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I Love Downtown Arlington: Love Being an Entrepreneur

You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.

-- Benjamin Mee, We Bought a Zoo

According to the Global Entrepreneurship Institute, there are seven stages in the entrepreneurial life cycle, and the first three happen before the grand opening. These three stages – Opportunity Recognition, Opportunity Focusing and Commitment of Resources – represent when a good idea becomes great, a great idea becomes focused, and a focused idea becomes a business plan. 

Here in Downtown Arlington, you’ll find businesses in all seven stages of their life cycle, and every one is unique. Still, in spite of their uniqueness, every owner remembers when she or he decided to pull the trigger. When you tune in to our Down to Business podcast about entrepreneurship in Downtown, you’ll hear common threads shared by entrepreneurs who never thought they’d own their own business, or who started out in one career and ended up in another. Both Jerry Shirer of Rita’s Italian Ice and Frozen Custard and Tony Rutigliano of Three Monkeys Co./Urban Alchemy shared that entrepreneurial inspiration led them to a second career.

Whether a sole proprietor or partner, deciding to go into business for yourself is a solitary “here I go!” moment. Every stage before and after that moment, however, takes place within a community of investors, advisors, employees, friends, family, customers, community leaders, and partners. Most Downtown business owners owe their success to mentors and fellow business owners who’ve been willing to help them navigate the learning process.

The Downtown Arlington business community has always been eager to pay it forward and share what they’ve learned along the way. In fact, entrepreneurship is nurtured at all ages. In partnership with the Greater Arlington Chamber of Commerce, Arlington ISD’s What’s Your Big Idea?” competition invites students to envision solutions to all kinds of real-world problems. More than 5,000 students submitted ideas last year! Meanwhile, the Center for Entrepreneurship and Economic Innovation at the University of Texas at Arlington is a regional hub for resources, training, and connections in an effort to foster a strong, sustainable entrepreneurial ecosystem. We’re excited that the new home for CEEI will be opening in Downtown later this year.

During his Down to Business interview, Tony said, “Entrepreneurs know how to bootstrap, put one foot in front of the other, solve problems, and just figure it out.” There’s a lot of that going on these days!

The last four stages of the entrepreneurial life cycle are all about bootstraps. The coronavirus pandemic delivered harsh economic challenges to businesses around the world and close to home. But reinvention has always been a part of the Downtown experience in Arlington, and that’s another consistent theme within our entrepreneurial community. 

Hurtado Barbecue founder Brandon Hurtado, winner of our 2020 Legendary Lionheart Award, provides one example of marketplace responsiveness. After building his brand from a food truck, Brandon opened his first brick and mortar location in Downtown just as COVID-19 was shutting down restaurants. Recognizing the need to operate in a new way, Brandon expanded capacity to serve carry-out customers by building a huge patio adjacent to the restaurant. Thanks to his quick thinking, Hurtado Barbecue has not only remained viable throughout the pandemic but has made charitable contributions to families in need. Brandon is also making plans to open a second restaurant concept in Downtown: Hayters Bar and Taco Lounge.

How lucky are we that understanding customers’ changing needs and responding to them has been and always will be the hallmark of business in Downtown Arlington?