First Cohort in U of A's Outdoor Startup Incubator Graduates from the Greenhouse

First Cohort in U of A's Outdoor Startup Incubator Graduates from the Greenhouse
Brandon Howard

BENTONVILLE, Ark. – Pedro Somarriba wanted to make rock climbing safer by creating innovative, dynamic ropes with custom designs and meter markings.  

In February, he entered the Greenhouse Outdoor Recreation Program, also known as GORP, a business incubator at the University of Arkansas focused on outdoor startups. 

Now he's one month away from launching his product. 

"We would be at least three months behind where we are now had we not been a part of this," Somarriba said. "We are expanding already." 

Sombarriba and his company, Lacaida Ropes, joined three other startups Thursday at the Greenhouse at the U of A Collaborative in Bentonville for Demo Night, a showcase of the inaugural GORP cohort. 

Launched in 2021, GORP provides a multi-level engagement platform to grow early-stage companies from idea to launch, with in-depth support through workshops, mentorship, consulting, co-working space, network connections and product/service design. 

American Hunt, which mimics AirBnb by linking outdoor enthusiasts with private land for hunting, fishing and camping, utilized the resources at GORP to redesign their website.  

In just a few months, they went from a static webpage to a dynamic site that allows users to search and book their adventure. Landowners also now have the option to list their property with a robust set of categories covering a litany of outdoor activities.  

Encore Bike Rentals entered GORP with a goal to help visitors to Northwest Arkansas "ride like a local." The company rents high-quality mountain bikes via a concierge service to riders in Bella Vista, Bentonville and Rogers. They'll deliver and pickup directly to the trail head, hotels,  vacation rentals, and other spots in those areas. 

Now Encore Bikes is looking to hire additional employees and partner with the community to provide a "one-stop-shop" experience on the trails, said Taylor Baumgardner, who co-founded the company with his wife, Morgan. 

Trail Tours, a startup that provides guided audio tours of the trails from a local expert, saw tremendous growth, with its app notching 100,000 downloads. Co-founder Mark Marsiglio said GORP helped the company focus on creating "a huge amount of momentum" in the acceleration toward Trail Tours commercial launch. 

Marsiglio added that the company plans to integrate points of interests on the trails — like breweries and restaurants — and allow users to upload their own guided tours. 

"All four (companies) are on their way, and all four of them got there because of the community around us and what they've provided," said Phill Shellhammer, director of GORP with the Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation

Applications for the fall 2022 cohort will open in June. The 12-week cohort will begin in August. 

GORP supports startups in the cohort with workshop training, team mentoring and dedicated product/service development to help them scale globally. The program also provides up to $15,000 in "non-dilutive seed funding" per company, funding that doesn't require the owner to give up equity in the company. 

The Greenhouse is located at the U of A Collaborative, the university's education and research hub in Bentonville. GORP is the first of three planned business incubation programs launched by OEI within the Greenhouse; the Northwest Arkansas BioDesign Sprints program is slated to launch this summer, and a software incubation program is planned for early 2023. 

About the U of A Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation: The Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation creates and curates innovation and entrepreneurship experiences for students across all disciplines. Through the Brewer Family Entrepreneurship Hub, McMillon Innovation Studio, Startup Village, and Greenhouse at the Bentonville Collaborative, OEI provides free workshops and programs — including social and corporate innovation design teams, venture internships, competitions and startup coaching. A unit of the Sam M. Walton College of Business and Division of Economic Development, OEI also offers on-demand support for students who will be innovators within existing organizations and entrepreneurs who start something new.

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