10 Free Tools to Jumpstart Your Business


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.


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.

Keeping Up With K


Entrepreneurs are a rare breed, oftentimes willing to go the distance when others won’t. Staying resilient in the barricade of “no’s” they receive, entrepreneurs tough it out, knowing that quitting is not, nor ever will be, an option.

We spoke with K Clarence Lawrence, and got the scoop on his entrepreneurial journey and where he is now. K is a familiar face around this office, as he participated in the Accelerator 2.7.0. back in 2015. Designed to help entrepreneurs advance their companies in the food, retail and supply-chain industries, the Accelerator 2.7.0. focused on incorporating female, minority and veteran-owned businesses.

K was raised in Little Rock, but has recently moved out to LA to pursue his ventures and eventually scale up. A graduate of Full Sail University in Florida, K studied Business Entrepreneurship and Business Management. Six months prior to graduating, K started his own small-scale video production company. Upon graduating and realizing that Florida’s market was saturated with similar businesses, K moved back to Little Rock and began developing what has become his legacy today.

K has founded three video production companies, each filling a different niche in the video production industry. FirePix Media is a full-service video production company that creates indie films, music videos and web series, catering to the entertainment aspect of video production. Shooter and SimplyVideo both produce video content specific to the e-commerce world, with Shooter specializing in 360 product videos and product photos, and SimplyVideo specializing in video content creation and video marketing subscription services.

Currently, K is going through the process of establishing a parent company to manage his three brands, so he has his hands full. Leaning more toward tech, K is in the process of developing apps for Shopify and Wix, which will help scale up his businesses in the future.

When we spoke, K was happy to describe his participation in the Accelerator 2.7.0., and how it affected his entrepreneurial endeavors. K said that the Accelerator was great for networking and did exactly what it was advertised to do – accelerate small businesses. The environment of the Accelerator program was conducive to learning and the mentoring aspect of the program was especially great. Walking away from the Accelerator, K left with more knowledge on startup strategy and business acumen. From learning how to perform evaluations, create an exit strategy and hone in on selling to investors, the Accelerator experience was extremely helpful and perceptive. Through the Accelerator program K was able to connect with investors and receive input from the Startup Junkie team, establishing the right mindset for business.

Now that K is living in LA, one would think that he’s made it, and can take it easy. As an entrepreneur, that’s never the case! K is working as hard as ever, and gave us some solid advice to pass along. As a realist, he said that you’ve got to understand that nothing happens overnight. You have to learn how to do the small things really well first and then work your way up.

As an entrepreneur, you have to have tough skin – you’ll get a lot of “no’s,” but understand that these rejections are only pushing you to be better.“You have to really want it to make it happen.”

We couldn’t agree more.

Check out K’s work on his website here.
Reach out to K at kclarencelawrence@gmail.com.

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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.

Kasim’s Comeback


Sitting with Omar Kasim at his organic cold-pressed juice bar, I got the scoop on his comeback, as well as the process of building Juice Palm in the wake of losing Con Quesos a year ago.

Con Quesos had originally started out as Omar’s honors thesis, which he accelerated into a full-blown business plan. Upon pitching his idea, he realized that this was something that he could jump into head-on. In need of capital, he connected with an investor that had a strong background in franchising and the restaurant world. In its first year of business, Con Quesos flourished, winning accolades left and right. From being listed as one of the “Top 10 Restaurants in Fayetteville” on TripAdvisor, to being “Best New Restaurant” runner-up, Con Quesos was quickly becoming a hot spot in the city. After such a successful year, Omar met with his investor to renegotiate their agreement in the hopes of expanding. Rather than renegotiate a deal, the discussion resulted in a hostile takeover – Omar was effectively relieved of all managerial duties and pushed out of his business. Omar said that, while the takeover was hard to handle, he had seen it coming. With Omar out of the business, quality quickly fell to the wayside, with the unnamed investor foregoing the finer details that made Con Quesos unique. Omar could only watch as quality spiraled down due to high turnover and customer service falling out of focus.

After the hostile takeover, Omar took some time to soul search. Rather than taking a job at a larger corporate company, he rekindled his entrepreneurial flame. He had been conceptualizing a juice bar, and came to build Juice Palm in Uptown Fayetteville. His idea was so well-received by the community that Omar had actually signed a lease in the 8th Street Market in Bentonville – before even opening his first location.

In March of this year, Con Quesos’ investor reached out to Omar – basically the business was insolvent. It needed an influx of capital just to keep the doors open. Omar met with the investor and walked away sole proprietor of Con Quesos. He told me that the decision to take back Con Quesos was initially unappealing, but the thought of being able to take a dwindling business and make it successful again was what got him on board. Not to mention, the business in question was like his first child.

He had put blood, sweat and tears into building Con Quesos, and he had brought it to its peak – it can only go up from here.

While still running Juice Palm, Omar has fallen back into Con Quesos with a passion to bring it back to its former glory. He met with the staff, restructuring and re-organizing the restaurant. By focusing on the 3 C’s: cleanliness, customer service and consistency, Omar believes that Con Quesos will be back on top.

Splitting his time between his two businesses has been a challenge, and he often pulls 16 – 18 hour days. Omar explained that Juice Palm, while successful, is still in its infancy stage. With such a heavy customer focus, he has to make sure that staff and customers alike are educated on the variety of products offered. Omar is still at Con Quesos every day to help with rushes, plus it helps to show that he’s back, and is making things better. Omar was welcomed back by older employees, offering to come and work with him again, and even vendors, who, upon hearing he’d returned, offered to extend pay schedules to help cash flow. A testament to his leadership and positivity, maintaining these positive relationships (in business and in life) is not only the right thing, but the practical thing to do.

Omar hopes to have Con Quesos restructured and running smoothly soon, especially with plans to build another Juice Palm. The second location, in the 8th Street Market, is scheduled to open in October. In addition to managing two Juice Palms and Con Quesos, Omar will also be teaching an upper-level entrepreneurship class at the University in the fall. Why did he sign up for all of this, you might ask? Omar loves the restaurant world, and is excited to be a part of the students’ journey. He’s looking forward to helping others chase their dreams, even though it’s exhausting on his part. “As an entrepreneur, you always say ‘yes’ to opportunity.” Omar left me with a short story relevant to his journey – the lobster story. A lobster is a soft creature with a hard exterior shell. Once a lobster outgrows its shell, it sheds it and grows a new one. Discomfort is what allows a lobster to grow – if the lobster didn’t feel uncomfortable, it would never grow. He may be sleeping less than the recommended 8 hours a night, but as he put it, “Sleep doesn’t matter when you’re living the dream.”

Con Quesos is a fast casual fusion taco restaurant based in Fayetteville offering traditional Mexican cuisine tacos as well as fusion options from around the world. Juice Palm is a cold-pressed juice bar located in the Uptown Fayetteville Apartments & Shops offering pressed juices, smoothies, acai bowls and salads made using only USDA-Certified Organic products.

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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.

My Entrepreneurial Journey


There is no standard journey or common path to becoming an entrepreneur. Each of us has our own story and our own reason for choosing this path. The entrepreneurial path lacks “perceived” security, elements of prestige, and can be a lonely journey. However, I’ve found that the fear can be properly managed when security is objectively analyzed.

My journey began really taking shape after spending around 20 years working in large Fortune 500 companies. As I began thinking about my next 20 years, I found myself not being excited about the different paths and potential positions that were in front of me.

I longed for a career that didn’t have me checking my 401k and wondering regularly if I had the “security” needed to walk away and enjoy life.

I built out my entrepreneurial transition plan that was based on security and financial independence. I shared that plan with a few mentors that I trusted and asked for their thoughts and feedback.

Sharing my desires and my plan was the first step of my entrepreneurial journey. Getting serious about a transition and what possible next steps I would make changed my mindset radically. Things I previously ignored, I now looked at as opportunities, and in my case, the timeline I laid out for myself got pulled forward by a chance encounter that I would have ignored if I hadn’t laid my plan out earlier.

Jumping into a brewery partnership didn’t match my “strategic plan,” but it aligned with what I had written and shared with mentors. I approached it in a minimum viable product manner while still working within a large corporation. Mistakes were numerous and expensive, but they didn’t bankrupt the business. Step by step, the brewery gained momentum and new opportunities came our way. My strategic plan had now been radically accelerated, and the time came that I had to pull the plug from my perceived security provided by working within a large corporation.

I’ve got a few pieces of advice for others that might be in a situation similar to mine:

  1. Develop a work forever mindset: If you are doing a job that you really love and you’re passionate about, you’ll never consider retiring. Retiring and doing nothing is a recipe for misery.

  2. Develop a plan and share that plan with a few people you trust: Be strategic about what you could see yourself doing for the rest of your life. Do research on what skills you’ll need to gain, what capital you’ll need, and what your timeline will be.

  3. Take an iterative approach: Going “all-in” shouldn’t happen until ideas have been tested and business plans have been validated. Make small investments and your new vocation should start as a hobby.

  4. Make the leap: Once the business has been validated, it’s time to make the transition. Risk and danger are two different things. It’s risky to start a new venture on your own, or with partners. It’s dangerous to work without passion, or excitement. You only get one life to live. Living it with passion, purpose, and excitement is worth the risk.


Jeff Charlson

Jeff Charlson is partner/CEO of Bike Rack Brewing Co. and Senior Entrepreneur in Residence for Startup Junkie. Jeff helped found Bike Rack Brewing Co. in 2014 while he was still working at Walmart Stores, Inc. in Bentonville, AR. Jeff spent nearly 25 years working for three Fortune 500 companies. Jeff had various roles in technology, management & sales throughout his career. The last 7 years of Jeff's career at Walmart were as a corporate officer/VP within the technology division. Jeff has lived in NWA for the last 17 years, and loves connecting with the community, working with entrepreneurs, listening to live music, mountain biking and spending time with his family & friends.

Libby Primm, RHU


This week we sat down with Libby Primm, founder of Primm Risk Solutions. Located in Springdale across from the Country Club, Libby’s office hosts less than ten employees – each of them adamantly offering us Skittles as we walked through the door. Primm Risk Solutions specializes in providing employee benefit services for employers and their employees, as well as coverage support for individuals. Their main focus is on businesses that have 100 employees or less – a small business focused on influencing business owners to be great employers, as we like to put it.

We met Libby at the Springdale Country Club so as to avoid the distractions that come along with being the president & CEO of one’s own company. Libby has been a natural in the field of insurance for a long time, since she was 14-years-old, in fact. She got her start at a family friend’s insurance agency doing mostly secretarial work. By the age of eighteen, Libby was licensed, and had received a risk management scholarship to attend college, where she studied finance and insurance. Upon graduation, she was offered a position at one of the largest brokerage firms in the nation. Working there, Libby told us, she had high expectations on herself, as she was a young woman in a primarily male-dominated industry. Having employees working with her that were older than her was challenging, but proving her knowledge and expertise ensured (that was almost an insurance joke) that she earned their respect.

Upon the election of Barack Obama, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) came into effect, which led Libby to a realization – there would be a change in the business, and a change in the way insurance brokers worked. Businesses would have more laws to comply with, and small businesses would face demand from their employees to offer health benefits.

Libby made it clear to us, however, that change can be good, and should always be seen as an opportunity.

Following this, Libby was inspired to begin working with small businesses. She dabbled in insurance auditing for businesses in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Louisiana, explaining that she’s passionate about “being there for people,” and providing services that help business owners be better employers.

Shortly after, Libby founded Primm Risk Solutions in 2015. Her business has taken off, especially with its focus on small businesses. Libby reported growth of about 100 – 120 percent year over year, and the business has limited its clients to referrals only (hey, seven employees can only do so much in one day).

Libby worked with us here at Startup Junkie in 2017, and participated in ScaleUp Ozarks, a 16-week business growth program funded by the Small Business Administration. She tells us that the weekly seminars and lectures were very beneficial, and they helped her establish a better game plan for the future. Additionally, she was able to develop business goals that were challenging, yet attainable. She admitted that it was comforting to see other small business owners at these seminars, and that Startup Junkie provided a place for these entrepreneurs to ask questions and receive the help they needed from industry experts. When we asked her whether these seminars helped her improve her business, she explained a concept that many business owners face. Startup Junkie provided knowledge and support that helped her get through the ‘growing pains’ of being a business owner. We know what you’re thinking, growing pains? I’m not a teenager, I don’t get those anymore! ‘Growing pains’ refer to the stresses that a growing business faces when it begins expanding its client base and employee pool. Many business owners will reach a certain point and feel overwhelmed with the influx of clients and management of employees, and they’ll get frustrated and throw their hands up and quit, Libby said. We’re glad that we could be of service, and we’re happy to hear that Libby is looking forward to the future of her growing business.

Speaking of the future, Libby told us that she sees women excelling, and that soon there will be more female decision-makers in the small business community. Libby is passionate about people, and wants to empower women to be the best they can be. “Giving women confidence is empowering,” she said. On the subject of empowerment, we will leave you with some well-given and well-received advice that we learned from Libby: “Live lightly, and stay humble – but hungry.”

Learn more about Primm Risk Solutions here.

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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.

LFLS Shoes

We’ve had the opportunity to work with Eric and watch his business grow this past year, and we’re excited to see where the future takes him!

Last week I sat down with Eric Jones, CEO and founder of LFLS Shoes, a designer dress shoe company that offers many unique styles of shoes. Known on social media as ‘Doctor Dapper,’ Eric is a recent apparel merchandising and product design graduate from the University of Arkansas. Growing up in Helena (in eastern Arkansas), Eric knew he wanted to get out of the area and pursue something more. Attending college, he realized his passion for design that eventually pushed him to become the entrepreneur he is today. Eric’s mother was his biggest supporter, yet sadly, she wasn’t able to watch him sell his first pair of shoes. She passed away several weeks before Eric graduated college. As a new grad with no financial or familial support, Eric persevered. His passion and dedication unwavering, he established LFLS Shoes, and has been working diligently (out of his apartment!) since.

Asking for the story behind the brand name, Eric told me LFLS Shoes was originally Like Father Like Son Shoes. It stemmed from Eric’s observation that fathers and sons frequently dress alike (be it shirts, suits, or even branded tennis shoes), but they rarely, if ever, wear the same designer dress shoes. Ladies, no need to feel left out, despite the story behind the name, Eric is releasing some designs for women’s styles as well! LFLS Shoes fills a niche in the market in that it provides unique designer dress shoes in various styles and colors.

At 22-years-old, Eric is young, but he’s hungry for success. He has big goals, and they’re selfless. Eric told me he wants to give back to the University of Arkansas. He wants to provide scholarships to Dale Bumpers College, so he can help students that want to pursue entrepreneurship. Additionally, he wants to nourish the minority entrepreneur – whether that’s in the form of providing scholarships, hosting events, or developing platforms for fellow minority entrepreneurs to learn and grow. While Eric strives to be a positive influence for African American males, he also wants to help establish Arkansas as a successful state in the fashion industry. As Eric builds up his brand, he’s never lost touch with his entrepreneurial mindset –

“Life is so short, I’d rather struggle doing something that I love than work for somebody else and be unhappy.”

Show Eric some love and visit LFLS Shoes online. Support your community’s entrepreneurs and shop local!

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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.

Defining Identity


When I first set out to write this blog post, I was thinking through the concept of work life balance. I’ve always been a verbal processor, so while talking this through with my husband over dinner, he helped me realize the point I was really trying to convey was understanding our IDENTITY.

(Warning, I’m an engineer, so there’s going to be a little math in this post, but I promise, you’ll be able to follow along.)

As entrepreneurs, how do we define our identity?

If you’re like many of us, our identity is mostly wrapped up in our company. However, there is a small problem with:


If the statistics are to be believed, anywhere from 75-90% of startups fail. This means:

ME = FAILURE (approx. 82.5% of the time)

If we use that equation, that means 82.5% of entrepreneurs are failures, and that just doesn’t pass the “sniff-test” with me.

I’ve met a lot of entrepreneurs, and none of them are failures. In fact, all of them are successes, and sometimes, in areas they didn’t expect.

This is why it is so important to find balance in our identity. Aristotle tells us “the whole is more than a sum of its parts,” so we need to make sure we have multiple parts to sum up!

For me, cycling is one of my “parts.” Cycling has provided me with challenges and successes to balance the days (and sometimes weeks) that nothing goes right.

I spent a significant chunk of my time this summer training for the Roger’s Cycling Festival, “Race for the Spike.” This is an event where a team of cyclists line-up, first thing in the morning, in downtown Rogers and race the A&M train.

More math if you’re interested…. If a bike rider leaves downtown Rogers and travels 5.65 miles north on Arkansas Street to Avoca, and the A&M train leaves Avoca traveling south at the same time the bike rider leaves Rogers, what speed will the bike rider need to average to beat the train back to downtown Rogers if the train takes 34 minutes to complete the trip from Avoca to Rogers?

The answer, if you’re not: It’s about 20 mph

This race was a tough push into the wind, and provided such an amazing sense of accomplishment when I beat the train. That afternoon was also the day I found out my startup company had been declined a federal grant we were assured we’d get. That grant was worth 2 years of support, worth $750,000.

That afternoon sucked. I cried. Twice.

But I still beat the train, and I raced again that night.

Beating the train may have been the only redeeming part of that day. It stood as a testament that I could still achieve the goals I had worked hard for, even if I didn’t realize everything I wanted.

Every time I have a horrible day, I know I can find a few minutes of joy on my bike.  Whether that’s going out for a ride with friends, coaching my mountain bike team, or just peddling up to Bike Rack Brewing for a pint. If you take nothing else away from this story, build balance into your identity, because one day you’ll need it.


Ellen Brune, Ph.D.

As the Senior Entrepreneur in Residence, Ellen’s focus is growing the entrepreneurial ecosystem for science based startups and craft food and beverage ventures. Ellen has a PhD in Chemical Engineering and is the Founder of Boston Mountain Biotech (www.mtnbio.com) in Fayetteville, Arkansas. In her role as a mentor to the startup community, Ellen has provided support in the areas of business development and strategy, research validation, commercialization studies, and patent strategy. To support youth development, Ellen is a coach with the Arkansas State Interscholastic Cycling Association and the Little Bella’s program which, helps build character and confidence through mountain biking.