Nov 21, 2022 - Business

Northwest Arkansas outdoor startups get leg up from GORP

Illustration of Benjamin Franklin inside a green sleeping bag.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Seven entrepreneurs graduated from University of Arkansas' Greenhouse Outdoor Recreation Program (GORP) business incubator last Thursday.

What happened: About 60 people gathered at The Collaborative, the University of Arkansas' campus in Bentonville, to see presentations from the founder-graduates and, in some cases, check out prototype products.

Why it matters: The outdoor recreation industry is burgeoning in NWA. Business incubators and accelerators like GORP are helping build a network of entrepreneurs poised to capitalize on Arkansas' natural resources.

Details: Founders and employees receive training through weekly workshops and mentoring to help them scale and commercialize their services and products. They also receive up to $15,000 in seed funding from the U of A for completing the program.

The seven graduating companies were:

  • Yonder Adventure Company: a full-service Buffalo National River tour guide business.
  • Merman Bicycles: The company plans to make steel and titanium hardtail mountain bikes designed on NWA's trails.
  • Rover Hunting: Two partners are working on a prototype tree-stand that's more portable and easier to deploy for hunting on public lands, where stands must be removed after each hunt.
  • XNA Bikes: Founder and father Saul Fernandez plans to build quality carbon-fiber mountain bikes at a low price point — about $3,500 compared to $7,500 — to lower the entry barrier for the MTB-curious.
  • Just: This will be a combo eatery-coffee-beer-rest stop and Airbnb destination in south Fayetteville, right on the Razorback Regional Greenway.
  • Morii: The maker of a yet-to-be-revealed "Hatch Pack" promises to make car camping from an SUV safer and easier.
  • Gnargo Bike Co.: The company reclaims high-quality steel frames to build electric-assisted cargo cycles ready for grocery or pre-school runs.

Of note: Two of the startups — Gnargo and Just — are led by married couples, and XNA Bikes founder Saul Fernandez has involved his high school-aged daughter in his business.

What's next: GORP is accepting applications for its third cohort of companies through Dec. 11. That group will begin Jan. 19 and run through April 13.

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