Kasim’s Comeback

DSC_6476-1.jpg

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.


Sarah V.jpg

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

JeffC.jpg

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.jpg

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.

The Top Five Most Important Tax Reform Items for Startups & Small Businesses

pexels-photo-461077.jpeg

Hey small businesses and startups! I’m sure you’ve heard a thing or two about the grand tax reform and it may have left you a bit more shell shocked than ready for action. The reform made some of the biggest changes we have seen in the history of our tax code. It simplified individual tax, but it doesn’t appear to have done the same for small business. Although, that does not mean it’s absent of some heavy-hitting benefits.

As a business owner, understanding these changes and benefits can feel about as easy as swimming through mud. As your priority lies in working and growing your business (and not mastering the foreign language of tax code), here is the five-minute version of the top five changes impacting you this next year.

1. Deduction for Qualified Business Income

This one has received the most attention for small business in the new tax code and for good reason. It is by far the biggest potential game changer for small business.

Previously: All of an owner’s pass-through income would be taxed at the individual’s standard tax rate.
Now: Basically, it allows 20% of your income from a pass-through entity (sole-proprietorship, partnership, s-corp, and some LLCs) to be free from tax. Of course there are restrictions, limitations, and flaming hoops you must jump through, but this is a big win for businesses that qualify. An entire blog could be written about how this one alone is calculated (like this one, and this one, and this one).
Impact: Very positive for some, neutral for others

2. Limits on Business Interest Deduction

Have you had average revenues of at least $25 million over the past three years? Then this one is for you. Everyone else, skip on to the next one as this will not apply to you (at least not yet ).

Previously: Any interest from debt taken for trade or businesses could be fully counted as a business expense (and therefore would reduce the income subject to tax).
Now: For entities exceeding the $25 million in revenue threshold, interest expense now has a cap: 30% of EBITDA, which is another crazy accounting acronym for your business earnings before you subtract out your interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization expenses.
Impact: Negative for some, neutral for others

3. Limit on Losses (NOLs)

Previously: Individuals could use business losses to offset their nonbusiness income (i.e. interest, dividends, and capital gains) without limitation and could carry it back 2 years and forward for the next 20 years to offset income.
Now: Beginning in 2018, the amount of business loss you could, as an individual, use to offset nonbusiness income is limited to $250,000 ($500,000 for married filing jointly) per year. Any loss beyond that limit is now carried forward indefinitely to offset income in future years and cannot be carried back. Unused or “excess” loss amounts have an additional limitation once carried forward: they can only be used to offset 80% of the taxable income in the future year it is applied.
Impact: Mostly negative: limits the loss, but can be carried forward indefinitely

4. Immediate Expensing of Capital Purchases (Machinery, office equipment/furniture, computers, software, etc.)

Previously: Companies had two tax break opportunities for capital purchases: IRC Section 179 and Bonus Depreciation. With Section 179, you were allowed to immediately expense (i.e. 100% depreciation) up to $500,000 of qualifying property in a given year and you would be phased out when more than $2 million of property was placed in service. After Section 179 would be applied, Bonus Depreciation could be used to expedite depreciation for brand-new equipment at 50% of the cost in the year purchased.
Now: The limits for Section 179 have been raised to $1 million and $2.5 million, respectively. Bonus Depreciation has been increased to 100% and now includes both new and used purchases.
Impact: Very positive, especially for growing companies that require capital equipment for expansion

5. Corporate Tax Rate Drop

One of the major headlines for business in the tax reform was the drop in the corporate tax rate to a flat 21%. It may surprise you that this is the last point I make in the list and for good reason: it actually is not highly impactful to your business unless you are already taxed as a c-corp. Making the designation change is more of a long-term strategic move than a short-term tax benefit. This is why: c-corps face double taxation, first on the corporation’s profits and second at the individual shareholder level on dividends paid by the corporation. If the company is not planning to pay out dividends and instead wishes to retain profits to reinvest in the business for a long-term strategy, a c-corp conversion may be beneficial. Unfortunately, the process to convert in the state of Arkansas is not as streamlined as most and you will have to pay in both time and money (consulting lawyers and accountants), so make sure to weigh the benefits. Finally, keep in mind that the lowering of the tax rate may not be permanent as Democrats could retake a Senate majority and vote through changes to the law.

Impact: Positive for c-corps and investors in publicly traded companies, neutral for others

This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Startup Junkie is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.


BDW_7276-Edit.jpg

Megan Frohardt, CPA

Megan is an Executive Consultant at Startup Junkie. She leverages her master's in Accounting and MBA to assist clients by creating financial projections, cash flow analyses, pricing strategies, and financial budgets, ensuring startups launch on the right foot on all things accounting related. When she's not crunching numbers, she's likely outdoors running, hiking, or kayaking through the Ozark mountains.

Libby Primm, RHU

Libby-Primm-Headshot-2.jpg

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.


Sarah V.jpg

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!


Sarah V.jpg

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

19424534_10102839242502267_8552799569549441290_n.jpg

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:

ME = COMPANY

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.jpg

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.