Support for Women Entrepreneurs in Arkansas

 
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Farmers Markets and locally grown food are increasing in demand, while new farmers markets are being established and existing markets are growing and expanding. The Arkansas Farmers Market Vendor & Manager Training was held in Hope, Arkansas recently. The training was aimed at educating farmers, vendors, and market managers. To ensure longevity and sustainability of the farmers markets and local food systems, the vendors and managers who participated would in turn be able to increase the profitability and success of the farms and the markets they sell through.

The training featured two tracks: one 6-hour training for market managers and a separate 6-hour training for market vendors. Over 65 attendees participated, coming from the local Southwest Arkansas area to as far as East Texas, Cabot, Jonesboro, and Little Rock. The manager training including speakers presenting topics on market management, grant writing to source funding for markets, utilizing the SNAP program at market, promotion of markets through the web and specific social media programs, state legislation surrounding markets and food safety, and incorporating activities at market to involve the community and bring in more customers. The market vendor training also utilized experience speakers from Arkansas and Texas to cover topics including state legislation, post-harvest handling, marketing and profitability, beautifying your market display, increasing sales at market, branding your local food, and food safety. The primary goal of the training was to help markets and market vendors attract more customers and increase profitability at their local farmers markets. Door prizes such as a large chalkboard easel, cash boxes, market display baskets, chalkboard paper, a logo design for one winning farmers market, farm profitability books, money deposit bags, and more. The training was hosted by the Arkansas Women’s Business Center, Winrock International, the US Department of Agriculture, and the University of Arkansas Community College at Hope/Texarkana. Participant evaluations were overwhelmingly positive and encouraging, and a follow-up evaluation will be conducted with participants in mid-summer to determine the value of the training on the market season.

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.

Mistletoe Market brings holiday sales to vendors
Mistletoe Market brings holiday sales to vendors

The Arkansas Women’s Business Center (AWBC) held its fourth Annual Mistletoe Market on Saturday, November 8th in El Dorado, Arkansas. The event that began as an idea to give local businesses an opportunity to sell their products has quickly grown into one of the communities’ favorite and well-anticipated holiday events. With over 1,400 shoppers and over 50 businesses coming from Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas, the 2014 Mistletoe Market was the largest to date. The shoppers always compliment the wide variety of products they have to choose which ranges from hand-crafted items to baked goods. This year there were several new additions for the shoppers to enjoy such as a hot chocolate bar, a chance to win two Seaport airline tickets, and free trolley rides. If you missed out on this wonderful holiday event, details of upcoming events and Mistletoe Market 2015 will be posted on Mistletoe Market’s Facebook page at: www.facebook.com/arkansas.mistletoe.market.

Since the AWBC is staffed by only two people, it depends and relies heavily on volunteers with event and projects like Mistletoe Market. The AWBC is grateful to have so many wonderful people who support its mission. With the AWBC in its fifth year of operation, it has provided over 300 business owners with one-on-one training, held over 10 successful Operation JumpStart classes, and in 2015 will offer two Operation JumpStart classes in northern Louisiana. Your donation demonstrates how much you value small businesses and allows the AWBC to further achieve its mission by helping countless more women business owners be successful. For more information about the AWBC visit Facebook page: www.facebook.com/arkansas.womens.business.center.  

Shay Kaldem assists customer in Edie
Shay Kaldem assists customer in Edie's Village.

With their one year anniversary behind them, Edie’s Village (El Dorado Incubator Environment) has seen firsthand the triumphs and struggles of what beginning entrepreneurs face as they set out to fulfill their dreams of opening their own business.

Edie’s Village is a retail incubator that allows businesses to test their products in the consumer market before they incur significant business risk and debt. Edie’s Village staff makes this process simple and easy for the entrepreneurs by completing all merchandising of products and marketing, all while gaining customer feedback. Recently Edie’s Village launched an e-commerce website expanding their customer base. (www.ediesvillage.com)

When Edie’s Village opened on August 29, 2013, there were 12 businesses participating, and within six months it quickly grew to 20 businesses. Along with all the benefits Edie’s Village staff has to offer, the Arkansas Women’s Business Center (AWBC), a partner with South Arkansas Community College for Edie’s Village, is available to help and guide each entrepreneur with one-on-one counseling in business areas that clients may need more assistance. If interested in becoming a vendor, contact the AWBC.

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.

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 www.winrockusprograms.org/arkansas-womens-business-center. For more information on Wilson, go to www.Wilsonwilsontutoring.com.

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Organization

Winrock International

Little Rock, AR, United States
http://www.winrock.org

Project Leader

Lisa Davis

Program Officer
Little Rock, Arkansas United States

Where is this project located?

Map of Support for Women Entrepreneurs in Arkansas