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Op-Ed: Celebrating Arkansas Startups on the World Stage

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by Tiffany Henry

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in op-eds are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of Arkansas Money & Politics or About You Media Group.

The dust has not had much time to settle on the shelves of local retailers, as Halloween costumes have quickly been replaced with winter holiday decor. Peppermint has taken the place of pumpkin spice and poinsettias don the porches where jack-o-lanterns once sat. And while I am excited to jingle bell rock, I feel it my duty to ensure that one special occasion in November is not forgotten. The event that millions of people celebrate together each year. Hold the turkey and dressing – I’m talking about Global Entrepreneurship Week.

Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) is seven full days of community programming with the purpose of promoting entrepreneurship as the driving force for positive change in the world. This year from November 18-24, 10 million people from 170 countries will attend 35,000 events that aim to inspire business creation and connect founders with resources to scale their existing ventures. Central Arkansas will be participating in the festivities, with organizations like the Conductor and the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center both hosting free events that serve to strengthen and grow entrepreneurs in the state. 

The participation of local organizations in global initiatives like GEW is important to spread the message to a world-wide audience that innovation and entrepreneurship are on the rise in Arkansas. Our state has the resources and amenities to be the destination of choice to start a business, which is further seen when considering the progress that Arkansas has made in the areas surrounding the fourfold theme of GEW 2019: education, ecosystems, inclusion and policy. 

The GEW education theme will promote entrepreneurship as a viable career path to be introduced in K-12 through skills development. Arkansas leads the nation in computer science education, and organizations like the Arkansas STEM Coalition work hard to prepare students for the future economy. To encourage complex problem solving during GEW, the Conductor will host a Youth Maker Monday that teaches school-aged children how to program and play with Ozobot robots.

The GEW ecosystem theme will emphasize the importance of connecting local networks to better share resources and collectively move communities forward.  Arkansas entrepreneurial support organizations demonstrate this spirit of collaboration during “Techtober,” a statewide initiative that promotes entrepreneurship during the autumn months. In this same vein, during GEW the Conductor will partner with Main Street Russellville to host a workshop called “Building Your Entrepreneurial Ecosystem,” which will use asset mapping to help communities identify existing resources that contribute to small business development.

The GEW inclusion theme will highlight reducing barriers for entrepreneurs from underrepresented groups. Arkansas has multiple organizations like Winrock International, Remix Ideas, and the Small Business Administration that specifically work with entrepreneurs of color, women, Veterans, and rural founders. 

The GEW policy theme will focus on the role governments play in new venture creation and growth. Arkansas policy makers are proactively working to foster economic development initiatives that encourage entrepreneurship, as seen with Congressman French Hill’s recent Venture Ecosystem Summit that included a facilitated discussion with leaders in the startup space from across the state. Opportunities for entrepreneurs to benefit from current government policies will be discussed during GEW, with the Procurement Technical Assistance Center teaming up with the Conductor to host a workshop on government contracting.

Global Entrepreneur Week provides current and aspiring entrepreneurs with knowledge, connections and resources to help their companies grow and thrive. And despite society’s attempts to rush through November, GEW’s inclusion in the Thanksgiving season serves as a great reminder of what this time of year is all about – quality time with family and friends. That reason alone is worth celebrating. 

A full list of Conductor GEW events can be found here.

For more information about Global Entrepreneurship Week, click here.

Tiffany Henry is the Rural Director at the Conductor.

READ MORE: Innovation Matters: Starting the Conversation in Arkansas

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