Startups in U of A’s Outside Recreation Incubator Showcase Their Progress

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Brandon Howard

Jennifer Stout and Nathan Stout introduce their company Just Bikes, a start-up that aims to offer a family restaurant and bike shop along the region’s trails.

BENTONVILLE, Ark. – Cate Handley jokes that picking just one way the Greenhouse Outdoor Recreation Program (GORP) has benefited her startup would be “difficult”.

However, when Handley prodded him, he said that GORP would teach their company “how to tell our story.”

Handley, co-owner of Yonder Adventure Company, joined six other companies for GORP’s Demo Night last month as the Fall 2022 cohort unveiled their findings and prototypes at the conclusion of the 12-week program. Handley and her partner Joe Goodwin founded Yonder Adventure Company to provide highly customizable, full-service rafting on the Buffalo River using oar-powered driftboats.

According to Handley, GORP has helped them make huge profits, including adding a booking platform and management software to the company’s website. She also praised GORP’s access to experienced mentors and weekly workshops, which she says provide an intensive learning environment.

“It’s just been an amazing resource to refine our business strategy,” said Handley.

Two cycling-focused companies from the cohort — XNA Bikes and Merman Bicycles — are gearing up for product launches in early 2023. Others rotate their prototypes to participate in product testing, including Rover Hunting Equipment, an all-in-one mobile tree stand, and Morii, a multipurpose device that offers a camping solution in your SUV.

Just Bikes, a startup aiming to offer a family restaurant and bike shop along the area’s hiking trails, hopes to begin site development after the New Year. And Gnargo Bike Co., which builds cargo bikes from discarded bikes, is focused on expanding and streamlining its manufacturing process.

The progress the companies made in just 12 weeks impressed Tracy Byrd, a local Ironman triathlete and entrepreneur.

“To come here now and sit 12 weeks later and see what they’ve done, what they’ve learned and what they’re doing and where they’re going is phenomenal,” Byrd said.

Overseen by the U of A Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, GORP is an incubator focused on the outdoor recreation industry. The program is housed in the U of A Collaborative Greenhouse in Bentonville.

GORP supports startups in each cohort with workshop training, team mentoring, and dedicated product/service development to help them scale globally. GORP also provides up to $15,000 in “non-dilutive seed financing” per company – financing that does not require the owner to give up any equity in the company.

Applications for the GORP Spring 2023 cohort are open. Residents of both Northwest Arkansas and the wider Heartland region and current U of A students are eligible for the GORP program.

GORP’s Fall 2022 Collection:

  • Gnargo Bike Co. – Bentonville
    • Using a circular supply chain, Gnargo is reinventing discarded bicycles into “modern utility transportation” to help individuals and families looking for an affordable way to explore the trails of Northwest Arkansas. Founded by husband and wife team Elysia Contreras Springer and Zach Springer, the idea came after they learned Bentonville families wanted to ride bikes in a community setting that was affordable and had minimal environmental impact.
  • Bikes Only – Fayetteville
    • Just Bikes plans to be the all-in-one destination for individuals and families exploring Northwest Arkansas’ trail system. Just Bikes is operated by husband and wife team, Jennifer Stout and Nathan Stout, and offers lodging, food and beverage, and a bike shop just off the track in south Fayetteville.
  • Merman Bikes – Bentonville
    • Merman Bikes designs and creates progressive, party-inducing bikes that hail from the dirt of Northwest Arkansas but are comfortable to shred anywhere. The company’s co-founders, Tyler Siems and Taylor Weichman, have been in the bicycle industry together for more than 15 years.
  • Morii—Fayetteville
    • Developed by Colin Whittington, the Yonder is an affordable multi-purpose device for camping in your SUV that also helps with storage, organization and preparation for outdoor activities.
  • Rover Hunting Gear – Springdale
    • Rover strives to provide an all-in-one mobile tree stand system that takes the hunter from bringing in to harvesting.
  • XNA Bikes – Bentonville
    • XNA Bikes is dedicated to lowering the barrier to cycling by providing quality, affordable carbon frame bikes. The team, consisting of Deihl Betz, Saul Fernandez and David Lopez, eventually plans to build the bikes in Northwest Arkansas while also bringing student-athletes into its business to leverage their STEM skills and provide hands-on training.
  • Yonder Adventure Company-Little Rock
    • Founded by Cate Handley and Joe Goodwin, two active leaders of the Arkansas Canoe Club, Yonder Adventure Company offers highly customizable, full-service raft trips down the Buffalo River using oar-powered driftboats. The company will provide meals, equipment and logistics for day or multi-day trips of up to six people.

About the U of A Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation:The Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation creates and curates innovation and entrepreneurship experiences for students of all disciplines. Through the Brewer Family Entrepreneurship Hub, McMillon Innovation Studio, Startup Village and the Greenhouse at the Bentonville Collaborative, the Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation offers free workshops and programs – including social and entrepreneurial innovation design teams, venture internships, competitions and startup -coaching The Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, a division of Sam M. Walton College of Business and Division of Economic Development, also provides on-demand support for students who will be innovators in existing organizations and entrepreneurs starting something new.