Benchmarks: Startups

Tacos 4 Life

What’s new in the Arkansas business community.


OBryan McKinneyBU Adds Entrepreneurship Emphasis

Thanks to administrators at Ouachita Baptist University, students at the Arkadelphia liberal arts school will be able to earn an entrepreneurship emphasis with their degrees beginning in the fall.

At the helm of the new program is Bryan McKinney, dean of the Hickingbotham School of Business. McKinney points out that even though the school might just now be launching an official entrepreneurship program, OBU has had a focus on entrepreneurialism for years — particularly by participating in local and regional business competitions, like the Donald W. Reynolds Governor’s Cup Collegiate Business Plan Competition in April. The OBU team placed sixth among more than 50 teams and McKinney received the C. Sam Wells Entrepreneur Educator Award in May.

So what does an entrepreneurship emphasis entail? Think classes dealing with finance, management, social entrepreneurship and more, McKinney said, as well as a business plan development course, where students will see a live business through from idea to launch.

So far, 15 students have officially declared an entrepreneurship emphasis, but McKinney said that number doesn’t reflect students involved in the school’s other entrepreneurial endeavors.

McKinney said the emphasis and entrepreneurship courses are available to students outside of the school of business.

“If a kinesiology student wishes to become a personal trainer or if a music major wishes to open a music studio, we want to give those students the tools they need to succeed,” he said. “We are mindful that many entrepreneurs don’t think of themselves as business people, yet they need business skills to succeed as they launch their own businesses. We hope to fill that gap.”

Tacos 4 LifeTacos 4 Life Brings Meal-for-Meal Model to Fayetteville

Conquering world hunger through taco sales might seem like a lofty goal, but the owners of Conway restaurant Tacos 4 Life are doing their part to make that vision attainable.

Ashton and Austin Samuelson’s funky Tex-Mex eatery follows a meal-for-meal business model. For every taco, burrito, quesadilla, salad or rice bowl sold, the restaurant donates 22 cents to nonprofit, food-aid organization Feed My Starving Children, which sends nutrient-packed meals to countries with high rates of poverty and hunger.

This philanthropic mode for dining out has been so successful that Tacos 4 Life is expanding to Fayetteville. “We hope to be able to take what we have learned in Conway and expand it,” Austin said.

He and Ashton opened Tacos 4 Life on Oak Street in Conway in June 2014, and in March expanded to a second location on Dave Ward Drive. Their initial meal-for-meal restaurant, Pitza 42, opened in September 2011 and closed in February.

Since the opening of Pitza 42, Ashton said combined sales have helped purchase more than 1.4 million meals for people in Swaziland. Though the Fayetteville location will follow the same model, meals purchased there will benefit people in Honduras. The new location will be opened and managed by Justin Young, who has managed the Conway shops since 2014.

After expanding to Northwest Arkansas with an expected opening date in August, the Samuelsons show no signs of slowing down. “God willing, we have a very large vision of opening 1,000 restaurants and providing more meals for kids in need,” Austin said.

Roll and TumbleRoll & Tumble Spinoff Launching This Fall

Years before Christie Turk’s artwork graced cans of Lost Forty beers, she was making a name in the Arkansas design scene as one half of woodblock and letterpress studio Roll & Tumble Press. Now based in Fayetteville, Turk is closing the book on Roll & Tumble Press and moving into a new venture, a line of home wares called Roll & Tumble Provisions.

She said she tested the waters of home wares around Christmas with the launch of hand-painted coir doormats with sayings like “This Must Be The Place” and “You Have Arrived.”

“They were such a hit, I felt like I could move forward with the next step,” Turk said.

Roll & Tumble Provisions’ first line will focus on the bar, offering goods such as happy hour-inspired art prints, canvas wine bags, cloth cocktail napkins, coasters and drink stirrers, Turk said. (For all of her screen-printing needs, Turk said she will team up with Brooks Tipton’s Electric Ghost Screen Printing.)

As far as Press, Turk said remaining inventory will still be for sale, and she plans to continue her annual misprint sale for at least another year — during which she offers imperfect and discontinued prints at a discount.

While there are still some loose ends to tie up before Provisions is completely ready to go, Turk has her fingers crossed for an official launch in September. She plans to sell through similar outlets as Roll & Tumble Press, both online and wholesale, in addition to local and regional storefronts and art markets. It’s a model that gained Roll & Tumble Press a wide following, and it seems likely that Turk’s Provisions will follow suit.

Bourbon and BootsOperating Company Acquires Bourbon & Boots

Arkansas-based online marketplace Bourbon & Boots is a classic startup success story. By offering Southern-inspired artisanal products and entertaining online content, the site has grown quickly, selling 2,000 products to more than 250,000 customers since its launch in 2013.

Now, fans of the site can expect a few changes since the company announced its acquisition funded by early-stage capital investor xCelerate Capital in mid-May.

“Bourbon & Boots has changed a lot in the past year,” said the company’s new CEO Dustin Williams. “There were interesting opportunities to partner with other companies, and the user base has grown tremendously.”

Williams was previously on the Bourbon & Boots team as a designer and has been a partner at xCelerate since the fall. He replaced Bourbon & Boots founder Matt Price as CEO.

One of the partnerships Williams referred to is with Dillard’s, which now carries a line of jewelry drawing inspiration from Bourbon & Boot’s most popular designs. The line, launched in February, is available on both companies’ websites.

Williams said immediate effects of the investment include an updated website interface, improved vendor processes and a larger staff — six new staff members were hired in the first week following the acquisition, and xCelerate Capital managing partner Rod Ford expects that number to grow. Bourbon & Boots’ headquarters will move from its current storefront in Argenta down the street to a larger space to accommodate the increase in staff.

What other changes can fans of the brand expect to see? Ford said he looks forward to national attention due to the “highly curated brand” and “cult-like following” that Bourbon & Boots has been able to capture thus far.

TaglessTagless Style Streamlines Goodwill Shopping

Tagless Style is simplifying the thrift-shopping experience for men who don’t find solace sifting through racks of preworn clothing at Goodwill stores.

The Little Rock online startup, which officially launched in March after a pilot program in October 2014, partnered with Goodwill Industries of Arkansas to handpick the best of the resale stores’ inventory, to tailor and mend those pieces, and then to sell them to online consumers. Purchases are available in packages of two or four items or in monthly subscription boxes. After selecting the number of items, buyers work with Tagless customer service to determine sizes and styles of clothing.

CEO Todd Rivers has been with Tagless since March. He said Tagless was founded by employees of design and development firm Few, which saw Tagless as a “trunk club for second-hand clothes.”

Rivers referenced Banana Republic, Ralph Lauren, J. Crew and Wrangler as brands that have appeared in Tagless boxes. “Since the inventory at Goodwill spans a wide variety, we are able to deliver almost any brand you can think of,” he said. “We have cashmere sports coats, linen Izod shirts and all kinds of pants.”

All Tagless production, packaging and administration is housed out of Goodwill’s regional distribution center in Little Rock, and in February, Goodwill became a shareholder in Tagless, Rivers said. The organization’s chief operating officer, Brian Marsh, sits on Tagless’ board of directors.

Though Rivers said the company has grown since its official launch in late March, don’t expect Tagless to go brick-and-mortar anytime soon. In a lot of ways, that would defeat its purpose. “We see ourselves as a great way for guys to buy clothes online,” he said.

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