Support for Women Entrepreneurs in Arkansas

by Winrock International

Boots To Business: One Veteran At A Time

The Arkansas Women’s Business Center (AWBC) is helping military veterans find a future in the world of entrepreneurship.

Boots to Business is a two-day entrepreneurial education and training program aimed at helping veterans gain the foundational knowledge required to start their own business.  The program is made possible by the Department of Defense’s Transition Assistance Program (TAP) and the U.S. Small Business Administration. Classes cover topics like business concept evaluations and accessing start-up capital and technical assistance.

The AWBC has been part of the Boots to Business program since 2014, training service members and military spouses who are transitioning or retiring from service from the Little Rock Air Force base in Jacksonville, ARK.

AWBC Director Liz Young created an Agricultural Lunch N’ learn to educate servicemen and veterans on farming as a future entrepreneurial business. From the agricultural trainings, many veterans have become AWBC clients, receiving one-on-one assistance to start farm operations.

Veterans are 45 percent more likely to be self-employed than non-veterans. Young says farming provides an opportunity for soldiers to find peace and solitude, feed their community and their family, while restoring the farming heartland of this country. Soldiers have a high probability for success because of their physical strength, hard work ethic, and fortitude.

According to U.S. Small Business Administration Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet, Boots to Business program has trained 25,000 transitioning service members on 165 military installations worldwide. 

Ribbon cutting for Brush & Canvas, Sept. 2015
Ribbon cutting for Brush & Canvas, Sept. 2015

Brush & Canvas started from a dream and a prayer and grew into a new downtown business in South Arkansas, owned by Arkansas Women’s Business Center (AWBC) client Christina. After a series of challenging life events like recovering from a disappointing educational experience, divorce, and unfulfilling career, Christina decided to pursue her passion with a “go big or go home” attitude. Art was an extracurricular activity Christina’s whole life, as well as for her children. While raising her daughter, who now has an art degree, she would make road trips to buy art supplies or order them online. One day, Christina saw a window of opportunity. She realized the small but growing town of El Dorado needed an art supply store and a place for novices to come and be introduced to the world of art.  

Upon deciding to launch a new business and having no retail or business ownership experience, Christina reached out to the AWBC for assistance. Christina was looking for direction on how to get started, what the process is, how she should file as a business, and what the viability of a store like hers in El Dorado would be. The many homework assignments from AWBC business counselor John Riggins made Christina feel like she had entered college again. But she was grateful to learn how to project cash flow, analyze feasibility, and other helpful tools. Christina mentioned “I didn’t have support like us letting me know I could do it and was so appreciative of the positive reinforcement.”  Together, the AWBC and Christina developed a solid business plan, and that reassured her that the art supply store could be a successful retail operation. The business plan also helped secure  loan from a local bank, which was crucial for starting her business. Christina shared this February “I left the AWBC with realistic expectations about how things could turn out for me and my art store and that has really helped me in the beginning months of opening the store.”  

After Brush & Canvas opened its doors in September, 2015, John Riggins continued to counsel Christina, and assist the store with its events and marketing efforts. When asked about how much profit the events generated compared to retail, Christina said “Had I stuck with retail supplies alone, I would not have made it.” In the first six months, Brush & Canvas expanded their services to include art workshops with various mediums, private parties, groups painting classes, character building workshops, and other fun events. The biggest challenge now is finding cost effective marketing. With continued support from AWBC, we look forward to watching and helping Brush & Canvas grow into a successful operation!

Shoppers at the 5th annual Mistletoe Market
Shoppers at the 5th annual Mistletoe Market

This November the Arkansas Women’s Business Center (AWBC) held its 5th annual Mistletoe Market in El Dorado, Arkansas. The market is a growing holiday shopping tradition that provides over 65 small businesses the opportunity to sell holiday and unique handmade products to the public. This year the event grew to new heights, maxing out every square foot of the conference center with vendor booths and experiencing the highest customer count yet with over 1500 shoppers. Several vendors participating have recently completed our Operation Jump Start business development training program in 2015.

One of the returning vendors, owner of Backporch Reflections, shared that “This one day beat any other one day of any show this year. I am willing to drive 4 hours and spend 2 nights in a local hotel to be able to participate. The customers were so nice, not one complaining customer in the entire bunch. This all makes me want to design new exclusive products for this market. Thanks so much for being such gracious hostesses. We love working with you guys and look forward to next year.” 

We appreciate your continued support to make dreams of business ownership a reality for women in Arkansas. 

AWBC client 3 in One Design at Mistletoe Market
AWBC client 3 in One Design at Mistletoe Market
Products from the Lamb
Products from the Lamb's business

James and Rita Lamb are in the bee business. As the owners of Southwest Arkansas Beekeeping Supplies, the Lambs make and sell a variety of products ranging from scented candles, candies and soaps – to name a few - made of honey and wax from their bee farm.

The Lambs were looking for ways to expand their business and boost their marketing efforts. So they signed up for Operation Jumpstart (OJS), a six-week hands-on microenterprise training course for business owners and operators. OJS is designed to educate and empower entrepreneurs by providing business development and support opportunities.

Earlier this year, the Lambs successfully completed the OJS training program. As if there wasn’t enough to celebrate, they also won the Operation JumpStart Class 3 business competition, receiving a grand prize of $1,200, seed money the Lambs say will go toward further developing their business.

The Arkansas Women’s Business Center partnered with four community colleges across the state to provide the OJS business training. So far this year, 18 participants have graduated from the program in Arkansas. The Lambs say they discovered there’s so much more to learn. “We gained marketing skills through the course and realized we need help with accounting. We liked the small class size, which allowed for more one-on-one time with our speakers.”

The Lambs also took advantage of the one-on-one counseling provided by the Arkansas Women’s Business Center. They were set up with a business coach, who advised the Lambs on website enhancement and effective marketing ideas, some of which the Lambs have already started using. Said the Lambs, “the course taught us what we really needed to improve on, and gave us direction.”

OJS is funded in part by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and sponsored by community colleges with the help of Winrock International’s Arkansas Women’s Business Center and the U.S. Small Business Administration. 

The Lambs won the OJS Class 3 business competition
The Lambs won the OJS Class 3 business competition

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.


About Project Reports

Project Reports on GlobalGiving are posted directly to by Project Leaders as they are completed, generally every 3-4 months. To protect the integrity of these documents, GlobalGiving does not alter them; therefore you may find some language or formatting issues.

If you donate to this project or have donated to this project, you will get an e-mail when this project posts a report. You can also subscribe for reports via e-mail without donating or by subscribing to this project's RSS feed.

Get Reports via Email

We'll only email you new reports and updates about this project.

Organization Information

Winrock International

Location: Little Rock, AR - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Liz Young
Little Rock, Arkansas United States

Learn more about GlobalGiving

Teenage Science Students
Vetting +
Due Diligence


Woman Holding a Gift Card
Gift Cards

Young Girl with a Bicycle

Sign up for the GlobalGiving Newsletter