Missouri Nonprofit Launches NWA Entrepreneurial Initiative

Missouri Nonprofit Launches NWA Entrepreneurial Initiative

Right to Start of Kansas City, Missouri, announced Wednesday that it has launched a program in northwest Arkansas to make job-creating entrepreneurship a community priority. 

Right to Start was founded last year by Victor Hwang, who was previously vice president of the nonprofit Kauffman Foundation. He says Right to Start aims to “rebuild the American economy by fighting for entrepreneurial opportunity for all of us — regardless of background, race, place, genders, disabilities or circumstances.” 

The organization this week hired Kim Lane of Conway as its chief operating officer. Lane, who previously worked as CEO of entrepreneurial support organization The Conductor in Conway, was a regional representative for Kauffman’s 1 Million Cups program.

In a news release, Right to Start said its northwest Arkansas program will target underserved communities and “build an inclusive regional environment that supports new businesses.”

The initiative is funded by the Walton Family Foundation, the nonprofit led by the family of Walmart Inc. founder Sam Walton. It’s also collaborating with the Northwest Arkansas Council and the city of Fayetteville’s Economic Recovery and Vitality Plan Steering Committee.

The program involves three part-time “advocates” who will work with business owners, aspiring entrepreneurs and business and civic leaders to help area small businesses access key people, build relationships and collaborate. One of the program’s goals is to create a model that can be replicated elsewhere.

The advocates are:

  • Daymara Baker of Fayetteville, a Venezuela native who runs Rockin’ Baker, which trains and employs young adults on the autism spectrum and produces artisan breads for hospitality groups and restaurants. Baker earned her MBA from the University of Arkansas and co-founded the Community Creative Center in Fayetteville.
  • Christopher Jacob of Fayetteville, who was born and raised in the Marshall Islands. He moved to Hawaii in 1987 for high school and later to Arkansas to attend the UA. Jacob has been a community liaison for the Marshallese, most recently at Rogers Public Schools.
  • Irma Chavez of Springdale, was born in El Salvador, moved to Los Angeles at 18 then to northwest Arkansas 12 years ago. In 2016, she founded Conexión de Negocios Latinos, a networking group that supports, promotes, educates and connects Latino businesses in the region. 

“They have long standing experience addressing the needs of new businesses in the area and bring on-the-ground expertise that enables this initiative to be immediately connected to local communities,” Hwang said.

Lane Hired

Lane most recently worked with Facebook’s Elevate program and Career Connections initiative

Elevate offers education and support to Black-, Latino- and Hispanic-owned businesses. Career Connections connects people to local internships, training opportunities and a network of professional mentors.

Before working with Facebook, Lane was CEO of The Conductor and was a representative for the 1 Million Cups program in five states. She was an Arkansas Business 40 Under 40 honoree in 2018.