Category Archives: Entrepreneurship

Grox Industries to Compete in Rice Business Plan Competition

Grox Industries, a University of Arkansas entrepreneurship team developing a nanomaterial-based glass coating that improves the energy efficiency of windows, will compete with some of the world’s top universities for more than $1 million in prizes at the 17th annual Rice Business Plan Competition at Rice University, April 6-8, 2017.

March 16 marks the opening of the 2017 People’s Choice Competition that challenges the spirit of each university. Team members, fellow students, alumni, family and friends can vote for their favorite team via a Facebook survey. People can participate by going to https://poll.fbapp.io/2017rbpc. The winner will be announced, Saturday, April 8, at the awards banquet. More than 16,000 votes were cast in 2016.

The team includes U of A students:

  • Andrew Miles, an executive M.B.A. student in the Walton College
  • Witness Martin, a master’s degree candidate in electrical engineering in the College of Engineering
  • Ting Zheng, master’s in accounting in the Walton College
  • Willie Evans, an undergraduate chemistry major in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences
  • Stonie Hopkins, who is also enrolled in the executive M.B.A. program.

The winner will take home a grand prize valued at more than $450,000, including seed funding and the opportunity to ring the closing bell at NASDAQ Marketsite. Judges select the winner based on the company that represents the best investment opportunity.

The teams for this year’s competition were chosen from nearly 350 entrants to compete in four categories: life sciences; information technology/Web/mobile; energy/clean technology/sustainability; and other.

More than 163 former competitors have gone on to successfully launch their ventures and are still in business today and another 20 have successfully sold their ventures. Past competitors have raised in excess of $2 billion in funding and created more than 2,000 new jobs.

More than 140 corporate and private sponsors support the business plan competition, which includes 275 judges from the investment sector and awards more than $1 million in prizes. Top prizes include the $300,000 Investment Grand Prize from The GOOSE Society of Texas, the $200,000+ OWL Investment Prize and the $100,000 Cisco Innovation Challenge Prize.

This year’s other prizes include the $50,000 U.S. Department of Energy Clean Energy Prize, the $50,000 Second Prize, the $25,000 nCourage Women Courageous Entrepreneurs Prize, the $25,000 Women’s Health and Wellness Innovation Prize and the $20,000 NASA Earth/Human Health and Human Performance Innovation Cash Award.

For more information on the 2017 Rice Business Plan Competition and past competitors’ success stories, visit www.rbpc.rice.edu.

Enactus Partners with the American Legion to Support Community Programs

Enactus, a student-led entrepreneurial organization at the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas, is partnering with the Shelton Tucker Craft American Legion Post #27 in Fayetteville to remodel the facility, revitalize its business operations and increase its membership.

The Enactus team will develop a sustainable business model to allow American Legion members to refocus on community outreach and education. The post operates a volunteer-staffed bar and restaurant to fund outreach and social programs that educate young people about democracy and military service and provide veterans and their families with social opportunities, career skills and other support.

The Enactus team is also developing a membership and marketing campaign to recruit members from the Gulf War, Iraqi Freedom, Desert Storm and Afghanistan conflicts to increase membership at the post. The student team created a Go Fund Me site  to support these initiatives. Enactus plans to host an official grand reopening of the post in July 2019 to coincide with the Post’s centennial celebration.

“I was inspired by the members of this American Legion Post,” said Pamela Styles, associate director of outreach for the Center for Retailing Excellence and Walton Fellow for the University of Arkansas Enactus team. “The Enactus students and I were privileged to attend their November membership meeting. I was in awe of their tremendous sense of duty to this country and to their brothers in arms. Being a witness to the reverence with which they conducted the MIA ceremony dedicated to those still missing but not forgotten, the pledge of allegiance, a prayer, and the reading of the preamble to the Constitution touched me deeply. These men and women have given the ultimate in service and continue to serve the community in which they live.”

About the Shelton Tucker Craft American Legion Post #27: The Shelton Tucker Craft American Legion Post 27 was chartered July 31, 1919. Its name honors three local servicemen, Martin Lynn Shelton, William Marion Tucker and Clarence B. Craft. The post conducts numerous programs that serve the community and fellow veterans and their families. It supports more youth attendance to American Legion Boys State and American Legion Auxiliary Girls State, which highlight government and leadership skills, each year than any other post in Arkansas.

About the Center for Retailing Excellence: The Center for Retailing Excellence was established in the Walton College in 1998 with a portion of the $50 million endowment from the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation. The center focuses on developing future leaders and serves as a bridge between academics and the retail industry.

EPIC Spotlight: Bjorn Simmons

If you think marketing and entrepreneurship pertains only to business, guess again. Bjorn Simmons will tell you that entrepreneurial spirit and a know-how attitude can effect change in many aspects of life, whether it’s helping free a man wrongfully imprisoned or creating a tool that can benefit businesses globally. Continue reading EPIC Spotlight: Bjorn Simmons

EPIC Spotlight: Ross Lawrence

Many fresh college graduates look for exciting careers in big cities like Chicago or New York.

Ross Lawrence was one of them. With a bachelor’s degree in finance, he applied to more than 70 jobs in the Windy City and Big Apple. Then he decided he’d give Nevada, Missouri, a try.

It changed everything.

Less than five years after earning his degree, he became CEO and owner of Hoffman Financial Resources LLC, a dually registered affiliate with LPL Financial, the largest organization of independent financial advisers in the United States. He manages four full-time employees and about $120 million in investment assets from clients in 34 states.

He has a huge responsibility to his clients. “They literally entrust me with their life savings,” he says.

When Lawrence began applying for finance jobs with big banks, he became keenly interested in owning a firm. Walton College’s Career Center posted an ad for an associate wealth adviser with a firm in a Missouri town of about 8,000 people. Lawrence applied for the job with a mission in mind: he wanted to buy it.

He wasn’t shy about it, either. At age 22, during the interview process, he announced his intentions to the firm’s founder and owner, Greg Hoffman, who was entertaining the idea of retiring within the next ten to fifteen years. He took Lawrence seriously. The two worked out a purchase plan and, as of January 2016, Lawrence assumed ownership.

Now he tells students and new graduates to not be shy. Many firms are owned by baby boomers – those born between 1946 and 1964 – who are retiring and need someone skilled to take over and make sure their clients are taken care of. They’re often in cities and towns where there’s little competition for financial planning, which makes for good opportunities, Lawrence says.

A Fayetteville native, Lawrence initially majored in biology with the idea he would be an oral surgeon. He soon switched gears, however, when he received a tip for a promising stock. Though he ended up not making the investment, it got the wheels spinning. He Googled “finance,” grabbed his best suit and began asking for internships at area firms. He found one at Merrill Lynch Wealth Management in Rogers, where he worked for two years while finishing his degree.

The decision to change majors also delayed his graduation. To catch up, he went to summer school while working two business-related internships and at the Olive Garden restaurant.

During this time, the Great Recession took hold. Lawrence saw bad financial advising at this time, as well as good. The bad, in fact, was so awful he vowed to be an adviser who always puts his clients’ needs first.

With motivation in place, Lawrence took advantage of his Walton education. Mark Zweig’s entrepreneurship class proved to be very important and was where he learned the differences between the types of business ownership and the tax advantages of each. He says he still uses the Excel spreadsheets from his financial modeling class. And, of course, without the Career Center, he might have never known about Hoffman Financial Resources.

Since taking over, Lawrence is expanding his firm to Fayetteville and spends at least a couple of days a week there. His goal is simple: to keep growing the firm by providing the best client experience possible.

“When it comes to financial planning and investing most people just hope that they are doing things the right way, we make sure that it’s not just ‘hope’ that’s guiding them” he says.

Picasolar Awarded $2 Million for Solar Technology

The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded $2 million to Picasolar Inc. to advance a pilot manufacturing program for solar cell technology developed at the University of Arkansas.
The SunShot Tier 2 Incubator Award will be matched with $2 million from Picasolar. The award is the result of the company’s patent-pending hydrogen super emitter process to increase the efficiency of solar cells and could ultimately lead to new high-tech manufacturing jobs in Northwest Arkansas. Continue reading Picasolar Awarded $2 Million for Solar Technology

Fleischer Scholars Experience Entrepreneurship and College Life

Thirty-three high school juniors and seniors participated in the Fleischer Scholars summer camp program July 10-15 to learn about entrepreneurship at the Sam M. Walton College of Business. Hosted by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, the camp introduces first generation, low income and underrepresented students to college life, business classes and entrepreneurship.

Program sponsor Mort Fleischer, the co-founder and chair of STORE Capital Corp. (NYSE: STOR), has a long reaching vision for the program. His goal is to assist economically disadvantaged students graduate from college and encourage them to invest their time and talent back into to their hometown communities upon graduation. Fleischer calls this the “multiplier effect” and hopes that these future leaders will serve as role models for their community.

“Walton College is proud to partner with Mort Fleischer on this life-changing program for Arkansas students,” Barbara Lofton, director, Office of Diversity and Inclusion for Walton College. “We want to give these students the ongoing support they need to stay in college, get jobs and serve their communities. There is no limit on what these young people can do.”

Four Arkansas banks – Signature Bank, Bank of England, Citizens Bank and First Arkansas Bank and Trust – have committed to fund $50,000 scholarships to pay for the summer camp program and four years base tuition. The banks will also provide local internships once students become juniors and seniors at the University of Arkansas.

To qualify for the college scholarship, students must be admitted to the University of Arkansas, enroll full time, demonstrate leadership and commit to back to their local community through service. To quality for the summer camp program, students must be the first in their family to attend college, be economically disadvantaged, hold high college entrance test scores, are able to overcome challenges and have the drive to complete college.