Play takes a unique approach to help startups. Rather than teaching founders to pitch to investors, Plug and Play aims to drive innovation by connecting the largest corporations with global stage-agnostic startups that meet their needs.

For example, if a corporate partner such as Walmart were to have a supply chain issue, Plug and Play would curate and vet a list of startups to solve the problem, ultimately bringing them to Walmart as a viable long-term solution. Essentially, the platform is a middle-man that brings technology and innovation together to solve large-scale supply chain problems.

Most folks are working specifically with the startups, but we’re working with the startups and bringing them to the corporate partners…So it’s a win for Walmart in this example because we’re bringing them technology. It’s a win for the startup because they don’t have that relationship [previously]. So there’s a lot of pluses for both sides in this.” - Joshua Saffran, (5:40)

Why Bentonville
Even with a headquarters in Silicon Valley, there is no question that adding an office in Bentonville was a significant value add for Plug and Play. With three Fortune 500 companies—including Fortune 1 Walmart—in the region, the innovation platform has direct access to assist its corporate partners in Northwest Arkansas. 

“Having a global company based out of Silicon Valley with a local hub here in Northwest Arkansas, to me, is a tremendous value to everybody within our ecosystem.” - Joshua Saffran, (6:43)

[Bentonville’s] community is fascinating—it’s like nowhere else I’ve ever lived, and I’ve lived in Minneapolis, Boston, Chicago, New York…What’s on the horizon to come here is so incredible, and the growth we’ve seen in the last couple years is nothing compared to what’s going to happen in the next few years. The cost of living is great. The technology is coming here…You have three major corporations in Walmart, JB Hunt, and Tyson all here. Anybody that sells to Walmart has an office here. There’s so many reasons to be here.” - Joshua Saffran, (14:54)

Get Connected!
Thanks for tuning in to this episode of The Bentonville Beacon! Join us weekly for more stories from entrepreneurs and business leaders who are making a positive impact on Bentonville’s culture, community, and lifestyle. Don’t forget, Bentonville is a place where you can have more of what you want and less of what you don’t!

Why a San Francisco Startup Founder and Investor Moved to Bentonville with Phil Libin

October 31st, 2022

Summary
On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell is joined by Phil Libin, a software engineer turned serial entrepreneur. Phil’s currently the Founder and CEO of All Turtles, an early-stage product studio, as well as the startup mmhmm, a video software business that aims to create more sustainable and joyful ways to work and collaborate. With a long history of success, Phil has extensive experience with transforming ideas into companies. Throughout the episode, James and Phil discuss Bentonville's economic ecosystem and the complexities behind founding a startup.
Thanks for tuning in!

Show Notes

(0:54) Introduction to Phil
(2:33) About All Turtles
(3:30) About mmhmm
(8:27) Phil’s Journey to Bentonville
(12:12) Surprising Aspects of NWA
(18:59) Entrepreneurial Opportunities in NWA
(20:30) About Bentonville’s Economic Ecosystem
(27:01) The Intricacies of Being a Founder
(31:42) Raising Venture Capital
(38:10) Learning from Failure
(42:59) Closing Questions

Links
James Bell
Bentonville Economic Development

Phil Libin
All Turtles
Mmhmm
Dean Matt Waller
Sam M. Walton College of Business
University of Arkansas

Quotes

“I think it’s a more humane way to live. People spend a lot of time talking about work-life balance, and when you frame it like that, those two things are pulling against each other…It’s only fairly recent that those two were separate things.”
- Phil Libin, (7:02)

“The companies I’ve seen here tend to focus on more real problems, and the companies I’ve seen in the Bay Area and San Francisco tend to chase opportunities more than focus on problems.”
- Phil Libin, (21:01)

“That’ll be the next version of economic development, which is different from what it used to be before because before you had to start thinking about the company first, now you can start thinking about the people.”
- Phil Libin, (23:30)

“At All Turtles, when we hear a pitch, we internally talk about what is the most likely way for it to fail so we know what to work on first, because we always want to run at the hardest problems first, because that’s what’s going to kill us.”
- Phil Libin, (41:06)

Why a San Francisco Startup Founder and Investor Moved to Bentonville with Phil Libin
On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell is joined by Phil Libin, a software engineer turned serial entrepreneur. Phil’s currently the Founder and CEO of All Turtles, an early-stage product studio, as well as the startup mmhmm, a video software business that aims to create more sustainable and joyful ways to work and collaborate. With a long history of success, Phil has extensive experience with transforming ideas into companies. Throughout the episode, James and Phil discuss Bentonville's economic ecosystem and the complexities behind founding a startup.  

The Innovative Mindset of Bentonville’s Economic Ecosystem
When comparing the startup ecosystem in Bentonville to Silicon Valley, startups in Northwest Arkansas are more geared towards providing solutions than capitalizing on perceived needs. On the flip side, Silicon Valley entrepreneurs are more apt to be ambitious, whereas Bentonville entrepreneurs act more conservatively. Neither place's ecosystems are wrong, however, they do yield different results.

“The companies I’ve seen here tend to focus on more real problems, and the companies I’ve seen in the Bay Area and San Francisco tend to chase opportunities more than focus on problems.” - Phil Libin, (21:01)

A forward-thinking quality of Bentonville’s economic ecosystem is its emphasis on quality of life. This is because the startup community recognizes companies are made of people, and people like to enjoy where they live. As more and more cities and regions come to this conclusion, there will be a mindset shift that focuses more on what people they can attract than what companies they can attract.

“That’ll be the next version of economic development, which is different from what it used to be before because before you had to start thinking about the company first, now you can start thinking about the people.” - Phil Libin, (23:30)

Misconceptions about Failure
One major misconception about failure is that you have to stick with it or see it through to the end. Yes, you can learn valuable lessons from failing. However, if you’re able to recognize when something is failing and quit sooner than later, it leaves you room to work towards something that might not fail. Failure is painful, which is why it’s important to spend your time focusing on things you’re passionate about and willing to pay the price of failure for.

“At All Turtles, when we hear a pitch, we internally talk about what is the most likely way for it to fail so we know what to work on first, because we always want to run at the hardest problems first, because that’s what’s going to kill us.” - Phil Libin, (41:06)

Oftentimes, people think there’s a certain benchmark that has to be reached before something can be considered a failure. However, you can learn just as much by anticipating failure as you can by experiencing it. Failure is guaranteed, success is not. For entrepreneurs, defining what failure looks like for their business before they’re even established allows them to recognize the warning signs earlier. Thus, providing them the time to adjust or to quit while they’re ahead.

Get Connected!
Thanks for tuning in to this episode of The Bentonville Beacon! Join us weekly for more stories from entrepreneurs and business leaders who are making a positive impact on Bentonville’s culture, community, and lifestyle. Don’t forget, Bentonville is a place where you can have more of what you want and less of what you don’t!

Accelerating Bentonville's Startup Scene with Matthew Ward of Fuel

October 24th, 2022

Summary
On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell is joined by Matthew Ward, the Director of Fuel Accelerator, an enterprise-ready accelerator that matches growth-stage startups with key enterprise partners. Along with his role as Director at Fuel, Matthew is also a Senior Associate at Cadron Capital Partners and a Consultant for Startup Junkie. Throughout the episode, James and Matthew discuss how Fuel’s accelerator model differs from others and why Bentonville is such a great area for people to plant their startups.
Thanks for tuning in!

Show Notes

(1:00) Introduction to Matthew
(5:03) Why Fuel Was Started
(9:22) What Fuel Is Doing Differently
(12:02) Others Involved in Fuel
(17:50) Why Bentonville Is an Ideal Place for Startups
(20:26) Fuel Success Stories
(24:28) The Criteria for Working with Fuel
(31:38) What’s Next for Fuel
(32:21) Closing Questions

Links
James Bell
Bentonville Economic Development

Matthew Ward
Fuel Accelerator
Cadron Capital Partners
Startup Junkie
Charu Thomas
Gary Vernon
Jigesh Vora
Josh Kyles
Mary Best
Michael Iseman
Michael Paladino
Tom Douglass
Vance Reavie
AcreTrader
Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC)
Atento Capital
Blu Fish House
FR8relay
Junction AI
Ledger
Northwest Arkansas Council | Life Works Here
Northwest Arkansas Startup Crawl
Ox
RevUnit
Simporter
SupplyPike
Sushi House
SwiftGo
Tavola Trattoria
Walton Family Foundation

Quotes

“At the end of the day, what we are trying to do is have companies from around the world come to Bentonville and experience it and say, ‘I want to put down some roots here. I want to create jobs and bring in talent because that’s good for the ecosystem.’”
- Matthew Ward, (11:04)

“As a whole with Bentonville, people want to help you out. And also you have a lot of diversity here with people coming to work for Walmart. So you have collaboration, hospitality, and a different view. To me that’s a really good combination.”
- Matthew Ward, (19:11)

“One, their solution has to be able to have a chance of selling into the enterprises here…and the second piece is someone who’s willing to make that commitment and sacrifice to be here and make connections.”
- Matthew Ward, (24:29)

“...they don’t want to be average, they want to be the best. You can experience a lot of exceptional things (in Bentonville), and alongside doing business with world-class companies, you have the chance to enjoy yourself in the off time with cycling or food.”
- Matthew Ward, (27:32)

Accelerating Bentonville's Startup Scene with Matthew Ward of Fuel
On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell is joined by Matthew Ward, the Director of Fuel Accelerator, an enterprise-ready accelerator that matches growth-stage startups with key enterprise partners. Along with his role as Director at Fuel, Matthew is also a Senior Associate at Cadron Capital Partners and a Consultant for Startup Junkie. Throughout the episode, James and Matthew discuss how Fuel’s accelerator model differs from others and why Bentonville is such a great area for people to plant their startups.

The Difference in Fuel’s Approach
Most often, accelerators share a common focus: preparing their cohorts to pitch. They teach companies how to obtain money from investors, not how to make money. This model works if a company is in the early stages of creating its brand and is looking to raise capital. However, Fuel sets itself apart by working with startups that already have a product or solution that they are looking to scale. With this model, Fuel is focused on more than merely helping companies obtain funding—it prioritizes teaching startups how to sell to larger enterprises like Walmart.

Fuel’s approach is simple yet effective: introduce its participants to mentors, most of whom are experts and business leaders from larger enterprises. Throughout the program, participants meet with several mentors, gaining important insights into enterprise-level business models. Alongside these meetings, the cohort participates in enterprise-ready sessions where business leaders that have previously sold to larger enterprises share their experience. When entrepreneurs complete Fuel’s accelerator program, they leave with better connections and more knowledge than they began with.

“At the end of the day, what we are trying to do is have companies from around the world come to Bentonville and experience it and say, ‘I want to put down some roots here. I want to create jobs and bring in talent because that’s good for the ecosystem.’” - Matthew Ward, (11:04)

The Uniqueness of Bentonville’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem
“As a whole with Bentonville, people want to help you out. And also you have a lot of diversity here with people coming to work for Walmart. So you have collaboration, hospitality, and a different view. To me that’s a really good combination.” - Matthew Ward, (19:11)

One of the reasons Bentonville is such an ideal place for startups to establish is because of the number of enterprises and vendors located here. Having all these potential targets in one place strengthens the region's entrepreneurial ecosystem. Furthermore, a unique characteristic of Bentonville's entrepreneurial ecosystem is that it’s not about competition—it’s about collaboration. People are willing to help each other because the community understands that it will be able to achieve more if everyone works together rather than against each other.

Another distinctive trait of the ecosystem here is that it functions at a more manageable and adjustable pace. Meaning, people work hard to get their work done, then they go out with their coworkers, friends, or family to enjoy the amazing food and experiences that Bentonville has to offer.

“...they don’t want to be average, they want to be the best. You can experience a lot of exceptional things (in Bentonville), and alongside doing business with world-class companies, you have the chance to enjoy yourself in the off time with cycling or food.” - Matthew Ward, (27:32)

Get Connected!
Thanks for tuning in to this episode of The Bentonville Beacon! Join us weekly for more stories from entrepreneurs and business leaders who are making a positive impact on Bentonville’s culture, community, and lifestyle. Don’t forget, Bentonville is a place where you can have more of what you want and less of what you don’t!

Creating Northwest Arkansas' Entrepreneurial Ecosystem with Jeff Amerine of Startup Junkie

October 17th, 2022

Summary
On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell is joined by Jeff Amerine, founder and managing director of Startup Junkie, a consulting service that supports, inspires, and educates entrepreneurs at no cost. With thirty years of experience, Jeff has an extensive background in business leadership and early-stage investments. Throughout the episode, James and Jeff discuss the startup community in Northwest Arkansas and how Startup Junkie assists entrepreneurs.
Thanks for tuning in!

Show Notes

(0:57) Introduction to Jeff
(1:35) Jeff’s Background
(3:08) About Startup Junkie
(5:49) Surprising Success Story
(8:33) Favorite Startups
(12:07) How Startup Junkie Helps Entrepreneurs
(16:13) About the Startup Junkie Podcast
(22:15) The Best Version of Tomorrow
(24:55) Why Businesses Should Be Founded in Bentonville
(29:33) How the Startup Community Has Evolved
(33:21) What’s Next for Startup Junkie
(37:11) Closing Questions

Links
James Bell
Bentonville Economic Development

Startup Junkie
Jeff Amerine
Caleb Talley
Martha Londagin
Fuel Accelerator
Kiva Northwest Arkansas
Startup Junkies Podcast
RevUnit
Michael Paladino
Joe Saumweber
Ox
Charu Thomas
NWA Workplaces
Jon Cadieux
EforAll Northwest Arkansas
Rise of the Rest
Steve Case
Jamie Rodota
Phil Libin
University of Arkansas Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation
Sarah Goforth
Atento Capital
412 Angels
Cadron Capital Partners
NewRoad Capital Partners
Blue Marlin Partners
Becca Shaddox
Permjot Valia

Quotes

“We’re at the point where I often hear Bentonville is the next Austin and that’s one of those things I both love and hate. My response is always, ‘We don’t want to be the next Austin, we want to be the next best version of ourselves.’” - James Bell, (21:26)

“These people are accessible. It’s not like you have to get a decree to see them. You’re going to run across them on a bike trail or in a coffee shop. So, proximity to great people would be a benefit.” - Jeff Amerine, (25:25)

“People here are by nature entrepreneurial and helpful. They had to band together. So when people come here from elsewhere, they’ve captured that, they’ve built on that, and it’s gotten even better.” - Jeff Amerine, (26:41)

“You can walk out any door in any one of these cities on any given day of the week and there’s something small business or startup going on. So that regular cadence of activity and engagement is really something.” - Jeff Amerine, (32:13)


Exploring the Prosperous Startup Scene in NWA with Jeff Amerine
On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell is joined by Jeff Amerine, founder and managing director of Startup Junkie, a consulting service that supports, inspires, and educates entrepreneurs at no cost. With thirty years of experience, Jeff has an extensive background in business leadership and early-stage investments. Throughout the episode, James and Jeff discuss the startup community in Northwest Arkansas and how Startup Junkie assists entrepreneurs.

The Benefits of Founding a Startup in Bentonville
When it comes to why individuals should establish their startups in Northwest Arkansas, or Bentonville specifically, there are two deciding factors. The first is that NWA is a region with a strong concentration of vendors and suppliers. Therefore, if a startup does anything related to enterprise and creates solutions for them, Bentonville is a target-rich environment for them to take advantage of.

“These people are accessible. It’s not like you have to get a decree to see them. You’re going to run across them on a bike trail or in a coffee shop. So, proximity to great people would be a benefit.” - Jeff Amerine, (25:25)

The second factor is that the NWA community is incredibly welcoming to outsiders. Therefore, it doesn’t matter where you’re from, people are glad you’re there. When locals encounter people that are not from the area, they are genuinely eager to help. This mentality differentiates the NWA region because it has allowed the area to become this melting pot of an ecosystem where people pay generosity forward.

“People here are by nature entrepreneurial and helpful. They had to band together. So when people come here from elsewhere, they’ve captured that, they’ve built on that, and it’s gotten even better.” - Jeff Amerine, (26:41)

Advancements in the Startup Community
The startup community in NWA has progressed exponentially since the early 2000s. During that time, the field of startups was in its infancy, meaning there were no angel associations, mentoring groups, and entrepreneurial support organizations. This is because the area as a whole was captivated by the geographic expansion of the big companies that were already established here. Therefore, a lot of initiatives that supported larger businesses were present, but there was not a startup scene.

It wasn’t until pioneers like James Hendron with Accelerate Arkansas and Jerry Adams, founder of Arkansas Research Alliance, started laying the foundation for entrepreneurial support organizations that the area started to become more resourceful for startups. Now the startup scene in NWA is vibrant, and the emphasis placed on the importance of startups is different than in the past. The community is starting to realize that small businesses are the lifeblood of the economy, and that has only made the startup community even more welcome to the area.

“You can walk out any door in any one of these cities on any given day of the week and there’s something small business or startup going on. So that regular cadence of activity and engagement is really something.” - Jeff Amerine, (32:13)

Get Connected!
Thanks for tuning in to this episode of The Bentonville Beacon! Join us weekly for more stories from entrepreneurs and business leaders who are making a positive impact on Bentonville’s culture, community, and lifestyle. Don’t forget, Bentonville is a place where you can have more of what you want and less of what you don’t!

Scaling Startups with Jessica Head of Endeavor Northwest Arkansas

October 10th, 2022

Summary
On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell is joined by Jessica Head, marketing director at Endeavor NWA, a global organization helping entrepreneurs scale their businesses to transform economies. With over ten years of experience, Jessica is a passionate and creative strategist specializing in experiential marketing, branding, and digital campaigns. Throughout the episode, James and Jessica discuss Endeavor’s ideal student, the tools Endeavor has to offer, and what Endeavor hopes to achieve in NWA.
Thanks for tuning in!

Show Notes

(0:57) Introduction to Jessica
(4:40) The Story of Endeavor
(9:15) Endeavor’s Goal for NWA
(12:06) Endeavor’s Ideal Entrepreneur
(17:42) Endeavor’s Selection Process
(19:09) About Endeavor Catalyst
(22:49) Endeavor in NWA
(26:55) Biggest Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make
(29:39) Closing Questions

Links
James Bell
Bentonville Economic Development

Jessica Head
Endeavor NWA
Linda Rottenberg
Charu Thomas
Ox
Carter Malloy
AcreTrader
Spencer Jones
Lineus Medical
Aayush Thakur
Deme Yuan
FR8relay
Stan Zylowski
April Seggebruch
Movista
Megan Kinmonth Bowman (James called her April in the episode–sorry, Megan!)
STOPWATCH

Quotes

“We have some unique voices that are a part of this community that have helped to champion some really interesting mentorships that can be available to entrepreneurs worldwide.” - Jessica Head, (9:52)

“So expanding our visibility of Endeavor and the support we provide to neighboring cities of Northwest Arkansas is to ensure we have connectivity and that the talent and education crosses vertically in these different codes.” - Jessica Head, (10:57)

“They’re able to engage in international selection panels that are hosted all over the world. It’s an opportunity for founders to mingle with other entrepreneurs that are also at that stage of growth and looking to become an Endeavor entrepreneur.” - Jessica Head, (14:06)

“It becomes a selfless process that ensures that these founders get the trusted resources they need and the correct advice to have economies to scale.” - Jessica Head, (15:48)


Helping Businesses Flourish One Entrepreneur at a Time
On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell is joined by Jessica Head, marketing director at Endeavor NWA, a global organization helping entrepreneurs scale their businesses to transform economies. With over ten years of experience, Jessica is a passionate and creative strategist specializing in experiential marketing, branding, and digital campaigns. Throughout the episode, James and Jessica discuss Endeavor’s ideal student, the tools Endeavor has to offer, and what Endeavor hopes to achieve in NWA.

Building a Super Region in NWA
Although the NWA chapter of Endeavor is the smallest office, it’s no less mighty. There’s a multitude of talented individuals in this region, which is a result of incredible leadership at the companies included in the Endeavor NWA ecosystem. And although these companies are outside the scope of the Tyson, JB Hunt, and Walmart bubble, they are no less impactful because of their potential to ensure the cities around NWA, such as Tulsa, become a super region.

“We have some unique voices that are a part of this community that have helped to champion some really interesting mentorships that can be available to entrepreneurs worldwide.” - Jessica Head, (9:52)

Endeavor NWA’s board is a testament to the success they’ve had in the area. Not only have they helped scale companies in the Heartland, but they’ve also supported founders in different countries. This backing has provided the perfect opportunity to bridge the gap between putting the Heartland on the map in a unique way and making Bentonville a part of the narrative. This goal was one of the most important factors behind Endeavor launching its NWA office.

“So expanding our visibility of Endeavor and the support we provide to neighboring cities of Northwest Arkansas is to ensure we have connectivity and that the talent and education crosses vertically in these different codes.” - Jessica Head, (10:57)

The Ideal Endeavor Entrepreneur
The entrepreneurs that Endeavor selects to work with are ones who have the capability to scale up. They have found a product market fit and are at an inflection point in their growth journey. Because of this, most entrepreneurs that enter the Endeavor selection process have between $500,000 and $1 million in annual revenue. Endeavor also provides programs to entrepreneurs that are in the earlier stages of their business but have the potential to level up and eventually engage in their selection process.

“It becomes a selfless process that ensures that these founders get the trusted resources they need and the correct advice to have economies to scale.” - Jessica Head, (15:48)

In order to become an Endeavor entrepreneur, they are required to build out a profile of who they are, where they’re wanting to go, their business strategy, and their growth plans. Then this profile is presented to a panel of local members that provide feedback. If a business passes the local panel review, they are then reviewed by an international selection panel. If successful again, they gain access to the wide variety of services and resources offered by Endeavor.

“They’re able to engage in international selection panels that are hosted all over the world. It’s an opportunity for founders to mingle with other entrepreneurs that are also at that kind of stage of growth and looking to become an Endeavor entrepreneur.” - Jessica Head, (14:06)

Get Connected!
Thanks for tuning in to this episode of The Bentonville Beacon! Join us weekly for more stories from entrepreneurs and business leaders who are making a positive impact on Bentonville’s culture, community, and lifestyle. Don’t forget, Bentonville is a place where you can have more of what you want and less of what you don’t!

A Sneak Peek into the World’s First Bikeable Building with Ledger Bentonville

September 26th, 2022

Summary
On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell is joined by Josh Kyles, the mastermind and developer behind Ledger, and Mary Best, the director of operations at Ledger. As the first bikeable building, Ledger is cultivating working environments that everyone can thrive in while elevating an individual’s desire for movement and well-being. Throughout the episode, James, Josh, and Mary discuss the artistic details incorporated within Ledger, who Ledger caters to, and how it seamlessly blends into the Bentonville culture.
Thanks for tuning in!

Show Notes:

(0:55) Introduction to Josh and Mary
(4:37) Josh’s Inspiration behind Ledger and Its Bentonville Location
(8:18) About Ledger
(9:49) Inspiration Behind the Bug Gem Artwork
(14:08) Meaning behind Bikeability
(16:52) Highlighting Artists with Conference Rooms
(19:26) Intertwining Ledger into the Fabric of Bentonville
(22:39) Businesses Opening at Ledger
(24:48) What Ledger Means to Bentonville
(29:25) Overcoming Challenges While Building Ledger
(32:21) Closing Questions

Links
James Bell
Josh Kyles

Mary Best
Ledger

Quotes

“I tell my people one of my favorite times was when I saw some guys that worked on the job by the fence showing it to their kids. That’s what you want to create. Where that sense of ownership and pride travels through to every person that touches the job.” - Josh Kyles, (7:17)

“...it’s this ethos and this story around how now is the best time to be alive. It’s that these bugs are doing the work to create something that’s bigger and better for everyone.” - Mary Best, (11:53)

“We had investors and developers who said this building should be a mirror and the community should see themselves here.” - Mary Best, (18:17)

“We hope that not just on the architectural side that it starts to set the bar for not just Bentonville, but the region. People look at it and say, ‘This is what can be done. Here’s the interaction that can be had. Here’s how it’s done right.’” - Josh Kyles, (26:01)


Improving Workplace Well-Being with Ledger
On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell is joined by Josh Kyles, the mastermind and developer behind Ledger, and Mary Best, the director of operations at Ledger. As the first bikeable building, Ledger is cultivating working environments that everyone can thrive in while elevating an individual’s desire for movement and well-being. Throughout the episode, James, Josh, and Mary discuss the artistic details incorporated within Ledger, who Ledger caters to, and how it seamlessly blends into the Bentonville culture.

Art Installations with a Purpose
Aside from the workspace-on-demand element of Ledger, there is also an artistic component of its design. The architecture of Ledger itself is an inspiring art piece, however, there’s also an immense collection of art throughout the building. Stefan Sagmeister, a nationally awarded designer, created an installation of mosaics that are embossed within the concrete of the built-in bike ramps. These mosaics showcase local insects carrying precious jewels on their backs.

These bugs paired with the gems look as if they are crawling up the bike ramps, and when they make it to the top, they portray the message “Now is better.” They represent the work being done inside the building and the magnitude of the projects created in the space. Sagmeister’s goal with this art piece was to emphasize that it’s not just the end product that’s important, it’s the work everyone does to get there.

“...it’s this ethos and this story around how now is the best time to be alive. It’s that these bugs are doing the work to create something that’s bigger and better for everyone.” - Mary Best, (11:53)

Highlighting the Community through Architecture
“We had investors and developers who said this building should be a mirror and the community should see themselves here.” - Mary Best, (18:17)

Ledger was constructed as a clear glass building to encourage the idea that what's happening inside is also happening outside. It’s a playful balance of transparency that is designed to match the elements that surround it. The ground floor has more earthy tones and wood textures. Then as you move up the building, those tones turn into lighter, more airy hues to mirror what you would see outside.

Furthermore, other than merely offering work spaces to the community, Ledger wanted to embody the creativity of local artists. As a result, every conference room has an art piece showcased inside, and the room itself is named after the artist who created the work of art for that room. Ledger was built with the intention that it would effortlessly align with Bentonville’s ecosystem, which is why displaying local artists and messages about being part of a bigger movement are so vital to its mission.

Get Connected!
Thanks for tuning in to this episode of The Bentonville Beacon! Join us weekly for more stories from entrepreneurs and business leaders who are making a positive impact on Bentonville’s culture, community, and lifestyle. Don’t forget, Bentonville is a place where you can have more of what you want and less of what you don’t!

Moving the Bicycle Industry Forward with PeopleForBikes and SHIFT'22 Bentonville

September 19th, 2022

Summary
On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell is joined by Jenn Dice, president and CEO of PeopleForBikes, and John Paul Shaffer, the Northwest Arkansas Bike Business Innovation Director for PeopleForBikes. PeopleForBikes is a non-profit organization focused on uniting individuals and businesses to make bike riding better for everyone. They accomplish this by helping communities quickly build better places to ride. Throughout the episode, James, Jenn, and John Paul discuss PeopleForBikes’ current lobbying efforts, what they’re working on in the NWA region, and the upcoming Shift ‘22 conference.
Thanks for tuning in!

Show Notes:

(1:17) Introduction to Jenn and John Paul
(3:49) PeopleForBikes’ Mission
(4:38) Current Lobbying Efforts
(7:09) Making the Cycling Industry More Inclusive
(9:29) Why PeopleForBikes Chose NWA
(11:20) The Biking Scene in Bentonville
(14:37) PeopleForBikes Work in the Region
(20:15) About the Shift ‘22 Conference
(27:33) Closing Questions

Links
James Bell
Jenn Dice
John Paul Shaffer
PeopleForBikes
Shift ‘22 Conference

Quotes

“We really believe the bike makes life great and believe in the profound effect the bicycle can have on lives in communities. So we’ve been centering on this mission of making America a place where bike passes and trails are ubiquitous.” - Jenn Dice, (4:02)

“We do a lot of work in the equity mobility space, making sure all people have a chance to move around their communities freely. There’s not a one-size-fits-all aspect, so we’re lobbying for different purchase incentives or tax credits.” - Jenn Dice, (6:29)

“It’s the same mindset of if we want people to make a behavior change, we need to equip them with the knowledge and the gear. But also on the other side, let’s program things that make them want to get out and ride a bike.” - John Paul Shaffer, (14:53)

“Our three tracks are diversity, equity and inclusion; climate change or sustainability; and fostering assembly manufacturing in the United States and growing jobs.” - Jenn Dice, (21:19)


Improving Communities One Bike Trail at a Time
On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell is joined by Jenn Dice, president and CEO of PeopleForBikes, and John Paul Shaffer, the Northwest Arkansas Bike Business Innovation Director for PeopleForBikes. PeopleForBikes is a non-profit organization focused on uniting individuals and businesses to make bike riding better for everyone. They accomplish this by helping communities quickly build better places to ride. Throughout the episode, James, Jenn, and John Paul discuss PeopleForBikes’ current lobbying efforts, what they’re working on in the NWA region, and the upcoming Shift ‘22 conference.

The Aspirations behind PeopleForBikes
“We really believe the bike makes life great and believe in the profound effect the bicycle can have on lives in communities. So we’ve been centering on this mission of making America a place where bike passes and trails are ubiquitous.” - Jenn Dice, (4:02)

PeopleForBikes’ mission is to make America the best place to ride a bicycle in the world. They achieve this by improving community infrastructures, implementing public policy, and increasing participation. Last year, PeopleForBikes’ successfully secured seventy percent more funding from Congress for bike-related structures such as trails, single tracks, bike parks, etc. Therefore, their main job right now is to get states, cities, and communities to build those projects. 

Furthermore, another big initiative of PeopleForBikes is electric bicycles. E-bikes are currently in high demand and are becoming more popular as a mode of transportation and for recreational fun. As a result, PeopleForBikes is highly focused on making sure the appropriate infrastructure, such as paved paths, is in place so people can enjoy their e-bikes. The next thing on PeopleForBikes’ agenda is lobbying for purchase incentives to be passed at the state and local levels due to e-bikes being more climate-friendly.

“We do a lot of work in the equity mobility space, making sure all people have a chance to move around their communities freely. There’s not a one-size-fits-all aspect, so we’re lobbying for different purchase incentives or tax credits.” - Jenn Dice, (6:29)

Breaking Down the Upcoming Shift ‘22 Conference
Shift ‘22 is a conference hosted by PeopleForBikes with a variety of events, including UCI World Cup cyclo-cross races, Outerbike Bentonville, and the Life Time Big Sugar gravel race. The purpose of this conference is to cultivate, grow, and empower current and future leaders in the biking industry. Over the course of the three-day conference, participants will attend educational sessions, network with industry peers, and ride world-class mountain and gravel trails that will expose them to the beauty of the NWA scenery.

The Shift ‘22 Conference aims to bring the bike industry to this part of the world so PeopleForBikes can amplify Bentonville’s success stories. Bentonville is quickly turning into an epicenter for bike supplier businesses and bike shops. This furthers PeopleForBikes objective of developing the bike industry workforce in America. During the educational sessions of the Shift ‘22 conference, PeopleForBikes will be sharing the experiences of companies like Allied that have set up shop in the NWA region.

“Our three tracks are diversity, equity and inclusion, climate change or sustainability, and fostering assembly manufacturing in the United States and growing jobs.” - Jenn Dice, (21:19)

Get Connected!
Thanks for tuning in to this episode of The Bentonville Beacon! Join us weekly for more stories from entrepreneurs and business leaders who are making a positive impact on Bentonville’s culture, community, and lifestyle. Don’t forget, Bentonville is a place where you can have more of what you want and less of what you don’t!

Because Bentonville Highlight Episode

September 12th, 2022

Summary
Welcome to a special episode of The Bentonville Beacon Podcast. This week, we’re taking a break from our regular episodes to highlight why Bentonville is so amazing. We’ve chosen a few clips from some of our favorite moments of The Bentonville Beacon Podcast so far. Sit back and enjoy these clips, and check out Bentonville, where you get more of what you want, and less of what you don’t!

Show Notes:

(0:32) Cyrus Sigari of Up Partners, Future Mobility Council of Arkansas, and Fly Oz
(2:26) Morgan and Tyler Baumgardner of Encore Bike Rentals
(5:42) Rich Drew of The Ride Series
(8:30) Bonnie Adams of Swim OZ
(12:45) Kris Adams of NWA Tech Summit

Get Connected!
Thanks for tuning in to this episode of The Bentonville Beacon! Join us weekly for more stories from entrepreneurs and business leaders who are making a positive impact on Bentonville’s culture, community, and lifestyle. Don’t forget, Bentonville is a place where you can have more of what you want and less of what you don’t!

Building the World's Finest Aerobatic Aircraft with Game Composites with Josh Richards

August 29th, 2022

Summary
On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell is joined by Josh Richards, COO at Game Composites LLC, an aviation and aerospace components manufacturer. Josh’s background is rooted in technical excellence, with experience in highly-regulated industries such as aerospace and nuclear power. Throughout the episode, James and Josh discuss Game Composites, the GB1 GameBird, and why Bentonville is the perfect place for advanced manufacturing.
Thanks for tuning in!

Show Notes:

(1:27) Introduction to Josh Richards
(1:44) Josh’s Passion for Aviation
(4:17) About Game Composites
(7:21) About the GB1 GameBird
(10:34) The GameBird Building Process
(13:21) Blazing a Trail for Advanced Manufacturing
(18:50) Exposing Customers to the GameBird
(21:06) Growth Plan for Game Composites
(23:07) Game Composites Employee Opportunities
(26:48) Why Bentonville Is Ideal for Game Composites
(31:54) The Bentonville Experience
(34:45) Final Questions and Thoughts

Links
James Bell
Josh Richards
Game Composites LLC

Quotes
“So part of the history that’s important is that the company was never really just founded to build GameBirds. It was always about creating, you know, being a significant player in aviation manufacturing. Maybe not a Boeing right out of the gate, but somebody who makes a difference and really makes a splash in the environment.” - Josh Richards, (5:51)

“We see a lot of customers now that want a really custom experience. So, one of the challenges of running a manufacturing business with an operations mindset is how do you give a custom experience, but in a repeatable fashion.” - Josh Richards, (11:33)

“The expansion does a couple things for us. It helps us vertically integrate some of our products that go into the aircraft. We want to build as much stuff as we can in Arkansas. On the other side of it, we’ve got big plans for the company on what’s next. We’re working on what we call GB2, so the second iteration or second version of aircraft for Game Composites.” - Josh Richards, (21:27)


Building the World's Finest Aerobatic Aircraft with Game Composites
On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell is joined by Josh Richards, COO at Game Composites LLC, an aviation and aerospace components manufacturer. Josh’s background is rooted in technical excellence, with experience in highly-regulated industries such as aerospace and nuclear power. Throughout the episode, James and Josh discuss Game Composites, the GB1 GameBird, and why Bentonville is the perfect place for advanced manufacturing.

Flying Longer with the GB1 GameBird
In the world of aviation, quality is king. You have to have a good product, but you have to make it consistently and safely. Game Composites’ mission is to build the world’s finest aircraft. At the moment, the Bentonville-based business is only manufacturing one high-performance, unlimited-aerobatic capable, two-seat aircraft known as the GB1 GameBird.

Philipp Steinbach, the CEO of Game Composites, has a lifetime of aviation experience. He saw the gaps in aviation product offerings and knew what Game Composites needed to do to stand out in the aviation industry. As a result, the GB1 GameBird was born. Game Composites set itself apart with the GB1 Gamebird, as it is a true two-seat aircraft that can hold considerably more fuel than other aerobatic airplanes. 

Most aerobatic airplanes are single-seat and are not built to fly long distances. However, the American market demands long-distance possibilities, and Game Composites has answered the call. The GB1 GameBird allows passengers to carry luggage, fly comfortably with two people, and travel longer distances. It checks all the boxes to perform in competition, but it has many of the creature comforts that people appreciate and expect when flying for recreational purposes. The GameBird perfectly mixes comfort with high performance and allows people to share experiences with its two-seat design. 

Charting Ground in Advanced Manufacturing
One of Game Composites’ goals is to blaze a trail for advanced manufacturing in a region that is not historically known for it. To achieve this goal, Game Composites has had to consider how it can promote high-skilled manufacturing jobs to the Northwest Arkansas workforce. Josh partners with several resource groups and agencies in Bentonville and the greater NWA region to help young people see that manufacturing is a viable career path. He emphasizes that today’s manufacturing is not stifling and backbreaking, as it has been in the past. It’s much more advanced and has a significantly larger amount of technology embedded into its processes.

The University of Arkansas has been a big help in developing pre-apprenticeship and training classes, which have helped to find people who have a desire to learn about manufacturing and want to take on the responsibility of the trade. The biggest challenge Game Composites faces is how it, as a framer of the high-tech and high-skill manufacturing ecosystem, builds a pipeline of talent that will grow with the business as it continues to expand. 

Get Connected!
Thanks for tuning in to this episode of The Bentonville Beacon! Join us weekly for more stories from entrepreneurs and business leaders who are making a positive impact on Bentonville’s culture, community, and lifestyle. Don’t forget, Bentonville is a place where you can have more of what you want and less of what you don’t!

How Bentonville Became the Mountain Biking Capital of the World with Gary Vernon

August 22nd, 2022

Summary
On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell is joined by Gary Vernon, a seasoned Sr. Program Officer at the Walton Personal Philanthropy Group. Gary, a key person behind OZ Trails, is the main reason for the explosion of the mountain bike trails in NWA. Throughout the episode, James and Gary discuss the large expansion of trails and what that has meant for the culture and economy in NWA, specifically Bentonville. 

Thanks for tuning in!

Show Notes:

(1:57) Introduction to Gary Vernon
(3:04) Walton Family Foundation vs. Walton Personal Philanthropy 
(4:31) The Rise to Mountain Bike Capital of the World
(7:22) About OZ Trails
(9:41) Specialty of the NWA Trails
(15:23) NWA’s E-bike Mentality
(18:09) Why Cycling Companies Are Moving to NWA
(24:45) About the Bicycle Industry Employers Association
(27:05) Economic Impact of NWA’s Trial System
(34:48) Changes in the NWA Region
(43:05) Where Bentonville Is Headed
(45:11) Final Questions

Links
James Bell
Gary Vernon
Walton Personal Philanthropy Group
OZ Trails

Quotes

“I can do a nine-mile ride from work on a single track within a block of my house, which is amazing…I think the benefit that we really can’t measure is the mental benefit of being able to get active, and you don’t have to ride a mountain bike to be on [the trails].” - Gary Vernon, (29:35)

“I couldn’t tell you how many people I’ve met in the last year that have moved here, and they can work remote wherever they want and just wanted to be near the trail. The sense of pride in the region is definitely noticeable.” - Gary Vernon, (35:11)

“Sustainability is a big word in the trail building industry because weather and use and all that can wear on a trail and raise the cost of maintaining it. That’s the one thing that we’re always trying to solve is the maintenance conundrum.” - Gary Vernon, (43:10)


How Bentonville Became the Mountain Biking Capital of the World with Gary Vernon
On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell is joined by Gary Vernon, a seasoned Sr. Program Officer at the Walton Personal Philanthropy Group. Gary, a key person behind OZ Trails, is the main reason for the explosion of the mountain bike trails in NWA. Throughout the episode, James and Gary discuss the large expansion of trails and what that has meant for the culture and economy in NWA, specifically Bentonville.

NWA: Mountain Bike Capital of the World
When it comes to labeling NWA as The Mountain Bike Capital of the World, some have questioned what makes this area so special. The Arkansas trail systems are exceptional because the majority have been built within the last decade, meaning the latest techniques are being employed, and the best trail builders are constructing them. Secondly, much of the top-tier trail-building talent has moved into the area and created healthy competition, ensuring that each trail-building company is only putting out its best work. On top of that, these companies are continuing to progress by learning and feeding off of each other.

On average, two miles of new trails are built each week, allowing creative trail builders who understand the vision of NWA to build memorable features that people can’t wait to ride. Trail builders from all over the nation have traveled here to build trails, and they are pushing the envelope and trying new things like different trail surfaces. Whether it’s a technical natural stone surface or using a road-type surface that requires no maintenance, there’s a wide variety of different types of trails that allows for riders of all skill levels to enjoy riding here year-round.

The Economic Impact of the NWA Trail Systems
Since 2017, the NWA trail systems have grown rapidly, resulting in more and more people using the trails. Tracking the number of people using the trails is difficult because of how many miles of trails there are, but there are trail counters around the region that capture every time someone passes in front of them. In 2019, trail counters indicated that 862,000 people used the trails, and 1.5 million people rode those same trails in 2020.

The growth of the trail systems could not have come at a better time, as the pandemic forced people to be inside more. The trails provided an exceptional mental and physical health benefit by allowing everyone to get outside during the shutdown. Furthermore, the trail systems have effectively connected neighborhoods, allowing residents to foster more relationships within their community. A hiking club in Bella Vista with over one hundred members loves hiking the mountain bike trails because they meet people from all over the country and the world. There are now trails that connect neighborhoods to waterfalls and lakes that people used to have to drive to. Ultimately, the trails have unlocked the hidden beauty of the region.

“I can do a nine-mile ride from work on a single track within a block of my house, which is amazing…I think the benefit that we really can’t measure is the mental benefit of being able to get active and you don’t have to ride a mountain bike to be on them.” - Gary Vernon, (29:35)

Get Connected!
Thanks for tuning in to this episode of The Bentonville Beacon! Join us weekly for more stories from entrepreneurs and business leaders who are making a positive impact on Bentonville’s culture, community, and lifestyle. Don’t forget, Bentonville is a place where you can have more of what you want and less of what you don’t!

Leading the Smart Mobility Revolution with Dr. Richard Ham

August 15th, 2022

Summary
On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell is joined by Dr. Richard Ham, a seasoned transportation executive with four decades of experience in security safety operations and administration compliance and enforcement. Dr. Ham’s list of expertise and accomplishments is long and includes but is not limited to the associate director of the Department of Industrial Engineering at the University of Arkansas, where he co-leads the largest graduate program at the University of Arkansas. Throughout the episode, James and Dr. Ham talked about the progression of drones within the next couple of years and the mobility space in Bentonville. 

Thanks for tuning in!

Show Notes:

(1:13) Introduction to Dr. Ham
(3:00) About Dr. Ham
(5:37) Dr. Ham’s Passion for Aviation
(8:36) The Progression of Drones
(25:29) The UP.Summit
(34:17) University of Arkansas Planning Grant
(37:12) Fully Autonomous Trucks
(40:09) Presence of Mobility Companies in Bentonville
(45:39) How to Get Involved in the Mobility Space
(57:13) Closing Questions

Links
James Bell
Dr. Richard Ham
University of Arkansas

Quotes

“...if you want to deliver something to Jonesboro, there’s just no good way to get there because it’s pretty rural…the ability to have an automated cargo route that would make the flight in an hour and a half and then turn and work it the other way. It starts to connect communities in a way that nobody really thought about.” - Dr. Richard Ham, (16:14)

“If you think of these small towns, it affects how commerce happens. If you can get something in three hours then do you have to have as many brick and mortars? There’s gonna be a discussion about that and some really smart people that think that way in retail and wholesale are gonna think about how we do distribution if this is our model now.” - Dr. Richard Ham, (22:16)

“We’re gonna talk about where we are with our ability to accept manufacturing and workforce readiness…If you don’t have that foundation, you end up with a lot of voices, but there’s never a consolidated voice that people will look to when they are looking to come here.” - Dr. Richard Ham, (32:58)

“Developing that framework and then knowing where to step up from there is really important because if you don’t, then when you start making some decisions later on, you’re going to wish you’d have done that differently because it would have been better.” - Dr. Richard Ham, (38:08)


Leading the Smart Mobility Revolution with Dr. Richard Ham
On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell is joined by Dr. Richard Ham, a seasoned transportation executive with four decades of experience in security safety operations and administration compliance and enforcement. Dr. Ham’s list of expertise and accomplishments is long and includes but is not limited to the associate director of the Department of Industrial Engineering at the University of Arkansas, where he co-leads the largest graduate program at the University of Arkansas. Throughout the episode, James and Dr. Ham talked about the progression of drones within the next couple of years and the mobility space in Bentonville.

The Future of Automated Aircraft
When it comes to aviation, the idea that the technology is new is not necessarily accurate. The difference between the past and modern-day aircraft is that today’s aircraft have significantly more autonomy. In the past, humans were required to be the eyes and ears of the aircraft, but now, the aircraft is able to sense its place in space due to GPS technology.

There is no way to acquire more airspace, so we must come up with ways for airspace to be utilized effectively, and aircraft autonomy is helping us do that. Eventually, there will be so many aircraft that air traffic control towers will need to adapt and advance. The current system is not scalable, but if we can come up with a way to blend some of the disciplines together into a single technology, there could be a solution. 

The main challenge that we face with this drastic change in technology is how to keep it safe and secure. In the history of aircraft, planes started out carrying mail, then progressed to cargo, and finally to carrying passengers. In the next ten years, aircraft will continue to develop in a similar way. Whether it be ziplines carrying people and cargo across mountainous areas or something mirroring rockets, the ideas are going to have to go through trials and certifications in order to be able to integrate cargo and passenger travel. 

“...if you want to deliver something to Jonesboro, there’s just no good way to get there because it’s pretty rural…the ability to have an automated cargo route that would make the flight in an hour and a half and then turn and work it the other way. It starts to connect communities in a way that nobody really thought about.” - Dr. Richard Ham, (16:14)

The Scalability of Growth in Bentonville
Hosting the UP.Summit in Bentonville is an important opportunity because it attracts people from all over, allowing them to see the entrepreneurship that NWA has to offer. They see how much this area is developing, and they start to ask themselves if there's a space for them to build something here.

One of the things that people always seem to notice when they visit Bentonville is that this area prioritizes quality of life. It focuses on creating an environment where the next generation can raise kids and explore their interests, whatever they may be.

Although it’s amazing that more people want to move to NWA, there are two ways we need to be prepared. The first is having proper workforce development. The traditional way to develop a workforce is to graduate from high school, move away and obtain an education, then hopefully make your way back home. But, what’s developing now is that you don’t have to move away—you can get real-world experience and education here, and there will be job opportunities available afterward.

The second way to prepare is to make sure we develop our infrastructure along with the industry that is being developed. If people make flying cars, but there is no terrain to test them locally, then how can they keep developing flying cars? Overall, it’s not only locals who are excited about the industry and cultural growth in Bentonville. However, it’s important the community understands there needs to be scalability in order to keep attracting outside entrepreneurs.

“We’re gonna talk about where we are with our ability to accept manufacturing and workforce readiness…If you don’t have that foundation, you end up with a lot of voices, but there’s never a consolidated voice that people will look to when they are looking to come here.” - Dr. Richard Ham, (32:58)

Get Connected!
Thanks for tuning in to this episode of The Bentonville Beacon! Join us weekly for more stories from entrepreneurs and business leaders who are making a positive impact on Bentonville’s culture, community, and lifestyle. Don’t forget, Bentonville is a place where you can have more of what you want and less of what you don’t!

Floating Around Bentonville with Rob Mahler of Naz-T's FloaT Shop

August 8th, 2022

Summary
On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell was joined by Rob Mahler, founder and lead tech for Naz-T’s FloaT Shop, a local Onewheel rental and repair shop that specializes in repairing and customizing PEV vehicles. James and Rob talked about the vision, challenges, and future of building Naz-T’s FloaT Shop, the development of NWA, and the growth of Onewheels.
Thanks for tuning in!

Show Notes:

(1:11) Introducing Rob Mahler
(1:27) A Passion for Onewheels
(4:11) About Naz-T’s FloaT Shop
(7:18) The Growth of Onewheels
(9:22) About FloatLife Fest
(13:23) Challenges with Building Naz-T’s FloaT Shop
(15:55) Development in NWA over the Years
(22:08) Mountain Biking Capital of the World
(24:54) Future of Naz-T’s FloaT Shop
(34:59) Most Important Lesson Learned
(37:59) Closing Thoughts

Links
James Bell
Rob Mahler

Naz-T's FloaT Shop
FloatLife Fest

Quotes

“They say this is my stomping ground. I wanna show you around so you can connect with us at any time. If you come to town to rent one, they’ll link up with you and they’ll go ride with you. They just want to ride, so they’ll show you around town and the whole piece.” - Rob Mahler, (8:41)

“It started out of a need to do certain things, but then we needed to do certain things for others. So we get paid for a service then go buy some inventory that we might need. So the greatest challenge is keeping inventory on hand so that we can get it out to the customers fast.” - Rob Mahler, (13:28)

“...we’ve taken the time to really build toward quality of life and quality of place for the last 15 years, which really helped us out during the pandemic because we were positioned to take in all those people that wanted to leave places like San Francisco and said ‘I’m done and I’m not going back.’” - James Bell, (24:00)


Dreaming Big with Naz-T’s FloaT Shop
On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell was joined by Rob Mahler, founder and lead tech for Naz-T’s FloaT Shop, a local Onewheel rental and repair shop that specializes in repairing and customizing PEV vehicles. James and Rob talked about the vision, challenges, and future of building Naz-T’s FloaT Shop, the development of NWA, and the growth of Onewheels. 

About Naz-T’s FloaT Shop
At the moment, Naz-T’s FloaT Shop is focusing on rentals with their mission to get everyone on a Onewheel. Part of their strategy is to attend community events like First Friday to demo Onewheels and let people try them for free. Onewheels are a big conversation starter to begin with, and Rob loves being flagged down on the sidewalk or in a parking lot to be asked for a tutorial on how the Onewheel works and how to ride it. Along with rentals, Naz-T’s FloaT Shop also services Onewheels and provides a local option for Onewheel repair because most companies want you to send the Onewheel back to them for maintenance or fixing. As a result of this, the consumer is not able to get back on their Onewheel quickly.

Naz-T’s FloaT Shop offers services ranging from a tire repair to a battery change, and they are not limited to only Onewheels. Any personal electric vehicle (PEV), like e-bikes, can be brought into Naz-T’s FloaT Shop for repair or even customization. Since their start, Naz-T’s FloaT Shop has only become more and more available to the community and have been able to get customers excited about new things that are coming out. For their future plans, Naz-T’s FloaT Shop is dreaming big. Short term, they want to host their own festival, and in the long term, they would love to develop a Onewheel wonderland where people can come and train with their Onewheels on a variety of obstacles.

The Growth of Onewheels and Diversity in NWA
The sport of riding Onewheels is growing at an exponential rate, especially here in Arkansas due to the abundance of trails and their continued construction. True to Bentonville form, people are coming from all corners to ride the bike trails, and some people are looking to something a bit different and extreme while they’re here. NWA has become a mecca for all things that are on wheels that can be ridden on trails because of the vast amount of trails and the welcoming community that encourages anyone, no matter how experienced, to branch out and try the trails.

One factor that contributes to the growth of Onewheels in Bentonville, and the outdoor industry as a whole, is that the population—and diversity within the population—has exploded. There is so much natural and positive growth happening that isn’t forced, and it makes NWA the perfect environment for new ideas to be developed organically. Around 62% of people who reside in Bentonville alone were not born in the state of Arkansas. They have come here from all over and brought their cultures, ideas, and businesses here, which continues to foster a community that encourages innovation and inclusivity. With its mix of Fortune 500 companies and medium-to-small businesses, NWA is not only an ideal place to come to play, but an ideal place to live. It’s imperative that Bentonville keep up this spirit of prosperity because that’s how the area will stay competitive and continue to draw in people from all different places and walks of life.

“...we’ve taken the time to really build toward quality of life and quality of place for the last 15 years, which really helped us out during the pandemic because we were positioned to take in all those people that wanted to leave places like San Francisco and said ‘I’m done and I’m not going back.’” - James Bell, (24:00)

Get Connected!
Thanks for tuning in to this episode of The Bentonville Beacon! Join us weekly for more stories from entrepreneurs and business leaders who are making a positive impact on Bentonville’s culture, community, and lifestyle. Don’t forget, Bentonville is a place where you can have more of what you want and less of what you don’t!

Delivering Bikes Across Northwest Arkansas with Encore Bike Rentals

August 1st, 2022

Summary
On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell was joined by Morgan and Tyler Baumgardner, a husband and wife duo who recently launched Encore Bike Rentals, a service that meets you where you are with the bikes you need. James, Morgan, and Tyler talked about how they ended up in Bentonville, Encore Bike Rentals, and how everyone in Bentonville can benefit!
Thanks for turning in!

Show Notes:

(1:33) Introducing Morgan and Tyler
(2:41) All about Encore Bike Rentals
(9:22) How the Baumgardners Came to Bentonville
(19:44) The Baumgardners’ GORP Experience
(26:53) Morgan’s and Tyler’s Favorite Trails
(31:42) How Companies Should Be Capitalizing on Bentonville
(40:45) What’s Next for Encore Bike Rentals
(45:00) Because Bentonville 
(49:26) Morgan’s and Tyler’s Favorite Lesson Learned This Year

Links
James Bell
Morgan Baumgardner
Tyler Baumgardner
Encore Bike Rentals

Quotes

“What we’re trying to do with Encore is capture our experience the first time riding here, simple as that. I want people to rent from us and be able to go out on a bike that’s set up for them, that feels good for them, and will take them where they need to go on these trails and have that spark that we felt when we first rode here.” Tyler Baumgardner, (13:43)

“We just kept coming back to ‘experience.’ We want the experience to be wonderful for cycling and biking and mountain biking, all of it in Northwest Arkansas.” Morgan Baumgardner, (25:33)

“Part of the reason I think these trails are here is talent attraction in some aspects. Because people that have options with their career, they look at where they’re living and their quality of life and they’re like, ‘Hey, I really like mountain biking. I don’t really want to have a job in a place that doesn’t have it [or other outdoor activities].’ You can kind of name one besides snow sports and we’re good to go—we have pretty much everything.” Tyler, Baumgardner (32:57)


Delivering Bikes Across Northwest Arkansas with Encore Bike Rentals
On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell was joined by Morgan and Tyler Baumgardner, a husband and wife duo who recently launched Encore Bike Rentals, a service that meets you where you are with the bikes you need. James, Morgan, and Tyler talked about how they ended up in Bentonville, Encore Bike Rentals, and how everyone in Bentonville can benefit!

Encore Bike Rentals
“What we’re trying to do with Encore is capture our experience the first time riding here, simple as that. I want people to rent from us and be able to go out on a bike that’s set up for them, that feels good for them, and will take them where they need to go on these trails and have that spark that we felt when we first rode here.” Tyler Baumgardner, (13:43)

It is clear that the Baumgardners care so much about the overall feel that their clients get from their services. The emotions that come with riding a bike, the closeness to the community, and the relationships formed with the outdoor community, all encompass the experience Tyler and Morgan hope their customers gain when working with them. As people who are not native to Arkansas, the magic that this place brings forth to attract them and so many enthusiasts is something they want to pass on to everyone around them.

“We just kept coming back to ‘experience.’ We want the experience to be wonderful for cycling and biking and mountain biking, all of it in Northwest Arkansas.” Morgan Baumgardner, (25:33)

Previously full-time RV-living travelers, Tyler and Morgan could have chosen anywhere to settle and put down roots, but when Bentonville crossed their radar as the place to visit for mountain biking athletes, they had to check it out. Brought together by a mutual love of outdoor sports in the first place, they knew that their decision to settle would be based on their shared passion. It is this drive to bring new and exciting things to Northwest Arkansas, paired with the desire to pour right back into the community that makes entrepreneurs successful in Bentonville.

Why Bentonville?
The Baumgardners credit the GORP Program with much of their success in building Encore Bike Rentals, and this program is no new concept to The Bentonville Beacon. With all of the talent and innovation coming to Northwest Arkansas, it is important to the leaders in the community to equip these new movers and shakers with everything they need to be successful. GORP encourages all of their participants to think big and aim to grow beyond just their initial product or service idea, especially when it will promote more growth and quality of life for those who live here.

“Part of the reason I think these trails are here is talent attraction in some aspects. Because people that have options with their career, they look at where they’re living and their quality of life and they’re like, ‘Hey, I really like mountain biking. I don’t really want to have a job in a place that doesn’t have it [or other outdoor activities].’ You can kind of name one besides snow sports and we’re good to go—we have pretty much everything.” Tyler, Baumgardner (32:57)

While initially impressed with the outdoor activity opportunities in Bentonville, Tyler and Morgan stayed because of the community and the opportunity to build a life here. It is always a joy to see small businesses create opportunities to enjoy amazing quality of life for the employees of the Fortune 500 company that laid the groundwork for the small businesses to thrive. It is this kind of symbiotic relationship that makes Bentonville the best place in the world to live.

Get Connected!
Thanks for tuning in to this episode of The Bentonville Beacon! Join us weekly for more stories from entrepreneurs and business leaders who are making a positive impact on Bentonville’s culture, community, and lifestyle. Don’t forget, Bentonville is a place where you can have more of what you want and less of what you don’t!

Bonus Episode | Boosting Your Mountain Biking Skills with Rich Drew and The Ride Series

July 29th, 2022

Summary
On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell sat down with Rich Drew, professional mountain biker and YouTuber, and founder of The Ride Series, a service to teach mountain biking skills for athletes of all skill levels. James and Rich had the opportunity to talk about all things mountain biking, pouring into the community, and of course, Bentonville.
Thanks for joining us!

Show Notes:
(1:45) Introducing Rich Drew
(4:45) How Rich Ended Up in Bentonville
(6:59) Rich’s Ride Series
(18:55) Mountain Biking and the Brain
(34:00) Nutrition and Riding 
(41:04) Rich’s Favorite Trails(
47:55) How Cycling Companies Should Be Taking Advantage of Bentonville
(57:13) What’s Next for Rich and The Ride Series
(1:04:55) Rich’s Favorite Lesson Learned This Year
(1:09:00) Because Bentonville 

Links
James Bell
Rich Drew
The Ride Series
Rich Drew Youtube

Quotes

“The success of our YouTube channel for me doesn’t come from views or subscribers, it comes from the feedback, the comments, some of the relationships we have built through that. It’s exciting because I’ve been able to try to stay true to what we wanted in the beginning, and that was making things that were positive, things that were educational, things that were entertaining, and something that I would always be ok with my son watching.” Rich Drew, (14:40)

“The idea is we want to remove all the impediments. We want you to just be able to focus on the technique. If you can focus on the technique, you can have time under task. You can be doing it right. And then you can go to the trail and potentially do it right. So…should you just go ride? You should, but you should just go ride doing things properly.” Rich Drew (20:19)

“When you come here you realize the vast majority of mountain bike riders, they don’t want to ride mountains. They want to ride trails that are accessible, that aren’t dangerous, but that are exciting for them and their level. They want to do it in the vicinity of amenities that are world-class and abundant. And nowhere in the world does it like this place.” Rich Drew (50:01)

“When I’ve had the opportunity to have conversations with those business leaders, all I’ve said to them is ‘do something that makes an impact.’ If you come in and your efforts are to make a positive impact on the community, I think everything else will take care of itself because people here can see through that.” Rich Drew, (51:32)

“All I did was highlight what so many amazing people have poured into. The amount of people that have put effort into making this place what it is, to be able to showcase that, and have people [and their] kids see it and come here, that’s just a true honor, and it’s a responsibility that I relish.” Rich Drew, (1:10:43)


Boosting Your Mountain Biking Skills with Rich Drew and The Ride Series
On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell sat down with Rich Drew, professional mountain biker and YouTuber, and founder of The Ride Series, a service to teach mountain biking skills for athletes of all skill levels. James and Rich had the opportunity to talk about all things mountain biking, pouring into the community, and of course, Bentonville.

Rich Drew and The Ride Series
“The success of our YouTube channel for me doesn’t come from views or subscribers, it comes from the feedback, the comments, some of the relationships we have built through that. It’s exciting because I’ve been able to try to stay true to what we wanted in the beginning, and that was making things that were positive, things that were educational, things that were entertaining, and something that I would always be ok with my son watching.” Rich Drew, (14:40)

Rich Drew has been on two wheels practically since he could walk. He used the skills he built, along with his affinity for keeping physically fit, to build a YouTube empire and turn his passion into his profession. What sets him apart from the rest is his drive to stick to what matters most to him and let go of the rest. Not letting his true passions be drowned out by the noise of trends, ads, and follower count is what Drew claims as his key to success.

“The idea is we want to remove all the impediments. We want you to just be able to focus on the technique. If you can focus on the technique, you can have time under task. You can be doing it right. And then you can go to the trail and potentially do it right. So…should you just go ride? You should, but you should just go ride doing things properly.” Rich Drew (20:19)

Rich’s passion in everything he does is all working toward the goal of teaching others to enjoy mountain biking, and to be able to do that for a long time. As he says, he wants to be out riding with his son well into retirement age, and making sure his form and fitness are in check will help him achieve that. It is this mindset that he passes onto all of his students and viewers. Handing them this confidence on a bike is his “why,” and his thousands of supporters are better for it.

Why Bentonville?
“When you come here you realize the vast majority of mountain bike riders, they don’t want to ride mountains. They want to ride trails that are accessible, that aren’t dangerous, but that are exciting for them and their level. They want to do it in the vicinity of amenities that are world-class and abundant. And nowhere in the world does it like this place.” Rich Drew (50:01)

As someone who is not an NWA native and came here by choice, Rich is all too familiar with what drives people to say ‘yes’ to Bentonville. He has a passion for introducing people to the area and showing them not only the incredible outdoor opportunities here in the Mountain Biking Capital of the World, but the arts, culinary, and cultural attractions as well. He has a particular knack for convincing doubters in the biking space to bet on Bentonville.

“When I’ve had the opportunity to have conversations with those business leaders, all I’ve said to them is ‘do something that makes an impact.’ If you come in and your efforts are to make a positive impact on the community, I think everything else will take care of itself because people here can see through that.” Rich Drew, (51:32)

When Drew came to Northwest Arkansas, his goal was simply to pour everything he had into his new community. Investing in Bentonville is something that has always impressed him about the local Fortune 500s, and it is a quality he has already replicated with his platform and business. When speaking to anyone hoping to be successful here, he instills in them an importance to not just fake their involvement to garnish sales, but to actually acclimate and dive into everything going on in Bentonville.

“All I did was highlight what so many amazing people have poured into. The amount of people that have put effort into making this place what it is, to be able to showcase that, and have people [and their] kids see it and come here, that’s just a true honor, and it’s a responsibility that I relish.” Rich Drew, (1:10:43)


Get Connected!
Thanks for tuning in to this episode of The Bentonville Beacon! Join us weekly for more stories from entrepreneurs and business leaders who are making a positive impact on Bentonville’s culture, community, and lifestyle. Don’t forget, Bentonville is a place where you can have more of what you want and less of what you don’t!

Leveling Up Delivery in Northwest Arkansas with DroneUp

July 25th, 2022

Summary
On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell showcased the founders and leaders of DroneUp, a company that provides flexible flight services and works with many power players in retail, medical, and other important areas. Tom Walker, DroneUp’s CEO served in the Navy and was a White House Advisor in technological areas of expertise, along with serving as the president of Web-Tex prior to forming DroneUp. His partner, John Vernon, serves as DroneUp’s CTO following serving on multiple boards in the areas of aviation and technology, as well as working as the COO of Web-Tex. James, Tom, and John discussed the future of drones, how they can help people and greatly improve the quality of life, and the benefits of working with business giants in Bentonville.
Thanks for tuning in!

Show Notes:
(2:47) Introducing John Walker and Tom Vernon
(4:39) Learning about DroneUp and What They Do 
(6:04) What Challenges DroneUp Has Faced to Get Where They Are Today
(9:17) The Benefits and Practicality of Drones
(15:01) All about the Safety Measures and Best Practices of Drones 
(31:09) What Made NWA Ideal to Build DroneUp
(35:53) What’s to Come for DroneUp
(48:58) Because Bentonville(
55:06) Tom’s and John’s’ Favorite Lessons Learned This Year and Closing Thoughts

Links
James Bell
Tom Walker
John Vernon
DroneUp

Quotes
“[NWA] gave us a huge opportunity to expand, very much a crawl-walk-run approach to how we were going to move this. And to learn all of the lessons, not just about the drone, those are the things we kind of knew…You can build all of these amazing technologies and apps, but like any other agile and innovative company, all of the lessons you learn actually happen when you start doing it.” John Vernon, (31:27)

“Our culture really aligns well with Walmart’s. Ours is about doing it safely and then growing it appropriately…By being associated with Walmart, I don’t think we were looked at as sort of this rogue drone company that’s going to start flying all over, but we were partnered with Walmart and therefore we were expected to behave like Walmart, and just by virtue of our culture and how we operated, we did.” Tom Walker, (32:48)

“Make no mistake about it…Northwest Arkansas is very very innovative. It’s interesting because in some ways it still has the laid back feel of the parts of Arkansas that I used to really like; it wasn’t a super fast-pace; it didn’t feel that way. But if you look at the innovation that’s going on around here…It’s almost like this subtle underground community of hyper-innovation that’s super impressive for the area.” Tom Walker, (34:33)

“I think that sense of accomplishment overcomes the fear, uncertainty, or doubt of what’s going to be next. Focusing whatever you can do to be the best that you can be in the moment that you’re in has really been an enriching experience for everybody involved, and I think in emerging industries, it’s another drawing factor that brings people in and helps people feel like they’re a part of something that’s more than just a day-to-day job.” John Vernon, (52:15)

“Keep humble. I wouldn’t say ‘Be humble,’ it’s ‘Keep humble.’ We’ve come a long way but we’ve got a long way to go…I think more than anything, especially with the growth that we’ve experienced over the last year, it’s very easy to get caught up in the big number that you see around growth and people count, but its also very humbling.” John Vernon, (55:06)


Leveling Up Delivery in Northwest Arkansas with DroneUp
On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell showcased the founders and leaders of DroneUp, a company that provides flexible flight services and works with many power players in retail, medical, and other important areas. Tom Walker, DroneUp’s CEO served in the Navy and was a White House Advisor in technological areas of expertise, along with serving as the president of Web-Tex prior to forming DroneUp. His partner, John Vernon, serves as DroneUp’s CTO following serving on multiple boards in the areas of aviation and technology, as well as working as the COO of Web-Tex. James, Tom, and John discussed the future of drones, how they can help people and greatly improve the quality of life, and the benefits of working with business giants in Bentonville.

DroneUp!
“[NWA] gave us a huge opportunity to expand, very much a crawl-walk-run approach to how we were going to move this. And to learn all of the lessons, not just about the drone, those are the things we kind of knew…You can build all of these amazing technologies and apps, but like any other agile and innovative company, all of the lessons you learn actually happen when you start doing it.” John Vernon, (31:27)

DroneUp is another example of a company whose idea was born outside of the area, but has found its home and success in Bentonville. Like many businesses, DroneUp has discovered that its success came from the structure within the company as much or more as the connections on the outside. The founders, Tom Walker and John Vernon echo countless leaders before them who realized that doing their craft is almost the easy part—the learning curve comes when they have to build a real business around that craft and curate a company culture that matters.

“I think that sense of accomplishment overcomes the fear, uncertainty, or doubt of what’s going to be next. Focusing whatever you can do to be the best that you can be in the moment that you’re in has really been an enriching experience for everybody involved, and I think in emerging industries, it’s another drawing factor that brings people in and helps people feel like they’re a part of something that’s more than just a day-to-day job.” John Vernon, (52:15) 

John and Tom expressed that when running a tech startup, it is difficult to plan business moves five years ahead in such a rapidly-changing field. However, the parts that are important to prepare for and focus on are the ones that keep the public safe and the team engaged. They love providing something in drone services that will help shape the future, but staying in the present is what keeps their company alive and thriving.

“Keep Humble. I wouldn’t say ‘Be humble,’ it’s ‘Keep humble.’ We’ve come a long way but we’ve got a long way to go…I think more than anything, especially with the growth that we’ve experienced over the last year, it’s very  easy to get caught up in the big number that you see around growth and people count, but its also very humbling ” John Vernon (55:06)

Why Bentonville?
“Our culture really aligns well with Walmart’s. Ours is about doing it safely and then growing it appropriately…By being associated with Walmart, I don’t think we were looked at as sort of this rogue drone company that’s going to start flying all over, but we were partnered with Walmart and therefore we were expected to behave like Walmart, and just by virtue of our culture and how we operated, we did.” Tom Walker, (32:48)

When speaking to employees moving to Bentonville to get a quick leg-up on the DroneUp ladder before moving back to their home city, Tom found many of them instead wanted to stay and build their lives and careers here. Walmart sets the stage really well for how to do business and more importantly, how to pour into the community and the people that make the business possible. Everyone in Bentonville benefits because this business model attracts other companies like it to the area until the entire city is full of people wholeheartedly invested in where they live.

Make no mistake about it…Northwest Arkansas is very very innovative. It’s interesting because in some ways it still has the laid back feel of the parts of Arkansas that I used to really like; it wasn’t a super fast-pace; it didn’t feel that way. But if you look at the innovation that’s going on around here…It’s almost like this subtle underground community of hyper-innovation that’s super impressive for the area.” Tom Walker, (34:33)

John joked that NWA is the Ozarks Silicon Valley, which is interesting because the area is known for its innovative nature, always pushing the boundaries and looking forward. But what’s missing about that Silicon Valley feel is how nice, helpful, and genuinely happy the people in Bentonville tend to be. It is what makes this area so ripe for new things.

Get Connected!
Thanks for tuning in to this episode of The Bentonville Beacon! Join us weekly for more stories from entrepreneurs and business leaders who are making a positive impact on Bentonville’s culture, community, and lifestyle. Don’t forget, Bentonville is a place where you can have more of what you want and less of what you don’t!

Exploring the Future of Mobility with Cyrus Sigari

July 18th, 2022
July 18th, 2022

Summary
On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell had the opportunity to introduce listeners to Cyrus Sigari, a man who wears many hats in the arena of the show’s second season topic: Mobility. Cyrus is an aviator, entrepreneur, and investor, as well as the cofounder and managing partner of Up Partners, serves as the chairman of The Future Mobility Council in Arkansas, and sits on the board of Game Composites. James and Cyrus took a deep dive into the future of mobility and Bentonville’s unique role in building it.

Thanks for joining us!

Show Notes:
(2:07) Introducing Cyrus Sigari
(3:35) Deep Dive into Up Partners and Everything They Do
(18:21) All about Flying Cars
(24:40) Future Mobility Council of Arkansas
(32:59) Arkansas as a Major Player in the Future of Mobility
(42:37) Because Bentonville
(46:05) Cyrus’ Favorite Lesson Learned this Year and Closing Thoughts

Links
James Bell
Cyrus Sigari
Up Partners
Future Mobility Council of Arkansas
Game Composites
Fly Oz

Quotes
“We believe that we’re at this really unique point of the existence of humanity where mobility is changing very rapidly and in such a way that it can really increase the quality of life for humanity.” Cyrus Sigari (3:59)

“[We ask the question] ‘Is it needed? Is this something that’s going to make the world a better place?’ I’m not interested in investing in another social media company or something else that’s just trying to steal peoples’ eyeballs to try and sell them something. Deeply in our hearts, we want to be supporting entrepreneurs and companies that are creating technologies that are increasing the quality of life for humanity.” Cyrus Sigari, (11:22)

“Mobility, and in particular aeromobility, makes the world a lot smaller. It brings people together and it makes borders disappear.” Cyrus Sigari, (21:47)

“[We need to move in the] right direction when it comes to educating our children around things that really matter, [like not] telling them to go sell stuff instead of go build stuff and create a future that’s worth getting up and excited about. That’s pretty darn important, and I’m really excited to see the outcome of that set of initiatives.” Cyrus Sigari, (30:20) 

“Silicon Valley is no longer a place, it’s a headset around innovation and disrupting what was in the past for a greater future. It’s no longer a thing that is completely monopolized by the coasts anymore. The heartland is really getting the opportunity to be a home for innovation and technology and support humanity in a very different way.” Cyrus Sigari (33:59)


Exploring the Future of Mobility with Cyrus Sigari
On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell had the opportunity to introduce listeners to Cyrus Sigari, a man who wears many hats in the arena of the show’s second season topic: Mobility. Cyrus is an aviator, entrepreneur, and investor, as well as the cofounder and managing partner of Up Partners, serves as chairman of The Future Mobility Council in Arkansas, and sits on the board of Game Composites. James and Cyrus discussed the future of mobility and Bentonville’s unique role in building it.

Cyrus Sigari, Up Partners, and the Future Mobility Council
“[We ask the question] ‘Is it needed? Is this something that’s going to make the world a better place?’ I’m not interested in investing in another social media company or something else that’s just trying to steal peoples’ eyeballs to try and sell them something. Deeply in our hearts, we want to be supporting entrepreneurs and companies that are creating technologies that are increasing the quality of life for humanity.” Cyrus Sigari, (11:22)

Cyrus Sigari is a man who focuses on his “why” in every step he takes. He co-founded his company with a mission to be early stage investors in companies who are creating ways to move people and goods in cleaner, safer, faster, and cheaper ways. Many who enter into the VC world struggle to stick with their “why” and not simply follow the money, but Cyrus and his partners continue to shake things up with their investment choices.

“[We need to move in the] right direction when it comes to educating our children around things that really matter, [like not] telling them to go sell stuff instead of go build stuff and create a future that’s worth getting up and excited about. That’s pretty darn important, and I’m really excited to see the outcome of that set of initiatives.” Cyrus Sigari, (30:20)

Part of making the world a better place is investing in the innovators of the future. Cyrus impresses the importance of putting the right tools into the hands of the next generation and prioritizing what is dragging humanity down less. As a kid who wanted to be an astronaut and went on to become one of the youngest pilots in the country, he knows that his dream of seeing a world with better access to mobility that tears down borders only comes by equipping people to build it.

“Mobility and in particular aeromobility makes the world a lot smaller. It brings people together and it makes borders disappear.” Cyrus Sigari, (21:47)


Why Bentonville?
“We believe that we’re at this really unique point of the existence of humanity where mobility is changing very rapidly and in such a way that it can really increase the quality of life for humanity.” Cyrus Sigari (3:59)

Cyrus praises Arkansas’ commitment to keeping up with the future of mobility and how people live and grow using it. In Bentonville and Northwest Arkansas in particular, companies like Walmart, JB Hunt, and Tyson are already power players in the world of transportation and continue to push the industry forward. The leaders in states, cities, and regions constantly have a choice of whether to maintain what is or take the (sometimes terrifying) leap into the future, and Arkansas just keeps jumping.

“Silicon Valley is no longer a place, it’s a headset around innovation and disrupting what was in the past for a greater future. It’s no longer a thing that is completely monopolized by the coasts anymore. The heartland is really getting the opportunity to be a home for innovation and technology and support humanity in a very different way.” Cyrus Sigari (33:59)

It is noted that Northwest Arkansas moves more things than any other region of the world, and as Cyrus points out, innovation in moving things comes before innovation in moving people, so Northwest Arkansas and Bentonville in particular are at a unique advantage to set the bar for the rest of the world. Never before has the heartland been at such an advantage, and Bentonville is up the challenge of having the world watch it grow.

Get Connected!
Thanks for tuning in to this episode of The Bentonville Beacon! Join us weekly for more stories from entrepreneurs and business leaders who are making a positive impact on Bentonville’s culture, community, and lifestyle. Don’t forget, Bentonville is a place where you can have more of what you want and less of what you don’t!

Preparing for the Northwest Arkansas Technology Summit with Kris Adams

July 11th, 2022

Summary
On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell sat down with his friend and colleague, Kris Adams. Kris is the director of the Northwest Arkansas Technology Summit, a job for which he is clearly passionate. James and Kris discussed their love of Bentonville, what makes a non-Arkansas native like Kris stick around, and of course, the upcoming Northwest Arkansas Technology Summit. Thank you for tuning in!

Show Notes:
(1:24) Introducing Kris Adams
(2:07) Kris’ Passion for Technology and His Role in It
(3:01) All about the NWA Technology Summit
(13:32) Pitch Competition Information
(20:48) Kris’ Journey to the Summit
(25:16) Because Bentonville
(32:02) How to Sign Up for the NWA Technology Summit
(33:30) Superpowers and Closing Thoughts

Links
James Bell
Kris Adams
NWA Tech Summit

Quotes
“[The NWA Tech Summit] is the premier technology conference here in the heartlands. And we believe that because of our size, pulling in about 1,400 in-person participants in 2019, and then over the last couple of years virtually, about 1,200, that size alone makes us unparalleled in the region for technology conferences.” Kris Adams (3:04)

“If you have a cool toy to bring with you, bring it and show it off. Because now that we’re back in person, we’re not stuck in the confines of being behind a screen for a virtual event. If you have something flashy and exciting and fun that you  can show us, that we can touch and see, that’s what we want to have at the Tech Summit this year.” Kris Adams, (19:35)

This is the way I [can] have my cake and eat it too. I could get to play with all of this fun tech, and then use it as a way to continue to help make Bentonville and the surrounding area better.” Kris Adams, (22:00)

“You know, when you move somewhere, you move with some hopes and expectations for what the local area will be like. We knew what we had seen on paper and what we’d seen on a screen, and then to really come and experience it in person, it just blew away even our wildest expectations.” Kris Adams, (24:05)

Preparing for the Northwest Arkansas Technology Summit with Kris Adams
On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell sat down with his friend and colleague, Kris Adams. Kris is the director of the Northwest Arkansas Technology Summit, a job for which he is clearly passionate. James and Kris discussed their love of Bentonville, what makes a non-Arkansas native like Kris stick around, and of course, the upcoming Northwest Arkansas Technology Summit.

NWA Tech Summit
“[The NWA Tech Summit] is the premier technology conference here in the heartlands. And we believe that because of our size, pulling in about 1,400 in-person participants in 2019, and then over the last couple of years virtually, about 1,200, that size alone makes us unparalleled in the region for technology conferences.” Kris Adams (3:04)COVID-19 changed everything during the height of its power in 2020 and 2021, and one of the casualties has definitely been the conference circuit. Many organizations attempted virtual options for their gatherings, but it wasn’t always with the desired result. The NWA Tech Summit, however, held its numbers nearly to the line, which shows how needed a conference like this is, and how much the business community thrives because of it.“If you have a cool toy to bring with you, bring it and show it off. Because now that we’re back in person, we’re not stuck in the confines of being behind a screen for a virtual event. If you have something flashy and exciting and fun that you  can show us, that we can touch and see, that’s what we want to have at the Tech Summit this year.” Kris Adams, (19:35)With backers like Walmart, Tyson, and JB Hunt, the summit is poised to be incredible, and Kris is inviting all the movers and shakers in the area to join in the fun. There are five track options to be a part of this year, including Mobility and Supply Chain, Cyber Security, Health and Wellness, Web3, and Entrepreneurship (including a pitch competition!), and Kris wants all of them to be jam-packed with the coolest things to see and experience. There is still space for vendors and booths, and the world wants to see what Bentonville's innovators have to offer. 

Why Bentonville?
This is the way I [can] have my cake and eat it too. I could get to play with all of this fun tech, and then use it as a way to continue to help make Bentonville and the surrounding area better.” Kris Adams, (22:00)With a background in faith-based and nonprofit work, and not being an Arkansas native, Kris may seem like an interesting choice as a champion for the technology scene in Northwest Arkansas. However, it is actually because of his experience in coming to Bentonville that he is the perfect person to be the self-proclaimed “ringleader” of the NWA Tech Summit. He has enjoyed combining his two loves of making Bentonville an amazing place to live and work and truly helping people through his nonprofit expertise. Kris and his team love what Bentonville has to offer so much that they are including a tour of the area in the conference experience for the NWA Tech Summit. While lamenting that often when attending a conference, one doesn’t get to actually experience the hosting city, they decided that they would spread the “unconventional convention” out across the downtown Bentonville area so that attendees will have the opportunity to sightsee and explore as a part of their Summit experience. This years’ theme is “Fast Forward,” as a nod to the catching-up that businesses are having to do as the world comes out of the pandemic. Kris sees this wonderful area around him helping each other and bringing each other up as they strive to live and work at a sped-up pace, and he wants the summit to be part of the solution. Bentonville residents’ willingness to help each other live and thrive is what inspires Kris to do this, and he hopes these values will be evident and be shared by everyone who attends the NWA Tech Summit as well.“You know, when you move somewhere, you move with some hopes and expectations for what the local area will be like. We knew what we had seen on paper and what we’d seen on a screen, and then to really come and experience it in person, it just blew away even our wildest expectations.” Kris Adams, (24:05)

 Attend the NWA Technology Summit this Year!
This year, the Northwest Arkansas Tech Summit will be returning for an exciting in-person event all across Downtown Bentonville October 16-18, 2022. The event will focus on technological advancements in five different tracks: Mobility & Supply Chain, Health & Wellness, Entrepreneurship, Cybersecurity, and Web3. Click here to register today! We hope to see you there!

Get Connected!
Thanks for tuning in to this episode of The Bentonville Beacon! Join us weekly for more stories from entrepreneurs and business leaders who are making a positive impact on Bentonville’s culture, community, and lifestyle. Don’t forget, Bentonville is a place where you can have more of what you want and less of what you don’t!

How Northwest Arkansas is Revolutionizing the Rock Climbing World | Pedro Somarriba of Lacaida Ropes

July 1st, 2022

Summary
On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell sat down with founder and CEO of Lacaida Ropes, Pedro Somarriba. Pedro and his new company are the first of its kind in the state, and The Bentonville Beacon got the scoop on everything they have planned for the outdoor community here in Arkansas. James and Pedro talked all about the Lacaida Ropes company launch, the products they are kicking off, and all that they have planned for the future of their company and for this climbing community in Bentonville.Thanks for joining us!

Show Notes:
(1:12) Introducing Pedro Somarriba
(2:21) Pedro’s Passion for Climbing
(7:42) The Climbing Scene in Arkansas
(12:14) Introducing Lacaida Ropes
(17:02) Lacaida Ropes Product Launch Announcement
(18:10) All about Tarps and Their Upcoming Interform Collaboration
(22:02) Plug for GORP: Greenhouse Outdoor Recreation Program
(23:31) Pedro’s #BecauseBentonville Moment
(29:16) Superpowers and Closing Thoughts

Links
James Bell
Pedro Somarriba
Lacaida Ropes
Arkansas Climbing Coalition
GORP

QUOTES
“You have organizations like the Arkansas Climbers Coalition, so the development, adding new routes, making routes safer by rebolting and putting up new cleaner, more safe hardware attracts more people to the state, people come to the state and see what it has to offer in terms of climbing, and ideally they spend dollars here.” Pedro Somarriba, (10:27)

“[We’re] making a life-saving device here. This is something that people will trust their lives with. [we] need to lean into that. How do you make a lifesaving device safer and not just more aesthetically pleasing by putting cool designs on it? So that’s why we leaned into the metered ropes.” Pedro Somarriba, (13:12)

“These outdoor rock climbing routes are within a 15 minutes drive of downtown Bentonville. The accessibility is a game-changer.” Pedro Somarriba, (23:47) 

“We realized that the same trail we hiked in on is a mountain biking trail. So [we] have mountain bikers zooming past the rocks that we’re climbing on. Where else are you going to find that, like back-to-back rock climbers and mountain bikers using the same natural resources and just enjoying the outdoors?” Pedro Somarriba (24:38)


How Northwest Arkansas is Revolutionizing the Rock Climbing World
On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell sat down with founder and CEO of Lacaida Ropes, Pedro Somarriba. Pedro and his new company are the first of its kind in the state, and The Bentonville Beacon got the scoop on everything they have planned for the outdoor community here in Arkansas. James and Pedro talked all about the Lacaida Ropes company launch, the products they are kicking off, and all that they have planned for the future of their company and for this climbing community in Bentonville.
Lacaida Ropes
Pedro Somarriba is passionate about climbing and he’s passionate about Arkansas. Being a first-generation American, he has taken his education and career around the world and back and is ready to use his experience to launch something that will improve his craft and promote the Natural State’s most powerful resource: its great outdoors. As the first rock-climbing manufacturer in Arkansas, Lacaida Ropes is hoping to set the stage for more entrepreneurs who love the craft to follow suit.
“You have organizations like the Arkansas Climbers Coalition, so the development, adding new routes, making routes safer by rebolting and putting up new cleaner, more safe hardware attracts more people to the state, people come to the state and see what it has to offer in terms of climbing, and ideally they spend dollars here.” Pedro Somarriba, (10:27)
Pedro and Lacaida Ropes is donating a portion of their profits to organizations like the ACC which promote updated integrations to this life-giving pastime to ensure that everyone can enjoy it safely and in a way that protects the earth. It is because of efforts like this that Lacaida is  paving the way for a new innovation to climbing ropes where the rope’s meter markers are printed directly on it so climbers can better see them and more safely plan their climb.
[We’re] making a life-saving device here. This is something that people will trust their lives with. [we] need to lean into that. How do you make a lifesaving device safer and not just more aesthetically pleasing by putting cool designs on it? So that’s why we leaned into the metered ropes.” Pedro Somarriba, (13:12)
Why Bentonville?
Bentonville takes pride in its title of Mountain Biking Capital of the World, and so do its mountain bikers. What The Bentonville Beacon has come to see time and time again is how much potential this title opens up for other outdoor pastimes. Over this season, kayakers, swimmers, and even unicyclists have expressed their desire for Bentonville to be the next hull for their beloved outdoor craft. Now, mountain climbers are joining the club, and for good reason.
These outdoor rock climbing routes are within a 15 minutes drive of downtown Bentonville. The accessibility is a game-changer.” Pedro Somarriba, (23:47) 
We realized that the same trail we hiked in on is a mountain biking trail. So [we] have mountain bikers zooming past the rocks that we’re climbing on. Where else are you going to find that, like back-to-back rock climbers and mountain bikers using the same natural resources and just enjoying the outdoors?” Pedro Somarriba (24:38)
Another recurring theme is how accessible and friendly the area is to people of all backgrounds, interests, and skill-levels. It is easy to become convinced that not only are the natural resources ripe for enjoyment, accessibility, and opportunity, the community is here for it as well. No where else will one find such inclusive and encouraging athletes and hobbyists. Grab your Lacaida Ropes (available now!), join Pedro, and get out there and get climbing!
 Get Connected!
Thanks for tuning in to this episode of The Bentonville Beacon! Join us weekly for more stories from entrepreneurs and business leaders who are making a positive impact on Bentonville’s culture, community, and lifestyle. Don’t forget, Bentonville is a place where you can have more of what you want and less of what you don’t!

Paddling through Northwest Arkansas with Scott Holley of Eddyline Kayaks

June 27th, 2022

Summary
On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell had the opportunity to chat with Scott Holley, the president and co-owner of Eddyline Kayaks. Scott brings a unique perspective and opportunity to Bentonville and he is excited to share it with Bentonville Beacon listeners. James and Scott discussed the ins and outs of the kayak industry, as well as Eddyline’s mission to partner with its customers to protect the ability to enjoy the waters they depend on for their craft.Thanks for tuning in!

Show Notes:
(0:47) Introducing Scott Holley
(2:31) All about Entrepreneurship through Acquisition
(7:23) Deeper Look at Eddyline Kayaks
(9:20) Exploring the Technological Aspect of Making Kayaks
(17:15) Scott and Eddyline Kayaks’ Connection to Bentonville
(26:20) Scott’s Vision for Kayaking’s Impact on Northwest Arkansas
(28:34) Scott’s NWA Kayaking Bucket List
(39:23) How Bentonville Can Help
 (42:10) Superpowers and Closing Thoughts

Links
Ozark Kayak
Eddyline Kayaks
James Bell
Scott Holley

Quotes
“We are out there helping people to safely access healthy and clean waterways. So for us, the safety portion is really important. We use all of our products, and we make sure that we design all of our products for a comfortable, high performance experience on the water, but also with safety in mind.” Scott Holley, (7:23)

One of the things that we’ve seen, especially during Covid, is that consumers are looking to have a more direct relationship to the brand. So whereas before, a retailer would really push product out to consumers, consumers are now coming in armed with a lot of information, a lot of foreknowledge…We know that we need to maintain that relationship with the end user. ” Scott Holley, (23:58)

“What I would love to see if we fast-forward 5-10 years from now is that the development looks a lot like what we’ve seen [with] mountain bikes and biking in general, and I can’t think of a place anywhere that has really created that model better than Arkansas.” Scott Holley, (26:20)

 “If you have people who kayak, they’re going to be intimately aware of shoreline health…so it’s a little bit of a virtuous cycle, right? More people will kayak if you have healthy waterways, and then the more kayakers you have on healthy waterways, the more that they’re going to be invested in protecting and preserving those, and then creating new opportunities for access.” Scott Holley, (30:42)

Paddling through Northwest Arkansas with Scott Holley of Eddyline Kayaks
On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell had the opportunity to chat with Scott Holley, the president and co-owner of Eddyline Kayaks. Scott brings a unique perspective and opportunity Bentonville, and he is excited to share it with Bentonville Beacon listeners. James and Scott discussed the ins and outs of the kayak industry, as well as Eddyline’s mission to partner with its customers to protect the ability to enjoy the waters they depend on for their craft.

Eddyline Kayaks
“We are out there helping people to safely access healthy and clean waterways. So for us, the safety portion is really important. We use all of our products, and we make sure that we design all of our products for a comfortable, high performance experience on the water, but also with safety in mind.” Scott Holley, (7:23)
As Scott Holley describes the craft he has made his passion, it is easy to hear the aspects of it that are the most important to him. One of those is his commitment to excellence in Eddyline’s products. Eddyline had the pleasure of being crowned the number one touring kayak on paddling.com’s 2021 review, an award that is based solely on customer reviews for products. 

“If you have people who kayak, they’re going to be intimately aware of shoreline health…so it’s a little bit of a virtuous cycle, right? More people will kayak if you have healthy waterways, and then the more kayakers you have on healthy waterways, the more that they’re going to be invested in protecting and preserving those, and then creating new opportunities for access.” Scott Holley, (30:42)

Another important aspect of kayak-building is the environmental impact, both in the warehouse and after the final product is in consumer hands. Eddyline Kayaks was the first company to thermo-form a kayak, a process that leaves the builder with less waste and less of a footprint than using fiberglass or other more dated processes. Scott takes the health of waterways very seriously, and Eddyline sets an example for its customers in preserving the environment. 

Why Bentonville?

One of the things that we’ve seen, especially during Covid, is that  consumers are looking to have a more direct relationship to the brand. So whereas before, a retailer would really push product out to consumers, consumers are now coming in armed with a lot of information, a lot of foreknowledge…We know that we need to maintain that relationship with the end user. ” Scott Holley, (23:58)

Scott has a unique reason to love Bentonville and commit to its growth and success. Because of the business’s dedication to its customers and its desire to provide its products more quickly and without the transportation overhead that drives up prices, Eddyline sought out a location in the heartland to place a distribution center, and Bentonville has everything the business wanted for this branch of the company. Eddyline is hitting the ground running to connect with the area and find its place in Bentonville.

“What I would love to see if we fast-forward 5-10 years from now is that the development looks a lot like what we’ve seen [with] mountain bikes and biking in general, and I can’t think of a place anywhere that has really created that model better than Arkansas.” Scott Holley, (26:20)

No small part of Eddyline’s dive into Bentonville culture is outside of its master plan to make kayaking a powerplayer in the outdoor culture here. Scott expresses a desire to build new partnerships and connections here, including others in the business’s growth and asking for a seat at the table for the city’s. In Scott’s #BecauseBentonville moment, he describes sitting outside of Onyx Coffee Roaster in downtown Bentonville where person after person walked by and stopped to chat with him after only meeting him briefly prior to that. It is so fitting that the people of this city would accidentally drive home part of the very reason Eddyline chose Bentonville in the first place.

 Get Connected!
Thanks for tuning in to this episode of The Bentonville Beacon! Join us weekly for more stories from entrepreneurs and business leaders who are making a positive impact on Bentonville’s culture, community, and lifestyle. Don’t forget, Bentonville is a place where you can have more of what you want and less of what you don’t!

Swimming in the Land of OZ with Bonnie Adams of SWIM OZ

May 27th, 2022

Summary
On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell sat down with Bonnie Adams, founder and CEO of Swim OZ and Joys of Swimming. Bonnie is a former Razorback swimmer, and she continues to rank highly in the U.S. Masters Swimming Championships. James and Bonnie discussed why swimming is an integral part of fitness and recreation, as well as why it’s an important aspect of Bentonville’s outdoor lifestyle and business culture. Lastly, the pair explained how you can get involved with upcoming swim events in Northwest Arkansas!

Show Notes:
(0:53) Introducing Bonnie Adams
(7:25) Introduction to Swim OZ and Joys of Swimming
(12:35) Plugging the Upcoming Walmart OZ Mile Swim Race
(13:56) How to Prepare for an Open Water Swim
(20:25) The Importance of All-Over Fitness in Training
(27:15) Why Bentonville?
(30:47) How Everyone Can Capitalize on Bentonville Outdoors
(36:06) Bonnie’s #BecauseBentonville Story
(46:21) Superpowers and Closing Thoughts

Links
James Bell
Bonnie Adams
Swim OZ
Walmart OZ Mile Swim

Quotes
“It’s a wonderful thing to be able to learn to swim. It’s a life skill. I firmly believe that everyone should know how to swim.” Bonnie Adams, (8:02)

It’s 100% on all of it. It’s one thing to condition your body for swimming, or for running, [or] we’ve got a ton of cyclists in the area, so cycling...We want you to ride your bike. We want you to swim. We want you to run. But we want you to do other disciplines as well…It’s going to allow you to have a cross-benefit that you’re only going to get when you’re doing something else as well.” Bonnie Adams, (20:25)

“I went from being the big fish in a little pond [in other places in the US] to being the small fish in the ocean [in NWA]. And there’s so much of that, that translates into what Northwest Arkansas is, from not just a swimming standpoint, but from a recreational standpoint, from a business standpoint…The caliber of person that lives here, is moving here, is astounding.” Bonnie Adams, (25:24)

 “It’s moments where different parts [of Bentonville outdoor recreation] can intersect and expose you to seeing something for the first time in a different way that you kind of forget about unless you’re in this area.” Bonnie Adams, (39:30)

Swimming in the Land of OZ with Bonnie Adams of SWIM OZ
Bonnie Adams has a great number of titles, certifications, and trophies to her name, and she is proud to use those accolades not just to make a living, but to live out her passion for swimming and outdoor sports. As a lifelong swimmer, she firmly believes in passing on this evergreen pastime to future generations through her swim school, Joys of Swimming. More recently, she has been opening up opportunities for her students and fellow swimmers to compete and take their skills out of the aquatic classroom through her open water swim initiative, Swim OZ.
“It’s a wonderful thing to be able to learn to swim. It’s a life skill. I firmly believe that everyone should know how to swim.” Bonnie Adams, (8:02)
As a member of the first ever Bentonville High School State Championship-winning swim team, as well as a Division I swimmer, Bonnie is quite experienced at including multiple disciplines into fitness routines. This is why Bentonville’s outdoor recreational culture cannot be matched. It allows for every enthusiast to have easy access to outdoor sporting, as well as a welcoming environment to forge connections with other athletes along the way. 
It’s 100% on all of it. It’s one thing to condition your body for swimming, or for running, [or] we’ve got a ton of cyclists in the area, so cycling...We want you to ride your bike. We want you to swim. We want you to run. But we want you to do other disciplines as well…It’s going to allow you to have a cross-benefit that you’re only going to get when you’re doing something else as well.” Bonnie Adams, (20:25)

Why Bentonville?
“I went from being the big fish in a little pond [in other places in the US] to being the small fish in the ocean [in NWA]. And there’s so much of that, that translates into what Northwest Arkansas is, from not just a swimming standpoint, but from a recreational standpoint, from a business standpoint…The caliber of person that lives here, is moving here, is astounding.” Bonnie Adams, (25:24) 
The area has seen more and more Northwest Arkansas natives and college graduates choose to stick around instead of moving away, as the custom has been for many years. With the rapid growth in opportunities both in business and in lifestyle, many are joining Bonnie in moving back to Bentonville and taking advantage of all the area has to offer. Bonnie is also echoing the masses in begging that the area stay friendly and fun as it expands in size and opportunity.
 “It’s moments where different parts [of Bentonville outdoor recreation] can intersect and expose you to seeing something for the first time in a different way that you kind of forget about unless you’re in this area.” Bonnie Adams, (39:30)
As Bonnie prepares for the upcoming Walmart OZ Mile Swim in September, she is certainly  ready for expansion in the swim community, but also in the Bentonville outdoor recreational community as a whole. She is excited for everyone to get involved, and the Mile Swim is a great place to start by volunteering to kayak or paddle board and help keep swimmers safe, sharing about the event on social media, and most of all, to just come out and show support! Bentonville is eager to see businesses and athletes alike continue to capitalize on Bentonville so they can have their own #BecauseBentonville stories to share.
Get Connected!
Thanks for tuning in to this episode of The Bentonville Beacon! Join us weekly for more stories from entrepreneurs and business leaders who are making a positive impact on Bentonville’s culture, community, and lifestyle. Don’t forget, Bentonville is a place where you can have more of what you want and less of what you don’t!Are you interested in learning more about Bentonville and the growth of its outdoor recreation community?

Arkansas's Booming Outdoor Recreation Industry with Katherine Andrews

May 23rd, 2022
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Summary
The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell had the opportunity to sit down with Katherine Andrews, the director of the Office of Outdoor Recreation with the Department of Parks, Heritage, and Tourism. James and Katherine had a lot to talk about as they both have a background in economic development, a love for Arkansas outdoors, and of course, a drive to showcase Bentonville to the world. Thanks for joining us!

Show Notes:
(0:50) Introducing Katherine Andrews
(3:12) A History of the Office of Outdoor Recreation
(11:43) How Companies Today Are Choosing Locations for Their Businesses
(14:11) How Katherine’s Office Is Helping Businesses Say Yes to Arkansas
(18:05) Northwest Arkansas’s Competitive Advantages
(20:37) Why Bentonville?
(21:22) How Outdoor Companies Can Capitalize on Bentonville
(24:22) Katherine’s 5-Year Goals for the Office of Outdoor Recreation
(27:00) Superpowers and Closing Thoughts

Links
James Bell
Katherine Andrews

Quotes
“Arkansas’s outdoor recreation scene is unmatched. We are a state that prides ourselves on the abundant opportunities in our great outdoors. In the Natural State, we have over 100,000 miles of navigable streams and rivers, 600,000 acres of lakes, 5 world class Epic Rides mountain bike trails, thousands of miles of hiking trails, over 3.2 million acres of public land, America’s first National River, the Buffalo National River…America’s first Reserve National Park, which is Hot Springs National Park…the highest waterfall between the Rockies and the Appalations, big game hunting…and on and on.” Katherine Andrews, (5:43)

One of the hardest challenges for recruiting companies [is] actually getting someone from the company to come here. But once we actually got them here, then they [say] ‘ok now I understand. It makes sense to me.’ There’s an incredible opportunity as a state right now to capitalize on attracting new companies and workers to the state by leveraging our natural assets.” Katherine Andrews, (11:09)

“Today, one of the biggest driving forces for companies when they’re making location decisions is workforce. Some of the others are business friendliness, cost of doing business, cost of living, proximity to suppliers and consumers. Fortunately for us, we have all of those things. We are one of the most business-friendly states in the US, we are located smack-dab in the middle of the country…and we have a very diverse industry in Arkansas.” Katherine Andrews, (11:43) 

“There’s something special happening here. Bentonville is a community that cares deeply about its people and about creating a sense of place. It draws companies in. So if you look at the investments being made by the philanthropic groups, large corporate organizations, and others, that only just becomes more clear. Northwest Arkansas is one of the fastest growing metros the US, so…that choice to me would be a no-brainer to move here.” Katherine Andrews, (20:37)

“My overall goal is for this office to become the one-stop-shop for all things outdoor recreation, a gathering place for knowledge, information, and resources.” Katherine Andrews, (24:10)

Arkansas's Booming Outdoor Recreation Industry with Katherine Andrews
On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell had the opportunity to sit down with Katherine Andrews, the director of the Office of Outdoor Recreation with the Department of Parks, Heritage, and Tourism. James and Katherine had a lot to talk about as they both have a background in economic development, a love for Arkansas outdoors, and of course, a drive to showcase Bentonville to the world.
The Office of Outdoor Recreation
One of the hardest challenges for recruiting companies [is] actually getting someone from the company to come here. But once we actually [get] them here, then they [say] ‘ok now I understand. It makes sense to me.’ There’s an incredible opportunity as a state right now to capitalize on attracting new companies and workers to the state by leveraging our natural assets.” Katherine Andrews, (11:09)
Katherine Andrews is uniquely positioned to lead this newly-created office with her experience in commercial real estate, leading small business initiatives for Arkansas, and economic development. She is the only director of her kind with this specialized background, which gives her a business-forward advantage as she leads the state to capitalize on one of its most important assets: the great outdoors. As she sees more companies moving and growing here, she is even more driven to show the world what Arkansas has to offer.
“My overall goal is for this office to become the one-stop-shop for all things outdoor recreation, a gathering place for knowledge, information, and resources.” Katherine Andrews, (24:10)
Arkansas is the 16th state and only the 2nd in the South to develop a formal Office of Outdoor Recreation. As she builds it, Katherine is proud to get up and go to work every day with the ability to do a job that involves her love of Arkansas and her business background. She is partnering with other outdoor groups in the state to collaborate and create the best system possible to help everyone to take advantage of the Natural State.
Why Bentonville?
“Today, one of the biggest driving forces for companies when they’re making location decisions is workforce. Some of the others are business friendliness, cost of doing business, cost of living, and proximity to suppliers and consumers. Fortunately for us, we have all of those things. We are one of the most business-friendly states in the US, we are located smack-dab in the middle of the country…and we have a very diverse industry in Arkansas.”
Katherine Andrews, (11:43) 
Katherine is convinced that the secret is out on what makes this state amazing. The fact that Arkansas hits all the major relocation markers companies look for, coupled with the reality that this is the only place that checks those boxes in the middle of the country, sets Arkansas up for incredible growth in the coming years. This gives Bentonville an incredible advantage as companies are looking for areas in the state who are eager to welcome these new opportunities.
“There’s something special happening here. Bentonville is a community that cares deeply about its people and about creating a sense of place. It draws companies in. So if you look at the investments being made by the philanthropic groups, large corporate organizations, and others, that only just becomes more clear. Northwest Arkansas is one of the fastest growing metros the US, so…that choice to me would be a no-brainer to move here.” Katherine Andrews, (20:37)
The opportunities coming Bentonville's way would not be possible without the hunger for growth from its residents. Bentonville is touted time and time again as a place where the people are friendly and inclusive and where progress is welcome. It is a diverse area with a hometown feel and excitement for new and interesting ideas, people, and businesses to stake their claim in it too.
Get Connected!
Thanks for tuning in to this episode of The Bentonville Beacon! Join us weekly for more stories from entrepreneurs and business leaders who are making a positive impact on Bentonville’s culture, community, and lifestyle. Don’t forget, Bentonville is a place where you can have more of what you want and less of what you don’t!

Making the Best Bikes in America with Drew Medlock of Allied Cycle Works

May 16th, 2022

On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell chatted with Drew Medlock, the CEO of Allied Cycle Works, a Bentonville-based manufacturer of high-quality carbon bikes who boasts a mission to “make the best bicycles and components in the word, right here in America.” James and Drew discussed what it means to manufacture in the USA and how Bentonville has created an ideal cycling ecosystem.Thanks for tuning in!

Show Notes:
(0:36) Introducing Drew Medlock
(2:09) A Taste of What Allied Cycle Works Is All About
(5:23) Making Bikes in the USA vs. Asia
(8:24) What Brought Allied Cycle Works to Bentonville
(14:40) Why Bentonville?
(16:47) How Businesses Can Capitalize on Bentonville
(17:55) What’s Next for Allied Cycle Works?
(18:45) Why USA-Made?
(19:57) Superpowers and Closing Thoughts

Links
James Bell
Drew Medlock
Allied Cycle Works
Allied Cycle Works Factory Videos

Quotes
We had the vision to bring high-tech frame manufacturing processes back into the United States…Brands didn’t really have the in-house knowledge [to build carbon fiber frames] in the United States…So our goal was to bring that back.” Drew Medlock, (2:28)

Northwest Arkansas has been really great because there’s a good manufacturing base here from the poultry industry and people who are good at working with their hands and are easy to train here locally.” Drew Medlock, (6:33)

“I just see so much opportunity still left here. I think there’s so much good momentum and positive momentum about really growing the outdoor industry as a whole and growing our community…It’s cool to be somewhere where there’s a blue sky in terms of what’s possible” Drew Medlock, (14:40)

 “[Northwest Arkansas] is a place that is growing. There’s lots of development, we can see more diversity coming into the area, and it feels like a place where you can have this access to the outdoors and be a part of it but also build a sustainable business climate for your employees.” Drew Medlock, (17:34)

Making the Best Bikes in America with Allied Cycle Works
On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell chatted with Drew Medlock, the CEO of Allied Cycle Works, a Bentonville-based manufacturer of high-quality carbon bikes who boasts a mission to “make the best bicycles and components in the word, right here in America.” James and Drew discussed what it means to manufacture in the USA and how Bentonville has created an ideal cycling ecosystem.

Allied Cycle Works
We had the vision to bring high-tech frame manufacturing processes back into the United States…Brands didn’t really have the in-house knowledge [to build carbon fiber frames] in the United States…So our goal was to bring that back.” Drew Medlock, (2:28)

The bicycle game is ever changing and adapting as we learn more about how to improve this evergreen pastime. In an era when bicycle manufacturing had primarily moved to Asia, the founder of Allied Cycle Works started with a mission to manufacture their parts here in the United States so they could have more control over the production process and ultimately to turn out a better product for their customer. CEO Drew Medlock and his team have continued to take up this mantle day by day and place quality bicycles in the hands of customers who want to do what they love most: ride their bike.

Northwest Arkansas has been really great because there’s a good manufacturing base here from the poultry industry and people who are good at working with their hands and are easy to train here locally.” Drew Medlock, (6:33)

Drew is proud of the fact that they can create jobs here locally, but also that there is so much opportunity to hire quality manufacturers in the area with experience working for other Northwest Arkansas giants. This and partnering with technicians and production engineers that have joined Allied Cycle Works have helped to make the move to all-stateside production go smoothly. As Allied Cycle Works looks to the future in adding mountain bikes and more to their catalog, they can certainly ensure one thing: the bikes they craft are made to order for the consumer and will have the hands-on quality customers deserve.

Why Bentonville?
“I just see so much opportunity still left here. I think there’s so much good momentum and positive momentum about really growing the outdoor industry as a whole and growing our community…It’s cool to be somewhere where there’s a blue sky in terms of what’s possible” Drew Medlock, (14:40)

 It is movers and shakers like Drew that continue to push our community forward and into the blue skies that he is so proud of. Drew sets an example for all business leaders by considering the lives, incomes, and happiness of his employees without compromising an amazing workplace environment both inside the walls of the business and outside in the community. 

Get Connected!
Thanks for tuning in to this episode of The Bentonville Beacon! Join us weekly for more stories from entrepreneurs and business leaders who are making a positive impact on Bentonville’s culture, community, and lifestyle. Don’t forget, Bentonville is a place where you can have more of what you want and less of what you don’t!

Bringing Extreme Sports to Bentonville with Seth Johnson of Amped Electric Games

May 9th, 2022

On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell sat down with Seth Johnson, who is the founder of eRideLife, a media source for all things electric and on one wheel. Luckily for us, he and his team have chosen Bentonville to be the home of the upcoming Amped Electric Games, a competition and festival celebrating the craft he loves and is on a mission for us all to love alongside him. James and Seth talked all about the specifics of the upcoming event, why Bentonville has the honor of hosting it, and why everyone else should bring interesting and innovative things to Bentonville too.


Show Notes:
(0:39) Introducing Seth Johnson
(1:50) All about Amped Electric Games and Why It Started
(6:12) What to Expect at Amped Electric Games
(17:02) How People Can Capitalize on Bentonville 
(17:48) Organizations Supporting New and Innovative Things in Bentonville
(28:25) Seth’s Advice for Outdoor Enthusiasts Visiting Bentonville
(30:01) Details for the Upcoming Amped Electric Games
(32:44) Superpowers and Closing Thoughts

Links
James Bell
Seth Johnson

Amped Electric Games


Quotes
 One of the major reasons [we chose Bentonville] is the people here are just so dang nice…everywhere I go in Bentonville, everyone I tell this idea to, they just get really excited. I see the lights go on in their eyes and they say ‘This is what Bentonville needs!’” Seth Johnson, (3:18)

“Trail etiquette is something that is very important to us and something that we try to instill from the very beginning when somebody begins riding these devices.” Seth Johnson, (8:25)

“Mountain bikers have enjoyed these trails for many years, and we’d like to come and enjoy them too. I know that I personally have gone and put in time digging rides locally, so we want to be involved, we want to help, [and] we want to contribute. We’re not just here to take away or to detract from the trails. I think we can all live pretty peacefully together.” Seth Johnson, (9:48)

“Everything is connected here… Everybody knows everybody, and so I’m trying to introduce myself and become part of that community.” Seth Johnson, (25:47)

 “I think success is going to look like everybody having fun. That’s the most important thing to me.” Seth Johnson (26:45)


Bringing Extreme Sports to Bentonville with Amped Electric Games
On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell sat down with Seth Johnson, who is the founder of eRideLife, a media source for all things electric and on one wheel. Lucky for us, he and his crew have chosen Bentonville to be the home of the upcoming Amped Electric Games, a competition and festival celebrating the craft he loves and is on a mission for us all to love alongside him. James and Seth talked all about the specifics of the upcoming Games, why Bentonville has the honor of hosting it, and why everyone else should bring interesting and innovative things to Bentonville too.

Amped Electric Games
As we see a rise in new ways to get outside and enjoy our world, we see new communities surrounding these passions, forging connections, companionship, and friendly competition. This is the idea that spearheaded the upcoming Amped Electric Games. This is an opportunity for electric one-wheel enthusiasts to come together and have fun while competing for titles like All-Time Fastest Unicycle Speed and watching competitors jump a school bus.

“Mountain bikers have enjoyed these trails for many years, and we’d like to come and enjoy them too. I know that I personally have gone and put in time digging rides locally, so we want to be involved, we want to help, [and] we want to contribute. We’re not just here to take away or to detract from the trails. I think we can all live pretty peacefully together.” Seth Johnson, (9:48)

Seth believes that the trails are for everyone and that all users should partake in their care and preservation. He desires to educate others on sharing the trails and having fun together, even on our different devices. In fact, he welcomes anyone who sees him to stop and ask questions about his craft and maybe even develop a new passion of our own.

Trail etiquette is something that is very important to us and something that we try to instill from the very beginning when somebody begins riding these devices.” Seth Johnson, (8:25)“I think success is going to look like everybody having fun. That’s the most important thing to me.” Seth Johnson (26:45)

Why Bentonville?
One of the major reasons [we chose Bentonville] is the people here are just so dang nice…everywhere I go in Bentonville, everyone I tell this idea to, they just get really excited. I see the lights go on in their eyes and they say ‘This is what Bentonville needs!’” Seth Johnson, (3:18)

Aside from the opportunity to watch incredible athletes show us their moves, we are excited about the example Seth and his team are setting for other innovators who are looking to start something new. We put pride into our accessibility and inclusivity when it comes to culture, art, food, and outdoors, and we’re excited to see that list continue to grow. Bentonville has claimed its spot on the map for being an open hub for cool new ideas, and we want to be the place others can show off as well.

“Everything is connected here… Everybody knows everybody, and so I’m trying to introduce myself and become part of that community.” Seth Johnson, (25:47) 

Seth demonstrated all of the resources we have available for others who want to launch a festival, competition, or other event. He even claimed it as one of the reasons he chose Bentonville to host the Games. At the Chamber, we’re thrilled to be a part of the growing list of those making it easier and more enticing to bring new ideas to Bentonville.

Get Connected!
Thanks for tuning in to this episode of The Bentonville Beacon! Join us weekly for more stories from entrepreneurs and business leaders who are making a positive impact on Bentonville’s culture, community, and lifestyle. Don’t forget, Bentonville is a place where you can have more of what you want and less of what you don’t!

How Technology is Improving Bentonville's Mountain Biking Experience | Bryce Paden & Ryan Shelton of Flowfeed

May 2nd, 2022

On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell had the chance to talk with Bryce Paden and Ryan Shelton of Flowfeed, a predictive analytics app for mountain biking trails. Bryce, Ryan, and their four other co-founders are all serial entrepreneurs and brought their diverse areas of expertise together to simplify an age-old problem for mountain bikers looking to use the trails in Northwest Arkansas. Throughout the episode, James, Bryce, and Ryan discussed the origins of the app and how it works, how collaboration has fueled their success, and why Bentonville and Northwest Arkansas are fertile grounds for entrepreneurship and growth of all kinds.

Show Notes:
(0:45) Introductions
(6:08) Getting into Mountain Biking
(8:45) Flowfeed App
(9:36) Collaboration over Competition
(18:54) Why Is Bentonville Best for Flowfeed?
(21:41) Response to Flowfeed
(23:53) Newest Features
(29:57) The Hardest Learning
(36:13) Tapping into Local Resources 
(40:45) How Bentonville Is Changing
(44:44) How Else Should People Know Northwest Arkansas?
(53:14) Where to Find Flowfeed and a Final Shameless Plug

Links
James Bell
Bryce Paden
Ryan Shelton

Flowfeed

Quotes:
“So we live in a digitized data-rich world, and we believe that data can add a lot of value to the mountain biking community.” Ryan Shelton, (8:57)

”That's not to say, you know, the answer is go ride everything. The answer is: let's make sure we efficiently communicate all of the excellent trails we have down here that can be ridden in almost any weather condition, and all of the value that's here, even when it's wet outside.” Ryan Shelton, (16:57)

”The raw drive and desire to grow that I found here meant huge potential, and being an entrepreneur, I'm always betting on the upside. And I think the upside on entrepreneurship in Northwest Arkansas over the next five years is tremendous.“ Ryan Shelton, (20:35)

 ”We felt like if you try to build something for everybody, you potentially build something for nobody, so we wanted to be really focused on mountain biking and make sure that we could really understand that user well.” Bryce Paden, (29:04)

”We're no longer just where Walmart is. There's this whole other narrative that's being built that is resonating with people.” Bryce Paden, (41:18)

 Solving the Trail Condition Communication Problem
On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell had the chance to talk with Bryce Paden and Ryan Shelton of Flowfeed, a predictive analytics app for mountain biking trails. Bryce, Ryan, and their four other co-founders are all serial entrepreneurs and brought their diverse areas of expertise together to simplify an age-old problem for mountain bikers looking to use the trails in Northwest Arkansas. Throughout the episode, James, Bryce, and Ryan discussed the origins of the app and how it works, how collaboration has fueled their success, and why Bentonville and Northwest Arkansas are fertile grounds for entrepreneurship and growth of all kinds. 

The Flowfeed App
After working at Walmart, Bryce was immersed in the emerging tech ecosystem, which led him to a path of entrepreneurship, first in technology and then in recreation. Ryan has a background in engineering and a medical device startup. This unconventional duo joined forces with four other entrepreneurs of varying backgrounds from consumer behavior, to architecture and design, to software and development. Together, the team combined their talents and skills to tackle the biggest problem they were seeing with the budding mountain biking trail systems in the area: communication. 

"That's not to say, you know, the answer is go ride everything. The answer is: let's make sure we efficiently communicate all of the excellent trails we have down here that can be ridden in almost any weather condition, and all of the value that's here, even when it's wet outside.” Ryan Shelton, (16:57)

The founders of Flowfeed devised an app that predicts trail conditions after weather events using real weather and environmental inputs and custom-built algorithms. The team first made trail conditions available to give users an idea of what was rideable and what was not. Due to continuous feedback from the community and their desire to improve and grow, the team at Flowfeed is now working on features like personalizing trail recommendations for users, adding static maps, and providing live weather conditions. They hope to eventually enable trail managers to utilize the app to let users know what trails are being added to the system and which might be closed for maintenance. To continue improving and investing in their users, the team at Flowfeed is exploring their partnership strategy so they can keep development going while creating excellent products, all without charging their users. They welcome and encourage feedback from mountain bikers and community members on how to improve the app experience and functionality.

Why Bentonville?
Bentonville used to be known solely for the presence of its large corporations. However, it is quickly gaining notoriety in many other areas such as food, art, and outdoor recreation. The primary reason Flowfeed is based out of Bentonville is because of its popularity as the mountain biking capital of the world. Another reason is the seemingly endless list of local resources within the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Both Bryce and Ryan cite people as the most valuable and available resource in the area, with execs and prominent business people at every turn. And not only are they everywhere, they are also accessible and largely willing to support others.

"The raw drive and desire to grow that I found here, meant huge potential, and being an entrepreneur, I'm always betting on the upside. And I think the upside on entrepreneurship in Northwest Arkansas over the next five years is tremendous.“ Ryan Shelton, (20:35)

 ”We're no longer just where Walmart is. There's this whole other narrative that's being built that is resonating with people.” Bryce Paden, (41:18)

Get Connected!
Thanks for tuning in to this episode of The Bentonville Beacon! Join us weekly for more stories from entrepreneurs and business leaders who are making a positive impact on Bentonville’s culture, community, and lifestyle. Don’t forget, Bentonville is a place where you can have more of what you want and less of what you don’t!

Coaching the Next Generation of Mountain Bikers | Kyla Templeton of Bike School Bentonville

April 25th, 2022

On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell had the opportunity to chat with Kyla Templeton, the co-founder of Bike School Bentonville. To round out her resume, Kyla also founded Girls Bike Bentonville in 2012, is the co-founder and director of the Arkansas League of the National Interscholastic Cycling Association, and is a VIPC Level 1 Instructor and a USA Triathlon Certified Coach. James and Kyla had an amazing conversation about how Bentonville is impacting the cycling world and how the cycling community is part of what makes Bentonville the city we all love.We are so excited you’re joining us!

Show Notes
(0:23) Introducing Kyla Templeton
(6:23) Why Kyla Started Bike School Bentonville
(14:48) What Makes Bentonville Trails Special
(22:52) Bike School Bentonville’s Upcoming Programming
(24:47) What’s Next for Bike School Bentonville
(28:59) Kyla’s Favorite Ride
(30:20) Superpowers and Closing Thoughts

Links
James Bell
 Kyla Templeton
Bike School Bentonville
Arkansas NIKA
Girls Bike Bentonville FB Group

Quotes
I love to ride my bike. I find a great deal of freedom when I ride my bike, and fun. And it helps me to feel like a kid and also to feel really connected to the world and myself and the people that I’m with…So I love to ride my bike and I love to share that with other people and for people to discover for themselves what it means for them.” Kyla Templeton, (1:55)

You know it is wonderful, like that’s one of the things that’s so special about Bentonville, is that you don’t have to load your bike up in the car to have an amazing bike experience…Here, you can just hop out your door and there’s, in so many places, a trail within ten minutes.” Kyla Templeton, (9:40)

“The trails are really good and they’re well-built. And the trailblazers and the team of people doing the trail development, they’re really trying to push the industry forward in all kinds of different ways…So the trails are really well-made and are well-maintained and they’re built so that the trails almost teach a rider how to ride.” Kyla Templeton, (16:01)

“It doesn’t take much to find that peace and solitude [on the trails] if that’s what you’re looking for, but it’s also really cool to have this communal experience on the trails with a bunch of other people.” Kyla Templeton, (20:24)

 Coaching the Next Generation of Mountain Bikers
On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell had the opportunity to chat with Kyla Templeton, the co-founder of Bike School Bentonville. To round out her resume, Kyla also founded Girls Bike Bentonville in 2012, is the co-founder and director of the Arkansas League of the National Interscholastic Cycling Association, and is a VIPC Level 1 Instructor and a USA Triathlon Certified Coach. James and Kyla had an amazing conversation about how Bentonville is impacting the cycling world and how the cycling community is part of what makes Bentonville the city we all love.

Bike School Bentonville
Kyla loves to ride her bike and loves the community. That is really the only inspiration she needed to help build up the pro-cycling environment we get to enjoy here in Bentonville. Still, when her two sons joined the mix, she wanted to create opportunities for them to grow up loving the outdoors and cycling as much as she does. Bike School Bentonville was founded to allow kids to do just that.

I love to ride my bike. I find a great deal of freedom when I ride my bike, and fun. And it helps me to feel like a kid and also to feel really connected to the world  and myself and the people that I’m with…So I love to ride my bike and I love to share that with other people and for people to discover for themselves what it means for them.” Kyla Templeton, (1:55)

Bike School Bentonville has opportunities for young kids and even adults to get their mountain biking skills ready for our trails. They are excited to be offering on-demand coaching, programs like 5 and 10–week sessions, and even summer camps for kids, which are focused on equipping and encouraging them to fall in love with biking. Kyla believes that whether you’re in need of peace and quiet or a loud and fun ride, you can find it on the trails.

“It doesn’t take much to find that peace and solitude [on the trails] if that’s what you’re looking for, but it’s also really cool to have this communal experience on the trails with a bunch of other people.” Kyla Templeton, (20:24) 

Why Bentonville?
You know it is wonderful, like that’s one of the things that’s so special about Bentonville, is that you don’t have to load your bike up in the car to have an amazing bike experience…Here, you can just hop out your door and there’s, in so many places, a trail within ten minutes.” Kyla Templeton, (9:40)

Kyla has lived in the Bentonville area for 17 years and has loved watching the community grow around the outdoor activities that Bentonville curates and promotes. Having been to many different mountain biking and outdoor destinations, she loves that Bentonville is set apart by being so accessible—we make it easy to jump into a new group or activity. She raves about the quality of life here and how kind everyone is to each other, both on the trails and off of them. As she notes how Bentonville is growing so rapidly, she jokes “No mean people allowed,” and wants to keep the same kind and inclusive environment we all know and love.

“The trails are really good and they’re well-built. And the trailblazers and the team of people doing the trail development, they’re really trying to push the industry forward in all kinds of different ways…So the trails are really well-made and are well-maintained and they’re built so that the trails almost teach a rider how to ride.” Kyla Templeton, (16:01)

One of the best parts about Bentonville and its special connection to the outdoors as the Mountain Biking Capital of the World is how much pride we take in our trails. They make it easy to learn, and they challenge us as we grow our skills, which that didn’t happen by accident. Kyla loves to boast about the team that curates, plans, and innovates our trails to maintain our status and continue to be inviting to the biking community around the world.

Get Connected!
Thanks for tuning in to this bonus episode of The Bentonville Beacon! Join us weekly for more stories from entrepreneurs and business leaders who are making a positive impact on Bentonville’s culture, community, and lifestyle. Don’t forget, Bentonville is a place where you can have more of what you want and less of what you don’t!

The Importance of Community and Corporate Citizenship with Jeanelle Harris of Outdoor Cap Co.

April 18th, 2022

Summary:
On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell sits down with the president of Outdoor Cap Co., Jeanelle Harris. Outdoor Cap Co. was founded in 1977 by Paul Mahan, and 45 years later, it is one of Bentonville’s best-kept secrets, helping to lead the area in innovation, corporate citizenship, and of course, incredible outdoor headwear. Together, James and Jeanelle discuss Outdoor Cap Co., what is putting Bentonville on the map, and how we can work together to lead a new generation into growth.Thanks for tuning in!

Show Notes
(0:41) Introducing True NWA Native Jeanelle Harris 
(2:01) Outdoor Cap Co.
(11:23) How Outdoor Companies Can Thrive in Bentonville 
(14:03) What’s Next for Outdoor Cap Co.?
(23:27) Importance of Community and Corporate Citizenship
(26:09) Superpowers and Closing Thoughts

Links:
JAMES BELl
JEANELLE HARRIS
OUTDOOR CAP CO.

Quotes
I think some of what our secret sauce is, is our expertise focused on headwear, but also the people. We have a lot of people who are long-tenured, who are committed to our business and helping us be the experts and serving our customer loyalty, both to the business and to each other. So, definitely the people are our secret sauce.” Jeanelle Harris, (3:29)

Within the last five years, and even recently, there’s been conversations where when I say ‘Bentonville,’ [people] say ‘Oh, I want to go there! I want to travel there. I want to take my family there.’ You know, there’s a vibrance that has really come about that Bentonville is a place on the map.” Jeanelle Harris, (11:49)

“We started to see these corporations and families like the Walton Family Foundation really start to pour into the community and look at some of the things we could use as growth potential and realize that we needed to raise up a new generation that my kids are a part of to make sure that they understand diversity, equity, and inclusion.” Jeanelle Harris, (17:48)

“The one thing that I would want people to know about Outdoor Cap and in turn, myself [and] my family because it all ties together, is our pull towards community and corporate citizenship and the fact that we don’t just want to exist in Bentonville as a company without giving back as well.” Jeanelle Harris, (23:26)

On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell sits down with the president of Outdoor Cap Co., Jeanelle Harris. Outdoor Cap Co. was founded in 1977 by Paul Mahan, and 45 years later, it is one of Bentonville’s best-kept secrets, helping to lead the area in innovation, corporate citizenship, and of course, incredible outdoor headwear. Together, James and Jeanelle discuss Outdoor Cap Co., what is putting Bentonville on the map, and how we can work together to lead a new generation into growth.

Outdoor Cap Co.
I think some of what our secret sauce is, is our expertise focused on headwear, but also the people. We have a lot of people who are long-tenured, who are committed to our business and helping us be the experts and serving our customer loyalty, both to the business and to each other. So, definitely the people are our secret sauce.” Jeanelle Harris, (3:29)

Outdoor Cap Co. is a business focused on its people and the community it has created within itself. It is a community where team members are encouraged to work to live, not live to work, where they can hop on a trail on their lunch break, and where they are free to enjoy everything their city has to offer. They love being Bentonville’s best-kept secret where they can employ hundreds of people, changing their lives and the lives of their loved ones.

“The one thing that I would want people to know about Outdoor Cap and in turn, myself [and] my family because it all ties together, is our pull towards community and corporate citizenship and the fact that we don’t just want to exist in Bentonville as a company without giving back as well.” Jeanelle Harris, (23:26) 

Jeanelle believes that coming out of Covid is an opportunity to go “back to the garage,” in which founder Paul Mahan started Outdoor Cap Co. This year, they will celebrate 45 years of Outdoor Cap Co., and Jeanelle believes they are just getting started as a company, but also that this ideal seeps into the greater community as well. They care immensely about their products and love to serve everyone from the big Fortune 500s to the mom and pop shops that help promote The American Dream.

Why Bentonville?
Within the last five years, and even recently, there’s been conversations where when I say ‘Bentonville,’ [people] say ‘Oh, I want to go there! I want to travel there. I want to take my family there.’ You know, there’s a vibrance that has really come about that Bentonville is a place on the map.” Jeanelle Harris, (11:49)

Jeanelle is a true NWA native and loves that the area offers so much in the way of outdoor access and opportunities and in the development of culture, art, and culinary advancements. She loves that although it is growing at an incredibly fast pace, it still has a hometown feel to it. Bentonville is not just about Walmart anymore. There is so much happening here, and we should be so proud of our town.
“We started to see these corporations and families like the Walton Family Foundation really start to pour into the community and look at some of the things we could use as growth potential and realize that we needed to raise up a new generation that my kids are a part of to make sure that they understand diversity, equity, and inclusion.” Jeanelle Harris, (17:48)

Jeanelle is so thrilled to see corporate giants like Walmart, JB Hunt, and Tyson set the example to invest in Northwest Arkansas, not just do business here. Outdoor Cap Co. has taken up this beacon and refuses simply to exist in Bentonville. They are committed to keeping Arkansas beautiful themselves, not waiting for someone else to do it.When we ask the question, “Why Bentonville?” Jeanelle reminds us that Bentonville packs a big punch, and it’s just getting started.

Get Connected!
Thanks for tuning in to this bonus episode of The Bentonville Beacon! Join us weekly for more stories from entrepreneurs and business leaders who are making a positive impact on Bentonville’s culture, community, and lifestyle. Don’t forget, Bentonville is a place where you can have more of what you want and less of what you don’t!

Bonus Episode | How the Fuel Accelerator Helps You Get Enterprise-Ready with Vance Reavie and Jigesh Vora

April 15th, 2022

Summary:
On this special bonus episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell sits down with Vance Reavie and Jigesh Vora live at the Startup Crawl in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Vance and Jigesh are both three-time founders who recently participated in the Fuel Accelerator with their companies, Junction AI and SwiftGo, respectively. The trio discusses their recent ventures, Fuel, Bentonville, and much more throughout the episode!Thanks for tuning in!

Show Notes
(1:12) Introducing Vance Reavie and Jigesh Vora
(5:41) Participating in the Fuel Accelerator and Other Resources in NWA
(13:33) Initial Thoughts on Bentonville(18:45) Bentonville Stats
(22:10) What’s Next for SwiftGo and Junction AI
(25:23) Superpowers and Closing Thoughts

Links:
JAMES BELl
VANCE REAVIE
JIGESH VORA
JUNCTION AI
SWIFTGO
FUEL ACCELERATOR

Quotes
For me, [the Fuel Accelerator] was a pivotal moment for our company in understanding where we fit in, what value we can add, and how I can take advantage of [Bentonville’s] business community to propel forward.” Vance Reavie, (6:34)

What impressed me about Fuel was the fact that the engagement from the community is amazing. I mean, everybody from mentors, advisors, corporate partners—everybody was very engaged in truly helping the startups get to where they wanted to go or where they need to be.” Jigesh Vora, (7:18)

[Fuel] isn’t a program that teaches you how to pitch or how to go chase the VC model or any of those sorts of things. It’s about being enterprise-ready.” Vance Reavie, (11:49)

I think the majority of the companies around here are small businesses, which is perfect from an ecosystem perspective for a startup. Even if it’s a growth-stage startup, it’s the perfect place to be because you have the top Fortune companies here, but you have this ecosystem of small businesses that you can partner up with and improve the overall value of your solution.” Jigesh Vora, (15:19)

The work-life balance here is—everyone talks about it, but [Bentonville] actually delivers it in a real way that you can appreciate every day.” Vance Reavie, (16:56)

How the Fuel Accelerator Helps You Get Enterprise-Ready
On this special bonus episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell sits down with Vance Reavie and Jigesh Vora live at the Startup Crawl in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Vance and Jigesh are both three-time founders who recently participated in the Fuel Accelerator with their companies, Junction AI and SwiftGo, respectively. The trio discusses their recent ventures, Fuel, Bentonville, and much more throughout the episode!

Junction AI and SwiftGo
Vance’s current startup, Junction AI, recently completed Fuel’s 2021 program and is headed towards great things! The startup partners with growing businesses to curate and reveal valuable data-driven insights that assist growth and scalability. Jigesh’s startup, SwiftGo, also recently wrapped up Fuel’s 2021 program and is looking at a bright future. SwiftGo provides retailers with smart-carts to pair with their scan-and-go apps, improving the customer experience at every turn.

The Fuel Accelerator Program
Fuel is a 12-week enterprise-ready accelerator that matches growth-stage artificial intelligence and machine learning startups with key enterprise partners to accelerate the adoption of tangible technology solutions.

[Fuel] isn’t a program that teaches you how to pitch or how to go chase the VC model or any of those sorts of things. It’s about being enterprise-ready.” Vance Reavie, (11:49)

For Vance and Jigesh, one of the highlights of Fuel was its enterprise-ready focus. Rather than prioritizing the funding treadmill and VC model, Fuel helps tech startups prepare for enterprise-level clients, prioritizing sustainable growth and development. The pair also enjoyed how the community interacted with the accelerator and its cohorts. Upon arriving in Bentonville, both entrepreneurs quickly realized how many relationships they could build that would prove valuable over time. 

What impressed me about Fuel was the fact that the engagement from the community is amazing. I mean, everybody from mentors, advisors, corporate partners—everybody was very engaged in truly helping the startups get to where they wanted to go or where they need to be.” Jigesh Vora, (7:18)

Why Bentonville
If you follow Bentonville, you’ve likely heard stories of visitors who send for their bags—they don’t even make it through their trip to Bentonville before deciding to move. Vance is a prime example. By the time he completed the accelerator program, he was ready put a deposit down on an apartment. For Vance, the work-life balance was one of the most significant selling points.

The work-life balance here is—everyone talks about it, but [Bentonville] actually delivers it in a real way that you can appreciate every day.” Vance Reavie, (16:56)

For Jigesh, he experienced the benefits of working and operating in a community full of other startups. With three Fortune 500 businesses headquartered in the area and countless vendors following suit, Jigesh understands the benefits of living and running a startup in Bentonville.

I think the majority of the companies around here are small businesses, which is perfect from an ecosystem perspective for a startup. Even if it’s a growth-stage startup, it’s the perfect place to be because you have the top Fortune companies here, but you have this ecosystem of small businesses that you can partner up with and improve the overall value of your solution.” Jigesh Vora, (15:19)

Get Connected!
Thanks for tuning in to this bonus episode of The Bentonville Beacon! Join us weekly for more stories from entrepreneurs and business leaders who are making a positive impact on Bentonville’s culture, community, and lifestyle. Don’t forget, Bentonville is a place where you can have more of what you want and less of what you don’t!

Is NWA the Next Austin? |  Kalene Griffith, President and CEO of Visit Bentonville

April 11th, 2022

Summary:
On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell sits down with Kalene Griffith, President and CEO of Visit Bentonville. Kalene moved to Bentonville 17 years ago and never looked back. With Visit Bentonville, Kalene helps provide exceptional tourism experiences for all of Bentonville’s visitors, whether they’re here for a day, a week, or a month. During the episode, James and Kalene discuss how Bentonville has evolved in the last two decades, what upcoming events are taking place in Bentonville, and why YOU need to experience Bentonville.

Show Notes
(0:27) Introducing Kalene Griffith 
(2:52) Why Kalene Chose Bentonville
(4:39) How Bentonville Has Changed
(6:39) Introducing Visit Bentonville
(11:58) Upcoming Events in Bentonville
(14:05) How People Should Think of Bentonville
(18:04) Why YOU Need to Experience Bentonville
(29:34) Is NWA the Next Austin? 
(32:26) Stories that Encapsulate Bentonville
(38:01) Punching above Our Weight-class
(40:20) Bentonville Schools
(43:05) Superpowers and Closing Thoughts

Links:
JAMES BELl
Kalene Griffith
VISIT BENTONVILLE

Quotes
What I love about [Bentonville} is the people, hands down. I’m fortunate that within about three to five months I felt like this was home…I felt like the people that were here made me feel welcome and part of their families.” (2:59) - Kalene Griffith

[Early on], we were the home of Walmart, and that was pretty much our story. Now, we’re the home of Walmart, we’re the mountain bike capital of the world, we are an arts destination. So we’re a lot of different things now. And so we get to tell a lot of different stories in 2022 versus 2005.” (8:55) - Kalene Griffith

If you’re here for the cycling, you get an experience where everybody in our community has adopted that cycling culture or that cycling initiative that we have pushed through for our community.” (18:30) - Kalene Griffith

Why YOU Need to Visit Bentonville
On this episode of The Bentonville Beacon, host James Bell sits down with Kalene Griffith, President and CEO of Visit Bentonville. Kalene moved to Bentonville 17 years ago and never looked back. With Visit Bentonville, Kalene helps provide exceptional tourism experiences for all of Bentonville’s visitors, whether they’re here for a day, a week, or a month. During the episode, James and Kalene discuss how Bentonville has evolved in the last two decades, what upcoming events are taking place in Bentonville, and why YOU need to experience Bentonville.

What I love about [Bentonville} is the people, hands down. I’m fortunate that within about three to five months I felt like this was home…I felt like the people that were here made me feel welcome and part of their families.” (2:59) - Kalene Griffith

Visit Bentonville
It’s no secret that Bentonville has changed dramatically in the last two decades. For Kalene, one of the most significant changes she noticed was the diversification of tourist attractions. When she arrived 17 years ago, Bentonville was known for Walmart’s headquarters—that’s it. Now, it’s the mountain bike capital of the world, and it has multiple world-class art museums, top-tier local restaurants, and much more!

[Early on], we were the home of Walmart, and that was pretty much our story. Now, we’re the home of Walmart, we’re the mountain bike capital of the world, we are an arts destination. So we’re a lot of different things now. And so we get to tell a lot of different stories in 2022 versus 2005.” (8:55) - Kalene Griffith

Visit Bentonville doesn’t merely invest in Bentonville’s tourist economy; it also invests back into the community. It recently partnered with the public school system to build an eight-lane pool at the Bentonville Community Center, which now hosts swim meets year-round. In fact, they now host nearly all of the State Championships for high school swimming.Similarly, they’ve invested significantly in Memorial Park's baseball and softball fields. By converting to turf fields, Bentonville can host over 20 tournaments this year alone.

Upcoming Events
Are you looking for a reason to visit Bentonville? Check out these fantastic opportunities!

FreshGrass | Bentonville | May 20-21
FreshGrass is an all-ages festival celebrating the best of today’s bluegrass and progressive roots music. With multiple stages at the Momentary, FreshGrass will span two days and include fun family activities, tons of local food and drinks, and much more! For more information, check out their website!

Bentonville Bike Fest | June 17-19
Join us in June for this exciting and FREE event! Nearly 10,000 visitors will flood Bentonville for a weekend full of bicycle-centric events and activities. You won’t want to miss it! For more information, check out their website!

Bentonville Film Festival | June 22-26
The 8th Annual Geena Davis’ Bentonville Film Festival will occur at the end of June, and its virtual portion will extend into the beginning of July. Whether you’re looking for feature-length or short films, you’ll want to make sure to attend this year’s Bentonville Film Festival. For more information, check out their website!

Get Connected!
Thanks for tuning in to this episode of The Bentonville Beacon! Join us weekly for more stories from entrepreneurs and business leaders who are making a positive impact on Bentonville’s culture, community, and lifestyle. Don’t forget, Bentonville is a place where you can have more of what you want and less of what you don’t!

Why Bentonville's Culture Is Right for Your Outdoor Recreation Business | Nicholas Olano of American Hunt

April 3rd, 2022

Summary:
On this episode of the Bentonville Beacon Podcast, host James Bell sits down with Nicholas Olano, Co-Founder of American Hunt. Nicholas and his business partner founded American Hunt in 2019 to break down a significant barrier that outdoors people across the country deal with. Together, James and Nicholas discuss American Hunt, Bentonville, and Nicholas’s experience with GORP.

Thanks for tuning in!

Show Notes
(0:28) Introducing Nicholas Olano and His Journey to NWA
(6:04) American Hunt
(13:48) Participating in GORP
(20:15) Why YOU Should Care about NWA
(21:45) What’s Next for American Hunt?
(23:02) Superpowers and Closing Thoughts

Links:
JAMES BELL
Nicholas Olano
American Hunt

Quotes
What keeps us [in Northwest Arkansas] is everything. This is hands down, the best place I’ve ever lived. We have four moderate seasons, so by the time you’re sick of one season, you have a new season rolling around.
(3:57) - Nicholas Olano

We’re not just a hunting platform. There’s ATV off-roading, fishing, hunting, horseback riding, and we have an ‘other’ category. So if you think your land is suitable for any outdoor activity, you’re more than welcome to put in on American Hunt.
(12:19) - Nicholas Olano

It seems like every other incubator wants a piece of the pie, and [GORP] did not, which was really cool. And that also kind of goes to show Bentonville culture. This is an area where a lot of people just want to help people.
(15:50) - Nicholas Olano

There’s a lot of other places that might have an REI or something like that. But then where do you go? You have to drive two hours to get somewhere to use that stuff. In Northwest Arkansas, you drive 15 minutes east or west, and next thing you know, you’re in pristine wilderness. We have one of the cleanest rivers in the country. We have the first national river. We have float trips. We have mountain biking…we literally have everything here.
(20:34) - Nicholas Olano

Why Bentonville's Culture Is Right for Your Outdoor Recreation Business
On this episode of the Bentonville Beacon Podcast, host James Bell sits down with Nicholas Olano, Co-Founder of American Hunt. Nicholas and his business partner founded American Hunt in 2019 to break down a significant barrier that outdoors people across the country deal with. Together, James and Nicholas discuss American Hunt, Bentonville, and Nicholas’s experience with GORP.

American Hunt
While outdoor recreational activities can be fun for everyone, we know they don’t always have the easiest entry points. Hunting, fishing, and other popular outdoor activities require a lot of sport-specific gear, but that isn’t all. After you’ve obtained the necessary clothes and equipment, you’ll need licenses, permits, and a piece of land to enjoy your sport. Unfortunately, the land can be the most challenging piece of the puzzle to come by. You either own or lease a piece of property, or you use public land, which usually isn’t an ideal situation.Nicholas and his team at American Hunt have the solution you need—they’ve taken the Airbnb model and applied it to the outdoor recreation space. On their platform, you can choose from a list of private land and guiding services to rent by the day, making your yearly hunting trip a breeze!

We’re not just a hunting platform. There’s ATV off-roading, fishing, hunting, horseback riding, and we have an ‘other’ category. So if you think your land is suitable for any outdoor activity, you’re more than welcome to put in on American Hunt.” (12:19) - Nicholas Olano

Despite the apparent integration into the hunting and fishing space, American Hunt also provides several other types of experiences. Search their site to find ATV off-roading, horseback riding, and several different ventures that otherwise wouldn’t be available to you!

Why Bentonville?
Nicholas moved to Northwest Arkansas in search of a new place to call home, and he wasn’t disappointed. He regularly sites the weather, culture, infrastructure, and plentiful outdoor activities as critical reasons he loves living here.

What keeps us [in Northwest Arkansas] is everything. This is hands down, the best place I’ve ever lived. We have four moderate seasons, so by the time you’re sick of one season, you have a new season rolling around.” (3:57) - Nicholas Olano

Compared to larger outdoor recreation hubs in the Rockies and on the coasts, Nicholas loves how accessible the outdoors are in Northwest Arkansas. While larger hubs might have a more extensive collection of big-name outdoor outfitters, you have to travel hours to be able to use the products you buy. In Northwest Arkansas, you can buy your gear from locally-owned outdoor retailers and drive 15 minutes to the river, trailhead, or campgrounds.

 “There’s a lot of other places that might have an REI or something like that. But then where do you go? You have to drive two hours to get somewhere to use that stuff. In Northwest Arkansas, you drive 15 minutes east or west, and next thing you know, you’re in pristine wilderness. We have one of the cleanest rivers in the country. We have the first national river. We have float trips. We have mountain biking…we literally have everything here.” (20:34) - Nicholas Olano

With the world-class wilderness surrounding the area and a unique culture that promotes and supports outdoor brands, Northwest Arkansas is the perfect place for outdoor recreation brands to call home.

Get Connected!
Thanks for tuning in to this episode of the Bentonville Beacon podcast! Join us weekly for more stories from entrepreneurs and business leaders who are making a positive impact on Bentonville’s culture, community, and lifestyle. Don’t forget, Bentonville is a place where you can have more of what you want and less of what you don’t!

4: Falling in love with northwest arkansas | danny collins, founder of 37 north expeditions

March 28,2022

Summary:
In this episode of the Bentonville Beacon Podcast, Danny Collins joins host James Bell to discuss Bentonville’s booming outdoor recreation industry. Danny is the founder of 37 North Expeditions, which focuses heavily on making the Ozarks more accessible for everyone. On the show, James and Danny discuss how 37 North helps people fall in love with the outdoors, the importance of equity and inclusion in the outdoor recreation industry, and why the Ozarks have become the next outdoor recreation hot spot.

Thanks for tuning in!

Show Notes:
(0:27) Introducing Danny Collins and 37 North Expeditions
(4:36) Falling in Love with Northwest Arkansas
(6:57) Helping Everyone Fall in Love with the Outdoors
(14:36) Prioritizing Diversity and Equity in the Outdoors
(18:56) What Business Owners Need to Know about the Ozarks
(25:33) Advice for Outdoor Recreation Entrepreneurs
(30:12) What’s Next for 37 North?
(33:34) The 37 North Team
(35:57) Choosing a Superpower and Closing Thoughts

Links:
James Bell
Danny Collins
North Expeditions

Quotes:
Our very simple goal and aspiration is to get as many people outside as humanly possible and to make it really simple and convenient to do so. And really, a byproduct of that is helping people fall in love with our beautiful natural landscapes and therefore want to protect it.” (2:01) - Danny Collins

Northwest Arkansas is growing at such an incredibly rapid rate, and there’s so many exciting aspects to that…It’s a really vibrant combination of these people that are moving in from really everywhere with a community that is putting everything into the outdoor connection.” (15:11) - Danny Collins

For so long, [outdoor programming for youth] was just about teaching your kid how to fish, teaching your kid how to kayak, and the list goes on…For us, we are like, ‘Teach your kid how to love the outdoors. Teach your kid how to feel comfortable in the outdoors and how to slow down.’ So we lead with the connection to self, connection to others, and connection to nature.” (32:05) - Danny Collins

Blog:
In this episode of the Bentonville Beacon Podcast, Danny Collins joins host James Bell to discuss Bentonville’s booming outdoor recreation industry. Danny is the founder of 37 North Expeditions, which focuses heavily on making the Ozarks more accessible for everyone. On the show, James and Danny discuss how 37 North helps people fall in love with the outdoors, the importance of equity and inclusion in the outdoor recreation industry, and why the Ozarks have become the next outdoor recreation hot spot.

37 North Expeditions
After stints in New York City and Quito, Ecuador, Danny returned to the Ozark region and promptly fell in love with the natural landscapes he had grown up with. He saw the area’s potential and wanted to share his passion for the outdoors with others who may not feel as comfortable on a hike or in a kayak. Danny founded 37 North with the goal of making the Ozarks more accessible for all people, no matter their gender, race, abilities, or interests.

Our very simple goal and aspiration is to get as many people outside as humanly possible and to make it really simple and convenient to do so. And really, a byproduct of that is helping people fall in love with our beautiful natural landscapes and therefore want to protect it.” (2:01) - Danny Collins

37 North’s primary avenue for sharing the gospel of the outdoors is leading guided expeditions through the Ozarks. While they offer everyday adventures like hiking, kayaking, mountain biking, and horseback riding, they have an affinity for adding a unique flair to each trip. What if you could kayak a few miles downriver and then jump on your bike to ride 10 miles of trails before enjoying a brewery crawl on your bike? A trip like that would require a significant amount of planning, not to mention hours of preparation to place the necessary equipment along your path. With 37 North, trips like this are routine.

Throughout his time in the area, Danny realized that the Ozarks haven’t necessarily been welcoming to everyone. Originally, the Ozarks catered to white men that wanted to hunt and fish, but the region is much more than that now. Danny is helping to ensure that other demographics feel comfortable in the outdoors as well.

For so long, [outdoor programming for youth] was just about teaching your kid how to fish, teaching your kid how to kayak, and the list goes on…For us, we are like, ‘Teach your kid how to love the outdoors. Teach your kid how to feel comfortable in the outdoors and how to slow down.’ So we lead with the connection to self, connection to others, and connection to nature.” (32:05) - Danny Collins

Why Bentonville?
Because he grew up in the area, having a presence in Bentonville was a no-brainer. The community in Bentonville has welcomed 37 North with open arms, and it shares the company’s sentiments about making the outdoors a more inviting space for everyone.

Northwest Arkansas is growing at such an incredibly rapid rate, and there’s so many exciting aspects to that…It’s a really vibrant combination of these people that are moving in from really everywhere with a community that is putting everything into the outdoor connection.” (15:11) - Danny Collins

The infrastructure dedicated to the growing outdoor community is a crucial advantage for other outdoor recreation businesses considering a presence in Bentonville.

Get Connected!
Thanks for tuning in to this episode of the Bentonville Beacon podcast! Join us weekly for more stories from entrepreneurs and business leaders who are making a positive impact on Bentonville’s culture, community, and lifestyle. Don’t forget, Bentonville is a place where you can have more of what you want and less of what you don’t!

Are you interested in learning more about Bentonville and the growth of its outdoor recreation community? Check out the Bentonville Economic Development website.

3: Why Should Business Leaders Care about Bentonville? | Nicole Dougan,
Store manager at Strider Bikes

March 21,2022

Summary:
On this week’s episode of the Bentonville Beacon Podcast, host James Bell sits down with Nicole Dougan, Store Manager of Strider Bikes’ sole retail location. In 2018, Nicole and her family moved to Northwest Arkansas from Central Missouri in search of a home that better fit their outdoor-centric lifestyle. James and Nicole discuss all things Strider, why Nicole’s family chose NWA, and why outdoor recreation business leaders need to have a presence in Bentonville.

Thanks for tuning in!

Show Notes:
(0:21) Introducing Nicole Dougan and Strider Bikes
(3:57) Who’s shopping at Strider?  
(7:20) Revitalizing Downtown Bentonville
(9:11) The Strider Cup and Adventure-cross
(12:20) Nicole’s NWA Origin Story
(15:08) Why Should Business Leaders Care about Bentonville?
(21:05) What’s Next for Strider in Bentonville?
(22:14) Closing Thoughts and Choosing Your Superpower

Links:
James Bell
NICOLE DOUGAN
strider bikes
Quotes:
“Even though we [biked and kayaked] a lot back in Missouri, it was always a day—it was a feat to load up and go get enough miles in or to go float. Whereas now, we live in Bella Vista and can be on the river in 10 minutes, and you know, the Back 40 [mountain bike trail] is in our backyard, and I can ride my bike to work now.” (14:30) - Nicole Dougan

“I think Bentonville is so unique in that—first of all—the infrastructure’s there, so that’s the obvious [thing].” (15:16) - Nicole Dougan

“To come here and be able to work, make a decent living, have great jobs, have access, and still be able to have that family balance is really unique to anywhere I’ve seen. And so not only can you offer your business a great location and support from the community, but you can also offer your employees so much by being here.” (15:56) - Nicole Dougan

“We talk about being here and having access to things, but being here, people have access to you because it really is very centrally located and easy to get to.” (17:05) - Nicole Dougan

Blog:
On this week’s episode of the Bentonville Beacon Podcast, host James Bell sits down with Nicole Dougan, Store Manager of Strider Bikes’ sole retail location. In 2018, Nicole and her family moved to Northwest Arkansas from Central Missouri in search of a home that better fit their outdoor-centric lifestyle. James and Nicole discuss all things Strider, why Nicole’s family chose NWA, and why outdoor recreation business leaders need to have a presence in Bentonville.

Strider Bikes
Teaching your child to ride a bike is a special moment for parents, but it is undoubtedly a challenging task. Strider makes it easy. The brand is committed to building high-quality bikes that teach kids to ride at a young age. Rather than utilizing traditional training wheels, Strider builds bikes that use foot propulsion, encouraging kids to learn balance from the beginning.

“I think Bentonville is so unique in that—first of all—the infrastructure’s there, so that’s the obvious [thing].” (15:16) - Nicole Dougan

Based in South Dakota, Strider chose to open its first and only retail location in Downtown Bentonville. Ultimately, the decision came down to Bentonville’s strong support of the biking community. As the mountain biking capital of the world, Bentonville was an obvious choice for a brand that is passionate about growing young, aspiring cyclists.

“We talk about being here and having access to things, but being here, people have access to you because it really is very centrally located and easy to get to.” (17:05) - Nicole Dougan

Why Bentonville?
The allure of Bentonville for Strider is palpable, but Bentonville’s support and infrastructure expand far beyond the mountain biking community. Road cyclists, campers, rock climbers, kayakers, and many more outdoor enthusiasts have found a suitable home in Bentonville. The NWA region is home to nearly every outdoor activity that doesn’t rely on snow or the ocean, making it an ideal home for anyone who enjoys spending time outdoors.

Even though we [biked and kayaked] a lot back in Missouri, it was always a day—it was a feat to load up and go get enough miles in or to go float. Whereas now, we live in Bella Vista and can be on the river in 10 minutes, and you know, the Back 40 [mountain bike trail] is in our backyard, and I can ride my bike to work now.” (14:30) - Nicole Dougan  

Upcoming Events
On June 18th, Strider Bikes will be hosting the Strider Cup and Strider Adventure-Cross on the square in Downtown Bentonville. The Strider Cup races involve children ages 2–4 riding their Strider 12” bikes around a track. In the Strider Adventure-Cross races, 4–7-year-olds race on foot and their Strider 14” bikes, both in balance and pedal modes. For more information on the races and registration, click here.

The event will follow the Farmer’s Market on the afternoon of June 18th and is free to all spectators. We hope to see you there!

Get Connected!
Thanks for tuning into this episode of the Bentonville Beacon podcast! Join us weekly for more stories from entrepreneurs who are making a positive impact on Bentonville’s culture, community, and lifestyle!

Are you interested in learning more about Bentonville and the growth of its outdoor recreation community? Check out the Bentonville Economic Development website.

2: Why Outdoor Recreation Businesses Should Consider Bentonville | Andrew Gibbs-Dabney, founder/ceo of LIVSN

March 14,2022

Summary:
On this week’s episode of the Bentonville Beacon podcast, James Bell sits down with Andrew Gibbs-Dabney, Founder and CEO of LIVSN Designs. Andrew founded LIVSN nearly four and a half years ago with the desire to simplify the things he owned. The pair discusses the origins of LIVSN, why Andrew chose to headquarter in Bentonville, and much more.

Thanks for tuning in!

Show Notes:
(0:16) Introducing Andrew Gibbs-Dabney and LIVSN Designs
(6:56) Utilizing Kickstarter
(16:16) The Advantage of Being in NWA
(23:47) Why Outdoor Rec Businesses Should Consider Bentonville
(28:25) Advice for Aspiring Outdoor “Rec-preneurs”
(30:52) What’s Next for LIVSN?
(32:49) The Deep Talent Pool in NWA
(36:40) Choosing Your Super Power and Closing Thoughts

Links:
James Bell
Andrew Gibbs-Dabney
LIVSN Designs

Quotes:
What Arkansas has I think is something special—maybe less flashy, but it’s not anything less inspiring [than the other outdoor hubs in the country].” (17:01) - Andrew Gibbs-Dabney

If there’s mountain biking or cycling in the company’s interest, there’s definitely a reason to be here.” (25:15) - Andrew Gibbs-Dabney

From my house, I can access almost 300 or 400 miles of trails and not get in my car. From my office, I can do the same thing. Anywhere in Bentonville, you don’t actually have to drive anywhere. You don’t have to even have a bike rack if you don’t want to.” (25:40) - Andrew Gibbs-Dabney

The outdoor industry is thriving in the southeast, and a lot of these brands do most of their sales here.” (27:21) - Andrew Gibbs-Dabney

We’ve had 80–150 applicants for every job we’ve posted. We’ve ended up hiring someone locally each time because the best person for that job happened to be here.” (33:22) - Andrew Gibbs-Dabney  

Blog:

Throughout the first season of the Bentonville Beacon podcast, host James Bell will be sitting down with entrepreneurs, executives, and business owners from the outdoor recreation industry that have chosen Bentonville, Arkansas as their home. Tune in to hear about what’s going on in Bentonville, how the city has become a hub for the outdoor recreation industry, and how your business could benefit from a presence in the area!

What Arkansas has I think is something special—maybe less flashy, but it’s not anything less inspiring [than the other outdoor hubs in the country].” (17:01) - Andrew Gibbs-Dabney

On this week’s episode of the Bentonville Beacon podcast, James Bell sits down with Andrew Gibbs-Dabney, Founder and CEO of LIVSN Designs. Andrew founded LIVSN nearly four and a half years ago with the desire to simplify the things he owned. He grew up as an avid outdoorsman, which ultimately led to an extensive outdoor apparel and gear collection, which became taxing for him.  

As he sorted through his gear and cleaned out his closet, he began to realize the importance of owning a handful of comfortable, durable, and sustainably-produced clothing items that he loved. And so became LIVSN, a company dedicated to creating versatile, well-made clothing for people who value experiences more than stuff.

Why Bentonville?
When Andrew founded LIVSN, he considered every major outdoor recreation hub in the country: Northern California, Denver, the Carolinas, and the Pacific Northwest. Ultimately, he believed the hype he had heard around the growing outdoor recreation industry in Northwest Arkansas and decided to headquarter in Bentonville.

With his interest in mountain biking, his decision quickly paid off. His team regularly goes mountain biking at lunch, taking advantage of the several hundred miles of trails accessible from nearly anywhere in Bentonville.

From my house, I can access almost 300 or 400 miles of trails and not get in my car. From my office, I can do the same thing. Anywhere in Bentonville, you don’t actually have to drive anywhere. You don’t have to even have a bike rack if you don’t want to.” (25:40) - Andrew Gibbs-Dabney

Andrew also sites the thriving outdoor recreation retail industry as a benefit of the region. With REI expanding rapidly on both coasts and in the Mountain West, the Southeast has been left relatively untouched, creating a prime environment for mom-and-pop outdoor gear retailers to thrive.

The outdoor industry is thriving in the southeast, and a lot of these brands do most of their sales here.” (27:21) - Andrew Gibbs-Dabney

Lastly, Andrew touched on the ever-increasing talent pool that calls Northwest Arkansas home. In the last year, Andrew has increased the size of his team by 500%. Even though he opened his talent search nationwide, he continually found the best applicants in his own backyard.

We’ve had 80–150 applicants for every job we’ve posted. We’ve ended up hiring someone locally each time because the best person for that job happened to be here.” (33:22) - Andrew Gibbs-Dabney  

Get Connected!
Thanks for tuning into this first episode of the Bentonville Beacon podcast! Join us weekly for more stories from entrepreneurs who are making a positive impact on Bentonville’s culture, community, and lifestyle!

Are you interested in learning more about Bentonville and the growth of its outdoor recreation community? Check out the Bentonville Economic Development website.

1: Helping Entrepreneurs Define & Launch Businesses | Phil Shellhammer, Director of greenhouse outdoor recreation program

March 14,2022

Summary:
Welcome to the inaugural episode of the Bentonville Beacon podcast!

In today’s episode, host James Bell sits down with Phil Shellhammer, Director of the Greenhouse Outdoor Recreation Program (GORP). Phil recently launched GORP as a part of the University of Arkansas’s education and research program in Bentonville, known as The Collaborative. The pair discusses how GORP serves entrepreneurs in the area and why outdoor brands should consider Bentonville as their new home!
Thanks for tuning in!

Show Notes:
(0:20) Introducing Phil Shellhammer and GORP
(3:39) Helping Entrepreneurs Define and Launch Their Businesses
(8:03) Who Is GORP Serving?
(11:08) Bentonville’s Draw for Outdoor Recreation Brands
(16:45) Unique Opportunities that Bentonville Provides
(19:44) What’s Next for GORP?
(23:11) Choosing Your Super Power
(24:23) Closing Thoughts

Links:
James Bell
Phil Shellhammer
Greenhouse Outdoor Recreation Program  
The Collaborative

Quotes:
“Outdoor recreation is a large growth area for [Northwest Arkansas] for sure, and one that is a massive focus.” (1:06) - Phil Shellhammer

“If you have an idea within the outdoor recreation space, [GORP wants] to help and support [you]...What we’re doing right now is we are trying to build a structure that’s supportive of the core activities most [people] will come from.” (8:23) - Phil Shellhammer

“[Northwest Arkansas] has turned into a place for people to live and come to visit and play with a variety of different activities that are hard to find in the middle of the US.” (11:22) - Phil Shellhammer

“Because you have this large group of tourism coming in—this large investment in the space from the city and from other investors to make this a great outdoor rec space, then it’s natural for businesses to want to be here too.” (12:02) - Phil Shellhammer

“I imagine most people don't realize that having Walmart here isn’t just that Walmart is here, but they’re surrounded by every large CPG company as well. And so we have so much talent, not even just in Walmart, but calling on Walmart. And so all those companies are represented here in Bentonville—in the surrounding areas as well—which is just a much larger talent pool.” (16:21) - Phil Shellhammer

“It’s overwhelming when you first start as a founder in this area. You literally go from group to group, from person to person, from mentor to mentor because they’re all over the place and everyone’s so willing and able to help. I think one of the biggest things we have here is that community specifically for startups.” (17:26) - Phil Shellhammer

Blog:
In the inaugural episode of the Bentonville Beacon podcast, host James Bell sits down with Phil Shellhammer, Director of the Greenhouse Outdoor Recreation Program (GORP). Phil recently launched GORP as a part of the University of Arkansas’s education and research program in Bentonville, known as The Collaborative. He provided tons of great insight into how Bentonville has positioned itself as a primary player in the outdoor recreation space.

“Outdoor recreation is a large growth area for [Northwest Arkansas] for sure, and one that is a massive focus.” (1:06) - Phil Shellhammer

What is GORP?
The University of Arkansas’s Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation launched GORP severalmonths ago as a Bentonville-based incubation program that serves entrepreneurs within the outdoor recreation industry.

“If you have an idea within the outdoor recreation space, [GORP wants] to help and support [you]...What we’re doing right now is we are trying to build a structure that’s supportive of the core activities most [people] will come from.” (8:23) - Phil Shellhammer

Through the incubation program, Phil primarily helps early-stage entrepreneurs build and launch their outdoor recreation brands. The program has two offerings: an a-la-carte service for entrepreneurs looking for assistance, and the biannual cohort—their flagship offering. The cohort is a 12-week intensive incubation program that serves entrepreneurs nearing launch.GORP’s first cohort began nearly a month ago and includes four entrepreneurs launching brands that will impact the rock climbing community, mountain biking community, and the outdoor recreation industry as a whole.

Why Bentonville?
If you’ve been paying attention to the outdoor industry over the past decade, you know that
Bentonville has proven itself to be a significant player in the outdoor recreation space.
Bentonville and its surrounding area are home to world-class mountain biking trails, premier rock climbing sites, plenty of camping and hiking destinations, multiple rivers to float, and much more.  

As the region has embraced its outdoor-centric identity, outdoor enthusiasts and professionals alike have flocked to the area. There is no shortage of industry experts and enthusiasts who provide a booming market for new products and are eager to give feedback.

“Because you have this large group of tourism coming in—this large investment in the space
from the city and from other investors to make this a great outdoor rec space, then it’s natural for businesses to want to be here too.”
(12:02) - Phil Shellhammer

In addition to the influx in outdoor recreation fanatics, the University of Arkansas, several large
businesses, and a wealth of investors have supplied plenty of capital that led to the area’s
outdoor recreation boom over the past decade. Thanks to these investors, founders and
entrepreneurs in the industry have no shortage of resources and opportunities, and the well is only getting deeper.  

“It’s overwhelming when you first start as a founder in this area. You literally go from group to group, from person to person, from mentor to mentor because they’re all over the place and everyone’s so willing and able to help. I think one of the biggest things we have here is that community specifically for startups.” (17:26) - Phil Shellhammer

Get Connected!
Thanks for tuning into the first episode of the Bentonville Beacon podcast! Tune in weekly for
more stories from entrepreneurs who are making a positive impact on Bentonville’s culture,
community, and lifestyle!

Are you interested in learning more about Bentonville and the growth of its outdoor recreation community? Check out the Bentonville Economic Development website.

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