Bentonville investor, startup adviser helping entrepreneurs source funding

by Paul Gatling ([email protected]) 2,404 views 

Paige Jernigan

Paige Jernigan of Bentonville has raised money for nonprofits, individuals and startups around the globe. Since June 2021, she has done that for Bentonville think-and-do-tank Heartland Forward as its first development director.

But Jernigan left that job recently to focus on a new venture, concentrating her fundraising and networking skills on Northwest Arkansas entrepreneurs.

Angel Oak LLC is an entity that helps startups source funding.

“I hear over and over from local founders how hard it is to raise capital in Northwest Arkansas, yet we live in an area that talks quite a bit about the importance of entrepreneurship,” she said. “If there is to be a sustainable flow of startups here, there must be a robust financial support system.”

An angel investor and startup adviser, Jernigan grew up in Pine Bluff and graduated from Hollins (Va.) University. She received her MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern.

Jernigan started her career as a telecom equity research analyst at Goldman Sachs. She worked for 15 years as an investment banker on Wall Street and spent her adult life working in New York and London. She and her husband bought a home in Bentonville in 2014 so their three boys, raised in the UK, could summer in the Natural State closer to family.

“There is talk about getting capital from the coasts, yet without actively making connections to those areas, it won’t happen,” she said.

Jernigan chose the name of her company because of both words’ meanings. Angel investing, called seed or “friends and family” funding, is early money. It’s risky from the investor’s perspective, but the most important to founders trying to start an entity.

“Early money is the hardest money founders will ever raise,” Jernigan said.

She chose Oak because it’s a hardy tree, and trees are symbols of strength and courage in many cultures.

Jernigan, a former Thaden School board member in Bentonville, advises several startups, including Chris Thompson and Sidekick Mobile Technologies. Sidekick Mobile Technologies’ product is Sober Sidekick, a sobriety and recovery app on iOS and Android.

Thompson relocated to Northwest Arkansas from Los Angeles in early 2022. He launched the app in January 2019, just a few months after personally ending five years of alcohol addiction.

Sidekick Mobile Technologies picked up $250,000 from global healthcare leader American Heart Association (AHA) earlier this year.

Jernigan also noted a trio of Northwest Arkansas female founders solving problems — Meagan Kinmonth-Bowman, Elizabeth Prenger and Tammy Sun.

Kinmonth-Bowman is the founder and CEO of Stopwatch, a B2B SaaS (software as a service) platform for consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies. Prenger founded Assicle, a postpartum recovery ice/heat pack designed for women. Sun started Carrot Fertility, a global fertility care platform for women.

“They each saw a gap in an industry and are working to fill it,” Jernigan said. “Beyond expertise in their industries, they must have funding to grow. Northwest Arkansas should support them. Otherwise, they will follow the money.”