March 13-14 was an intense time in Searcy, Arkansas. Our Deluxe team put 12 small businesses through our speed dating round for Season 4 of Small Business Revolution — Main Street, a process that helps us determine the final six businesses to be featured on the show.
Each business came with amazing stories of success and struggle. Each year we look for businesses that are not only unique to their town, but also the show, as well as business owners who represent all different stages of development. Whether they’re startups or have been in business for 10 years, whether they’re growing faster than they can manage or they’re at the point of almost closing, we’re excited to share this year’s businesses and tell their stories this fall. Each of the 12 would have made a great episode, but we could only choose six. Let us introduce them:
Coty Skinner started ARganic this year. A former army soldier, Skinner was medically discharged after serving the country for 10 years. He planned to stay in the army for 20 years to retire, so this was a change of pace that forced him to seek a new purpose in life. He and his wife have a love for giving back, becoming foster parents to 14 children over the years, so he decided to start making tables to donate to foster families. His goal was to make tables where larger foster families could sit down to eat together. As he was creating tables and doing other woodworking projects, he realized he may have the beginnings of a business, and ARganic Woodwork was born.
Since this is a startup, Skinner needs help with everything from marketing to pricing to determining when to scale up. He would love to hire veterans as well as people who have come out of the foster care system. Our team at Deluxe is excited to get Skinner on the right path and see this startup grow.
El Mercado is a specialty grocery store in Searcy focusing on Mexican and Hispanic foods. Owners Catrina and Jose Mendoza viewed this venture as a way to work together and to help change Jose’s career working in construction. The previous owner of the store was looking to close, so the Mendozas jumped at the chance to start their own business. El Mercado sells traditional Hispanic foods like dried peppers, spices and snacks, while also operating as a money transfer service for people to send money back to their families in other countries.
The couple recently added a carnicería to the store, a traditional Mexican butcher case with fresh, marinated cuts of meat. They would also like to build out their space with a bakery. In addition, they’d love to reach traffic beyond the Latinx community by sparking curiosity within the rest of Searcy. They don’t have a website or a great logo. They market through Facebook. The Deluxe team has a lot to work with at El Mercado, and we can’t wait to showcase all this amazing grocery store has to offer.
Nicole Hopkins and Casey Cox started nooma in Searcy to be a mind-body experience studio. If you take a class at nooma in downtown Searcy, you’ll see this isn’t your normal yoga class. Cardio is worked into the classes as well as motivational speeches. Nicole and Casey sought to create a place to help build a lifestyle and ground people’s spirits. Both have been stay-at-home moms and dealt with struggles in life. And they both found their business passion in yoga.
From the outside looking in, nooma may seem like they’re killing it, with a great following on social media and two other locations opened since they started in 2017. However, as relatively new business owners, they are struggling to make the finances work and learning how to manage multiple locations. They are seeking to translate their large social following into customers. Deluxe works with many small businesses who have multiple locations and, in some cases, become franchises, so we’re excited to roll up our sleeves and work with a business that is having trouble managing growth, to show a new twist on a small business.
Opened in 2018 by Amelia Brackett and Josie Braun, Savor+Sip is the only downtown Searcy coffee shop. Moving back to Searcy after a stint in Braun’s hometown of Winnipeg, the pair decided to turn their love of hosting friends and family into a business. Brackett always wanted a coffee shop, and her family grew up making crepes, so the idea was hatched for Savor+Sip. With help from Brackett’s father to open last year, they’re only now realizing some of the difficulties of running a business.
Their hours are long, and finances are a struggle. Taking home regular paychecks hasn’t happened. While they have a great logo, they haven’t spent money on advertising, and foot traffic ebbs and flows. They’re also still trying to determine if their model with coffee and crepes makes sense, or if they should add or remove options from their menu. As the first coffee shop owners featured on the series, Brackett and Braun are ready to bring in more customers through marketing and also bring more people to Searcy’s beautiful downtown.
Whilma’s Filipino Restaurant
Whilma Frogoso and her husband left the Philippines to pursue the American dream, and they wanted to create a better opportunity for their four children. When they came to Searcy to be closer to Frogoso’s sister, she wanted to introduce people to authentic Filipino cuisine, the type of food her father used to make her, so she decided to open her restaurant in 2009.
At the restaurant, Frogoso is the boss. She is the chef and manages the employees. Her husband helps in the morning before going to his full-time job in Little Rock, but it is mostly Frogoso running the show. Being the only restaurant of its kind in the area, they attract a lot of college students, but struggle to bring in locals. Frogoso does see the seasonality of school affecting her numbers, so she needs help marketing her business to a wider audience. Deluxe is ready to take on the challenge and make Whilma’s a household name in Searcy.
Zion Climbing Center
The first nonprofit to be featured on Small Business Revolution — Main Street, Zion Climbing Center was started more than 14 years ago as a for-profit business. Sean Hudkins and his wife, Emily, made the transition to nonprofit status in order to support its mission: to be a place of “true community” in Searcy. Although rock climbing is the foundation, the building itself has more than 12,000 square feet, which can be used for events, team building activities, concerts and more.
After 14 years in business, Hudkins would like to take a steady paycheck from Zion, which has a nine-member board of directors, including Emily. Zion exists on word-of-mouth and needs repairs to the physical space. In addition, the climbing center has virtually no signage on the outside of the building, which can contribute to the building looking abandoned at times. The Deluxe team is excited to get to work to help Zion Climbing Center promote its mission to a broader audience.
We fell in love with the people and businesses in Searcy, and we can’t wait to share their stories this fall when Season 4 premieres.