Serey Sar-Blanchard’s life was in transition. She was newly married and moving to Marion, Ark., from out of state, and she wanted to open a business.
With 19 years of industry experience, including management roles, she was ready to start her own salon. Relocating provided the opportunity.
Serey knew she needed startup guidance and capital as a first-time business owner. She contacted the nearby Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center at Arkansas State University Mid-South. Over the next 16 months, the center’s Jack Poff Jr. assisted her through each step of starting her business.
“I already told a client to use ASBTDC because she and her husband are thinking about opening a business. They do not know where to start and that fear has been holding them back. I told her that ASBTDC is a wonderful place to start because they will help you with everything that you need to know and guide you through every step to get you where you need to be.”
With Poff’s help, Serey wrote a business plan, compiled financial projections, and analyzed the pros and cons of hiring another nail technician.
They also discussed marketing and social media strategies. To help Nail House Rock target its social media content, Poff provided market research on the preferences and motivators of customers in the local area.
Poff connected her with the East Arkansas Planning & Development District for startup funding. Willing to invest in an experienced professional who was new to business ownership, EAPDD answered the call with its revolving loan fund.
In typical small business fashion, going from funding to opening wasn’t without snags. The furniture arrived damaged, the booking software was challenging to learn, and unforeseen costs arose. However, Serey overcame those challenges with the support of the Arkansas SBTDC.
Poff “continued helping me every step of the way, and he is still staying in touch after I opened the salon to see how it is running and how I am doing,” Serey said.
Machelle Lee and her husband Kevin purchased the former Dover Supermarket building with a dream. They envisioned making it into a place where folks could gather, eat, dance, and support their community.
Over a two-year period, they created such a place, set up like an Old West town.
The Lees have two decades of experience in the restaurant industry and are seasoned business owners. A recommendation from the couple’s banker led Machelle to contact the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center at Arkansas Tech University.
They had funds to invest in the project but wanted to consider all financing options, plus plan for a multi-phase launch.
“The ASBTDC helped with the business aspect of things. I didn’t have a lot to go on, and the research helped me figure out the market and how to meet its needs."
Machelle began working with Ronda Hawkins of the ATU ASBTDC in March of 2021. They started with a business plan, market research, and financial analysis.
She credits the ASBTDC’s market data as being the most helpful assistance in the early days.
“The ASBTDC helped with the business aspect of things. I didn’t have a lot to go on, and the research helped me figure out the market and how to meet its needs,” Lee said.
Hawkins continues to share her expertise on marketing, managing employees, pricing, and other questions.
Fayetteville, Ark., startup company CelluDot was formed in 2020 to commercialize a patent-pending nanocellulose technology derived from forestry and agricultural waste like sawdust.
The company’s first product, BioGrip, is an eco-friendly, efficient, and cost-effective solution to mitigate herbicide drift. By combining drift-reducing and volatility-reducing agents and a surfactant into a one-step solution, CelluDot’s product will enable farmers to control weeds more effectively and safely – without harming nearby crops and other vegetation.
The company founders developed the technology as doctoral students at the University of Arkansas. To bring their research to market, the first-time entrepreneurs needed seed capital and guidance.
“ASBTDC has been a huge resource for CelluDot. We strongly recommend any startup that’s planning to submit an SBIR/STTR proposal to make use of ASBTDC services.”
The Arkansas SBTDC has helped CelluDot pursue and win federal research-and-development funding through America’s Seed Fund, the SBIR/STTR program. In 2023, the National Science Foundation awarded the company a $959,510 Phase II contract.
Company founders Joseph Batta-Mpouma and Gurshagan Kandhola have utilized the specialized consulting and training for tech-based companies offered by ASBTDC’s statewide innovation specialist and the University of Arkansas regional office. ASBTDC in-depth market research, proposal development and review services, and agency contacts all contributed to CelluDot’s SBIR/STTR success.
Since completing ASBTDC’s Lab2Launch Accelerator, the company has won SBIR/STTR awards from the National Science Foundation and U.S. Department of Agriculture, plus a state SBIR Matching Grant. To date, the center has helped CelluDot secure $1,459,407 in capital funding.
CelluDot is using the proceeds of its Phase II award to optimize BioGrip and scale up manufacturing. The company is conducting field trials and further product testing on the way to completing regulatory approvals.
CelluDot is also developing relationships with key industry players and establishing commercial partnerships with a goal to bring BioGrip to market in the next two years.