When it comes to running a small business, or for those on the cutting-edge of technology and other quickly-evolving industries, having the right support can make a world of difference. On top of that, investing in local businesses has wide-ranging benefits for the Arkansas economy. That’s why The Venture Center is dedicated to giving entrepreneurs, innovators and startups the tools they need to succeed, from education and mentorship to networking and collaboration and every hurdle in between.
The Venture Center offers a host of programming for innovators at every stage. The center supports small business founders through ideation and pitching to investors, while other programming targets student entrepreneurs and bolstering cybersecurity skills. In partnership with financial technology company FIS, The Venture Center also offers a fintech accelerator that brings bankers, subject matter experts and financial service executives together with pre-vetted, market-validated fintech companies to advance the financial services industry.
One of the cornerstones of The Venture Center’s mission is the Spark! accelerator program. Provided in partnership with the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce, the 10-week course brings together cohorts of local small business founders each year for a rich curriculum covering sales, marketing and business finance. Program participants have weekly meetings, attend in-person and virtual sessions and complete a personalized growth plan for their business. The program also provides invaluable exposure, mentorship and workshops, along with access to The Venture Center’s co-working space and alumni network.
The Venture Center’s accelerator programs are unlike any other across the country. The program uses education, collaboration, connection and exposure to best-in-class resources as the basis for helping entrepreneurs grow. The Venture Center enjoys a large network of mentors, universities, government economic development organizations and corporate partners, so small business leaders are able to make the connections they need to grow their companies and reach their goals.
“We continue to be impressed by local small business leaders who are committed to learning and growing, and this year’s cohort is no different,” said Jay Chesshir, president of the Little Rock Regional Chamber. “Little Rock’s future holds great promise for small businesses and we’re excited to support the growth of these seven exceptional entrepreneurs.”
Running until Dec. 7, the fifth iteration of the Spark! program is aimed at businesses that have been operating longer than two years and are seeking technical support to thrive. Selected businesses provide an array of services, including mental health care, travel consulting and software for builders and contractors. Near the program’s end, Spark! participants will pitch their businesses to a crowd at PitchNPint, scheduled for Nov. 30 at Ron Robinson Theater in Little Rock.
The seven startups participating in the fall program include:
- Kathleen Lawson – Founder, Sprinkles and Spice
- Cheryl Humphrey – Founder, Candy Butta
- Bo Dillon – Founder, Builder Bid
- Will Tidwell – Founder, SpeakUPZee, L.L.C.
- Kenitra Jones – Founder, Kenitra’s Travel
- Mariah Brown, LPC – Founder, The Vision Project
- Marisa Cahill – Founder, Cahill Exterior Design
“The Venture Center and our partners are thrilled to work with the Fall 2022 Spark! Cohort, which includes a variety of entrepreneurs from a diverse group of industries,” said Mimi San Pedro, chief strategy officer of The Venture Center. “Seeing participants challenge themselves and grow from being a part of Spark! is important for our community and its economic strength, and it’s deeply rewarding and inspiring on a personal level – a sentiment shared by program participants across the board.”
To learn more about The Venture Center and future programs, get connected online or call (501) 404-9875.