Winrock International

Winrock International is a nonprofit organization that works with people in the United States and around the world to empower the disadvantaged, increase economic opportunity and sustain natural resources. Winrock matches innovative approaches in agriculture, natural resources management, clean energy and leadership development with the unique needs of its partners. By linking local individuals and communities with new ideas and technology, Winrock is increasing long-term productivity, equity and responsible resource management to benefit the poor and disadvantaged of the world.
Feb 25, 2015

AWBC Transforms Business Ideas into Reality

Brenda G., Genesis Childcare Learning Center
Brenda G., Genesis Childcare Learning Center

Be a “BIG DEAL” (Bring Innovation and Growth by Delivering Enterprise Assistance Locally) is the mantra of Winrock International’s Arkansas Women’s Business Center (AWBC). For the past four years through a partnership with South Arkansas Community College to locate the Center in El Dorado, the AWBC has made significant strides toward providing training and technical assistance to area women (and men) entrepreneurs. To date, the AWBC has delivered 144 business classes and provided one-on-one business counseling services to over 300 clients statewide. Here’s a look at a few AWBC client success stories.

Brenda and Odis G., Genesis Childcare Learning Center, LLC | 301 ½ Cordell Road, El Dorado, AR

One of the AWBC’s first clients, Brenda G. and her husband, Odis, launched Genesis Childcare Learning Center in April 2011. Their goal is to serve the growing community while meeting the needs of children and parents. Their daycare provides a balance of “home-like” care and appropriate development activities while nurturing children and encouraging them to grow to their full potential.

Starting with an idea, the AWBC helped them prepare a business plan, develop financial projections, market the business, and more so they could get the business started and file as a limited liability company in Arkansas. Genesis employees 12 full-time employees and cares for over 50 children in the local community.

Liz Young, AWBC Director said, “We are proud of and supportive of them as they gear up to pass the 4 year mark as a small business, a difficult task to achieve. They have turned Genesis into a successful, growing local business that serves the needs of the community.”

Andrea S., Simon Says, LLC, | 704 West Faulkner, El Dorado, AR

In November 2011, El Dorado native Andrea S. launched Simon Says, a children’s clothing consignment shop, after returning home. The inspiration developed out of a class assignment during her last semester of college at Tarleton State University in Texas. In the town she was living in, consignment stores of all types thrived on every corner.

Simon Says sells gently used and ‘like new’ clothing for newborns, teens, and expecting mothers. They also sell books, baby equipment, and the largest selection of hair bows in town.

Andrea worked for a year and a half planning the business before opening. She first started consigning her own family’s clothes after being strapped for cash with four children and working two jobs. After moving home, she began to bring her business plan into fruition. She contacted the AWBC for help with her start-up business. AWBC staff assisted her with a business plan that helped gain a loan for the business.

Opening her own women-owned small business has naturally come with a set of challenges. Encouraging the town to shop locally has been one of those. Traditionally, there has not been a children’s clothing shop in town consistently, and Andrea has found many parents and grandparents often have the mindset that shopping for children’s clothing requires a trip out of town. However, Simon Says has everything from everyday clothes to smocked dresses for special occasions such as Easter or photo sessions. 

Simon Says has been a personally fulfilling experience for Andrea by providing a service for parents in a community she grew up in. It has also been very rewarding for her to be able to recycle quality, conditioned clothes so that they do not go to waste and those in need can receive benefits of clothing. Every 90 days Simon Says donates truckloads of clothing to three different local ministries, who then give away the clothes to those in need like fire victims, foster children, and others. The shop also donates shoes to mission trips. For one mission trip to Africa, Simon Says donated 120-150 pairs of shoes that were then given to local cobblers as materials to teach them a trade, therefore teaching their own entrepreneurship through the mission. Through challenges and triumphs, Simon Says has successfully stayed in business and celebrated its three year anniversary this past November. Andrea looks forward to growing the business and providing children’s clothing at an affordable price to the community in the future.

Wes W., Wes W. Tutoring, LLC

Just short of his 17th birthday, Wes W. was looking forward to another South Arkansas summer with his horses and then returning to school to start his senior year. A diving accident changed all that.  Paralyzed from the neck down, Wes’ prospects were bleak at best. Wes spent the summer at Arkansas Children’s Hospital recovering and working through an exhaustive rehabilitation program.

Fast forward to now. After earning his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, Wes searched unsuccessfully for ways to use his education. Wes had been working with Innovate Arkansas client InvoTek on technologies to help him become more independent. That’s when he met John Riggins, a business consultant with the AWBC.

“Mr. Riggins introduced me to the AWBC and I became a client,” said Wes.  “He and the AWBC helped me identify something I loved doing and was good at – tutoring. I decided to create a tutoring service helping junior and senior high students and college students in math, English, and science.”

The Center worked with Wes to create a workable business model and a marketing plan. InvoTek helped Wes find funding from the State of Arkansas Vocational Rehabilitation for needed technology.

Wes W. Tutoring, LLC launched in July 2013 and has grown rapidly. Today, Wes works with students from the surrounding area as well as students at Southern Arkansas University and nearby community colleges. Not surprisingly, his students are doing well in their courses and getting better grades, but they are also more self-assured and less intimidated when starting new subjects.

The AWBC continues to serve the community and be a “BIG DEAL”. To learn more about becoming a client go to www.winrockusprograms.org/arkansas-womens-business-center.

Jan 28, 2015

Christopher Dowswell Scholarship Update

The fifteen women who received funding through the Christopher Dowswell scholarship program continue to make satisfactory academic progress. In preparation of the upcoming academic year a special effort will be made in Ethiopia in order to make the availability of scholarships better known among female extension agents. We acknowledge the generous support from several donors and aim at adding at least ten more scholars during the second portion of 2015. Your support will have a broad impact as these scholars will be able to apply what they have learned to improve agricultural practices in their communities. This will lead to increased production and incomes and will help address the issues of poverty and hunger.

Jan 20, 2015

Room to Learn Promotes Reading in South Sudan Schools

To read well, students need the opportunity to read regularly from a variety of text types and be provided with books and materials that are grade level appropriate and rich with relevant content. Currently, South Sudanese children do not have access to such books at home or at school. With these considerations in mind, the Room to Learn (RtL) South Sudan project has developed the Pocket Library Kit for distribution across RtL communities.

The Pocket Library is made from waterproofed cotton cloth and is fitted to hang on the classroom wall. A careful selection of fiction and nonfiction supplementary readers are included in its nine pockets, given along with book shelves, a storage cupboard, individual chalkboards and chalk for students and teachers as part of the Kit. These materials will be used for read-aloud activities as well as group and independent reading. It hoped, that the provision of Pocket Library Kits will motivate students to read, enhance their literacy skills, and increase their reading outcomes.

Your ongoing support is critical in helping RtL improve student access to reading materials in schools and learning centers across all of South Sudan.

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