Support for Women Entrepreneurs in Arkansas

Jun 16, 2014

AWBC and a Can-Do Attitude Combine

Just short of his 17th birthday, Wes Wilson 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, Wilson’ prospects were bleak at best.  But this was Wes Wilson, the kid born with the can-do attitude.

Wilson spent the summer at Arkansas Children’s Hospital recovering and working through an exhaustive rehabilitation program. At summer’s end, he was ready.  Wilson began his senior year at Emerson (Arkansas) High School in a push wheelchair and with an aid in tow to help him take notes.  Wilson didn’t just finish his senior year, he owned it.  Wilson graduated with honors and gave a Valedictorian’s speech that brought tears to the entire audience.

That fall, Wilson took time to learn to use his power wheelchair efficiently and enrolled in Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia the following spring semester, where he majored in Agricultural Science. There, Wilson broke many barriers, literally. “I was one of the first students in a power wheelchair to attend SAU and the doors were not designed for my chair, so the facilities folks were always trying to get me unstuck,” Wilson remembers. 

After earning his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, Wilson searched unsuccessfully for ways to use his education.  Wilson 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 Arkansas Women’s Business Center (AWBC).  “Mr. Riggins introduced me to the AWBC and I became a client,” said Wilson.  “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 Wilson to create a workable business model and a marketing plan.  InvoTek helped Wilson find funding from the State of Arkansas Vocational Rehabilitation for needed technology.

Wes Wilson Tutoring, LLC launched in July 2013 and has grown rapidly. Today, Wilson 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. 

Thanks to Winrock and the AWBC, the Can-Do Kid is giving other Arkansas young people the confidence to set high expectations and the tools to exceed them.    

The AWBC helps women- (and men-) owned small businesses start, grow, and compete in global markets by providing quality training, counseling, and access to capital. The AWBC is partially funded by a cooperative agreement from the U.S. Small Business Administration. For more information on the AWBC, go to For more information on Wilson, go to

Mar 20, 2014

First Class Communication Testimonial

Julie Johnson Holt and Dauphne Trenholm
Julie Johnson Holt and Dauphne Trenholm

First Class Communication, LLC., a public relations firm whose niche is education (we like to say we’re where education and communication conspire) will soon enter into its third year of business.

As any new business owner knows, the first few years are, well, a roller coaster. Times of high productivity are followed by lulls in projects and, thankfully, those are followed (though not soon enough, it always seems!) by new spurts of business.

We - founding partners Julie Johnson Holt and Dauphne Trenholm - have the Arkansas Women’s Business Center to thank for helping us navigate these choppy seas of new business ownership.

The AWBC has taught us how to visualize the clients we want (and then go after them successfully) as well as to get to the quick “no” when it’s just not a good fit. The AWBC has helped us build our business with new clients who seek our services on a project as well as an ongoing basis.

We still have a lot of room for growth and are working daily to reach our goals, but the support of the Arkansas Women’s Business Center has been nothing short of invaluable to First Class Communication’s.


Your contribution to the AWBC allows us to continue to make dreams of business ownership a reality for women in Arkansas. Women across the state receive free one-on-one counseling services designed to help make their business venture a success.

Jan 2, 2014

Purple Turtle Gallery: A Testimonial

Purple Turtle Gallery, Pocahontas, Arkansas
Purple Turtle Gallery, Pocahontas, Arkansas

About 13 years ago, I went to Key West for the first time. While we were there, I went into a photography gallery that really impressed me. It was very casual and informal; not formal and stuffy. I remember how much I really enjoyed looking at the photographs displayed. I remember thinking, THIS is what I want someday…. a casual gallery, where I can display my photographs, art prints, and custom frame other people’s art and photography. Someday… I would open my own gallery.

Two years ago, I got caught in a layoff and decided…this could be the kick in the pants to get me started on my someday dream!  I took a framing class in Texas and bought some equipment and started custom framing in the spare room bedroom of my house. 

There were two problems with that…..

#1- It NEVER stayed in the spare room.
#2- I had no visibility. 

I was ready to take my business to the next level but didn’t know where to go from there. In the fall of 2012, I took the Operation JumpStart class that Black River Technical College and the Arkansas Women’s Business Center was offering. It was a very intense 6 week (2 nights a week) evening class. The class was very informative and helpful. The homework was thorough and forced you to stretch outside your comfort zone. It showed us exactly what we needed to do to open our own business or take an existing business to the next level. We had guest speakers which included bankers, accountants, attorneys, and marketing experts… all of which gave us information we needed. 

I was going through all the homework, exercises and research, and my husband suggested that I rent a place with visibility and operate by appointment. The Purple Turtle has been open for nearly a year. We are open by appointment, and for Stroll the Square and festivals. I’m also usually open a couple nights a week and Saturday mornings.

I am truly grateful for the opportunity that I had through the JumpStart program. I believe that had I not had this experience along with the “exercises” to learn and work through; I don’t think I’d be open today. If you read the newspaper or watch television at all, opening a new business right now is a very scary thing. You can’t help but wonder if you are a making a good decision. Through taking the course, you are not guaranteed to succeed, but you ARE putting yourself in the position to make an educated decision.

Oct 18, 2013

Hardy Antiques: Testimonial

Martha Wilson, Hardy Antiques, shares her story.
Martha Wilson, Hardy Antiques, shares her story.

“The Operation JumpStart Program sponsored by Winrock International’s Arkansas Women’s Business Center (AWBC) and the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service was just what I needed to begin my second career and make the transition from living and working in Tennessee to Arkansas. The course I attended was held in the fall of 2012 and I purchased Hardy Antiques January 1st 2013, so the timing could not have been better.

The classes were held at different Ozarka College locations in Melbourne, Salem and Ash Flat and traveling to them afforded me the opportunity to get to know these towns and some of the business people in them. The class material, handouts and the workbook we were furnished were well organized and chocked full of information, everything you would need to start and maintain a small business in Arkansas. I loved the real life examples of a small business owner's journey, the successes and missteps. The instructors gave us direction on how and where to apply for business permits, get sales and use tax and Federal ID numbers. In addition to the textbook material, we had interesting guest speakers; an attorney, accountant, publisher, banker, as well as established small business owners. These professionals gave us the good, the bad, and the ugly side of owning your own business. We had a beautiful "graduation" dinner when we completed the course and we gathered with instructors, classmates and friends to celebrate.

After completing the course we continue to have periodic follow up and interaction with our facilitator. After the Operation JumpStart class, the AWBC arranged two seminars on using Facebook and creating a Website for small business, which I attended. Nine months into this life changing event I am paying the bills, with a little to spare, and I feel good about it. I am truly thankful for the Operation JumpStart Program and the people involved in it. The name really fits what it is and what it does. It gave me the jumpstart I needed at just the right time in my life.”

Martha Wilson, Owner


Jul 29, 2013

Edie's Village

Opening in late August, the El Dorado Incubator Environment (EDIE) will be a retail business accelerator that provides the framework and support for a student-run business and accompanying retail space for the student business, recent Operation Jump Start graduates, and other AWBC clients throughout Arkansas.

This low cost, low risk endeavor will give start-up businesses a safe, efficient, and effective way to “test the waters” for their products. EDIE’s Village will work in conjunction with existing entrepreneurship programs as a means to enhance Arkansas’s entrepreneurial climate.

Your contribution to the AWBC allows us to continue to make dreams of business ownership a reality for women in Arkansas. Women across the state learn skills and tools to make their business venture a success.

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Winrock International

Little Rock, AR, United States

Project Leader

Lisa Davis

Program Officer
Little Rock, Arkansas United States

Where is this project located?

Map of Support for Women Entrepreneurs in Arkansas