Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center Creates Startup Team to Help More Entrepreneurs Achieve Their Dreams

Elizabeth, and Josiah are graduate students who work on the Startup Team at UA Little Rock's Arkansas Small Business and Technology Department Center.

The Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center (ASBTDC), based at UA Little Rock, has created a Startup Team that is helping new entrepreneurs bring their business ideas to life.

The Startup Team, which began this fall, specializes in assisting clients who have never been in business or had to learn about business before, including entrepreneurs who are turning a hobby into a business or creating a new business from scratch.

“Our demand for information and resources for startup businesses has increased significantly over the past 18 months,” said Wendy Orvis, ASBTDC startup specialist and Startup Team leader. “We formed the Startup Team to help meet this demand.”

ASBTDC provides no-cost confidential business consulting and other resources to current and prospective entrepreneurs.

Since Sept. 1, the Startup Team has processed 292 incoming requests and consulted with 172 clients. Managing many of these new clients are ASBTDC employees and UA Little Rock business graduate student Elizabeth Henry and undergraduate student Josiah Johnson.

“Elizabeth Henry and Josiah Johnson listen to our startup entrepreneurs’ needs and help them create a plan to meet those needs,” Orvis said. “They have worked with clients on business plans, financial projections, marketing, and strategic planning. They have also worked with clients who weren’t ready to move forward yet and provided resources and training to encourage their success. Both Elizabeth and Josiah are impressive and intelligent and excellent with our clients.”

Henry, an MBA student with an emphasis in financial accounting analysis, said that being the daughter of a small business owner has really helped her appreciate the impact of the Startup Team.

“We work with aspiring new entrepreneurs who are just starting off with an idea to people who want to create a legitimate business out of a side hustle,” Henry said. “My dad is a chef, and I grew up watching him struggle with the small business side of things. I want to make the process seem less scary for our clients. I really love watching an idea become a business. It’s one of the most fulfilling tasks I’ve ever had.”

The Startup Team helps clients develop business ideas and create business plans. They also advise prospective business owners about startup steps such as registering a business, getting a business license, applying market research, developing a budget, marketing, seeking funding, and more.

“I’ve always been heavily involved in market research at the ASBTDC,” Johnson said. “That has been my fascination, but this has made me think more about how to use market research in a useful way. I love working with a ton of data, but that alone is not helpful for business owners. You need to answer very specific questions that will help their business grow. After working on the Startup Team, small business consulting has become one of my passions. Now I feel like I could start my own business if the opportunity ever arose.”

The owners of a growing hot sauce business said that they couldn’t have started their businesses without the help of the Startup Team.

“My friend, Chris Mansur, has a little farm in Little Rock. We both love hot sauce but don’t love paying for it,” said David Dunavant, co-owner of Murder Farm Hot Sauce. “I suggested we learn how to make hot sauce using the peppers he grows on his farm. Let’s sell it to our friends and clients. Neither of us do this for a living. I’m a college professor and an alumni. This hot sauce business was never supposed to be a business. We kept on getting such good feedback so we decided to keep on making it and start a business.”

Since they have begun, their hot sauce brand has proven popular and is being sold by several businesses, farms, and restaurants in central Arkansas.

“I’m a teacher, and Chris is a bartender,” Dunavant said. “We’ve never really owned our own business before. Every aspect of this journey is new for us. I can’t emphasize enough how awesome Elizabeth Henry, our consultant, has been. We have formed a limited liability corporation, hired a lawyer, registered the company with the treasury department, and gotten a tax ID number. Elizabeth is the hero of our story. Without her, it would have taken weeks or months to figure out all the steps needed to open our business.”

Henry said it’s been rewarding to see how her clients have developed their line of hot sauces into a successful business.

“My favorite part of helping clients is being able to help them turn their dreams into reality,” Henry said. “That sounds so cheesy, but so many of my clients come to me with just an idea and no idea how to get started. I love being able to watch that idea turn into a full-fledged business.”

Laura Fine, ASBTDC state director, said Henry and Johnson are gaining valuable business expertise by helping first-time entrepreneurs evaluate and execute their business ideas.

“The students who work in our program are valued members of the ASBTDC team,” Fine said. “We rely on them to help us serve the high volume of inquiries we get from people exploring entrepreneurship and seeking help starting businesses. ASBTDC provides a real-life learning laboratory for students where they interact with a variety of entrepreneurs and new business ideas every day. In the classroom, a student’s goal is to learn and achieve a good grade. At ASBTDC, the goal is to help clients make informed decisions such as whether or not to invest their savings in a new business or to quit a full-time job to start a business.”

Visit readystartgrow.org to learn more about ASBTDC’s services for new entrepreneurs, or complete the contact form to begin working with the Startup Team on your business idea.

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