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UA helps businesses find their own space

techsm5

FAYETTEVILLE — Warrenesha Arnold tried starting and running a business from home, but felt it wasn’t right for her.

Then she landed a workspace at the Startup Village at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.

Startup Village — which offers free co-working space in downtown Fayetteville for early-stage businesses — has helped Arnold draw boundaries between work, school, and home life.

“It’s a great space because it really helps me focus,” said Arnold, a senior at UA’s Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences and founder of Nyarai Skin Care. “When I’m here, I don’t think of anything else, just business.”

Grace Underfanger, a junior graphic design and business student, had a similar experience.

Operating from her bedroom was “not an ideal environment to work in”, she said, and a garage or cafe also left a lot to be desired.

“In cafes, there are a lot of distractions. But it’s a dedicated work environment, and I’m incredibly productive here,” Underfanger said, referring to Startup Village.

Startup Village is at her disposal “24 hours a day, 7 days a week” and she has her own workspace for her business.

“You don’t have to move everything every time [you work]and I can come here in the middle of the night if I want to, which is really helpful,” said Underfanger, who started Crimson Fox Design Co.

Nyarai Skin Care and Crimson Fox Design Co. are the latest companies to emerge from the Startup Village, which opened in November 2019.

PERSONAL INSPIRATION

For Arnold, who specializes in human nutrition and dietetics, her own personal skincare challenges inspired her to start her company, which is vegan and offers products that fight acne, dark spots, scars and fine lines.

The county seat of Lee County, Arnold’s hometown of Marianna has a population of 3,575. The availability of skincare products is therefore limited, especially for darker skin types. The town didn’t even have a dermatologist. So Arnold was basically left on his own to deal with his skin issues, she said. She did her own research and started experimenting with turmeric remedies, but it took her six months to come across a blend that solved her problems.

“I started with soap and then with a face mask,” she said. She quickly realized that her products could help other women of color who might be in similar situations, and she launched her business in 2020 with a customer base consisting mostly of people she knew from back home.

It has since expanded to the college community and northwest Arkansas and continues to add products to its line, she said.

“It’s growing and it’s going well.”

She sees Nyarai Skincare as a “service” because healthier skin gives women back their “confidence”, she said. “It’s not only more beautiful, [but] feel better, and I understand that, because I’ve been through that. When their skin looks better, you can see their spirits lifted.”

Currently, Arnold’s most popular products are a cleanser, face oil and a “complete kit of essentials,” but she plans to launch several new products in the next two months, she said. More information on his website, nyaraiskincare.com.

ENTREPRENEURSHIP COURSES

Arnold’s business dominates his weekends – “I don’t see weekends as ‘breaks'” – but that’s “not a problem”, she said. As an entrepreneur, “you have to exercise self-discipline and be consistent”.

Arnold wants to be an example for others and she hopes they will follow their own entrepreneurial ambitions.

“I recommend others get involved, but you have to take your business seriously,” she said. “Take advantage of opportunities such as workshops to build skills and invest in your business, [not only with money] but with your time.”

Arnold, who is due to graduate in May, plans to earn a graduate degree in human nutrition while continuing to grow her business, she said. “In ten years, I would like to be a dietitian.”

A specialist in apparel product design, Underfanger has worked with national brands and local businesses, and she founded her company to help businesses connect and cultivate their communities.

She’s been in the graphic design industry for years, but when she lost her job due to layoffs caused by a pandemic and “still wanted a creative outlet,” she struck out on her own. she declared. The Springfield, Illinois native received help and guidance from entrepreneurship incubators in the Illinois capital, which helped her sharpen her business focus, while emphasizing the importance of cultivating customers.

Underfanger was drawn to UA-Fayetteville by its graphic design program, and she has clients across the university, she said. She also has a website, crimsonfoxdesignco.com, and she markets primarily through social media, particularly TikTok.

She is looking forward to getting into the print lab at the university in the spring semester to “take some of my designs and physically [manifest] because you learn things in the printing process, and I can show them to my clients, instead of just a mockup,” she said.

Underfanger is also looking to connect with more potential customers, because “you only need a couple, because a lot of business is recurring.”

She already works with Hill Records, the university’s student-run label, she said. This included participating in the marketing and design of the EP released by Hill Records in November and an upcoming album project with the university’s Schola Cantorum choral group.

Arnold and Underfanger “are very clearly dedicated, their businesses are important to them, and they know their businesses are strengthened by being here,” said Phil Shellhammer, senior director of business incubation at the Office of Entrepreneurship and Development. university innovation. “Both are using this space to the fullest, and we want more students like them to find us here.”

“I’m a driven go-getter who likes finding resources, and college has been very helpful,” Arnold said. “That’s how I discovered Startup Village.”

“SURROUNDED BY SUPPORT”

Arnold and Underfanger’s businesses join several others, including Rejoicy, established in 2021, at Startup Village, which is located in the historic Hathcock Building at the corner of Block Avenue and Dickson Street, according to communications and social media specialist Brandon Howard. in the office. of entrepreneurship and innovation.

Rejoicy, co-founded by UA-Fayetteville alumnus Luke Brown and Edwin Ortiz, helps promote online sales by giving business owners a way to build a website quickly and affordably.

Startup Village—which shares space with the University of Arkansas Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center—provides office and bookable offices, as well as shared services including a conference room, kitchen, printer , Wi-Fi, telephones and mailboxes, according to Howard.

Opened in 2019, the companies – Lapovations and MORE Technologies have already “graduated” from the space after starting there – are selected through a competitive annual membership application process, with six-month and five-month leases. one year maximum.

“The storage space and the kitchen are very useful, especially when you’re here for several hours” at a time, said Underfanger, who spends at least 15 hours a week in the Village.

An affiliation with the university “is the first thing we look for” in an application, and “we want people who will actually be in that space and use it to add to the community,” Shellhammer said. “I want people who are dedicated to their business and who are here because I want these informal conversations and interactions between people in the building, because they learn from each other every time.”

“Networking” inside the village has been one of the most crucial things for Arnold, she said. For example, she met Underfanger inside the village and she helped her pack some skincare products.

“I had the [ability] to create what she needed,” Underfanger said. There are “shared bonds here, because we are like-minded people who really go there with our businesses.

Underfanger benefited from the relationships she developed at Startup Village, as well as the guidance of her fellow entrepreneurs, she said. “I’m a very introverted person, but I try to be more open, and there’s no co-worker drama here, because we’re all trying to do the same thing.”

At the Startup Village, “we encourage each other, it’s good for morale,” she added. “It can be difficult to juggle business, school and a part-time job, but it [encouragement] allows you to continue.”

Sharing a floor of the building with the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center is optimal because it’s another resource for those in the startup village, Shellhammer said. “We want our founders to feel surrounded by support.”

Among the biggest hurdles for startups is a lack of office space, which Startup Village is trying to address with flexible space that can serve single founders or small groups, he said. There’s also a conference room and another meeting space with a “more laid-back, friendly atmosphere.”

“Where do you meet customers” is a problem fledgling businesses face, so the Startup Village boardroom fills a critical need, he said. Without it, “you’ll have to rent a space, which can be expensive, or you can try a coffee, but it’s not always the most professional” – plus there’s ambient noise.

“You can do spaces here whatever you want because we have the flexibility here,” he said. For example, MORE Technologies “had a bank of 3D printers here”.

Shellhammer prefers to see Startup Village as a “co-working community, not a co-working space” because the interactions between entrepreneurs are as important – if not more so – than the space itself, he said. .

“We’re not full yet, as we’re still coming out of covid” – a time when many office spaces were abandoned as people worked from home – “but we have a few more chances [for spring] semester, and the opportunity here is tremendous.”

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