Mar 1, 2023 - Business

The Shift: UA's GORP business accelerator gains traction

University of Arkansas' Greenhouse Outdoor Recreation Program director Phil Shellhammer speaks with Axios' Mike Allen, left, about the recreation startup community at an event last November.

Phil Shellhammer, right, director of the University of Arkansas Greenhouse Outdoor Recreation Program, speaks with Axios' Mike Allen about the recreation startup community last November. Photo: Stephen Ironside/Axios

Phil Shellhammer, director of the University of Arkansas' Greenhouse Outdoor Recreation Program (GORP) is bullish.

  • He told Axios that more than 140 product and service ideas have come to him in the last 18 months. "There [are] a lot of people building stuff around here," he said.
  • Most of those entrepreneurs are in Arkansas, but people from Maine to Los Angeles have reached out for GORP services.

Driving the news: Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced who will guide the Natural State Initiative last week; Bryan Sanders, first gentleman, is chair and Shellhammer is a council member.

Why it matters: Business accelerators like GORP are helping build a network of entrepreneurs ready to add to Arkansas' $3.5 billion outdoor recreation industry.

Context: GORP, offers both a la carte services to startups in the outdoor recreation industry and an application-only accelerator program with intensive training.

The latest: The third cohort of GORP's accelerator program is approaching its halfway point of the 12-week program. Its six companies are:

  • All Bodies on Bikes Clothing Co., a size-inclusive cycling apparel brand.
  • Best Ride of Your Life (b-royl) designing cycling clothing that prevents skin irritation.
  • Cloud Pad designs affordable safety products for rock climbing.
  • Greenway Bike Company converts analog bicycles into electric assist bikes.
  • Reggy is launching online tools for cycling event organizers and coaches to assist with scheduling, payment transactions, email and websites.

By the numbers: The accelerator has graduated 11 companies since starting last year.

  • "​​​​To my knowledge … all of them are still very much viable or working towards launch," Shellhammer said.

The bottom line: GORP and the Natural State Initiative are pulling in the same direction, but private investment in startups is still needed for the industry to mature and eventually fuel Arkansas' GDP.

Go deeper: Watch the Arkansas Parks Centennial Celebration Wednesday at 11am.

🚲 The Shift is a regular feature to catch up quick on what's happening in the state's economy and entrepreneurial ecosystem.


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