The Arkansas Entrepreneurial Startup Desert

The Arkansas Entrepreneurial Startup Desert


I really shouldn’t call Arkansas an entrepreneurial desert – though it did get you to read this.

Arkansas is, after all, the home of Walmart, arguably the world’s most successful family business in the history of mankind. And, it is home to 18 publicly traded companies, in a state with only two million souls.

Arkansas is also a state with a long and storied entrepreneurial history, that seems to have forgotten what it is that entrepreneurs actually need to succeed. Namely: what do neophyte entrepreneurs actually need to know in order to run a going concern?

What we do have is a burgeoning and growing ecosystem, giving a great deal of lip service to supporting entrepreneurs: new technology centers, innovation hubs, and startup funds are announced weekly. For every new startup pitch competition created, a dozen other pitch competitions already exist. Enough, already.

We have created a wobbly ecosystem designed to launch a thousand Powerpoint decks, and game gone-in-sixty-second contests for bragging rights and cash; a startup food chain, with lots of empty calories, but with little to no nutritional value.

And as a result – we are failing to launch healthy and sustainable new companies.

How do we fix this?

Well, we don’t need another startup fund. And we sure as hell don’t need another pitch competition.

We need businesses, and business people, who know how to keep enterprises between the ditches, making profits, paying salaries, giving back to their communities, and ultimately, fulfilling dreams.

People willing to sweat, and teach, the details of what businesses actually do.

Details like: Should my business be a C Corporation, an S Corporation, or an LLC? Should I incorporate as a native corporation, or as a foreign corporation? Should I operate on an accrual basis, or a cash basis? Will we be subject to state sales taxes? Are we charging (at all / enough) for our services in order to cover our run rate? What are the statutory reporting requirements for my type of business?

Details as seemingly obvious as: How do I close a sale?

These details aren’t simply questions to be answered after you “growth hack” an audience, or announce your break-out app at South By. They are foundational issues vital to the success of any – and everyBusiness with a capital B. The Arkansas Venture Center does a great job of dealing with such issues, through their Pre-Flight course, and through their network of mentors and business advisors.

If you find yourself in a “startup” group, and you’re the only one in the group who has ever created a business charter or filed a 941 form, congratulations – you’re the de facto subject matter expert.

And it’s well past time that those of us who have this knowledge continue to allow the narrative of the emerging Arkansas startup ecosystem to be controlled by entities interested solely in selling shovels to the miners, rather than teaching the basics of actually digging for gold.

There are solid business mentors around. And, there are plenty of people – accountants, lawyers, educators, and, dare I say it, “lifestyle” business owners – that actually know how to take in more money than you spend.

Seek them out. Use them. Invite them into the startup conversation.

For, if you want to successfully cross the entrepreneurial desert, you’ll need guides who have been there before, crossed it, and lived to tell the tale.

5 thoughts on “The Arkansas Entrepreneurial Startup Desert

  1. I get what you’re saying. I’m a startup ( and I slogged along for several months with a lack of knowledge about these very things. I’m happy to report that I was referred to the PreFlight program at the Arkansas Venture Center, and their 14-week program covers all these things that a true startup needs to know. I would recommend them to anyone wanting to start a real, scalable business.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Does forgetting to file your 941 by a day and understanding how to calculate the late penalty make you a super expert? Apparently Joseph & I are both anomalies because these are things we think about and talk about constantly.

    The hardest part for me so far? Finding suitable office space that wasn’t an arm & a leg. They want more tech startups in downtown? We need to make spaces suitable and affordable for smaller, starting companies that aren’t disgusting hovels.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Or juggling your business tax filing dates with your personal tax filing dates. Or calculating withholding for 1099 contractors who aren’t LLCs or corporations… or…


  3. I pay someone else to do all those forms and filings and whatnot. I wish I understood more what was going on legal status and tax wise but it is so much more efficient to hope that the people I hire are doing it right for me. I could have spent a long time worrying which way to do what but I just decided to dive in head first and take the advice of a CPA. So, don’t hire me as an expert on that stuff! But teaching others to get stuff done and don’t sweat the small stuff? I’m your gal.

    I respect a lot of the folks behind stuff going on around here, but I share most of your sentiment. A lot of it feels like today’s version of the 40 page business plan. If you aren’t looking for investment, most of these programs will waste a good amount of your time.

    Liked by 1 person

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