Conductor hosts first annual Summit

CONWAY — The Conductor hosted the inaugural Entrepreneur Support Organization Summit at the Arnold Innovation Center in Conway last week as part of their Global Entrepreneurship Week celebration. The purpose of the 2022 ESO Summit was to gather peer ESO groups in order to problem-solve new ways to innovate and enhance entrepreneurship across the state of Arkansas. Over 32 support organizations attended the summit. 

“We heard from entrepreneurs themselves, listened to each other’s experiences, and then discussed best practices and next steps on how we can continue to improve our support of entrepreneurs at all stages,” said Grace Rains, Executive Director of the Conductor. “As organizations, we spend a lot of time in the work, supporting entrepreneurs, versus talking about how we work together as a collective. This event allowed us to take a step back and discuss how we can collaborate and tackle big problems as an ecosystem”.  

Topics included gaps in the ecosystem, capital access, policy advocacy, and best practices, as well as networking opportunities across organizations including entrepreneurship trivia and speed networking. Problems identified and discussed included the pathway to entrepreneurship, navigating the entrepreneurial ecosystem, capital access challenges, policy issues, and disseminating information and resources equitably among stakeholders and geographies. 

Bjorn Simmons of the Foundation for Social Impact & ESO Summit attendee, shared, “The ESO summit was a great start to building a culture of collaboration across the state of Arkansas. There’s power in our collective and this was an opportunity to build relationships, share insights, and ask challenging questions that ultimately strengthen the success of our entrepreneurs. I look forward to seeing this convening body and the impact of this summit grow in coming years.”

Attendees were part of the ESO Monthly group, which was started by Sarah Goforth of the University of Arkansas Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation in 2019. The group meets monthly to discuss upcoming events, share success stories, and capitalize on collaboration opportunities for organizations that serve entrepreneurs. The group continues to grow and is now facilitated by Tiffany Henry of the University of Arkansas Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation. 

“ESO Monthly has grown from less than 10 people to more than 60 who serve entrepreneurs of all stages. The Conductor did an amazing job convening this group which highlighted the need to grow more Ecosystem Builders specifically in the southern and eastern regions who can support their local entrepreneurs. Our mission as a land grant institution is to empower people in the whole state, not just where resources are abundant. We look forward to continuing to grow ESO Monthly as an inclusive and representative community for Arkansas Ecosystem Builders everywhere.” said Henry. 

You can sign up to attend the upcoming ESO Monthly meetings and stay up to date with future ESO Summits here