Secrets to Success: How To Turn a Dream Into a Reality in NWA


NORTHWEST ARKANSAS, Ark. (KNWA) — Walmart, Tyson, and J.B.Hunt are just a few companies that have laid the groundwork here for entrepreneurs in northwest Arkansas. 

Every success story starts with an idea and a dream, but what does it actually take to start and sustain a business of your own?

“We would give all of ourselves and our time and our money to anyone that could help us,” Tom Gordon, Slim Chicken CEO said.

It’s the candid realities of starting from the ground up.

“We worked in Greg Smart’s garage with turkey fryers and mixing bowls and worked on our recipes but those recipes really are largely what is seen the most part today in the restaurants,” Gordon said.

For Gordon and business partner Greg Smart, failing was not an option. “When you’re faced with making it or the end, you scrap and fight and find ways to persevere and I think that’s a testament to I think number one to a good idea, and a testament to good leadership,” he said.

The first restaurant Slims Chickens opened in Fayetteville in 2003.

Today, they have 73 restaurants, two international and several more planned. “It’s very much akin to that saying it takes 10 years to be an overnight success. For about the first decade we were building the foundation, now in the past 5 years we really started to grow,” Gordon said.

“If you have a passion go for it, I mean just go for it, don’t get caught up in the analysis paralysis, man. Just if you feel like it’s a good direction, then go and be willing to pivot when you have to to be successful,” Jesse Core, Founder of Core Brewing Company said.

Core says the financial aspect was a challenge that forced him to re-evaluate his business model.

“Be very careful that you’re not undercapitalized, that is extremely important. Every kind of brewery or business that we see in this kind of space, they’re not properly capitalized.They don’t have the staying power that you need so ensure that your financing is in place,” Core said.

Core says transparency and a good support base helps.”You have to be fluid when you’re a small business, you can’t be rigid or you’ll miss opportunities. So I would say avoid the naysayers when they say it will never work, they just don’t have the guts to try it.”

“Know your customer, know your market, know your numbers,” Dr. Carol Reeves, Associate Vice-Provost for Entrepreneurship at the University of Arkansas said.

Dr. Carol Reeves was named one of the 10 most powerful women entrepreneurs by Fortune magazine in 2011. The graduate students she mentors at the University of Arkansas have won more business plan competitions than any other university in the country.

“What we try to emphasize at the university and this is true across the country at a lot of entrepreneurs centers is, don’t waste your time building something no one wants,” Reeves said.

Dr. Reeves says these UA alumnus are becoming the next generation of business leaders. “I think there a lot of resources here that anybody wants to start a business here should take advantage of,” she said.

For Gordon, the goal is for Slim Chickens to become a billion dollar revenue organization, something he’s hoping to achieve by 2026.

“Get as much advice from those who have done as you can and listen closely to the mistakes that were made in the past,” Gordon said.

There are several resources and spaces for entrepreneurs and startups to meet up and receive advice from mentors.


1. Brewer Family Entrepreneurship Hub, 123 W Mountain St, Fayetteville, AR 72701

2. Startup Junkie, 1 E Center St #270, Fayetteville, AR 72701

3. Exchange Bentonville, 409 SW A Street Bentonville, AR 72712

4. Grit Studios, 216 N Main St, Bentonville, AR 72712

5. RevUnit, 409 SW A St, Bentonville, AR 72712

6. Community Venture Foundation,1 E Center St Suite 270, Fayetteville, AR 72701

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