Arkansas Business' 25 Entrepreneurs & Innovators (25th Anniversary)

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Mar. 23, 2009 12:00 am  

John A. McFarland, CEO of Baldor Electric Co. of Fort Smith.

10. Heifer International
Heifer pioneered two fundraising techniques that helped it grow from a $7 million nonprofit in 1992 to a $132 million one in 2008. The methods? "Alternative giving" and an appealing Web site that allowed donors to give online.

Heifer seeks to alleviate hunger and help poor people become self-reliant through the gift of income- and food-producing animals such as cattle, pigs and ducks – even honeybees.

In the early '90s, Heifer started publishing a gift catalog that offered donors the opportunity to "buy" an animal for people in the countries where Heifer worked. "The Most Important Gift Catalog in the World" also allowed people to buy an animal in the name of a friend or loved one. Instead of getting Uncle Joe another ugly tie, you could buy a flock of chicks in his name, helping lift a family in the Philippines out of poverty.

In the fine print, Heifer did state that the gift went to serve the mission of the entire organization and would be used "where needed most." In other words, the money didn't necessarily send those chicks directly to that Filipino family. Most givers, however, understood that the gift was symbolic.

By '98, Heifer had a Web site,, which made donating even easier, and the money came rolling in. In 2005, the Association of Fundraising Professionals called it "the most successful online donation system in the nonprofit sector." The association gave Heifer its 2004 Award for Outstanding Achievement in Internet Fundraising.

11. Lu Hardin
Yes, yes, we know all that and we've covered it pretty thoroughly in our "Downfalls" list elsewhere in this issue. But the end of Lu Hardin's career as president of the University of Central Arkansas doesn't change the fact that he (and Little Rock ad man Ben Combs) harnessed the power of advertising to a product called a college education in a way that is remaking higher education in Arkansas.

As director of the Arkansas Department of Higher Education, Hardin recruited Razorbacks Football Coach Houston Nutt to appear in television ads encouraging students to apply for the state-sponsored Academic Challenge Scholarship. The instant and overwhelming success of that campaign persuaded Hardin to greatly expand the marketing budget at UCA when he arrived there as president in 2002. Enrollment exploded, forcing virtually every college and university in Arkansas to follow suit.  

12. Don Keathley
It's been 25 years since Don Keathley, an Arkansan raised in the antiques business in California, bought a wrecking yard beside U.S. Highway 65 in Van Buren County and opened Antique Warehouse.

"The old local fella I bought the land from laughed and laughed," Keathley told Arkansas Business. "In fact, he laughed up until he died about how I'd never make it. You know, some kid from California thinks he's going to come back home and sell European antiques up here in the middle of nowhere."

For the first-time visitor, building after building crammed full of antiques is a breathtaking experience. Keathley's business plan is almost as awe-inspiring since it has depended on careful tracking of foreign currency, increasingly efficient methods of packing and shipping and cultivation of the online market.

13. Danny Lattin
A team of University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences researchers, led by Danny Lattin, discovered that cetylpyridinium chloride is a highly effective biocide against salmonella on chicken. That discovery led to the creation of Cecure, for which UAMS received the patent in 1994, and to the incorporation of Safe Foods Corp. of North Little Rock to market Cecure to the food industry.

Curtis Coleman, president and CEO of Safe Foods, received good news in 2004 when the Food & Drug Administration approved Cecure to spray on poultry. Safe Foods' food safety interventions now are used in more than 20 U.S. food processing companies and in meat and poultry companies around the world.



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