Startup Junkie Consulting: Helping Entrepreneurs Win and Communities Thrive
Despite a history of exciting, diverse careers, Jeff Amerine, serial entrepreneur and Founding Principal of Startup Junkie Consulting, considers his seven years leading world class research at the University of Arkansas the beginning of his true calling – helping entrepreneurs win and communities thrive – a calling due in part to his own experiences.
When Jeff Amerine started his career as a serial entrepreneur it wasn’t really regarded as a “real” job, and there were no support networks or mentors available to give him the guidance he would have liked.
During his time at the University of Arkansas Amerine became their Associate Vice Provost of Research and Economic Development and Director of Technology Ventures. Support for the state and regional entrepreneurial scene began as an approved part-time sideline when he agreed to be an independent advisor for Innovate Arkansas, an organization responsible for generating over $281 million in both public and private funding to benefit Arkansas-based startups from 2008-2016.
In 2011 Amerine began the process to charter his company. When considering names, his first thought was to use his last name, but discovered it was already in use by a distant relative. As he searched for an alternative, he took inspiration from an east coast show he enjoyed called the Sports Junkies. The show’s fun, irreverent format appealed to him and he finally landed on Startup Junkie Consulting, a term that aptly described him as well.
By the end of 2014, Startup Junkie Consulting had become too big to maintain on a part-time basis and as Amerine saw the impact these efforts had, and the growth of what began as merely a contracting vehicle, he decided it was time to go “all in.” In January of 2015 he left his job at the U of A to devote his full attention to the business. Now, with the help of government funding, grants from private foundations, and a large collection of financial and strategic partnerships, Startup Junkie has an impressive record for helping startups and new businesses achieve amazing results.
Startup Junkie Consulting has a vast network through which it provides a number of completely free services for inventors, startups and small businesses. One-on-one counseling, mentoring, training support, and other consulting services are available, as well as funding assistance and access to capital through its relationships with lenders and various investors. It also provides education and outreach, and sponsors a number of popular community events.
While Startup Junkie Consulting specializes in support for innovations within the retail, CPG, and related categories, it also provides services for new ventures and small businesses from a wide variety of other industries as well. But one of the most remarkable aspects of this business is that all its services are provided without cost, and with no expectations of any kind of return. It simply asks for updates, and for those who have benefitted to pay it forward in some way.
Despite their impressive track record, according to Amerine, he and his team also like to have fun. Many of their most popular and successful events have been the result of experiments just kind of thrown out to see if they’d stick – and stick they did.
One of the first such trials was what has become known as their G60 Pitch Contest. This Shark Tank type event was first held in a BBQ joint in Fayetteville, Arkansas with about 100 people in attendance and 30 contestants. Since then it has been held throughout the South and Canada, has awarded thousands in prizes, and has been the launch pad for many successful business ventures.
Another of their experiments basically started as an excuse to get together and drink beer on Friday afternoons with entrepreneurs and other creative types. It has since evolved into the Startup Junkies Podcast, carried on iTunes and a Facebook Live broadcast, which features entrepreneurs who talk about their journeys and other experts who can bring value to their audience.
One such podcast features Omar Kasim of Con Quesos. Con Quesos is a popular fusion taco eatery in Fayetteville, AR whose owner was able to tap into the resources offered by Startup Junkie Consulting. He and his team participated in the Startup Junkie Consulting led and SBA-funded 2.7.0. Accelerator and were also able to take advantage of the available CenterSpace coworking facility to meet with future distributors, conduct interviews, and use as an added workspace while making the restaurant a reality.
Kasim reflected Amerine’s sentiment on the need for support during the startup process: “Startup Junkie was very helpful in getting us off the ground. The startup journey can be a very lonely one at times, so it was great having a team of startup enthusiasts behind me to provide support as Con Quesos came to fruition.”
Even the Startup Junkie Consulting logo attests to its unique focus. The team wanted to do something distinctive with the “S” in Startup. They worked with two great creatives, David Baker and Joe Payne, to incorporate the concept of entropy – the concept that everything in the universe tends to gravitate toward a state of chaos – which in thermodynamics is symbolized by the letter “S.”
According to Amerine, “They proposed the ‘S’ be comprised of conversation bubbles. Because we are connectors that help drive “creative collisions.” Playing on the entropy idea, we decided the key theme behind the ‘S’ logo would be that we help guide the necessary chaos (entropy) associated with building the startup scene without crushing creativity.”
If you’re interested in meeting Jeff and his team or learning more about what Startup Junkie Consulting has to offer, join us at the Grit Studios in Bentonville Arkansas, where he will MC the CPG Innovators Conference hosted by Supplier Community on October 5th.