UA undergrads entrusted with million dollar e-commerce business

by Paul Gatling ( 1,436 views 

From left, Tucker Partridge, John James, Nick Beyer and Ryan Richardson.

Entrepreneur John James wants to develop more e-commerce talent in Northwest Arkansas, and he’s putting some skin in the game to do so.

James has turned over operations of an e-commerce business he owns to University of Arkansas students Tucker Partridge (senior, Benton), Ryan Richardson (junior, Denver) and Nick Beyer (senior, Springdale).

They are running, an online retailer of medical scrubs with more than $1 million in annual revenue. The business is a portfolio company of Hayseed Ventures, a startup studio in Fayetteville founded by James in May 2015 and focused on e-commerce.

James originally founded in 2005, and just recently re-purchased the assets from Acumen Brands, where he previously served as founder and CEO and eventually raised more than $100 million of venture capital.

James said the e-commerce talent gap in Northwest Arkansas is widening, a belief he says is confirmed by discussions with more than 100 local businesses. His response was to approach Matt Waller, dean of the Sam M. Walton College of Business, with an idea of partnering with the UA for a unique internship.

“[Waller] was overwhelmingly supportive, so we jumped right in,” James said. “I’m hopeful this will be a small, initial step towards a much larger program in cooperation with the University of Arkansas.”

Partridge is a Sturgis Fellow— one of the oldest and most prestigious academic awards offered by the UA — and a student in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts & Sciences. Richardson and Beyer are both studying in the Walton College. They can apply to receive credit hours from the UA, and Richardson has done so.

“Tucker and I [already being seniors] basically already had the hours we needed to graduate,” Beyer said. “But John’s vision for the program is to help students get credit hours while also getting good experience learned e-commerce.”

Working directly with James, Partridge runs social media and email marketing, Richardson manages operations, and Beyer serves as the de-facto CEO.

Beyer said the students overhauled operations of the business, which reduced supply chain errors and increased customer satisfaction “dramatically.”

“We have a lot of work left to do, but we’re proud of what we’ve already accomplished,” Richardson said. “We’ve built a solid foundation for growth, and we’re excited to begin growing revenue.”