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Success Stories

Ralph Vines is a heavy construction contractor, working with all types of heavy equipment. Kesser International has the capability to do many types of construction work, from commercial buildings and houses to repairing the levees on Arkansas and Mississippi rivers.

The construction business runs in Ralph's family; both his father and mother are contractors.  By age eight he began helping his father paint houses after school, on weekends and holidays.  Following high school Ralph attended DeVry Institute in Dallas, Texas. He returned home on weekends to help with any construction work that was needed to complete current projects.  After graduating from DeVry,   Ralph spent three years with the Army in Germany working in construction.  Upon his return, he decided to start his own business.  "My father was doing really well," he said, "but he wanted to continue with smaller jobs. However I was more interested in heavy construction."

Ralph started out by running... Read More






Central Research in Lowell, Arkansas, is a people-information firm specializing in the identification, verification, and documentation of deceased and incarcerated individuals as well as Freedom of Information Act support services.  Johnny Dillard, a service-disabled veteran, started the company in 1999 with two part-time employees.  The firm currently has over 50 full-time employees using technology that allows them to review over 250,000 files a week.


A successful participant in SBA’s 8(a) Business Development Program, Johnny was the 2011 Arkansas Minority Small Business Person of the Year, and the 2012 Arkansas Veteran Small Business Champion.  He was also one of eight finalists in the 2013 Small Business Tournament of Veteran Champions sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and Spike TV.


Inc. Magazine rated Central Research as #... Read More


Tobacco World and Variety

Sometimes life’s best lessons take the long way home.  Ervin Lewis, from Cotton Plant, Arkansas, went to Iraq to learn his.  While serving in Iraq with the Arkansas National Guard, a roadside explosive device severely injured his legs.   He spent three months in an Army Rehabilitation Hospital and was discharged from the National Guard.

Wounded but not broken, Ervin and his wife, Terrie, returned to Cotton Plant and began to pick up the pieces of their lives. In this small town, like much of the Delta, jobs are hard to come by.  With few options, they decided to create their own jobs and open a smoke shop and small convenience store. This business, at best, was problematic. For many years people and businesses had been leaving Cotton Plant. Much of the downtown was gone or decaying with whole blocks missing. The nearest grocery store was at Brinkley, 11 miles away. 

Using their own money, they took over a long... Read More


Woods Group Architects


SBA’s 2013 8(a) Graduate Firm of the Year is Woods Group Architects, Inc. of Little Rock, owned by Ron Bené Woods. 

Ron Woods always had an intense desire to be creative and be of service to others.  He loved to draw and work with arts and crafts, and his goal coming out of high school was to be an architect.   Those plans were slightly derailed after he received a scholarship to attend Morehouse College in Atlanta, Ga., in a dual-degree program with the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) in mechanical engineering.  After two years at Morehouse, Ron’s mechanical drafting professor, who was also an architect, noted Ron’s talent and convinced him to switch majors.  Ron gave up the engineering scholarship.  With the support of his parents, financial and otherwise, he transferred full time to Georgia Tech into a field of study he really loved.  Upon graduation he was immediately offered an internship with... Read More