Fayetteville Startup LIVSN Designs Cruises Past Kickstarter Goals

Fayetteville Startup LIVSN Designs Cruises Past Kickstarter Goals

If you’re going to create something, take the time to create something the world needs. And if you take the time to do so, the world will respond positively to what you have created. 

That has certainly been the case for Andrew Gibbs-Dabney and his outdoor apparel company, LIVSN Designs, which he founded on the premise of creating quality products with longevity and sustainability in front of mind. The world has responded by making his latest Kickstarter campaign among the most successful ever in the state of Arkansas. 

Gibbs-Dabney is passionate about what he does, and it shows in the clothing he creates. His first Kickstarter campaign, which launched last year, raised more than $78,500 – more than doubling his $30,000 goal. Those funds helped him launch both his flex canvas pants and hi-wool fleece. More than 500 people helped him realize that goal.  

Startup Spotlight: Luncher

Startup Spotlight: Luncher

For some entrepreneurs, one venture can be the result of a lifetime of experiences. That is true of Edwin Ortiz and his company Luncher. The Mexico City native turned Northwest Arkansas resident is working to solve a problem that very few are as equipped to do.   

Luncher is a platform that allows individuals to order food to their office, a park or other hot spots without costly delivery fees. “When you have to pay twice as much for something for it to be delivered, you exclude a lot of the market,” he said. “That was a problem I wanted to focus on.” 

Ortiz’s experience in the field of logistics began a very young age, working for this family’s transit business. An accident thrust him into a leadership position when he was still just a kid, and he was forced to make critical business decisions to keep the family business alive. 

Find Your Why with Cox Media

Find Your Why with Cox Media

In the first of four sessions in a marketing series presented by Cox Media, Mike Papacoda took attendees on a journey to help small business owners and entrepreneurs find their purpose for doing business.  

Awaken Your Why

“Small business owners work tirelessly to connect with their customers so that they may choose them over the competition,” Papacoda said. “They’ve read all the books on marketing and on branding, but there’s something they’re still missing. They have a great product, but they just can’t seem to connect with that desired audience.”

The question is, ‘Why?’ 

From Intern to Entrepreneur

From Intern to Entrepreneur

Entrepreneurship comes naturally to some. Tanner Green, 18, is one of those individuals. A former Startup Junkie intern and serial entrepreneur since before he could get a driver's license, Green is diving headfirst into his latest venture: PigPin. He took the time out of his busy schedule to shed some light on the new project, the impact Startup Junkie has had on his journey and what lies ahead.  

Did interning for Startup Junkie inspire you to pursue your own venture or were you an entrepreneur before? 

At the ripe age of 14, I attended the Startup Junkie/ Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce Teen Entrepreneurship Bootcamp. It was at this camp where I truly got my first taste for venture creation, and my proclivity for creativity and innovation was greatly exercised. Working with Startup Junkie, the experiences at the camp brought my vision great clarity. Hearing the stories of other local entrepreneurs and their successes heightened my personal and professional aspirations. My newly embedded aspirations had me continually surrounding myself with like-minded, goal-oriented individuals, and truly working every day to become the best version of myself. Needless to say, my desire to be an entrepreneur has always been inside of me. However, Startup Junkie’s mission and impact nurtured my career goals even greater than I could have imagined. 

Collaborative Space for Work and Play Proposed for Downtown Fayetteville

Collaborative Space for Work and Play Proposed for Downtown Fayetteville

A collaborative workspace designed to engage the community in both work and play is coming soon to downtown Fayetteville. 

Likewise – the brainchild of business owners and artists Zac Trout and Mallory Berry – is a proposed collaborative coworking space full of amenities where the Fayetteville community can work, dine and play. Proposed plans for the space include the development of art studios, maker spaces, event spaces, workspaces, a café, a speakeasy and so much more.

The idea for the space came to Trout and Berry out of necessity. They both found themselves in need of a flexible place where they could work and collaborate with others. So, they decided to create their own.

“After years of working as a freelancer, I’ve worked from home, coffee shops, libraries and anywhere else I could maintain a little bit of focus,” Trout said. “However, as much as I love the local coffee shops, they were always too social to get much work done. Home was too comfortable to stay driven and not a great place to meet clients. Libraries were great for focus, but not for conversation. I needed somewhere flexible, something different than what each of these places had to offer. 


“I wanted the benefits of being able to connect and collaborate with others, yet still be able to focus without distractions when need be,” he added. “I had been tossing around the idea of starting up a sort of freelance collective with 3 to 4 people, renting out an office together, and collaborating on projects that we could handle as a team. Then around two years ago, I learned about coworking, and it sounded even better than what I’d already envisioned. The concept took over my thoughts, and I knew it was something that Fayetteville could desperately benefit from. Not long after, I was introduced to Mallory, and it turns out that our vision was very much aligned.”

After 20-some-odd marketing campaigns, here’s most everything I’ve learned about growing a business:

There are no silver bullets in business. Few true “growth hacks” exist, and by the time you hear about them, they’re long past their expiration date. Rather, progress is usually slow, and victories hard fought.

That said, general principles do exist when it comes to growing a business: some timeless, others timely. This article has a few of the ones I’ve been lucky enough to stumble across, both during my time as an advertising agency owner and as the CMO/co-owner of one of the fastest growing HVAC businesses in the U.S. I offer one caveat — few, if any of the following are eyebrow raisers. In fact, most are pretty obvious. What is unusual is the degree to which companies I’ve worked for or with follow them. Without exception, the greater the faithfulness, the more successful the company.

Something to keep in mind as you read.

1. At the end of the day, everything hinges on whether you have the consumer’s best interest at heart. I know, it sounds like a Sunday school lesson, but it’s true. Companies that truly want to serve the consumer seem to almost always win in the end, both locally and worldwide. Because in the end, the consumer is the only boss that counts. Sam Walton said it best:

“There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.”

2. Make your ads/posts/emails/etc readable. I originally wrote this section as an opinion piece, but I decided actual results from readability studies would be more impactful. Here we go:

Regular vs reverse type

  • Text printed black on white: 70% stated good comprehension

  • Text printed white on black (reverse type): 0% stated good comprehension

Lower case vs all caps body copy

  • Lower case: 92% stated good comprehension

  • Capitals: 69% stated good comprehension

White vs. colored background

  • Black font on white background: 70% stated good comprehension

  • Black font on light grey background: 63% stated good comprehension

  • Black font on grey background: 33% stated good comprehension

Takeaways:

  • Don’t design in reverse type (white letters on a black background). In fact, now that you know better, mourn for the money wasted every time you encounter reverse type in the wild.

  • Don’t write body copy in all capitals

  • Colored backgrounds can be used, as long as there is strong contrast with the font color

All of these studies come from the book Type & Layout. Highly recommended to anyone working in communications.

While we’re on the subject of readability, speak in simple terms. Big words confuse people, as David Ogilvy put it memorably in his book, Ogilvy on Advertising:

“I once used the word OBSOLETE in a headline, only to discover that 43% of housewives had no idea what it meant. In another headline, I used the word INEFFABLE, only to discover that I didn’t know what it meant myself.”

Make your communications easy to read and you’ll increase your audience dramatically, at no extra cost.

3. Facebook “lead generation” campaigns are fantastic. If you’re the type of business that needs leads to grow, Facebook lead gen campaigns are worth a look. Every time I’ve tested them against the typical ad to landing page flow, they’ve been dramatically more effective. To give you an actual example, here’s the current cost per lead for a nationwide mass tort campaign I’ve been running the last few weeks:

Facebook lead gen CPL: $31

Facebook ad to landing page CPL: $59

For those doing the math at home, the lead gen campaign gets leads for 47% cheaper (and they convert roughly the same). Do yourself a favor and try it for yourself next go ‘round.

4. If your product sucks, don’t pay to advertise it. Good advertising will kill a bad product quicker, because it will get more people to try it. Only pay to advertise once you’ve got your product nailed down and your customers love it. Otherwise, the virality that advertising tends to spawn will die off quickly.

5. SEO is powerful — but rarely done right. Search engine optimization (SEO) allows your business to get free traffic from people who are interested in your product or service. Sounds great, right? Well, there’s a few catches: it’s hard to do, competitive, and takes a long time to pay off. It’s also near impossible to find an SEO expert who actually knows what they’re doing.

My advice? Learn it yourself. It’s a lot of fun and you can add a tremendous amount of value to your business with it. Personally, I learned by reading blogs like Moz and Ahrefs, studying websites that ranked well on Google, and finally, by creating a blog based around a favorite video game of mine called Rust. I saw it as kind of my graduate level SEO course. A few months and a lot of hard work later, I had one of the top ranked Rust websites on the internet:

One of the top keywords for Rustyard.com (video results removed)

One of the top keywords for Rustyard.com (video results removed)

Spend the time to learn SEO and you’ll have a leg up on your competitors for life.

6. Go after the widest possible audience of potential purchasers of your product or service. If you own a pizza parlor, forget the idea of somehow just targeting people who eats tons of pizza. Studies actually show the opposite: that most growth comes from increasing “casual” users’ consumption of your product.

I’ll illustrate this with a brand everyone is familiar with: Coca-Cola. How many Cokes would you guess the typical Coke customer buys a year? 365 — one every day? 52 — one every week? Nope — try two a year. So Coke’s biggest growth opportunity is simply increasing the typical Coke buyers annual purchase rate from two to three. Suddenly, their huge advertising budgets start to make sense.

For more on this topic, I highly recommend reading “How Brands Grow” by Byron Sharp (especially if you’re skeptical of the above Coke statistic).

7. Google Adwords (now Google Ads) campaigns tend to have the highest short-term ROI. Why? Well, with most advertising you’re pitching to people who have no need of your product at this very moment. With Adwords, you’re advertising to people who are already looking for what you offer — you just need to show up with the right sales pitch. In my experience, this leads to an excellent return on advertising spend (ROAS).

A word of caution though: advertising on Adwords is highly competitive, complicated, and can get expensive quick. Either do it right, or stick to handing out flyers because you’ll end up having to sell the family farm. This article is a great way to get started learning it.

8. Just because something isn’t easily trackable, doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing. As Albert Einstein allegedly once said: “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.” It’s true in science and it’s true in marketing. Despite the 21st century’s obsession with data, there always has been and always will be some element of faith in marketing. If you know your customer and you feel like a campaign you’ve got bouncing around in your head would influence more people to try your product, don’t let the fear of not being able to perfectly track it back to sales keep you from doing it.

A famous example is Clif Bar in the early 2000s ignoring most everyone’s advice to run a big TV ad campaign and instead pushing hard into event marketing to cyclists (which was near impossible for them to track). 10 years later, they’re estimated to be doing somewhere between $500 million and $1 billion in revenue.

9. Avoid lifestyle advertising. Unless you are in a lifestyle category (soda, alcohol, fashion, etc), keep your advertising functional. By that I mean sell hard benefits to the consumer like low prices or superior quality.

A lot of companies get into trouble by thinking that the consumer cares more about them than they actually do. The vast majority of the time, the consumer doesn’t give two flips about you or your company. In my opinion, it’s wiser to be like Claude Hopkins and believe the consumer is 100% selfish and is only going to use your company to get what they want, at the lowest possible price.

A good example is the industry I’m in, heating and air conditioning. As much as I’d love to believe people sit at home thinking about Franklin Heating & Air’s low prices and pretty red colors, the reality is they don’t. They care about us at most once or twice a year, when their HVAC system breaks. And you know what? That’s just fine.

10. Test everything. And I mean everything. In my experience, the best way to improve your marketing results is to continually test your ads/posts/messaging/etc against each other.

To do that, you first have to pick a meaningful metric to track. Sales generated is obviously the best metric, but you won’t always be able to perfectly tie it back to what you’re doing. And oftentimes you don’t need to. For example, an Adwords ad is best measured by it’s clickthrough rate, which works just fine. CTR is a great metric for that use case because it encompasses everything about the ad and allows easy comparison to other ads.

Don’t stop at the obvious stuff like paid ads either. In the past, I’ve tested everything from website headlines, landing page body copy, and even my little footer at the bottom of this page. If you relentlessly test your customer facing assets, you WILL improve your results.

11. Unless you have a big idea, your campaign will pass like a ship in the night. That’s an old David Ogilvy quote, but it’s true. Humans tend to ignore things they’ve seen before. It takes great skill and creativity to draw a busy consumer’s attention towards your product or service. So don’t be afraid to do something abnormal, particularly if you’re competing against industry giants.

At the same time, don’t make a fool of yourself for attention’s sake. As legendary adman Bill Bernbach used to say, you can get anyone’s attention by running an ad featuring a man glued to the ceiling, but you should only do that if you’re selling glue.

12. Fail cheaply. Growing a business is hard. If it was easy, everyone would have their own little island in the Caribbean, Richard Branson style:

Wouldn’t that be nice?

Wouldn’t that be nice?

The high likelihood of failure for any given campaign is why you have to always be thinking on how you can de-risk your growth experiments. P&G wrote the book on this in the early 1900s. They started each marketing campaign by first carefully testing it in small cities or regions of the U.S. If it performed well, they rolled it out nationwide. If it didn’t, they either fixed it and tried again, or abandoned it. That methodical marketing process has saved P&G millions (if not billions) over the years and allowed them to grow into one of the largest companies in the world.

You can do the same thing with your business. Before running a $15,000 Facebook campaign, test a $50 one. If it fails, improve it and run it again. Rinse and repeat. Apply that principle to all your marketing and then watch your ROI shoot through the roof.


Hungry for more? Check out any or all of the books below. I would consider each of them a marketing “must-read”.

How Brands Grow
Reality in Advertising
Confessions of an Advertising Man
The Man Who Sold America
Ogilvy on Advertising
My Life in Advertising / Scientific Advertising

Will is co-founder of local HVAC company Franklin Heating & Air. For $19 service calls, free second opinions, and more, call (479) 282-0003 or visit www.savewithfranklin.com.

Live in Northwest Arkansas? Check out Franklin’s blog post on Northwest Arkansas utility rebates.

A Golden Opportunity for Supply Chain Startups

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Fuel is a 16-week, collaborative program for growth-stage, supply chain-focused startups who are serving enterprise clients. Fuel’s focus is on education, mentorship, and growing business relationships with enterprise partners.

BENTONVILLE, AR – A new opportunity for supply chain innovation companies opens in Northwest Arkansas. Fuel is designed to help these startups prepare to serve large enterprise customers – and connect them with those potential customers. The program is hosted by RevUnit, facilitated by Startup Junkie, and funded by the Arkansas EDC, and does not follow a traditional accelerator model. The focus is on education, mentorship, and growing business relationships with key corporate partners looking for solutions to some of the industry’s biggest supply chain & logistics challenges.

The program is built for Seed-Series A companies – startups that have a product much further along than a drawing on the back of a napkin. The program does not invest in the companies on the front-end, and there is not a capital guarantee on the back-end of the program. Access to capital will be facilitated for participants that are seeking investment, however the real financial emphasis of the program is to get companies ready for commercial agreements with larger institutions so that they can use customer money to fund their growth. The belief is that access to customers is more important than access to capital – and it makes the ladder much easier.

Participants will be immersed in a rigorous business-building curriculum, and they’ll leave with a better understanding of supply chain from product creation to customer ownership. The companies will be matched with highly experienced mentors, as well as coaching and connections to create actionable business outcomes with new partners and customers. Industry partners include Walmart’s Supply Chain Innovation team, the Technology leadership from Tyson Foods, UniGroup, CaseStack, the University of Arkansas, i2i Labs, and mentors representing Fortune 500 leadership, tech founders, VC firms.

More information about Fuel can be found at www.fuelaccelerator.com and applications can be submitted via f6s at https://www.f6s.com/fuelaccelerator/apply.

With LIVSN, Less is More

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Andrew Gibbs-Dabney, an authentic outdoor enthusiast, founded LIVSN to create a clothing line that promotes and inspires the active lifestyle. Through much preparation and the combination of a deep passion for the outdoors and commitment to quality, he is set to launch his outdoor apparel line later this year! He gives us an inside scoop for what we can expect from the company as they get ready to start production.

What is LIVSN?

  • LIVSN is an outdoor apparel brand focused on creating durable outdoor clothing for people who value experiences more than stuff. Our products are designed with versatility, durability, and sustainability at the forefront, with the ultimate goal of making pieces that allow us to own less.

What inspired you to create this brand?

  • The motivation to create the brand you see today stems from a long-term effort to simplify my life and create space for new experiences. This de-cluttering started in my closet, which had become a stockpile of way too much stuff. I knew a lot of the principles on which I would create and run a company given the chance, and when the name crystallized, I outlined the whole thing. I had been sketching clothing designs for a long time, but this time I went about the process with the goal of designing my ideal version of the pieces I wore the most. I started with a long sleeve shirt, moved on to a pair of pants, and the rest followed. At the moment, we have around a dozen items either completed or in development.

How will LIVSN incorporate sustainability from the start?

  • One of our core beliefs is that the best thing we can do to ease environmental damage is to consume less. It sounds obvious, and it is, but that doesn’t make it easy. Think “Reduce, reuse, recycle.” There’s a reason “reduce” is first in line. So, our way of being sustainable from the start is to design our clothing to last as long as possible. We’re doing this by choosing durable fabrics, reinforcing common failure points, and using a classic, clean style without flashy details so you won’t get tired of your jacket or pants after one season.

  • Our plans don’t stop there, however. We’re offering a repair and replacement program for all of our products, with an emphasis on repair. We want our customers to take pride in repairing a busted seam instead of throwing out the garment. While we weren’t able to source recycled and organic for all of our initial fabrics, we are able to move to more environmentally friendly options as we scale. From an operations standpoint, we’re utilizing shared space in an existing warehouse instead of using the resources to build our own and we’re using recycled paper and plastic in all of our packaging. Finally, we’ve put environmental sustainability as a core value, and something to be weighed in all future decision-making.

What is the “Direct-to-Consumer” model and why did you choose it?

  • Basically, direct-to-consumer means that we’re not selling through traditional retail stores and instead opting to sell our products exclusively on our own website, crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter, and eventually through our own brick and mortar stores. This gives a few serious benefits to us as a startup, and advantages to our customers as well.

  • Most importantly to our customers, we’re able to lower the retail price of our products. We can’t “half” it like some brands advertise, which is unsustainable over the long term, but we are able to able to make a meaningful reduction by lowering the margin added over cost. We can do this because we’re only supporting one business with each sale, and not two (and often three if sold through a distributor). Another benefit is that we’re able to release our products on a schedule that aligns with the season and buying patterns. Financing product development to sell wholesale, long before the products are ever sold to the end consumer, is very expensive and adds a lot of time, complexity, and sometimes frustration to the process. The last major plus is that we’re able to have a very intimate relationship with our customers. We know who bought what, when, and how to contact them for feedback. We’re banking on that feedback to refine our product selection as seasons go by.

  • I feel it’s important to say that I don’t think traditional retail is dead. On the contrary, in the outdoor industry in particular, I think specialty retailers are part of the lifeblood and core of the outdoor community. At the best stores, people come in for everything from a new jacket to information on the nearest climbing routes. Community revolves around these physical locations, and I don’t think that can be replaced. Our long-term plan doesn’t ignore the need for these stores to have products, but we’re content to operate outside the system until we can work on retail 2.0 together.

You’ve come a long way since you launched the company. What has been the most rewarding moment to date?

  • The response from our early fans has been truly incredible and humbling. There are people who have read every blog post I’ve written about the company and our views on sustainability and corporate responsibility. Seeing real people offering passionate support to us based only on our ideals gives me such a great feeling moving forward. I feel confident in our products, but knowing the brand is resonating on its own is motivating. We’re really trying our hardest to cut through the marketing onslaught around us by being honest, humble, and offering a good product. It seems people appreciate it and that makes us even more resolved to be a good company for them.


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Sarah Van Doorn

Sarah is a Content Strategist at Startup Junkie. Currently a senior at the University of Arkansas, she’s studying Journalism with an emphasis in Advertising and Public Relations. Sarah assists in content creation through writing client feature stories and managing the promotion of the Startup Junkies Podcast. In her free time, she enjoys reading, writing and playing Mario Kart.

10 Free Tools to Jumpstart Your Business

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You’ve likely completed your Lean Canvas. You’ve read Ash Maurya’s Running Lean. You’ve Talked to Humans. Now is the time to put your plans into action and turn planning into doing. But where do you start? You may feel like you need a website, a marketing plan, a sales strategy, a data analyst, etc. But, are you sure you want to spend your seed capital on new software and personnel? Before you spend any money, remember the silver lining: we are in the digital age. There are tons of free tools created by savvy software developers that have laid the groundwork for you to bootstrap your startup. These tools can do everything from convert leads into customers, schedule your meetings for you, and make it easy to manage projects in the pipeline. And you don’t have to spend a penny to get started. Many of these tools have paid versions with additional features that you can use as your company pivots; but how can you pivot if you never start? Now is the time. Try your hand at some of these tools and turn your planning into doing.

1. Hootsuite: Do you ever feel bogged down by the constant need to update your followers on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram? Social media marketing is crucial for early-stage companies to get the word out about their products and services, and Hootsuite makes it easy to manage all of your social platforms in one place. I once had an entrepreneur share an anecdote with me that a customer shared with her: When the business owner asked the non-regular customer why she didn’t come to her events more often, the customer noted that she can’t come to events if she doesn’t know that they’re happening. So, don’t let your product or service fall to the wayside because your potential customers don’t know it exists. There’s a difference between the “Trough of Sorrow” (the period of time after launching your company and before finding product market fit), and simply not getting the word out about your company. Customers can’t buy something they’ve never heard of.

2. Calendly: Meetings are important. They’re where you can tell your story; convert leads into sales; meet with potential customers; etc. But do you feel like you spend hours every week going back and forth with people in pursuit of a time that works on everyone’s calendars? With a Calendly account, you can create a personalized link to your calendar, which lets invitees go to a calendar and pick a date and time that you’ve pre-determined works for you. Then, the meeting gets automatically added to everyone’s calendars. And, it sends invitees a reminder before the meeting. To learn more, schedule a meeting with me here: https://calendly.com/kimlane/30/07-24-2018.

3. HubSpot: Want to attract more visitors to your website, track leads and close customers? HubSpot is an inbound marketing and sales platform. Its free customer relationship management (CRM) software makes it easy to build relationships with potential customers, automate tasks and organize your sales pipeline. HubSpot also has a number of paid features to assist with lead generation, email tracking and more. The CRM is a great place to get started, and is 100% free.

4. Asana: Do you ever feel like your to-do list is hard to manage, or you need a helping hand with your company’s project management strategy? You are not alone. When growing your company, it’s paramount that the quality of your offerings doesn’t go down with the quantity of demand. But, managing multiple projects and a growing team is no small feat. Software like Asana makes it easy to coordinate all of the work in the pipeline, and creates a place for teams to work together more easily. Asana was founded by Dustin Moskovitz (co-founder of Facebook), and Justin Rosenstein (previously an engineer at both Google and Facebook); both of whom worked on improving employee productivity at Facebook and know a thing or two about project management. (For anyone who is extra-interested in project management and productivity, this Freakonomics podcast delves into the story behind Asana, as well as different project management techniques and the theory behind the “planning fallacy”: “Here’s Why All Your Projects Are Always Late — And What To Do About It”.)

5. MailChimp: Email marketing is a great way to stay connected to your customers, keep your customers informed and convert prospects into customers. MailChimp is an email marketing tool that has a free plan (up to 2,000 subscribers). Through its marketing automation functionality, you can program MailChimp to welcome new subscribers, email people who have abandoned their online shopping carts and reach out to lapsed customers — automatically. And, MailChimp makes it easy to A/B test different versions of an email campaign to see what works best. It also integrates with Facebook and Twitter so your social followers can be easily informed of your company’s big updates. And, you can create segmented lists to help you market to different types of customers. If you haven’t kicked off your email marketing, now is the time!

6. Canva: Want to create branding and collateral materials that put you ahead of your competition, but don’t have a graphic designer? No worries. Canva makes it easy to create eye-catching presentations, social media posts, letterhead, infographics — even new logos. Its drag-and-drop functionality makes it extremely user friendly for even the least experienced designers.

7. Google Analytics: Ever wondered about the ROI of that Facebook or Twitter ad, or whether anyone looked at that new blog post on your website? Google Analytics is a must-have for any data-driven founder. It is a data management platform that lets you track website traffic, optimize the user experience and better understand your customers. Watch your website traffic in real-time, learn the demographics of your users and get a better understanding of your traffic acquisition and more with this free tool.

8. Eventbrite: Have you ever thought about hosting an event to showcase your product or service? Eventbrite makes it easy to collect registrations, sell tickets and gather information on your attendees. Think about creating an unforgettable experience for your potential customers, rather than just trying to sell them something.

9. Wix: When you’re creating your company’s website, you can easily spend thousands of dollars to get the right look and functionality. But before you spend a penny, try to create your own website using Wix. The drag-and-drop interface makes it easy to create a professional-looking and eye-catching website with a few clicks on the trackpad — coding knowledge is not required. Wix offers a great deal of functionality in its free version, and gives you the keys to engineer your own site. It’s worth a try before you spend your startup capital on an expensive site. Pro tip: Install Google Analytics in the backend of your site so you can test the site’s functionality before you spend money tweaking the design.

10. Typeform: It’s important to listen to your customers, and whether you’re conducting a survey, getting customer feedback or even creating a job application, it’s critical that your surveys are simple and user-friendly to create as many conversions as possible. With Typeform, you can create customer feedback forms, quizzes, contact forms and more — you can even create an online store with a few customizations in a template. You can also easily embed the forms into your website, making it easy to collect data while keeping your audience engaged. Start your improved data collection journey today!

These free tools make it easy to get started, whether you have a background in digital marketing, web design, data analytics or not. And, once you get your accounts up and running, many of these platforms can be easily integrated with each other through another free software called Zapier, which connects and automates your web apps automatically. (Interesting fact for all the startup junkies out there: Zapier originated out of a Startup Weekend!) The software makes it easy to automate your workflow so you can spend more time developing your business.

On the note of free services, the Startup Junkie and Conductor teams offer one-on-one consulting, workshops and events to entrepreneurs in every industry at no cost, and we won’t ever ask you to upgrade to a paid account.  Innovators, makers and tinkerers of all ages are also invited to come to the Makerspace to prototype an idea or create a project on the 3D printers, free of charge. Whatever your venture is, Startup Junkie and Conductor should be part of your toolkit to get started and become sustainable. That’s what we’re here for!

Now, put your plans into action and get your business off the ground! If you have any questions, we’re here to help.


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Kim Lane

Kim Lane strives to reduce barriers to entry for entrepreneurs, makers and innovators. She serves as the Chief Executive Officer of the Conductor (www.ARConductor.org), an initiative that provides entrepreneurial support through consulting, mentorship, access to capital, and maker training and rapid prototyping in a free-of-charge Makerspace. She is the founder of Kim Lane Ltd. Co., where she provides thought leadership as a consultant for Facebook, Inc., and serves as a consultant for the Kauffman Foundation, managing all of the 1 Million Cups chapters in New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Puerto Rico. She advocates for innovation and entrepreneurship around the world, and served as a US Delegate to the Global Entrepreneurship Congress in Istanbul, Turkey in 2018; and Johannesburg, South Africa in 2017. Additionally, she serves as a Startup Huddle Ambassador for the Global Entrepreneurship Network, mentoring communities around the world on startup ecosystem building. She founded Global Entrepreneurship Week AR and Startup Grind AR.

It Pays to be an Arkansas Based Company

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Navigating how to fund a startup venture is often one of the largest barriers to getting started in a new business. It is perhaps even more difficult when you are trying to start a company that requires extensive research and development before getting to a product or service that can be sold. The purpose of this article is to provide an example of how multiple programs can be stacked on top of one another to provide financial continuity to a technology-based business.

Allow me to propose a fictional technology-based company located in Arkansas that has a high degree of technical risk. This example is written with the greatest degree of optimism possible, stating the shortest conceivable timeline, maximum possible funding and highest probabilities of success. Please keep in mind that not everyone will be eligible for each of these funding programs and even if you are eligible, these are competitive programs and even good applicants may not receive an award.

Phase 0 = $30,000

First, let’s look at what I consider Phase 0 Funding. The proposed venture applies for and receives a TTAG grant of $3,750 matched by $1,250 from the company itself to support grant writing of an SBIR proposal. 

At the same time, the founders enroll in a concept stage training program such as the Delta I-Fund or I-CORPS GO that could each provide up to $25,000 in funding and valuable training on customer development methods to de-risk later research and development, saving money in the long run. Note that the traditional I-CORPS program is open to university-based teams. The GO program is a pilot in 2018 to allow non-university companies to participate in I-CORPS. 

Phase I/SBIR Match/Seed Round = $475,000

After understanding the customer and having basic scientific principles observed, the company applies for Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I Funding. Using the National Science Foundation as an example, suppose this company applies for and receives a Phase I grant of $225,000 in seed capital to conduct the first phase of product Research and Development (R&D) over a minimum of 6 months.

With the SBIR Phase I Funding, the company also receives an SBIR Match. The Arkansas Small Business Innovation Research Matching Grant Program provides AR companies a matching grant of $50,000 for their Phase I award.

Note that SBIR/STTR funds cannot be used for business development, marketing and sales, production, patent costs, entertainment, and sometimes equipment purchases. Additionally, grants may be on a reimbursable payment schedule, meaning it might be several months between when the business must be able to cover the expenses and when cash is in hand. To cover these expenses, the business needs capital. 

At this point, what will happen most commonly is that the entrepreneur puts in $50,000 of their own money and raises another $50,000 from friends and family, effectively raising Seed Funding.

Alternatively or in conjunction with the friends/family raise, you may also apply for the Technology Development Program (TDP) which provides a total maximum award of $100,000 for the development of a given technology. A match of private dollars may increase your likelihood of award but is not required under the TDP. You can expect to pay a negotiated royalty (say, +/- 1%) on future sales generated from the developed technology for up to ten years, or until 1.5x the investment is paid back, whichever comes first. 

Phase II and III = $2,350,000

After successfully completing the Phase I award, our fictional company applies for a second-round investment of $750,000 over 24 months in the SBIR Phase II Funding. Again, the Arkansas Small Business Innovation Research Matching Grant Program provides a match, this time of $100,000. 

Now entering Phase III (or commercialization), the company is ready to scale up and is raising $1 million in risk capital, known as a Series A Investment. At this point, the company is in a position where they are likely to add new jobs and is, therefore, a good fit for the Arkansas Department of Finance Risk Capital Matching Fund, which provides a co-investment to augment investments made by angel or other institutional investors. This program could provide $200,000 with a matching investment of $800,000. (Note the maximum co-investment is actually $750,000 but that would be for a much larger investment round.) The match would come from a syndicate of high-net-worth individuals, Angel funds, and investment groups like Fund for Arkansas’ Future. Raising this $1 million makes the company eligible for the NSF SBIR Phase IIb supplement of an additional $500,000. 

Incentives

The proposed venture will also consider Tax Incentives. An Equity Investment Tax Credit of 33 1/3% could be used to leverage the $800,000 private investment and generate a $266,666.67 tax credit for the investor(s). Your investor would then either use these tax credits to offset their tax liability or sell them at a discount for cash.

R&D Tax Credits are a powerful tool that can put cash flow back into the business. Since our fictional company is in a targeted business sector, they are eligible for the In-House Research income tax creditsequal to 33% of the qualified research and development expenditures incurred each year for up to five years. These tax credits may be sold. It is reasonable to assume that at least 60% of the expenses were direct, leaving a 40% indirect rate. Since essentially all of the direct work was R&D up to this point and the business has spent $2.855 million, there are $1,713,000 of qualified R&D expenditures eligible for the 33% incentive. The company sells these tax credits for 90% of their value and receives $508,761 in cash.

We know that a portion of the employee salaries were actually spent on indirect activities that weren’t eligible for the R&D tax credit. Hypothetically, this might total $100,000 in payroll over the multi-year time period. The business may also apply for Payroll Income Tax Credits, which are transferable income tax credits equal to 10% of payroll (so long as it is not for the same expenditure claimed by the R&D program, above) for up to five years. This would be another $10,000 in income tax credits generating $9,000 cash upon sale.

The venture may decide to forego the Payroll Income Tax Credits and instead take advantage of a Payroll Rebate equal to five percent (5%) of the payroll for new full-time permanent employees for a period of up to ten (10) years. I will skip estimating this benefit as 10 years is past the startup phase and payroll/employee growth will vary greatly depending on the commercialization strategy selected.

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The proposed fictional company has received $3,372,761 in financial resources with a private investment of $901,250 ($266,666.67 of which was immediately returned to the investors).

 

A few tips to keep in mind:

  • Non-dilutive funding early on can significantly de-risk a product and add value to the company, making it much easier to raise capital.

  • You can apply for up to two TTAG grants annually and may be eligible for multiple SBIR awards during the same cycle (if for clearly separate projects). Since funding levels are often lower than 30%, it can be a good strategy to have multiple proposals in play.  

  • Cash flow is important. You should have reserves to float expenses in between paying for an item and getting reimbursed for it. Always take the full 7% for-profit fee when applying for federal grant funding as a small business, but know this will not sufficiently cover legal and general business expenditures.  

  • Some state incentive programs are only available to startups in their first 5 years of business. Also, they may not be able to claw back retroactively, so at least establish contact early in the process.


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Haley Allgood

Haley Allgood, Executive Director of Startup Junkie Foundation, leads programs focused on entrepreneurial education, inclusive ecosystem development, technology commercialization, and workforce training. Outside the office, Haley enjoys traveling, playing with her two pups, and and relaxing at the pool with friends!