Fort Smith’s Brick City Emporium wins Ozark SBA InnovateHER challenge

by Paul Gatling ( 146 views 

Brick City Emporium in Fort Smith has taken top honors at the annual Ozarks regional Small Business Administration InnovateHER competition, according to an emailed newsletter from Startup Junkie Consulting in Fayetteville, the area host for the challenge.

InnovateHER was founded by the SBA in 2015 as a platform to highlight innovative products and services that improve the lives of women and have a high potential for commercialization, according to the SBA website.

Brick City, founded by Sara Adams in 2012, offers 20,000 square feet of indoor retail space utilized by a wide variety of specialty vendors for “trendy gifts, boutique clothing, vintage and repurposed home decor, jewelry, handcrafted goods, and specialty foods,” according to the newsletter.

Brick City offers short-term lease options for vendors, according to the newsletter.

“The innovative retail model of Brick City has empowered more than 120 women to launch new businesses, and as a result, has created more than 200 jobs,” according to the newsletter. “Over 95% of the shop owners are women, and they have quickly grown to collectively capture nearly $1.5 million in annual revenue.”

Adams has plans to expand to 10 locations in the next five years, according to the newsletter.

Thirteen companies competed on the regional level. Brick City will now compete in the semifinals on a national level for an opportunity to become a finalist and attend the national competition in Washington, D.C., to pitch their businesses for the chance to compete for $70,000 in prizes.

Last year, the Springdale-based medical device company Ascendant Dx was chosen as one of 10 finalists nationwide. The company was recognized for its breast cancer diagnostic tool, which detects early-stage breast cancer by looking for marker proteins in patients’ tears.