‘Ark Tank’ launched by Arkansas Tourism, Innovate Arkansas

by Tina Alvey Dale (tdale@talkbusiness.net) 1,091 views 

Have an idea for a business that would spur tourism in Arkansas? Now is the chance to pitch that idea.

Arkansas Tourism, in partnership with Innovate Arkansas, is accepting applications for Ark Tank, a startup pitch competition to be held Feb. 26 the Hot Springs Convention Center in conjunction with the 2019 Arkansas Governor’s Conference on Tourism. The pitch competition winner will walk away with a cash prize of $5,000, a guarantee for mentorship from professionals in the field related to the winning business idea, and ongoing advisement with Innovate Arkansas and the Arkansas Tourism research and development section, a media release on Ark Tank said.

“We are looking for the ideas and energy that entrepreneurs bring to everything they do. To apply those ideas for continued tourism business growth in our state is a great opportunity,” said Arkansas Tourism Director Jim Dailey. “Ark Tank will be an exciting addition to our annual conference, and we can’t wait to see the ideas that will be presented.”

David Sanders, director of Innovate Arkansas at Winrock International said that both tourism and entrepreneurs are important to the betterment of Arkansas’ economy.

“Winrock and Innovate Arkansas’s team is dedicated to helping startup founders grow their businesses in Arkansas. We are excited to partner with Arkansas Tourism to extend the startup spirit and our support to an industry that is so important to our state.”

Innovate Arkansas assists technology entrepreneurs in turning startup companies into viable commercial enterprises. According to company information, it is “focused on building and managing the programs needed to accelerate business growth for tech-based startups and established corporations in Arkansas. As the primary conduit between both sides, Innovate Arkansas serves a critical role in developing talent, building commerce, and securing the capital required to develop the state’s high-growth economy.”

Winrock International is a recognized leader in U.S. and international development with a focus on social, agricultural and environmental issues.

Startup businesses that are related to tourism in Arkansas will be considered for the Ark Tank competition. Rules indicate a tourism-related business is one that “directly interacts with tourists, deals with businesses that cater to tourists, encourages tourism in and travel to Arkansas, and/or supports tourism-related activities in Arkansas.” Projects must promote tourism or be associated with a tourism or hospitality entity in Arkansas that offers an experience, location, attraction or travel planning assistance to potential visitors from both inside and outside the state.

Innovate Arkansas will select competition participants with advisement from Arkansas Tourism. The Ark Tank judges will be selected by Arkansas Tourism and will be advised by Innovate Arkansas.

There are three phases to the application process: An online application deadline is Jan. 9. Applicants selected for the second phase will be contacted by Jan. 23. They then must complete a “lean canvas” for the business model. Finalists selected for the pitch competition will be notified by Feb. 6. Innovate Arkansas will work with those finalists to develop, refine and practice their pitches, which will be presented at the competition Feb. 26 in Hot Springs.

The pitch competition will be live-streamed and audience members will be able to text their vote for the winner. An audience favorite will be awarded along with the grand prize judges’ winner.

“Arkansas has a thriving startup ecosystem driving innovation in industries all across our state. I’m looking forward to seeing the ideas that come when that entrepreneurial spirit is applied to tourism, one of our state’s biggest economic influencers,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson said in the release. “The Ark Tank competition will be a fitting highlight to my annual Conference on Tourism and will send attendees off with excitement and energy to apply to their own businesses.”

Arkansas Tourism, a division of the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, strives to expand the economic impact of travel and tourism in the state and enhance the quality of life for all Arkansans. The division manages 14 Arkansas Welcome Centers and employs more than 60.

Arkansas tourism and travel accounts for roughly $7.8 billion in economic activity and employs more than 66,000 workers statewide.