Since my last submission, "A Call to Arms," I have been hard at work. Or, more accurately, “we” have been hard at work. The last submission was written with intent and it was written with expectation; since it was put into publication, I am excited to say that we have successfully managed to help cultivate a larger public showing of support for the small business and entrepreneurial community within this region. Multiple parties have come together to share in profitable conversations, multiple events have already been organized and executed — with many more scheduled to come — to support the entrepreneur economy, and multiple small business support services that will be permanent staples in Fort Smith are underway. 2018 is going to be a good year for entrepreneurs in Western Arkansas.
But we’re not done. Momentum is key. My argument, which I certainly hold no monopoly on, has always been that Fort Smith has everything it needs to be a thriving area and is ripe for innovation and entrepreneurs to plant their roots. More and more people are beginning to come to the same realization. For far too long, the future Fort Smith has mirrored that of Sisyphus; a repetitive, exhausting struggle that has not brought us any closer to our goals, which is why it is paramount that we do not stop now. The only way that we can be confident in a future change for our region is if we all stop reminiscing on the past and begin to act by investing our efforts into harnessing this momentum and keep pushing forward. There are plenty of ways to support this effort, there are plenty of places to get involved, and it all starts with just showing up. There’s something to be said for the power of just showing up and being ready to help. If you aren’t sure where to start, allow me to highlight a few options.
StartUp Junkie will bring its second pitch contest of the year to Fort Smith on Nov. 14 at the Fort Smith Convention Center, acting as a collaborative culmination to the equally exciting career-focused Transition Expo. The pitch contest, "IdeaFame Live!" (previously G60 Pitch Contest), will begin at 6:30 p.m. and is a free event to attend and pitch, allowing entrepreneurs to pitch their business to a captive audience and potential investors! Businesses here are represented in all stages, from idea phase to prototype, and everything in between. I plan on showing up, and to take it a step further, I will plan to be one of the entrepreneurs who will pitch an idea to the audience! If I win (and the competition is known for being strong, so that is a big IF), I will use the funds to purchase my wife a birthday gift and then donate the remaining $1,000 of cash winnings to a local charity, Hannah House. I challenge other entrepreneurs in the area to come support this event and pitch for your chance to win one of the two $1,000 cash prizes up for grabs! This money is meant to be seed money that you can take and invest into your business venture. All ages welcome.
On Dec. 6 at 5:30 p.m. at Propak in Downtown Fort Smith, we are having our first Fort Smith Venture MashUp. This will be a great event for young entrepreneurs and seasoned business owners alike to network as well as enjoy a quality, value-packed program. Steve Clark will simultaneously play two roles, first as our host for this event and second as the distinguished guest of honor. Steve will talk about his business ventures and provide valuable insight about entrepreneurship that can only come through real world experience. There will be a Q&A session that follows his talk, take advantage of the opportunity! I plan on showing up, and I hope you do too.
I look forward to telling you more about everything that we are planning for the future as we continue working towards the common goal of making our region into all that we know it can be. But we’ve got to keep the momentum, we’ve got to keep showing up. 2018 is going to be a great year of progress for our region, you don’t want to miss out. I feel the need to end by reiterating the statement; “I plan on showing up, and I hope you do too.”
Miles Crawford is CEO of Go Ye Employment Services, chairman of the Western Arkansas Workforce Development Board and founder of the annual Small Business Development Fair. To participate in the Times Record’s Community Matters series, email Executive Editor Mardi Taylor, firstname.lastname@example.org.