Guest Blogger Mat Faulkner Reflects on Inspiring and Supporting a Community of Entrepreneurship

How does a community create a culture that inspires entrepreneurship and is supportive of one of the most challenging and risky pursuits in one’s lifetime?

You are likely aware that Searcy rallied to win a national vote to be featured in eight episodes of the hit online show Small Business Revolution  co-starring Ty Pennington and Amanda Brinkman. The show’s premise is to help revitalize a town’s Main Street by conducting make-overs for six local small businesses. Deluxe Corporation utilizes the television show platform to market their small business services, which is an example of content marketing at its finest. 

The show championed small business owners and the common challenges that most entrepreneurs deal with. Amanda Brinkman, the brainchild behind Small Business Revolution and Deluxe’s chief brand and communications officer, emphasizes how most entrepreneurs start a business because they are skilled at what they “do”  but may not be a specialist at wearing all the hats — such as marketing, human resources, legal document drafting, and accounting — needed to run a small business successfully. 

The creative magic for Think Idea Studio happens in the historic Robbins-Sanford building in downtown Searcy. The stylish renovation also provided conference space and an event venue on the ground floor.

Entrepreneurs tend to survive in a steady state of nervous energy: pursuing new sales, retaining employees, juggling costs of benefits versus profitability, upholding quality, maintaining the facility, creating social content, carving out family time, eyeing the competition and keeping up with technology.

So, it is safe to say the first step in creating a conducive entrepreneurial environment is affirmation and encouragement. Entrepreneurs are heroes. They are the backbone of this country and vital to the sustainability and uniqueness of our communities. Owning a business is hard and it can consume most of your mental, physical and emotional energy. It is risky and many business owners leverage personal assets as collateral to get their baby off the ground. The fact that they are doing it (or thinking about doing it) exemplifies a courageous spirit, ingenuity and adaptability. 

Encouragement is powerful. Community leaders need to publicly champion entrepreneurs, setting a tone of appreciation and validation. This should be a consistent message that resonates across all community organizations and reinforces that the community is behind those who decide to take the leap. It also cultivates an atmosphere of shared experiences, allowing entrepreneurs to know they are not alone and there are many who empathize with what they deal with on a daily basis.

Amanda Brinkman congratulates Faulkner after the announcement that Searcy had been selected for the show, and that six local businesses would receive consulting and a makeover.

Along with consistent affirmation and encouragement, entrepreneurs need networks and programs for peer-to-peer information sharing and cross-promotion. Even businesses within the same vertical market can participate in being supportive of each other while still protecting their trade secrets. We were first-hand witnesses to this during the Revolution experience. Restaurants within walking distance were promoting each other and sharing foot traffic. Brinkman coins it as “a rising tide lifts all boats.”

When the community is generally successful, the residual benefits can affect everyone. In a typical competitive environment, businesses keep everything close to the vest and work hard to rise above their competing neighbors. So it may feel unnatural to support a competitor, but we witnessed several business owners lean into cooperation over competition and it didn’t negatively affect their bottom line. On the contrary, it built goodwill, camaraderie and even produced unique co-op opportunities through cross-promotion and shared ‘shop local’ efforts.

The Small Business Revolution competition galvanized local resources around a common objective. Faulkner entered the town in the competition and was key to promoting the opportunity to local businesses.

Beyond competitors transitioning to supportive cheerleaders is the initiation of information-sharing groups. Commonly, this comes by the way of Chamber economic development programs. However, communities who are heading in the right direction will also see more grassroots efforts where business owners begin taking it upon themselves to be proactive. For example, an all-women entrepreneurship group recently formed and began meeting monthly at various locations. It is an open forum for women entrepreneurs, facilitated by volunteers and is centered around information-sharing. These organic, less formal groups represent a healthy entrepreneurial community where citizens are taking the time, effort and initiative to better themselves and others.

Searcy is getting a lot of things right and is generating a culture that inspires and supports entrepreneurs. The winning formula is a community that champions its entrepreneurs through encouragement and affirmation, generates opportunities to share both information as well as customers, and consistently communicates all the resources available to them through university and community partners. The Small Business Revolution poured fuel to a fire that was [and still is] burning bright. Entrepreneurs are champions who give communities uniqueness and character. We are fortunate to have had the opportunity to tell a few of their stories on a television show, but there are still so many stories yet to tell. 

*For links to the Small Business Revolution episodes and behind-the-scenes photos, visit www.gosearcy.com

Mat Faulkner is founder of Think Idea Studio, president of the board for the Searcy Regional Economic Development Corporation, former chair of the Searcy Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business Committee, director of the Think ART Project, co-director for Searcy Beats & Eats festivals, past president for Jacob’s Place Homeless Mission, member of Searcy’s Beautification Committee and Holiday of Lights Committee, member of Harding University’s chapter of Sigma Nu Tau National Entrepreneurship Honor Society, and 2017 member of Arkansas Business’ 40 Under 40. 

Mat and his wife Shelley have 3 boys: Easton, 14; Lawson, 12; and Jace, 9. The couple renovated the old Robbins-Sanford Mercantile in downtown Searcy, which now serves as an event center and loft studio offices. Faulkner is a Fall 2002 graduate of Harding University with a degree in Communication Management. Recently, Faulkner served as the point person for the Searcy community winning the Small Business Revolution hit online TV show, where six local small businesses received $500,000 in makeovers as well as community improvements.

Have a small business story to tell? The Waldron Center would like to hear from you! Email psummers@harding.edu.

James Howard’s “The Modern Log”: A River Runs Through It

Entrepreneur James Howard is an outdoorsman and a craftsman, and sometimes the two intersect, as with his new business that markets his custom river tables.

On the surface, James Howard is a typical recent college graduate: He’s tall and slim with jeans, boots and a ready smile. He’s smart, confident and engaging. Behind that smile, however, is a mind churning with what the startup community calls ideation—and a fierce intentionality: He’s constantly scanning his own backyard for immediate opportunities and surveying the larger landscape for innovative projects with longer timelines. He’s a multitasker:  He can simultaneously manage his own well-defined artisan woodworking business while pursuing and implementing his part in partnership projects. And Howard obviously understands that every human connection in his network may pay future dividends. 

We met today to discuss Howard’s startup, The Modern Log, in which he handcrafts custom wood pieces ranging from tables to 3D wall art. He calls them “river tables.” Made of locally-sourced wood artfully combined with resin and other natural elements, Howard creates the appearance of water flowing through the table. The tables are finished with marine-grade epoxy and are extremely durable. A 20-by-45 inch coffee table with the flow element sells for $1,000.

Combining native red cedar with the flow element, Howard creates the illusion of a water feature flowing through the table.

Tables that are made using a computer numerical control (CNC) wood router to transfer a dimensional design into the wood can feature an exact map of a body of water or a custom logo, recessed with the flow material forming the level surface. Such a piece would be a perfect addition to a hunting lodge or rustic commercial applications, but would also add a unique accent to casual home design. 

A custom CNC router table features a map of Greers Ferry Lake with the flow element.

So how is business at The Modern Log? Howard smiles. “If I can show them, I can sell them.” He has access to an abundant supply of local cedar, so many of his first-year projects have incorporated that material, but he can order virtually any type of wood. If a customer can conceive it, Howard can probably include most ideas in a project. He’s recently brought his brother on board to assist with social media marketing of his creations.

Howard was born in Australia to parents who were vocational missionaries, but later lived in Pendergrass, Georgia. A finance major in the Paul R. Carter College of Business Administration, he ran track for Harding and later married the former Hayley Tobias, who teaches special education at Riverview Judsonia Elementary. They live in Searcy, where he does part of the work for The Modern Log in his garage and part in the borrowed shop of a friend. 

Entrepreneur James Howard's custom river tables are a unique addition to a casual space, whether commercial or residential.
Howard and wife Hayley Tobias.

Ellis Sloan, assistant professor of business, taught Howard in finance classes. “James’s innate business IQ is higher than most students. He seemed more engaged in class discussion. He asked penetrating, relevant questions. His grades were good—but what really struck me was his maturity, his energy, and his ambition. When I say ambition, I mean that he wants to accomplish.”  

We hear so much in the media about self-doubt and fear of failure among Gen Z, but that seems not to afflict Howard. “James is not afraid,” Sloan confirms. “He doesn’t just want to study and understand—he wants to put things into motion. He wants to make it happen, and in the process, to make money. He’s the personification of an entrepreneur. With this table project he’s a craftsman, but he has connections at a gaming resort in Montana from working up there for several summers, and he also has ideas to create a business around those connections as well.”

Sloan introduced Howard to real estate developer and entrepreneur Adam Hart, “who is also an idea guy—and they’ve since created a partnership. James is interested in nontraditional housing and in real estate development. You get a sense about some people that they are going to be very successful, and James is one of those people.”  

Howard’s Instagram profile simply says “Entrepreneur.” We think that’s perfect, and The Waldron Center will follow his future projects with interest. 

If you’re intrigued by the idea of a custom piece for your home or business, you can find Howard’s creations online.  

Are you a Harding alumnus who owns a business? The Waldron Center is always looking for new stories to tell. Email psummers@harding.edu

Guest Blogger David Kee: Dispelling the Myth of the Young Entrepreneur

Dispelling the myth of the young entrepreneur
Dr. David Kee is assistant professor of business and director of the MBA program. He writes for us from Australia, where he is resident faculty for the HUA program this semester.

One would think entrepreneurship is common among young people these days. After all, Harding now has the Waldron Center for Entrepreneurship and Family Business, a management concentration in entrepreneurship, a minor in entrepreneurship and a Christian Entrepreneur Organization (CEO) student club. We hold high the successes of young people who start businesses out of their dorm rooms. We celebrate the 30 under 30 top entrepreneurs. The vigor of youth and the creativity of our newest venture-starters fills us with excitement for what the future holds.

The average age of successful entrepreneurs, however, is 45 years. The reason we hear so much about successful young entrepreneurs is because they are rare. In fact, recent statistics point to fewer startups among 24-to-35-year-olds in 2018 than in 1970, 1990 or even 2010. Entrepreneurship among young people may not be common, but is it truly a myth?

The success rate of young entrepreneurs is not high, but neither is it high for 45-year-olds. And that’s okay. These failures allow resources to be redistributed for more effective uses. One thing young entrepreneurs often don’t have is financing. They simply haven’t had time to build up the capital from personal savings that 77% of successful entrepreneurs use to launch their businesses. Add to that the urgency to pay off student debt, and you can see how it’s counterintuitive to think that young entrepreneurs are likely to successfully launch a venture.

Here is the good news: 

  • The internet and app world have made it cheaper than ever to start a business. 
  • Globalization has increased the availability of and the market for many products and services.
  • The consuming youth market is growing as millennials and GenZs are getting their first paychecks — and who understands their needs better than young entrepreneurs?
  • The retiring of successful baby boomer entrepreneurs has made available the largest number of potential mentors ever.
  • Entrepreneurial education is now prolific, and knowledge that past entrepreneurs wish they’d had is now being taught before someone takes the leap.

What is the ideal setup, then, for young entrepreneurs to squelch the myth? I say it can be summarized as “learning as much as possible to prevent mistakes while taking advantage of opportunities.”

It seems the solution for aspiring young entrepreneurs is to get an entrepreneurial education, discover what globalization has to offer, and team up with an experienced mentor. This is what Harding’s entrepreneurship program and the Waldron Center aim to help students do. Come and see us. We’ll work with you to dispel the myth and help smooth your path to success.

If you’re a student interested in the study of entrepreneurship, we’d like to answer your questions. The Waldron Center is located in Mabee 202.

Joshua Clemons takes the wheel

This article is the latest in a series featuring Harding student entrepreneurs.

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Joshua Clemons of Newport News, Virginia, literally carries with him a symbol of his most defining trait: His hobby is cars; his passion is cars; his side hustle is cars. He’s a senior management major who’d like to find his future in the automotive sector. Even if you don’t know him personally, you may know who he is; he’s the guy carrying the steering wheel.

Why the wheel? “In Formula One racing, because of the way the seat is bolted into the car and because of the roll cage, it’s difficult for a driver to get out in an emergency or in the pits, so the steering wheel is designed to be removable. My car has racing seats, so my steering wheel is removable.”

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He laughs. “It may seem a little weird, but it also gives me an opening to offer people a business card when they ask about it, and to explain what I can do for them. Plus, it’s harder to steal a car with no steering wheel.”

Clemons talks about cars the way some people talk about baseball. He doesn’t just discuss them — he obsesses over them. The design, the engineering specs, the statistics. One minute he speaks romantically and philosophically about a car — the next, he’s disdainful of some design characteristic he thinks was an unfortunate miss. He’s a car analyst, and his niche area of expertise is the Toyota Celica.

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1991 MK3 Toyota Supra Clemons owned in high school

He currently owns a 2001 Toyota Celica GTS and a 1977 Toyota Celica GT Liftback. He smiles. “It’s the first and last generation Celica. I call them the Alpha and Omega.”

Cars helped cement a special bond with his grandfather, Harding alumnus Kenneth Noland of Newport News, Virginia, whom he calls Grand Ken. “If I hadn’t fallen in love with cars, I don’t think we would have the relationship that we have today. As it is, he’s one of the few people in my family I can actually talk about more complex car issues with.”

“Grand Ken acquired an emerald green ’65 Mustang GT Fastback when I was a kid. He bought it for $2,100 bucks with no doors, not running. He intended to flip it, but once he heard the engine run, he decided to completely restore it. It’s in beautiful condition now.” The Mustang has some multi-generational family history. “My Dad went to New Jersey to ask my mom to marry him. On that same trip, he and Grand Ken went to a parts swap to buy these rare GT wheels for the Mustang.” Clemons and Grand Ken worked on cars together as he grew up.

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Clemons and the 1965 Mustang Fastback belonging to his grandfather, Kenneth Noland.

“When I was in high school, I’d help him flip cars. I guess one thing I learned from Grand Ken is there are things you can be really passionate about and really good at. That you can combine work and hobby. Over the years, Grand Ken has bought and sold many cars. He can do tons of work himself, and he has a guy who helps with what he can’t do.”

Clemons’ current ride, a 2001 Toyota Celica GTS 6-speed, was his first car. It looks nothing like it did when they bought it — and of course, there’s the magenta steering wheel you can frequently find beside his desk when he’s in class.

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The before and after of Clemons’s 2001 Toyota Celica GTS.

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With so much effort into tuning his car, is Clemons one of those car owners who park diagonally, hogging multiple spaces in the Walmart parking lot? He says absolutely not. He does have favored parking spots on campus, which we discussed at length, but we’re not telling.

“Sure, I’m pretty careful where I park it, but my car’s FIA (Federation Internationale de l’Automobile) approved, and after June 2 it will be pretty much a full-time race car.” So maybe it makes sense that he’s not quite so worried about a potential ding in the door.

He has a goal to begin racing in the GridLife Street Modified class. “This class is for vehicles that are street driven. If you go up to the next tier, the vehicles don’t have to be street legal. Gridlife racing is all across the East Coast — events in Richmond are held at Dominion Speedway. I’m part of an unofficial racing team of friends I’d like to see compete eventually.”

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Dr. Mark Farley and Clemons discuss the parts that just arrived for some repair work on one of the Farley family vehicles.

While at Harding, however, he concentrates on whatever his local customer wants. “I’ll fix your hybrid, build you a race car, or anything I can do for you without a lift. Just this weekend I replaced a side mirror and straightened a door out for someone who had hit a deer. I do stereos and speakers. I’m doing a full build on a friend’s car: exhaust, wheels, suspension, front bumper, interior.”

“Tuning” is car speak for the modification of a vehicle for appearance or performance. “In the tuner world, you can either do show modifications or track modifications. My car is a track car. The modifications I’m doing to my friend’s car are purely aesthetic upgrades.”

So how does he eventually want to make his hobby pay? “My goal is to someday be able to combine my mechanical understanding with my business degree and perhaps eventually be a project manager for a car company. I think being able to talk technical to engineers as well as understanding the business implications would be a good combination. My absolute dream job would be to be on a product development team rolling out the next Toyota Celica.”

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Clemons uses the Waldron Center’s 3D printer to make a delta-wing vortex generator for his car.

Clemons knows the dream job is some distance in the future and would consider any opportunity to get his foot in the door. The holy grail may be Toyota, but “Subaru’s headquarters is in Michigan, and Toyota owns 25 percent of Subaru, so there’s a connection there.” Or there might be opportunities at Ford, of course, in Dearborn, Michigan.

Clemons’ car interest will follow him everywhere, much as the steering wheel does these days. He returns to his automotive Zen vibe. “Cars are about much more than just getting from A to B. They’re about the journey.”

If you need repair or performance upgrade work done on your vehicle, you may contact Joshua Clemons at jclemons1@harding.edu.

If you are a student who is running a business while in school, the Waldron Center would like to hear from you too. Contact Patti Summers at psummers@harding.edu.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Luke Yates Helps Homeowners Keep Brentwood Beautiful

This is the third in a series of articles about student entrepreneurs on the Harding Campus.

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The day before orientation at Harding University, Luke Yates changed his major from pre-med to accounting, and he never looked back. Growing up, he learned to power wash the dock at his family’s lake house, and later decided he wanted to try to turn that experience into a contracting business. With an investment in more professional equipment, Yates now operates Yates Power Washing and Sealing, LLC — helping to keep homes in Brentwood, Tennessee, in pristine condition. He’s located in an excellent market: Williamson County abounds with upscale residential developments in which maintenance is a priority. Many Brentwood homes feature exposed aggregate driveways and hardscape. Cleaning and treating those concrete surfaces with a protective sealant IMG_1757that leaves a rich gloss is the bread and butter of Yates’ business.

Yates has operated his company for three years, but before that, he had a variety of job experience. He was a Little League umpire and a math and English tutor during high school. He worked as a Domino’s driver, behind the counter for Smoothie King, and as a wood cutter for a barbecue place. “I work for a Christmas lighting company, Lumenate, over Christmas break. The owner started a small business purchasing the lights and helping design, install, remove and store them. It’s enjoyable work and there’s lots of face-to-face with new clients every day.” He enjoys the personal feel of small business.

While in high school he also helped manage accounts for an Instagram marketer. “He was extremely successful. At one time the total follower numbers for the accounts he managed amounted to one out of every seven Instagram users.” So Yates has peered into the black box of social media marketing at a high level.

ShowImageEven so, he hasn’t used the typical social channels to promote his business. “I haven’t really had to,” he commented. The best tool I’ve found is the Nextdoor app.” Nextdoor is a social app that neighborhoods use to communicate about issues and events of common concern, and it is widely used by homeowners in Brentwood. “After I complete a job, if the customer is on Nextdoor, I ask them to complete an honest review. Keeping my reputation is what keeps business coming in.” And if he were going to add another social channel as his business expands? “Facebook, definitely.”

IMG_0463The power washing business has low entry costs: His business license as an LLC, his liability insurance, and his commercial power washing equipment. He shared a photo of an attachment called a surface cleaner, which operates like  a floor buffer, cleaning the concrete better and faster than a spray nozzle. “It directs all that pressure into two tiny nozzles that rotate close to the ground, and you push it and you get a 20-inch swath.”

There’s the cost of the sealant itself, which is applied with a long-handled roller and short-napped roller heads. Other than the hourly wages for his crew, that’s about it. “I quote a rate per square foot based on size, how dirty the concrete is, the slope of the drive, and whether there are mulched beds that adjoin it. The average is around 3,000 square feet, at 30-40 cents per square foot. So washing and sealing makes the average job cost about $1,000.”

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What has he learned from operating the business?  “The customer really is always right. And the importance of being thorough. Even if I think something is OK — if I miss a small spot here or there — I’ve learned to fix the small things. I rely on ratings and reviews.” Quality work is always the goal. “I inspect all the work we do. I try to lead by example because my reputation is on the line. I want to be the company that stands out and doesn’t take shortcuts.”

What skill would he like to improve to benefit his business most? “Definitely managing people.   Teaching others how to interact with a client, teaching others to sell. Every year I learn things, and the more I know, the more I know I don’t know.” He smiles wryly. We remind him that this particular feeling is common to successful business owners; entrepreneurs who don’t think they have anything to learn don’t generally last long.

Does he evaluate other businesses differently now that he runs one? Definitely. “I always look at a business — for instance a restaurant — with an eye for what they could be doing much better or what they do really, really well. I’m always looking for new ideas to implement into my business.”img_0702.jpeg

Yates will graduate in May 2020. “I have a tax internship at BKD this spring.” He thinks he would like to return to Nashville for permanent work, outsource his business and keep the company going. “I have a couple of years to figure that out, though.”

He’s not sure what his ultimate goals are. “Accounting was the best way for me to learn business as a whole, and I might like to start my own business at some point. I kind of want to be known as that guy who does a lot of different things.”

If you’re a student operating a small business, the Waldron Center would like to hear from you. Email Patti Summers psummers@harding.edu.

 

Entrepreneur Spotlight: Wildflower Bed and Breakfast, Christopher and Shelley Smith, owners

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One recurring, idealistic vision of entrepreneurship we often hear from Waldron Center guests is the idea of escaping the 9-to-5 world to run a small inn in some idyllic location.

Chris and Shelley Smith’s version of the proverbial mid-life crisis was less driven by actual crisis than by a thoughtful lifestyle re-examination as they saw the empty nest on the horizon. Shelley, who entered Harding University in 1988, finished her degree in medical technology at UAMS. After working in health care for 16 years, she became a licensed massage therapist. Chris had worked for an oil company offshore as a safety and performance coach, so his life was often removed from Shelley. Their introspection resulted in the purchase of Wildflower Bed and Breakfast, a seven-room inn on the court square in Mountain View, Arkansas.

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Stone County Courthouse is the centerpiece for the musical activity that happens in Mountain View. Wildflower Bed and Breakfast is located on the courthouse square.

Mountain View bills itself as the “folk music capital of the world.” The 18th and 19th century Scots-Irish immigrants who settled these Ozark hills brought with them a wealth of traditional music. On any weekend night multi-generational clusters of pickers, pulling from a repertoire ranging from Ralph Stanley to Merle Haggard to gospel standards, jam late into the evenings around the court square and in the adjoining city park. Visiting musicians are invited to sit in. The Mountain View area is also home to Arkansas State Parks’ Ozark Folk Center, the mission of which is to preserve traditional music, crafts, art and culture through education and workshops. The town is convenient to nearby Blanchard Springs and Caverns, a popular destination property of the U.S. Forest Service and the Department of Agriculture.

Built as the Commercial Hotel around 1918, the Wildflower now houses seven rooms and suites as well as the Smiths’ 900 square feet of personal living space. The structure’s crowning glory is its inviting wrap-around porch; its perennial border blooms profusely during the warm season, thanks to the ministrations of family friends the Sandlins, who originally arrived at the Wildflower as guests, but who now provide ongoing gardening consultation and labor in exchange for fellowship. From the porch, guests in rockers survey downtown and are tempted from their chairs by music carried on the breeze. They share reports about their day at the Folk Center or shows at such local music venues as Mellon’s Hole in the Wall, where the Pam Setser Band performed this weekend.

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The wrap-around porch is the heartbeat of the inn. Guests bring their own instruments, or borrow from Chris. 

Shelley cautions potential owners that many bed and breakfast establishments do not make a profit, but are run essentially as a lifestyle choice. That was not the Smiths’ intent. She emphasizes that entrepreneurs interested in purchasing such a property should pursue due diligence.

“I’m not really a risk-taker. My best advice is to buy a property with a track record and a database of returning guests. And hire a solid hospitality industry consulting broker to go through the books with you before you make a decision. It was extra peace of mind for me to feel we were making a good decision.”

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Once the deal is closed, a new owner must get creative to generate continued interest. The Wildflower embraces the local musical heritage. Instrument hangers are mounted on the porch pillars, an upright bass occupies a dining room corner, and the living room offers a mandolin and guitar for guests who play. Chris, who played electric bass before they bought the inn, has since added folk instruments to his skills. His gleaming hammered dulcimer stands inside the front door. Saturday morning he introduced a vintage 1920s ukulele banjo to porch sitters after breakfast. Local musicians often offer to play for guests on the porch. Award-winning mountain dulcimer player Dwayne Porterfield provided guests sweet accompaniment during Sunday’s breakfast.

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After owning the Wildflower for two years, the Smiths added the Mountain View Meeting Place, a well-appointed meeting space where locals now gather on Tuesday evenings for Club Possum, a free weekly gathering for live music and contra dancing. Marketing strategist Chris leverages social media, streaming Club Possum shows on Facebook Live. It has proven to be an effective tool for increasing occupancy through midweek specials. Although there is no charge for Club Possum shows, Chris sells a limited number of sponsorships to local businesses, displaying their information on the big screen on Tuesday nights to help offset costs. The Meeting Place has not only become a defacto community center, but its location and technology provide meeting planners a unique offering for small executive conferences, retreats, or family reunions. One February booking is a ukulele conference hosted by “Ukulele Bill,” as Shelley called him. “Ukulele Bill” is Dr. William Higgs, an Arkansas musician who manages to run a successful dental practice in Conway during his spare time.

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The Wildflower Bed and Breakfast is both a serious business venture and a work of love. Chris and Shelley have written a book of reflections, The Wildflower Bed and Breakfast: Our First Season, with insights from their experience.

  • Attend a professional conference, such as the Professional Association of Innkeepers International, before you purchase a property.
  • Have an experienced innkeeper and an industry consultant evaluate the books when considering a purchase of an existing business.
  • Develop a relationship with an experienced owner who can give ongoing counsel.
  • Negotiate a period in which the previous owners will stay and provide training for a week prior to closing the purchase, and for a week afterward. Longer would be better. Maintain that relationship after the purchase.
  • Expect infrastructure challenges with a historic property.
  • Find reasons to love people, even when they are cranky.
  • Tune into what your area has to offer. Be able to reliably recommend activities that might not be otherwise on the radar of your guests.
  • Become involved in the community through local government meetings and the local chamber of commerce.
  • Mark out “family time” days to recharge to avoid burnout. Be prepared to say no to callers for reservations. Shelley says, “Your life and your work in this business–there is no separation. The phone still rings and the doorbell still rings, no matter how you feel or what you have going on. It is important to have a relationship with someone who can “inn-sit” for you on occasion so you can recharge. For us, that has been our friends the Sandlins from Bryant.”

The Wildflower Bed and Breakfast is an easy hour and a half drive from Searcy, 60 miles via Hwy. 5. Check out their website and their blog for special events that might entice you to Mountain View. If you are interested in owning your own bed and breakfast, you might benefit from meeting the Smiths and spending a night in their inn. They are generous with their hospitality and wisdom from their personal journey.

Entrepreneur Magazine offers an industry-specific overview for potential bed and breakfast purchasers with some startup considerations here.