Business owners show area support, give advice

by Jeff Della Rosa ([email protected]) 536 views 

A panel of Northwest Arkansas entrepreneurs recently shared advice on entrepreneurship, their startup journey and thoughts about the area.

The entrepreneurs were interviewed virtually June 10 during “Removing Barriers for Entrepreneurs,” hosted by the Walton Family Foundation as its first LinkedIn Live event.

Emma Willis, heartland director for nonprofit Venture Noire in Bentonville, described Northwest Arkansas as an accelerant.

“I think the biggest win for Northwest Arkansas … would be the fact that you can get a lot done in a short period of time,” Willis said. “And it’s because it’s a very global or international community, the resources are right at your fingertips, and honestly, you can sit down at any coffee shop or any sidewalk and you’ll be sitting right next to a person that can offer you or extend you resources beyond your imagination.”

Willis also discussed the barriers for area entrepreneurs, including the unknowns and lack of places that reflect her as a person. She said Venture Noire’s presence here is helping to address this and encouraging people to come to the area.

April Roy, founder of Bentonville-based femPAQ Inc., recently relocated her menstrual cycle products business to the area after struggling to grow it in central Arkansas. She took part in a Venture Noire boot camp and noted the value of the resources and community in the region.

Martha Londagin, capital access manager for NWA Kiva Hub, said the nonprofit provides loans to Black, Hispanic and women business owners in the area. Kiva, which is supported by the Walton Family Foundation, doesn’t require U.S. citizenship, a minimum credit score or collateral. She said 38 of 42 Kiva loans in the past 18 months have gone to women and minorities.

Edwin Ortiz, CEO of Rejoicy, said he started the website development company after the COVID-19 pandemic affected his meal delivery business, Luncher, which he started in 2018.

Rejoicy allows business owners to start an e-commerce website by answering four questions, he said.

Asked for advice for aspiring entrepreneurs, panelists highlighted the ability to persevere, start small but start now, ask a lot of questions, get advice from other small-business owners, be patient and support each other.

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