Profile: Andy Wiseman
Andy Wiseman has lived in more than one place. He has called home those states that most often come up in conversations around “cool” places to live: Oregon, Colorado, New Mexico. Arkansas?
Wiseman is the CEO of Redwood Ventures, a Bentonville-based toy company that designs and manufactures toys that are shipped around the globe. The fact that he ended up in Bentonville was surprising to Wiseman at first—something he has long since let go.
“We’ve lived in some incredible places,” Wiseman told me across a cup of coffee at Onyx Coffee Lab. “But the quality of life, and the quality of options available in Bentonville are just incredible—you could call it big city fun without all the traffic.”
It’s important to note that while Bentonville may be low on congested roadways (many of its residents opt for bicycles instead), it has high traffic in other key areas. Wiseman said Bentonville’s business culture is what drew him here in the first place.
“My network has expanded dramatically since coming to Bentonville,” Wiseman said. “Walmart has this way of bringing the best and brightest in business to Bentonville, and that’s a benefit to anyone who owns a business here.”
As daunting as it was to move an already successful business across the country, Wiseman admitted it was made even more daunting by the feeling that his family could be sacrificing some of the things they loved doing—having easy access to nature, enjoying vast cultural options, and of course, riding bikes.
After getting their bearings in Northwest Arkansas, the Wiseman family came to an incredible conclusion: They hadn’t made a single sacrifice. In fact, they may have gained something even better.
“I think mountain biking has been one of the single biggest deciding factors in our family staying in Northwest Arkansas,” Wiseman remarked, as we each paused briefly to check out several passing bikes. “There’s no commute to nature. I hear people say all the time, ‘You live here! This is in your backyard!’ It’s sort of like having a bikepark for a backyard.”
But the impact of cycling on Wiseman’s Bentonville experience isn’t contained to the benefits of exercise or fun times spent with his kids. No, bikes have worked for Wiseman’s business too.
“I can take a conference call when I’m out in the woods,” he said. “Mountain biking has both broadened my network of friends and business associates, but it has also reconnected me with people I haven’t talked to in some time.”
Northwest Arkansas, and Bentonville in particular, has seen a near constant cycle of growth the past several years. Our region adds 28 new residents every day, according to Finding NWA, and we are consistently ranked among one of the coolest small cities in the country. So what is it, really, that makes the area so extraordinary?
“We’ve truly enjoyed setting down roots here, but we’ve also enjoyed watching how the community has developed,” Wiseman said. “We love the charming culture, which just continues to grow and improve—I mean, with the food and the art and the trails, it’s just…”
He trailed off, smiling, as he tried to trace what exactly it is about Bentonville that makes it so special. Of course, there may be no single answer, and it’s possible that the best any of us can really do is to continue smiling contentedly. If pressed, you always have a fallback answer: Because Bentonville.