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Sparking Growth, No Matter the Circumstances

Guest blog post by Wayne Miller, executive director of The Venture Center

Last year, The Venture Center experienced enormous changes and the Little Rock Regional Chamber was right there beside us the entire way. With the chamber’s help, we launched new programs and improved on old ones, we served our community well, and we’re incredibly proud of the work we’ve accomplished together. A lot has changed, but a lot has stayed the same.

This year has presented more challenges and heartbreak than any year I can remember. Moving every aspect of our lives to virtual platforms and slowly adapting to a socially-distant workplace has required a new level of creativity, patience and tenacity. But tough times also provide the opportunity to look around and remember our gifts and blessings, and Little Rock Regional Chamber is at the top of our list.

Thanks to our partnership with the chamber, the second annual Spark! Pre-Accelerator program is ready to go, in an all-new virtual format. Spark! is a local small business acceleration program developed by The Venture Center and the Little Rock Regional Chamber to spur opportunities, exposure and company growth for entrepreneurs.

Virtual or otherwise, The Venture Center’s Spark! program provides a platform for collaboration for Arkansas-based companies ready to scale their businesses. Starting a business is one thing, but growing it is another. Spark! gives insight and learning on how to work ‘on’ the business, not just ‘in’ the business and accomplish actual growth.

The 2020 Spark! program will accept up to ten local startups to participate in the 10-week virtual boot camp. Led by The Venture Center, the Little Rock Regional Chamber and local subject matter expert volunteers, the Spark! cohort will gain critical business skills in areas ranging from business pitches and media to legal/IP and funding.

Entrepreneurs are well known to be tough and flexible, and today we see those qualities rise to the surface over and over. In these unprecedented times, they still need the support of our astounding community and Spark! provides the perfect platform.

The Venture Center’s Ashley Jones recently shared with Arkansas Money & Politics, “With the sudden onset of COVID-19, many of the on-site benefits were reconsidered to continue providing value to the 2020 Spark! cohort in a virtual setting. But with the help of technology and our mentors and subject matter experts’ dedication, we know the entrepreneurs selected for 2020 Spark! will gain incredible value through the introductions and instruction within a new virtual experience.”

We couldn’t agree more. We encourage all Little Rock Regional Chamber members to refer small businesses to apply to this powerful program by September 2. Spark! benefits could provide a true lifeline for small businesses by matching founders with industry-specific mentors and by providing the opportunity to win thousands of dollars in prizes by pitching at the November 17 Pitch ‘N Pint. To qualify, applicants must be full-time founders or CEOs of startup companies with verifiable revenue between $25,000 and $100,000, operating between one to five years, and must be Central Arkansas residents.

It’s easy for any small business to apply. Visit by September 2 and fill out the online application. Email with any questions and we’ll announce the new cohort in mid-September. Stay tuned for the exciting news!


Need more information?

If you have questions about how the chamber can help your business or how you can get involved in growing our regional economy, drop us a line.