Arkansas’s Entrepreneurial Spirit06/19/2015
In 2009, a 21-year-old interior design major at the University of Arkansas took a risk, trusted her gut, and started her own business on just $100. Today, that business — a clothing boutique called Riffraff — is a million-dollar operation with storefront locations in Fayetteville and Dallas and a strong online presence.
Owner Kirsten Stuckey, now 28, first started Riffraff mainly as a refurbished furniture store that also sold jewelry and clothing. But as customers continued to buy out the store’s small clothing inventory, she quickly geared toward consumer demand — which was for that trademark Riffraff style that combines modern millennial tastes and sweet Southern charm. You can thank Stuckey and Riffraff for popularizing the use of the state geographic outline on T-shirts and other items.
Kirsten launched her store in what is currently the state’s strongest start-up business climate, Northwest Arkansas. With a supportive community and up-and-coming merchandise, Riffraff took off fast.
In its first year, Riffraff had more than $100,000 in sales, mostly to local customers. This year, the company projects some $6 million in sales; it employs 42 people — all under the age of 25. And, recently, Inc. magazine named Kirsten Stuckey one of its “30-under-30” business owners for 2015.
In the coming years, Kirsten hopes to open a third Riffraff store, and to make ShopRiffraff.com and online branch “Charlie Southern” nationwide names. Her $100 investment has turned into a small industry.
Since day one, Kirsten has used social media to promote Riffraff and later help gauge her buying inventory. She also taps into that growing network of other small-business owners in Arkansas who lend advice.
Over the last five years, more than 300 start-up businesses have launched in Northwest Arkansas. It’s no surprise. Arkansas is an ideal location for starting a business. According to a CNBC study, Arkansas boasts the nation’s second-lowest cost of doing business. Our long tradition of innovation and pioneering spirit, along with Arkansas’s increasingly friendlier tax structure, compliments our proximity to 40 percent of the nation’s population and major business centers.
Then there’s that intangible Arkansas spirit. It’s embodied by Kirsten Stuckey — an entrepreneur with talent, vision and the courage to put herself out there. To take a chance. To risk failure to make her own way in the world.
As Governor, I want government to enable the Kirsten Stuckeys, and not get in their way. After all, they’re chasing their own version of the American Dream, and we need to ensure that there is no better place to dream than right here in Arkansas.