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Arkansas: Land of Opportunity for Entrepreneurs

 March 21, 2023

Arkansas Named #1 in Nation for Opportunity Share Among New Entrepreneurs

Arkansas may be “The Natural State,” but you may not know it is also the “Land of Opportunity” for entrepreneurs.

Businesses started by entrepreneurs in Arkansas range in size from small startups to industry-leading corporations. These businesses run the gamut from the retail industry to trucking to technology to outdoor recreation and beyond. But there’s one common thread between these entrepreneurs, no matter their background or what their businesses are – they all saw an opportunity to start a business and dove right in.

In the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation’s latest State Report on Early-Stage Entrepreneurship in the United States, Arkansas had the highest opportunity share for new entrepreneurs, which indicates the “percentage of new entrepreneurs who created a business out of choice instead of necessity.” The report showed that Arkansas had a 93.1 percent opportunity share for entrepreneurs. By comparison, the median opportunity share in the United States was 79.1 percent.

The “opportunity share” metric was one of four early-stage measures of entrepreneurial activity that the Kauffman Foundation looked at in its report. These metrics indicate the level of new business creation in individual states and the United States.

Arkansas’ high opportunity share demonstrates our state’s pro-business climate, enabling entrepreneurs to take risks to start new businesses, and reflects the abundance of take-charge Arkansans who can capitalize on the opportunities they see. This isn’t the first time that Arkansas has been recognized for its strong small business environment. In 2021 Arkansas was ranked second in the nation for the most pandemic-proof small businesses by the Facebook and Small Business Roundtable U.S. State of Small Business Report.

There are many examples of entrepreneurs in Arkansas who saw a problem or opportunity and launched a business that has created new jobs.

Take Sam Walton, for example. After gaining experience in the retail industry in the 1940s and 1950s, Walton saw an opportunity to revolutionize the industry by offering “always low prices” with exceptional service. He opened the first Walmart in Rogers, Arkansas in 1962, took the company public in 1970, and continued expanding – eventually becoming the largest company in the world by revenue. Walmart also employs more than 53,000 people in Arkansas with approximately 2.3 million associates worldwide.

More recently, Jeston George built Apptegy, a fast-growing technology startup, as a result of opportunity calling. George wanted to keep up with his nephew’s school programs but realized that local schools did not have a centralized tool for sharing information with families. Starting out in his house, George built a branding and communications solution for school districts, eventually moving into the Little Rock Technology Park as its first tenant. The company has grown exponentially since its early days, moving into a new headquarters in the Riverdale area of Little Rock and working with more than 3,000 school districts in the United States.

The opportunity that Jeston George saw in 2013 has had a major impact on Arkansas and its economy. In January 2023, Apptegy announced that it would be expanding in Little Rock with plans to create more than 300 new jobs. The Apptegy success story shows how invaluable entrepreneurs are to our state economy; these risk takers and innovators are creating good, high-paying jobs for Arkansans and opening new opportunities down the road.

But for entrepreneurs to succeed, they need more than just opportunity. They need resources and support.

In Arkansas, entrepreneurs can benefit from a wide range of resources to help them capitalize on the opportunity that they see. Throughout the state, there are entrepreneurial support organizations, like Startup Junkie, Conductor, The Venture Center, the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center, and many others, that help entrepreneurs conceptualize, plan, and execute their business ideas.

At the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, we help entrepreneurs by providing a one-stop shop for resources. On our website, there is an extensive list of resources and organizations that entrepreneurs can use to further their businesses and goals. AEDC’s Small Business and Entrepreneurship Development Division also helps entrepreneurs and organizations find funding opportunities, understand AEDC’s incentives, and navigate application processes.

Taken together, there is a wide ecosystem of resources and partners in Arkansas who are committed to helping entrepreneurs and business owners thrive. Collaboration is the name of the game when it comes to making entrepreneurs and small business owners successful in our state.

In Arkansas, we want to keep growing the number of entrepreneurs who are creating new businesses and employing Arkansans. Having an innovative, pro-business climate with a strong talent pool and wide range of resources will help Arkansas continue to lead in opportunity share for entrepreneurs.


Blog post contributed by:

Bob Kucheravy
Director, Small Business & Entrepreneurship Development Division
Arkansas Economic Development Commission