19 companies in Arkansas on growth list
A group of 19 Arkansas businesses are outperforming their peers, according to Inc. Magazine’s 2021 list of the 5,000 fastest-growing private companies in America.
The annual list, released this month, ranks businesses by revenue growth over a span of three years. To be considered, companies must apply and meet certain requirements, such as having revenue of at least $2 million in 2019.
Two of the homegrown businesses on the list are in Inc. magazine’s top 500 and will be featured in the September issue of the magazine.
The 19 companies generated total revenue of $441.1 million and reported median growth of 206% over the past three years. They also added 2,014 jobs.
Inc. magazine published its first annual list in 1982, giving readers a glimpse of the nation’s entrepreneurial landscape. It featured 500 of the fastest-growing private companies in the U.S. and, over the years, has recognized brands like Pandora, 7-Eleven, Toys R Us and many other businesses that become household names.
The list grew to 5,000 companies in 2007.
Among the Arkansas companies on the 2021 list are experts in digital media, career placement, school communications, home medical care and cybersecurity.
As shoppers begin to rely on online retailers for household goods and everyday items, brands are adjusting to how and where they sell their products. That’s where Rogers-based Bold Strategies comes into play.
The digital marketing firm works with clients to create a custom plan that gets their products noticed with media ads and search engine optimization to grow online sales.
It’s essentially an “e-commerce department for-hire,” said Allan Peretz, president and co-founder of Bold Strategies. Most of the clients are big or mid-sized companies that may not have an internal digital marketing department, he said.
At the start of 2020, many of those clients grew wary of the future and things became rocky for Bold Strategies. However, they soon realized the pandemic’s positive effects on e-commerce growth and business picked up, Peretz said.
“It started off as a scary quarter, but by the end of the year, things had completely reversed,” he said. “It was an incredible year.”
Bold Strategies, founded in 2018 with Lisa Peretz, is focused exclusively on marketing consumer packaged goods. After working for 14 years at Procter & Gamble, most recently as a senior director of global e-commerce programs, Peretz said he likes to stick with what he knows. This could be shaving cream, shampoo, bread or milk. Books and apparel are not in this category.
Lately, keto and gluten-free products have been big for Bold Strategies. He said if someone has celiac disease, they may not find all the variety they want at the nearby grocery store and as a result, fill their pantry with those specialty items.
In addition to forming strategies with brands, Bold’s team does copy writing, web development, market research, analysis and pricing. They also offer management software, among other data tools. Partnerships with clients can last a matter of weeks or indefinitely.
Looking ahead, Peretz is preparing for the Christmas holiday season and helping clients develop more video advertisements and streaming content. He also noticed that advertising dollars are moving away from traditional media, Google and Facebook, into retail media such as Amazon, Kroger and Walmart.
“That’s how shoppers want to look at brands these days,” he said.
One of the struggles for companies is finding qualified workers. Depending on the position, many rely on staffing agencies. But what about high-level technology workers?
“This is our bread and butter,” said Jordan Franklin, chief executive officer of Stratice.
The company, which relocated to Bentonville during the pandemic, is designed for organizations and government agencies seeking to fill information technology positions, as well as accounting, human resource and engineering roles.
What differentiates Stratice from other staffing agencies is its ability to meet the clients’ needs while maintaining a warm, friendly culture, Franklin said.
The company has more of a startup attitude that appeals to workers and boosts internal morale. It also has a different, more consultative, approach, which helps the company find talent often overlooked by competitors, said Chris Hampton, chief strategy officer at Stratice.
Clients from around the South are working with Stratice, including large insurance and Fortune 50 companies in Arkansas.
“Because of the direction and consultative spirit we have, we can ebb and flow with whatever our clients need,” said Scott Franklin, founder and chief operating officer of Stratice.
Business slowed last spring as state agencies and corporations navigated through federal rules and figured out how their staffs could work from home, Franklin said. After about 60 days, things picked back up.
Lately, Stratice is seeing demand for cybersecurity positions surpass the available talent pool, resulting in “wage wars” between hiring companies, Hampton said. There is also increased demand for cloud computing specialists.
There are many ways to communicate in the modern world: email, social media, text, etc. This can be a headache for teachers who have to send messages to administrators, parents and students at the end of their day, said Tyler Vawser, vice president of people at Apptegy.
What Apptegy has developed is a software that brings all those communication channels to one place, so teachers can send one message and be done. School officials can manage and develop their entire communication strategy and brand identity with it as well.
The company, founded in 2013, has grown from a Little Rock upstart with a handful of school districts buying into the program, into a company with software used by more than 2,200 districts in all 50 states.
In Arkansas, more than half of the state’s school districts communicate through Apptegy, Vawser said.
Apptegy’s recent success has come from reaching out to teachers and school officials about the company. However, when the pandemic hit, the company paused sales and decided to “back off” for about three months, Vawser said.
The company picked back up in June 2020, and officials realized consolidated communications was a “must have,” with some teachers going from sending ” 10 messages a week, to 10 messages a day,” he said.
Currently, the software is designed for internal communication between school leaders, but there are plans to develop a program specifically for parents and teachers.
Vawser said it’s been exciting to see the company grow and create jobs for people who have never been in the technology industry before. This year alone Apptegy has made 100 new hires.
ELITE SENIOR CARE
Lindsey Hagood, owner of Elite Senior Care, wants to be clear about her clients.
“We don’t just take care of the elderly,” she said.
Established in 2013, the company is a caregiver service for people of all ages who require at-home assistance because of mental or physical illness.
What began in Manila has grown out of Northeast Arkansas to 14 locations across the state, including Carlisle, Dumas and North Little Rock. Some of these expansions happened within the past six months.
“I hate to say this, but covid has really woken a lot of people up to better understand there are places like us that can help family members,” Hagood said.
When nursing homes became early hot spots for the virus, people grew concerned and started looking for methods of alternative care. As a result, she said the company’s numbers have grown rapidly.
Elite Senior Care is the largest private care service in the state, with more than 3,000 workers. One caregiver is paired with each client, limiting the number of people in close contact. Aides undergo background checks, drug screenings and continued training.
Looking ahead, Hagood said there are plans to expand to Missouri, Florida and other states that allow private care agencies.
About 70% of Elite Senior Care’s clients are considered elderly, with the rest under 35 years old. Hagood said close to 90% of the clients are vaccinated.
“That’s big that they’re getting to stay home where they want to be,” she said. “That’s the number one thing to me.”
SEBASTIAN TECH SOLUTIONS
Federal defense contractors are typically based near Washington, D.C.
Sebastian Tech Solutions calls Jonesboro home.
Meg Sebastian, chief executive officer, said she started the company with $1,000 in her pocket and a few high-level government contacts. Seven years later, it has grown into a cybersecurity firm with 60 employees that do federal defense and work for municipalities.
After earning a computer science degree, Sebastian moved to the East Coast and worked various technology jobs, before landing a leadership role with the Defense Information Systems Agency. She used that work experience to establish her own firm in Jonesboro, creating dozens of technology jobs in the process.
Some young workers have even leveraged their time at the company, doing various contract work, into a job at the Pentagon, Sebastian said.
“Yes, we deliver for our customers, but we take good care of our people,” she said. “What we are bringing to Arkansas is opportunity.”
In addition to federal work, Sebastian Tech Solutions has developed a program called Little City Cyber that protects municipalities from various cyber threats.
Because of the nature of the business, deemed “mission critical” by the government, there was limited impact from the pandemic.
Looking ahead, Sebastian plans to bring 200 jobs to Jonesboro by the end of next year.
“We are positioning ourselves to take it to the next level,” she said.