Two very different companies — EcoVet of Springdale and DataRank of Fayetteville — each tagged by The City Wire as startups to watch in 2014 said they are primed and ready to grow their ventures in 2015.
EcoVet was recently spun-off from parent EcoArk, the sustainable products/advisory company based in Rogers. Mike Hagood has taken control of the furniture-making venture and said it’s a passion he wanted to devote himself to on a full-time basis.
“I have been a part of EcoVet since its early origins as S.A. Concepts and I worked as an advisor early on before EcoArk purchased it. EcoArk was a company that I co-founded a few years back. Sustainability is a passion of mine and I’m excited about the opportunities to grow EcoVet,” Hagood said.
He spent 35 years in retail and 22 of those were at Wal-Mart. The last three at Wal-Mart Hagood ran the retailer’s zero waste program. He then spent a few years at Waste Management learning that side of the business. To build furniture, EcoVet takes old semi trailers headed for the graveyard, breaks them down and reclaims the maple and oak planks that make up the trailer flooring. The company also uses some of the metal in the trailers.
“I just felt like there was a lot of untapped potential in EcoVet so I jumped into managing this business full-time in mid-November and we have already begun to see some positive results,” Hagood told The City Wire.
The company has found favor with I.O. Metro who now carries three different products on display in all of its 18 stores.
“I.O. Metro has invested in us in a big way and they are also helping rework some of our designs that will incorporate metal and wood and we will be in their spring catalog,” Hagood said.
He said Sam’s Club has offered free shipping on the products they carry online and the prices have come down as Hagood has invested in some heavy machinery that helps to reduce some of the manpower in the construction process.
“We used to spend hours with hand sanders but I have added a large mechanical sander that cuts the time for that process dramatically. We are supplementing some of our pieces with traditional lumber which brings the cost down as well. For instance, a table leg might be made from building lumber and the top could be crafted from reclaimed planks,” Hagood said.
One of the biggest opportunities EcoVet has uncovered in recent months is that North Carolina Furniture in Tulsa has ordered 20 to 25 different floor samples for its large store showroom.
“EcoVet is going to have a large presence in that Tulsa store. We are making large floor mirrors, all types of tables and shelves for both residential and commercial uses,” Hagood said.
EcoVet has also connected with Lisa Lockwood a local designer for the supplier community. Hagood said EcoVet recently helped to create some of the furniture for Collective Bias in their new location in Rogers.
“We get a lot of commercial orders for conference tables. One that we are working on now is 21-feet long. Between the commercial orders and the expanding retail presence 2015 should be a very busy year for EcoVet,” Hagood said.
EcoVet has signed a lease on a 40,000-square-foot manufacturing center at 1315 N. 13th St. in Rogers and is relocating from Springdale. The present building site is just 25,000 square feet. The move is set for February. Hagood said the new location also provides space for a showroom at the front of the building. The showroom also has a separate entrance with parking upfront.
The company employs 18, and most are veterans pursuing college degrees, but Hagood said he has relaxed that requirement. Workers do not have to be in school and priority hiring still goes to veterans. When EcoVet began as S.A. Concepts, a big part of the focus was to provide liveable wage jobs for military veterans purusing a college degree.
EcoVet recently hired 10 new employees which include mostly veterans but also two entry-level positions as well as a couple of retired men wanting to build things. He plans to add six to eight more workers for disassembly jobs in the next few months.
“There are still 600,000 unemployed veterans in this country and 22 veterans commit suicide daily. Work programs like EcoVet gives these veterans an opportunity to learn new skills and work with other former servicemen,” Hagood said.
Hagood is negotiating with FedEx Ground in Harrison for some of their retired trailers. He said moving trailers to Northwest Arkansas from other regions is an expensive addition to the cost of operation so he is working to find local sources like FedEx and other carriers. Wal-Mart Stores has also been a major supplier of retired trailers to the startup.
“Trailer retirements generally take place in January. Retailers often use trailers for inventory storage through the holidays. I believe there is enough local trailers available from our sourcing partners this year without having to source elsewhere,” Hagood said.
He said the company has four or five workers who weld so metal is now part of their designs. The metal is stripped from the trailers as well as the plank floor boards, which are planed and fashioned into furniture and accessories.
DATARANK SALES ADDITION
Ryan Frazier, CEO of DataRank, continues to layer on sales executives to his expanding team which is celebrating three years as a successful startup. The company began while Frazier was a student at the University of Arkansas.
The Big Data analytics firm recently hired Todd Lafferty as its new vice president of sales and business development. Lafferty hails from the San Francisco Bay Area and has a background in sales while also specializing in startups.
“We’re very excited and lucky to have him working with us. We have also hired Evan Sitzes for our Client Services team, and Candice Evans Gray to be part of our Sales Development team. We have more than doubled the size of our team in 2014, and are looking forward to bringing in new people in 2015 as we continue to grow at an exciting fast pace,” said Josephine Hardy, marketing manager for DataRank.
Looking back at 2014, Frazier said his startup venture surpassed its sales goals every month while also building important client relationships along the way.
“We learned that with the rapid growth in our team’s size it is important to ensure that every new member of DataRank fits into the culture of the company. We have a flat organizational structure that builds teamwork, and keeps productivity high,” Hardy added.
In November the company released its updated social media monitoring application and a new website, and expanded it’s marketing exposure through an internal blog.
“We are now a direct competitor with the biggest players in the social listening market, and are excited to take on the challenge of becoming the go-to company for businesses wanting to perform online conversation monitoring,” Hardy said.
BABY FOOD VICTORY
In the past year DataRank worked with a host of companies including a Fortune 500 baby food brand having difficulty getting shelf space at Walmart stores in California because of the smaller store footprint. The company looked to the DataRank dashboard application to see what parents in California thought about their brands and their competitors.
DataRank gathers online conversation from eCommerce sites like Walmart.com, social media networks, blogs, and forums. They analyzed thousands of product reviews and social media posts and found that their product was well received in California. The company also saw negative discussion around Walmart for not carrying the product. Some people who wanted the product also mentioned making special trips to other retailers just to pick up the product.
During an eight week period following the DataRank analysis case the supplier shared the data with Walmart. DataRank reports that the baby food supplier products are now carried in 200 additional Walmart stores in California.