Tradition blended with technology and outstanding customer service is keeping the Yarn Mart as Little Rock’s outstanding source for yarn and materials for fiber arts.
The Yarn Mart has been a fixture in the Heights neighborhood since the 1960’s. Unfortunately, earlier this year it looked like the only locally owned yarn store in Little Rock might be closing. The owner, who had purchased the store seven years earlier, was facing the challenges of running the business on her own.
Meanwhile, Heather Zbinden was looking for a way to combine her creativity skills with her small business sense. A historian by training, Heather was doing research at museums in Central Arkansas. Looking for a change, she wanted to be able to express herself creatively, “something I could be passionate about,” she said. Heather turned to the Arkansas Chapter of the SCORE Business Counselors for advice on possibly purchasing the Yarn Mart. SCORE, one of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) resource partners, is a nonprofit association dedicated to helping small businesses get off the ground, grow and achieve their goals through education and mentorship. Heather met with Jim Sadler and Bob Smith of SCORE’s Little Rock Chapter. “SCORE was fantastic,” she said. Heather formed the new store’s ownership with Cindy Hedges, the store’s previous owner, and Amy Sixbey, a stay-at-home mom with a talent for yarn crafts. The new owners completed the business reorganization in early 2012.
The Yarn Mart is a locally owned store. And it is the locally owned stores that stabilize neighborhoods, and provide gathering places for the people who live in these neighborhoods. You can buy yarn at discount stores, craft stores, and big box stores. When you purchase your yarn and needles at the Yarn Mart, you receive personalized instruction and assistance. You also become part of the Yarn Mart community. Customers are invited to bring their needles and yarn and sit around the table at the front of the store. “Knitting is therapy,” notes Heather, “and conversation is therapy.
Heather attributes the business’ success to its high quality of customer service, providing quality yarns, and using the new forms of media. The Yarn Mart is active on Facebook and Twitter, and sends e-mail newsletters to people interested in the store and yarn crafts. The store also maintains a presence on Ravelry, an online resource for people who are interested in the yarn arts. Store activities include classes, informal knitting sessions around the store’s table, and special events. One popular event is Yarn Bombing where staff and customers decorate the trees in front of the store with brightly colored knitted and crocheted swatches.
The Yarn Mart is active in the community. The store is a member of the Heights Merchants Association. The Yarn Mart also supports Arkansas Children’s Hospital’s “Knitting for Noggins,” and the UAMS Rockefeller Cancer Institute‘s Chemo Hat project.\
Visit the Yarn Mart online at: http://www.theyarnmart.com/
George Jett's Gas and Service Station is in business with the community and for the community.
This full-service station has been in business for 19 years in the heart of the Capitol View-Stifft Station area of Little Rock, an area known for its community spirit and active neighborhood involvement. It has been a cornerstone in the revitalization of business in the community. As a commercial member of the neighborhood association, George says, "the neighborhood has backed us well. We try to do a fair business, and they're returning it back to us. We always try to do what's right." George Jett’s excellent reputation attracts customers from all over the Central Arkansas area.
This business is the culmination of a life-time of experience in the automotive field. George grew up in Little Rock, helping out in his uncle's auto body shop, which was located on the present site of the Kroger's store on Shackleford Road. He was head mechanic for many years at Isclaw's Mobil, and then served as service manager for a local tire store for over ten years.
Mr. Jett chose his business site on the corner of West Markham and Johnson Street. This site provided convenience for his long-time customers, but also posed a challenge. The previous service station had a poor reputation in the neighborhood. Mr. Jett was able to meet this challenge because of his excellent reputation for honesty and high quality work. Financing for the service station was provided by One Bank with a U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) loan guaranty in 1994. Mr. Jett also contacted the SCORE Business Counselors. SCORE, located in the SBA's Little Rock office, provides business and management counseling at no charge.
George Jett’s success shows that independent gas and service stations are important and vital keys to the growth of our cities.
The ongoing testing of new drugs and medical procedures is critical to maintaining a high standard of health care.
Aureus Research, located in Little Rock, provides both patients and pharmaceutical clients with first-class, professional and quality patient care and accurate research data. Their customers are nationally and internationally recognized pharmaceutical companies. Co-owners Angie Allred and Courtney Simmons, along with Dr. Robert E. Harrell, Jr., their principal investigator, have conducted studies for a variety of conditions including hypertension, diabetes, allergies, asthma, osteoarthritis, gout and pain management.
Angie and Courtney started Aureus Research in 2009. Their dream was the culmination of years of experience in both the private and public sectors including what is now the Rockefeller Cancer Institute at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. Lacking hands on business experience, they turned to the Arkansas Small Business & Technology Development Center (ASBTDC) in Little Rock, a resource partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). Kevin White, an ASBTDC business consultant (currently with the Peace Corps in Panama) helped Angie and Courtney with their business plan and provided other information to get their business started in the right direction.
The next step was to secure financing. Angie and Courtney worked with Jim Coffey and Kyle James at Metropolitan National Bank in Little Rock. In March 2009, Metropolitan approved a SBA-guaranteed loan for the new business.
The company has overcome a number of challenges on the path to success. The initial challenge was to get customers to "come in the door," something that was difficult to do in the tough economy in 2009. And keeping up with finances and operating on a shoe string budget has also been a learning process.
All the hard work has paid off. In June 2011, the company moved to a new location. "We doubled our size," Angie noted, "and hopefully we’ll be hiring additional employees soon."
Aureus Research is also active in the community and supports the Race for the Cure and the Muscular Dystrophy Association.