Los Angeles-based fintech startup Sootchy Inc. has tapped into the Northwest Arkansas talent pool to grow the company that recently launched an app to help people save money for college.
CEO David Adefeso said he visited Northwest Arkansas in early 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic and was introduced to the area by consultant Emma Willis, who has since joined the company as chief operating officer.
“I was pleasantly surprised,” Adefeso said. “Living in New York, living in Boston and living in L.A., you don’t really look at the heartland of America as a pool of talent. … I went [to Northwest Arkansas], and I saw talent that was equal to in many ways almost any major city that you could find around the country, maybe around the world.”
He noted the talent drawn here by large corporations like Walmart, Tyson Foods, and J.B. Hunt Transport Services, but the area also has many other smart and educated professionals.
“We started hiring, and we found more and more smart people,” said Adefeso, who looks to hire as many as he can before his friends in New York and Los Angeles find out about the talent here. “We’re going to be actively hiring down there.”
In November, Joanna Bunten joined the company as chief marketing officer after working in marketing for five years at J.B. Hunt and six years with the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery. Both Bunten and Willis work from Northwest Arkansas.
Amid the pandemic, Adefeso said employees are working remotely. But after the pandemic, it will open a physical office in the area. The company has 20 employees, including six in Northwest Arkansas.
Bentonville-based Venture Noire, a nonprofit supporting African American and minority entrepreneurs, helped Sootchy to establish in Northwest Arkansas. Adefeso, an African American immigrant from Lagos, Nigeria, also leads The Pacific Group, a financial investment adviser. Venture Noire recently announced it was seeking to raise $5 million after completing its initial program paid for by a grant from the Walton Family Foundation and through The Greater Bentonville Area Chamber of Commerce.
Sootchy is a platform for understanding 529 Savings Plans. With information on tax benefits, education options covered by the plans and state-by-state guidelines, Sootchy.com provides information and gifting options to allow family and friends to save for a child’s future education expenses.