August 2019 Magazine

The Conductor: Providing A Much-Needed Nudge To Arkansas Startups

Conductor

by Tyler Hale | Photos By Jamison Mosley

For many entrepreneurs, the first question they ask themselves after launching a startup is, “Now what?’”

That’s where the Conductor‘s startup accelerator comes in. Through its 10X Growth Accelerator, the Conductor has been working to provide targeted assistance to Arkansas ventures through a combination of “growth-oriented, entrepreneurship curriculum, with management assistance, links to flagship customers and access to capital,” according to Conductor CEO Kim Lane.

“This type of assistance was previously unprecedented in Arkansas,” Lane says. “This program provides specifically targeted support to these growth-oriented ventures that are primed for growth beyond the start-up or early stages.”

Partnering with the Arkansas Economic Development Commission and Metova, the Conductor has impacted 42 companies since its inception. The accelerator is designed for Arkansas companies with average annual revenues of $100,000 to $10 million.

The accelerator, now in its third iteration, features a cohort of 18 Arkansas companies that have participated in a 14-week program. During weekly meetings, the company executives receive rigorous peer-to-peer coaching and interact with entrepreneurship experts to develop strategies for business growth.

All of the companies are now in the “launch” phase of the accelerator. Over the next six months, the Conductor will be providing ongoing support as the companies incorporate the lessons they learned and apply them.

Servicing 10 counties in Arkansas, the Conductor is a public-private partnership between the University of Central Arkansas and Startup Junkie that aims to build a healthy entrepreneurial ecosystem in central Arkansas by empowering innovators and entrepreneurs. The organization is led by a team of four: Lane; Chief Catalyst Jeff Standridge; Glenn Crockett, 10x Growth Accelerator director; and Jeff Amerine, founding principal of Startup Junkie. Here’s a look at the latest 10x cohort:

Aptus Financial 

Founded in 2011 by Sarah Catherine Gutierrez, Aptus Financial is a financial services company that provides unbiased financial advice for flat fees. The company, which designs employer retirement plans, aims to provide individuals across all income levels to retire on their own terms.

 In addition to designing employer retirement plans, Aptus also creates financial plans for individuals and families. Aptus does not take commissions or earn percentages of assets under management.

 

Rabbit Ridge Farms

 While many farms raise livestock and practice sustainability, not many can claim to be a destination farm. But that’s exactly what Rabbit Ridge Farms is.

 Located in the Rabbit Ridge community outside of Bee Branch in Van Buren County, Rabbit Ridge Farms was founded in 2014 by Angela and Alan Mahan. The farm provides cuts of beef, pork and chicken for retail, wholesale and catering, using sustainable practices.

 

AccelePay

 AccelePay is a platform that helps companies streamline their accounts payable process. By using the online platform,  businesses can offer early invoice payments to suppliers and vendors, using funds from AccelePay.

 The faster invoice payments encourage vendors to complete projects faster for clients, according to AccelePay founder and president Scott Coffey. Using the company’s platform serves to increase clients’ profits because of lower payables processing costs. 

 

Children and Family Evaluation Service 

Children and Family Evaluation Services, founded in Little Rock in 2016, aims to bring early childhood research into practical application. The coast-to-coast business provides tools and training for child-care providers and family supportive services. 

The tools it offers include the Family Map and We Inspire Smarting Eating (WISE). The Family is an assessment tool for homes and parenting environments in early childhood program. WISE is a curriculum that aims to increase fruit & vegetable consumption in preschoolers and their families. 

 

StrongTower Wealth Management 

At first glance, StrongTower Wealth Management appears to be another financial planning firm. However, the company distinguishes itself by its values-driven focus. 

Strongtower was founded in 2000 to provide Christian investors with a platform of investments that have been screened for Christian values. The firm allows families and businesses to invest in their futures while remaining true to their values.

 

 Citadel Systems

 Providing high-quality cybersecurity on a budget might seem like an oxymoron, but Christopher Wright is making it happen in Arkansas. 

During his early career, Wright recognized that cybersecurity expertise was often out-of-reach for small businesses. After leaving a “stressful and thankless” corporate cybersecurity position, Wright started Citadel Systems in 2016 to help small and medium-sized businesses address cyber threats and remain compliant with data breach and security laws.

   

AngelEye Health

 Having access to loved ones in critical care can be difficult and anxiety-inducing. AngelEye Health is changing that through its innovative camera systems that provide 24/7 access to patients.

 Through the AngelEye Virtual Care Program, individuals and families can visually access loved ones 24/7, while receiving clinical updates, education and more. The platform also enables individuals to share updates about the patient with extended family and review hospital education materials. 

 

Rock City Outfitters 

Every business needs a hook. And for Rock City Outfitters that hook is highlighting the unique landmarks Arkansas has to offer. This Conway-based retailer and print shop designs and sells a line of Arkansas-inspired apparel while also serving as a printer for other businesses and organizations.

  Although Rock City Outfitters is primarily an online business, the company opened its first brick-and-mortar retail location in downtown Conway in 2018. As part of this growth, Rock City hired three new employees. 

 

The Giving Table 

Buy a table, put food on another. That’s the simple pitch for the Giving Table, an Arkansas business that produces premium solid wood tables and butcher block tops for the hospitality industry as well as residential furniture. For every sale made, the company donates a portion to help feed children around the world.

 The Giving Table has its roots in another Arkansas success story. Tacos 4 Life approached Kevin Chenoweth, who had been a woodworking hobbyist, about building farmhouse tables, booths and décor for the restaurants’ locations. As the number of restaurants began to grow, it became apparent that the Chenoweths would need to grow with it – and the Giving Table was born. 

 

 deTASO 

One Arkansas company is helping healthcare and support organizations grow by helping them run more efficiently. Absolute Consulting Solutions’ deTASO software is a solution for therapy companies nationwide that helps employees be more effective. 

The firm was born when a therapy company approached Absolute Consulting Solutions and asked them to design an electronic therapy note program in order to eliminate paper notes. From there, the company, which was founded in 2014, grew.

 

 Food Loops

 Approximately 40 percent of landfill waste is made up of food products. Looking for a problem to solve, Tom Rohr decided to tackle the issue of food waste in Arkansas. 

Rohr founded Food Loops, a food waste solutions company, in 2017 in Rogers. Serving Benton and Washington counties in Northwest Arkansas, Food Loops collects food waste from commercial customers and large events and subsequently turns the food products into compost and fertilizer. 

 

Bear Spear Films

 With the rise of digital filmmaking and cameras, filmmakers are no longer confined to the coastal hotspots of New York City and Los Angeles. Now, filmmakers can practice their art and business virtually anywhere. Bear Spear Films is one Arkansas company that is taking advantage of this trend. 

Bear Spear is a production company that specializes in commercials, weddings and online video streaming. Based in Faulkner County, the production company was founded in 2016. 

 

Share the Love Kidsclub 

“If Mama’s not happy, nobody’s happy.” Starting from this tried-and-true statement, Share the Love Kidsclub came into being. This Conway space is an interactive playspace for kids that features comfy seating, a coffee shop and WiFi for parents. 

Founder Erin Connor recognized that there was a gap in most indoor playrooms between children’s enjoyment and parents’ comfort. Share the Love was founded to give parents a place to get work or catch their breath while giving their children a place to play.

  

Cypress Valley Meat Company 

Cypress Valley Meat Company is dedicated to providing custom processing solutions for hunters and farmers. The company offers clean, humane harvesting and processing for a variety of livestock and USDA-certified processing. 

Started as a small wild-game processing facility, CVMC has steadily grown since being founded in 2010. In 2017, the Vilonia-based company opened a facility in Pottsville.

 

 TreeHouse Cleaning

Necessity is the mother of invention, and TreeHouse Cleaning is the product of one single mother’s necessity.

Teneicia Roundtree needed a way to provide for her children, and her mother recommended she start a cleaning business. Roundtree started her commercial and residential cleaning service in January 2018 in Conway. Ultimately, Roundtree plans to turn TreeHouse cleaning into a series of franchises that is geared towards helping others have an opportunity to build wealth.

 

Integrity Insurance

Not content with just providing insurance, Integrity Insurance aims to provide peace of mind for families. Integrity Insurance is a locally-owned insurance agency that is driven by a mission of treating clients like family and giving back to the community.

“By taking an educational approach to risk management, we set the standard of excellence for customer expectations,” founder and principal Joey Fulgham says. “We are trusted advisers when our clients need us most.”

 

Electronic Manufacturing Solutions (E.M.S.) 

Electronic Manufacturing Solutions (E.M.S.) is a contract manufacturer that produces printed circuit boards, cable and electro-mechanical box builds for a wide customer base. 

The company was founded in 2005 and has grown to 77 employees since. E.M.S. has also earned an ISO 9001 certification, which is a measure of quality management for companies. 

 

RaftUp

Tourism is a major industry in Arkansas, and the Natural State is known for its abundant lakes and rivers. Corey Boelkens realized that no one had solved the problem of safety in recreational boating from a technological standpoint.

“It’s an outdoor mobile application that you can use to socially communicate where you are, what you’re doing and where you want to go,” Boelkens says. And that’s the genesis of RaftUp. Originally called Towing Assistant and Delivery (TOAD), Boelkens and his wife took their idea to Northwest Arkansas Startup Weekend and pitched it, winning second place.  

  

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