BENTONVILLE — In a world filled with corporate giants, it might be easy to think that Northwest Arkansas is all about big business and that there’s no room for new ideas or small business.
There is plenty of room, as it turns out.
A Startup Crawl in Bentonville gave a tour of local start-up companies that are thriving. Sponsored by the Northwest Arkansas Entrepreneurship Alliance, the Startup Crawl featured five businesses on or near the Bentonville Square. Participants went from business to business where they heard from the entrepreneurs themselves about how their company began and what they’ve learned as a start-up company.
The event ended with an after party at Tusk & Trotter, a new restaurant in Bentonville.
The first NWAEA-sponsored Startup Crawl was earlier this fall in Fayetteville and the goal is to have similar events in other communities such as Rogers and other parts of Fayetteville, such as Dickson Street.
“It’s like a pub crawl but instead of bars, it’s a tour of start-ups,” said organizer Jeannette Balleza. “It gives a chance for homegrown entrepreneurs to tell their stories, extend hospitality and connect with other startups in the area.”
Amy Callahan co-founded Collective Bias, which technically is not considered a start-up company anymore because it’s been around for about three years, she said. She agreed that start-up companies working together is beneficial.
“The better that we all work together the more we can be sustainable in Northwest Arkansas,” she said.
Ram Ganesan is an entrepreneur participating in the ARK Challenge with his company MineWhat, which works with online stores to create a better online shopping and customer service experience for those stores’ customers.
Ganesan said he appreciated the opportunity to network with companies that could potentially end up helping him grow his own business.
“I’m getting to meet a lot of people and build relationships to take (the business) forward,” he said.
Eric Hinson and his wife, Krista joined the Startup Crawl both as host and participant. They opened Explainify in January. The company makes animated “explainer” videos that explains ideas, including what a business is about.
“I felt like there was a need for startups and businesses to be able to tell their stories better,” he said.
They participated in the event because it was a good chance to be a part of the start-up community.
“We believe in the start-up culture here and want to support it any way that we can,” he said.
Thomas Merritt joined the Startup Crawl to get better acquainted with other start-up companies. He opened Studio 124, an art gallery, in Bentonville about a year ago.
“It’s good knowing who is where and why and what,” he said of learning about other neighboring companies.
Merritt said the Northwest Arkansas start-up culture has a new hub in Bentonville for the art and design community.
“This is the place to be right now,” he said.
Dustin and Jami Solomon started MutinyFX in August 2011 and they agree that Northwest Arkansas is a good place for their company, which offers visual effects and post-production services for the film industry. Although they do some commercials, the company’ primary mission is to help small-budget films streamline their production process to reduce costs, thus creating more sustainable business practices.
Their process brings a similar advantage to the film industry that design/build brings to construction in that when the post-production company is involved from the beginning, it saves time and money because there are fewer snags, delays and other potential cost-increasing issues.
Dustin Solomon said they want to be a part of the start-up community in the region and show how with technology, a business can be started anywhere.
“We want people to have a sense that it doesn’t matter where you are,” he said. “You can start just about anything.”
“The area is ripe for film,” Jami Solomon said of Northwest Arkansas, adding that the cost of living and family-friendly atmosphere makes it a good place to raise a family and start a business.