U of A Startup Incubator Supporting Eight Companies During Fall Semester
BENTONVILLE, Ark. – The U of A Greenhouse Outdoor Recreation Program, or GORP, will support eight companies in its Fall 2022 cohort, doubling the size of the cohort compared with GORP's inaugural spring program. GORP is one of three community-facing business incubation programs led by the Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation and is housed at The Collaborative, the U of A's education and research hub in Bentonville.
Five cycling companies are joined by three other eclectic outdoor startups: one focused on guided tours along the Buffalo River, another that has designed an all-in-one mobile tree stand and a sole founder with a prototype to improve camping from inside your vehicle.
"It's not unexpected to have a large number of cycling startups, given the focus on the activity here in Bentonville," said Phil Shellhammer, senior director of business incubation for Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation. "However, it's equally exciting that we get a large variety of founders working on problems in other popular outdoor recreation activities."
GORP will support these startups with workshop training, team mentoring and dedicated product/service development to help them scale globally. The12-week 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 interactions between founders are unique, as the cohort acts like a team working on individual businesses, but helping each other succeed," Shellhammer said. "I expect to see even more interaction between founders, as they learn each other's models and provide insights and perspectives to aid in the early business design."
The success of GORP's inaugural cohort, which helped four startups launch and expand their businesses, drew in a large number of competitive applications and allowed for the expansion of the fall cohort, Shellhammer said. Some of the fall applicants also had been working with GORP on an ad hoc basis prior to the application process, which allowed many candidates' applications to be stronger and more prepared for the rigors of the program, he added.
"Once companies get into the GORP cohort, they are typically further along than 'idea' and have put significant work into understanding their problem, determining their solution and preparing for launch," Shellhammer said. "However, this semester we do have some companies that are on the earlier side of prototype design and others that have already taken small amounts of revenue. Each founder will benefit from the workshops, mentors and other GORP support as they confirm their business model and speed up their progress to a successful market launch."
GORP's Fall 2022 cohort:
- Best Ride of Your Life (B-Royl) — Bentonville
- Founded by Ironman triathlete Tracy Byrd, B-Royl is designing cycling apparel that prevents skin irritation and discomfort while enhancing performance. B-Royl's product will allow cyclists to comfortably ride.
- Gnargo Bike Co. — Bentonville
- Using a circular supply chain, Gnargo reinvents discarded bikes into "modern utility transportation" to aid individuals and families seeking a low-cost way to explore Northwest Arkansas' trails. Founded by husband-and-wife team Elysia Contreras Springer and Zach Springer, the idea emerged after they learned families in Bentonville wanted to bike in a communal setting that was affordable and minimally impactful on the environment.
- Just Bikes — Fayetteville
- Just Bikes plans to be the all-in-one destination for individuals and families exploring Northwest Arkansas' trail system. Operated by married couple Jennifer Stout and Nathan Stout, Just Bikes will offer Airbnb-style accommodations, food and drinks, and a bike shop just off the trail in south Fayetteville.
- Merman Bicycles — Bentonville
- Merman Bikes designs and creates progressive, party-inducing bikes that are born from Northwest Arkansas dirt but are comfortable for shredding anywhere. The company's co-founders, Tyler Siems and Taylor Weichman, have more than 15 years combined in the cycling industry.
- Rover Hunting Equipment — Springdale
- Rover seeks to provide an all-in-one mobile tree stand system that takes the hunter from carry-in to the harvest.
- XNA Bikes — Bentonville
- XNA Bikes is on a mission to lower the barrier to competitive cycling by offering high-quality, affordable carbon-frame bikes. The team, composed of Deihl Betz, Saul Fernandez and David Lopez, eventually plans to build the bikes in Northwest Arkansas while incorporating student-athletes into its business to harness their STEM skills and offer hands-on education.
- The Yonder — Fayetteville
- Created by Colin Whittington, the Yonder is an inexpensive, multi-purpose device for camping inside your SUV that also aids in storage, organization and preparation for outdoor activities.
- Yonder Adventure Company — Little Rock
- Formed by Cate Handley and Joe Goodwin, two active leaders in the Arkansas Canoe Club, Yonder Adventure Company offers full-service, highly-customizable float trips on the Buffalo River via oar-powered drift boats. The company will provide meals, gear and handle logistics for day-long or multi-day trips of up to six people.
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, the Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation 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, the Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation also offers on-demand support for students who will be innovators within existing organizations and entrepreneurs who start something new.
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