Morgan Baumgardner (far right) and her husband, Tyler Baumgardner, created Encore Bike Rentals after moving to Northwest Arkansas in 2021. Their startup aims to help residents “ride like a local” on the region’s trails.
BELLA VISTA, Ark. – An impromptu visit last year to Northwest Arkansas for an enterprising young couple led to the formation of Encore Bike Rentals, a growing startup focused on helping residents “ride like a local” on the region’s trails.
Morgan and Tyler Baumgardner were traveling the country in an RV when Morgan’s mom sent her a link about the sprawling trail system in Benton and Washington counties.
They arrived in July 2021 and “didn’t want to leave,” Morgan Baumgardner said.
But when the family came to visit, they had trouble renting a bike for the trails. Starting a marketing firm two years ago, the Baumgarnders thought they might have a solution to improving trail access.
Enter GORP, or the Greenhouse Outdoor Recreation Program. Led by the U of A Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, GORP supports startups with workshop training, team mentoring and dedicated product/service development to help them scale globally. The program also provides up to $15,000 in “non-dilutive seed funding” per company – funding that does not require the owner to give up equity in the company.
The Baumgardners joined the GORP startup group in January with their start-up phase. The company had a website but didn’t rent a single bike.
Now, just months after graduating from the 12-week course, high-quality mountain bikes are available for rent in three cities through the concierge service. Encore Bike Rentals will deliver (and pick up) their free bikes to trailheads, hotels, vacation rentals and other locations in Bella Vista, Bentonville and Rogers.
Morgan Baumgardner said GORP pushed the company to “think beyond” bike rentals, while the program’s mentors challenged the couple to determine what kind of impact they wanted to make.
“If any business or startup wants to grow or push to the next stage of business, GORP will help to do so,” said Morgan Baumgardner.
She added that the shared experience of GORP – sharing the entrepreneurial journey – was also helpful.
“Being around other growing companies was really great (and) helped make the journey less lonely,” Morgan Baumgardner said.
GORP’s assets will help Encore Bike Rentals even after the company ends the program, because GORP is designed to support entrepreneurs before, during and after the group with a steady stream of speakers, workshops and connections with industry experts, said Phil Shellhammer, director of CORP.
“Businesses like Encore will continue to fuel the strong tourism industry NWA is growing around the amazing outdoor recreation experiences you can have here,” Shellhammer said.
Encore Bike Rental was one of four companies that graduated in April from GORP’s first cohort. Others included American Hunt, Lacaida Ropes and Trail Tours. A second batch will start in August.
About the U of A Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation: The Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation creates and curates innovation and entrepreneurship experiences for students in all disciplines. Through the Brewer Family Entrepreneurship Center, McMillon Innovation Studio and Startup Village, OEI offers free workshops and programs — including social and corporate innovation design teams, entrepreneurship internships, competitions and startup coaching. OEI also offers on-demand support to students who will be innovators within existing organizations and entrepreneurs starting something new.