For the second year in a row, the Northwest Arkansas Startup Weekend returned to Fayetteville to bring entrepreneurs and innovators to the northwest corner of the state.
This year’s events were held at the Brewer Family Entrepreneurship Hub, and it was once again organized through Techstars Startup Weekends, an international company that has put on similarly styled events in more than 150 countries around the world. The signature sponsor of the event was Fayetteville’s own Startup Junkie.
The NWA Startup Weekend is designed to foster education for up-and-coming entrepreneurs.
The first day’s events included pitching ideas, listening to guest speakers and forming teams to work on the creation of prototypes of those ideas. Teams began building early in the morning, and save for a few breaks for lunch, dinner and one-on-one coaching from some special guests, worked well into the night.
The final day some last minute revisions and final touches were applied, and then the big winners of the weekend were selected by a three-judge panel consisting of Dylan Enright, of the XX Fund, Rebecca Black of RevUnit and Meagan Bowman with OneStone.
Honorable Mention – Sider
Omar Kasim worked alongside Kanat Bektemirov and Maggie Owens to create a freelancing platform that connects local small business owners with local college students.
At only 25-years-old, Kasim has already made entrepreneurial waves in the state of Arkansas, and Sider is no exception. The UA graduate is also the founder and owner of the fusion taco restaurant Con Quesos and the smoothie and juice bar Juice Palm. It was through these food and beverage endeavors that the necessity of a product like Sider first came to Kasim.
Upon opening his first restaurant, Con Quesos, Kasim could not afford to hire a large marketing firm to help him create the branding for his new taco joint. So, he went the route of existing freelance platforms but was discouraged by the results delivered to him by remote freelancers who could never quite grasp his vision. Finally, he reached out to a friend of his at the UA who was majoring in graphic design and ultimately provided him with a logo that fit Con Quesos perfectly.
After that experience, Kasim jobbed out everything he needed for the restaurant – from graphic design to photography – to local college students.
Sider is the solution to a Catch-22. Small business owners often have specific needs, such as marketing or web design, that they do not always possess the expertise or excess funds to effectively do. On the other side, college students who do not have time to work during college often graduate with little or no experience in their field of study. Sider connects these two demographics to eliminate both problems.
The small business owner gets to hire a local college student to fulfill the specific freelancing need, which saves the business money in the long run and makes it a more personal experience with much better results than hiring a remote freelancer with no local connection.
The student is able to attain experience through the flexibility of a freelancing work schedule, while also getting paid for their work.
Kasim and his team are preparing for the operation launch of Sider at the UA in the fall. Their projected plan is to expand to three universities in year one, and in their second year of operation they hope to expand to 10.