🐪 And just like that, it's Wednesday.

☀️ Sun again today with highs in the mid-50s.

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Today's newsletter is 872 words — a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: The Shift — Black Paper Party faces Sharks

Madia Willis (from left), Jasmine Hudson and J'Aaron Merchant are scheduled to appear on "Shark Tank" at 7pm Friday. Photo: Christopher Willard/Disney

Inspired by the cultural flashpoints of 2020 that included the COVID-19 pandemic and the murder of George Floyd, three NWA women decided to launch Black Paper Party.

  • The partners' initial concept was to make Christmas wrapping paper with illustrations of Black people — a simple notion that's been largely overlooked by the traditional gift-giving industry.

🦈 Driving the news: The trio — Jasmine Hudson, J'Aaron Merchant and Madia Willis — will appear on ABC's "Shark Tank" at 7pm Friday.

  • They weren't permitted to discuss the outcome of the prerecorded "pitch-for-investment" competition until after the broadcast.

🖼️ The big picture: Black adults made up 12.4% of the U.S. population in 2020, yet just 3% of the nation's businesses were Black-owned.

Details: Since 2020, Black Paper Party has diversified offerings to include ceramics, stockings, clothing and ornaments — some 200 items — all representing Black people.

  • Hudson and Merchant point out their target market is larger than the Black population — that churches, nonprofits and adoptive parents who want to be inclusive also buy their products.

📈 Between the lines: Growth has been dramatic; products are in 6,000 retail stores.

The bottom line: The business has been built on investments from friends and family, out of the partners' back pockets, and loans.

  • Yes, but: If one of the Sharks bites Friday, the company could get an investment to help them to the next level.

ğŸŽ The Shift is a regular feature to catch up quick on what's happening in Arkansas' economy and entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Keep reading

2. Group files proposal to put sunshine law on ballot

Photo: Courtesy of Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin's office

Arkansas Citizens for Transparency this week submitted a ballot title and popular name for the "Arkansas Government Transparency Amendment."

  • It's a companion to a proposed amendment submitted last week that would create a right to government transparency.

Why it matters: The state's Freedom of Information Act protects the public's right to access many government documents and is frequently used to hold officials accountable for taxpayer dollars.

Of note: Records requests led to the discovery that the administration of Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders paid $19,000 for a lectern in the so-called Podiumgate scandal.

What we're watching: Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin has until Dec. 11 to approve or reject an amendment ballot title, and until Dec. 18 to approve or reject the proposed citizen-initiated amendment, Arkansas Advocate reports.

More details

3. Kitchen Sink: News hunt

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

🧃 Elopak of Oslo, Norway will open its first U.S. plant to make fiberboard food packaging at the Port of Little Rock, investing $70 million and creating 100 jobs. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)

👮 A $1 million grant from Community Oriented Policing Service will help Springdale hire eight new police officers. (KNWA-TV)

👖 Outdoor apparel company LIVSN Designs of Bentonville has raised an undisclosed round of seed capital led by RZC Investments, the venture capital arm of Steuart and Tom Walton's Runway Group. (Northwest Arkansas Business Journal)

🛶 The Arkansas Farm Bureau approved a policy opposing any potential redesignation of the Buffalo National River as a national park and preserve. (Arkansas Times)

4. ğŸŽ¨ Priceless art experience

Photo: Michael Graff/Axios

👋 Editor Fadel here. Supposedly, time can only proceed in one direction — forward.

What's happening: During my recent visit to NWA, Worth and Alex took me to Yayoi Kusama's installation, "Infinity Mirrored Room — My Heart is Dancing into the Universe," at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.

  • The installation is part of the permanent collection and challenges the idea that time can't stand still.

The intrigue: Patrons are immersed in a room of brightly colored, floating spheres surrounded by mirrors, making a relatively small room appear to have no end. You have exactly one minute to walk through the space, but the somewhat disorienting, out-of-body experience makes time seem irrelevant.

The artwork has been on display at Crystal Bridges since 2019, after it debuted at the Victoria Miro Gallery in London a year earlier. It has attracted more than 128,000 visitors during its time in Bentonville, Michelle Moore, the museum's communications director, tells us.

Photo: Michael Graff/Axios
  • Asked how much the museum paid to acquire the piece, Moore said, "Once an artwork enters our collection, it's priceless."

Details: The free display is in the museum's contemporary art exhibit, next to other fascinating works of modern art. You don't need a ticket to see it.

  • Visitors are allowed to take photos and videos, and a 360-degree tour is available online. But looking at those won't do it justice — you have to experience it in the flesh to understand.

5. What actually makes us happy

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Loneliness and stress are high, but many of us struggle to find the right solutions.

  • By the numbers: 4 in 10 Americans said their mental health is only fair or poor, according to a 2022 report from the American Psychiatric Association.
  • More than 1 in 3 Americans are lonely, per a Harvard study. That rises to 61% when looking at younger people and 51% among mothers with young children.

Between the lines: Part of the problem is we aren't very good at knowing what to do to feel better, Yale psychologist Laurie Santos tells Axios' 1 big thing podcast.

  • Social connection is a critical part of the equation, she says.

Go deeper: How to cut through the self-help noise and find lasting happiness

Thanks to Fadel Allassan for editing and James Gilzow for copy editing this newsletter.

🤿 Alex is out today. Worth Thinks she's doing a deep sea tour near the Galapagos Islands.

🐸 Worth is reading about how Mexico is trying to save the axolotl, an odd-looking amphibian.