FORGE, Inc., the oldest revolving community loan fund in Arkansas, is partnering with Cureate, a maker of city-specific educational programs, to offer three free 10-week courses focused on helping small business owners looking to expand into Northwest Arkansas.
The courses are aimed at food entrepreneurs of all kinds, from farmers to food truck owners, and are for participants with gross revenues between $30,000 and $750,000. Cureate also aims to support business owners from underrepresented groups.
The Fall 2022 cohort, beginning on Sept. 27, will focus on consumer packaged goods, beverages, and baked goods. Applications for the Fall 2022 cohort are open now and will close Sept. 6 at 8 p.m. CT.
There will be two Winter/Spring 2023 cohorts, one of which will focus on farmers, farm goods and value-add products, while the second covers caterers, prepared foods, and specialty bakers.
The selected businesses will participate in virtual workshops and receive one-on-one leadership coaching with a commitment of approximately 6-8 hours per week. The Fall 2022 curriculum includes sessions on business aspects like brand development, cash flow management, and identifying growth opportunities.
At the end of each cohort, the 10 businesses selected will participate in a pitch showcase for a chance to win $5,000. There will also be a culminating in-person “Vendor Fair” where potential customers will be able to sample goods produced by the businesses.
Applications are available for businesses from any county in Arkansas, as well as a handful of counties from Missouri and Oklahoma. Applicants will be selected based on the type of businesses covered in each session.