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Awards celebrate local businesses, entrepreneurs

Posted on October 25, 2019

The fourth annual Spirit of South Arkansas Small Business Awards were held Wednesday evening, drawing local business owners, nonprofit directors and politicians to the El Dorado Conference Center to celebrate entrepreneurship in the community.

“Half the people in here are employed by small businesses. Two out of three jobs created every year are because of small businesses,” said Dr. Michael Murders, vice president of academic affairs at South Arkansas Community College. “Tonight we recognize the innovation, creativity, teamwork and determination that all you small business owners are providing every day in order to grow your businesses, create new jobs and better our communities.”

Sims Mortuary took home the night’s top award, Business of the Year. Natashia Henderson, co-owner of the business with her husband, Robert, said they are very grateful for the recognition.

“We feel so blessed to have had great support from the community since acquiring Sims Mortuary,” she said. “We do our best to treat each family as our own, and in most cases they become family. Our success would not be possible without a great staff … We thank the community for voting Sims Mortuary as the small business of the year.”

The Decade Award, celebrating businesses that have been established for 10 or more years, went to Minute Man. The restaurant first opened as one of a franchise in 1984 and has been the last remaining location since 2002. Earlier this year, Perry Smith and owner Linda McGoogan announced plans to re-franchise with locations in central Arkansas.

“I thought it was awesome,” McGoogan said. “I was so excited. I almost didn’t even go because I said ‘I know I’m not going to win anything,’ and then when they called Minute Man, I could not believe it. I want to thank everybody for always eating with me and [helping] me stay in business this long.”

El Dorado Mayor Veronica Smith-Creer gave the keynote address, speaking about her own small business, BC Carpet Cleaners, which she and her husband Bobby Creer started 23 years ago.

“Every small business benefits more than that business owner, no matter what kind of business,” she said. “All of these businesses stay in business because they help other people.”

Smith-Creer said one of the keys to her family’s small business success was the support she and Bobby received from the community. Those in attendance agreed, responding with an outbreak of applause.

“Can you imagine any of these businesses not being here? … So what do we need to do to as a community?” she asked. “We need to be very supportive of each other. … How do you support each other? … We’re a small town and we need each other, so when business is good, tell everybody; when you want to do your constructive criticism, go to the source – go to the owner.”

Smith-Creer concluded that small business owners should work together to provide the best opportunities for their community and each other.

“Let us be supportive of each other and let us continue to not only want to do the best for ourselves and allow our gift to make room for us as individuals, but let us continue to make our gift make room for our city and our state, the country, the nation, because guess what — small businesses can turn into big businesses,” she said.

The Spirit of South Arkansas Small Business Awards were created four years ago as a collaboration between the El Dorado-Union County Chamber of Commerce, the Arkansas Women’s Small Business Center and SouthArk to give the community a chance to recognize their favorite local businesses. Jaren Books, membership and events coordinator for the Chamber, said last night’s event met that goal.

“This is an opportunity to recognize all of our small business owners and it’s not just about who wins, but it’s about all the people that have a small business and that our community at large nominated those people,” Books said. “They’re doing something right.”

Photos of this year’s Spirit of South Arkansas Small Business Awards winners are at


Small Business of the Year:

1st: Sims Mortuary 2nd: Especially For You 3rd: Cole’s Jewelers

Decade Award:

1st: Minute Man 2nd: BC Carpet Cleaning 3rd: Goodwin Animal Hospital

Woman-owned small business:

1st: Tokyo’z Dollhouse 2nd: Cole’s Jewelers 3rd: Whittney’s Beauty Bar & Martha’s on the Square (tie vote)

Minority-owned small business:

1st: Spudnut Shoppe 2nd: Howell’s BBQ 3rd: Tokyo’z Dollhouse

Veteran-owned small business:

1st: LaBella Gourmet Gifts & Deli 2nd: Creative Means 3rd: Long’s Roofing

Family-owned small business:

1st: Timmin’s Hardware 2nd: Poppy’s Pizza 3rd: BC Carpet Cleaning

Customer-focused small business:

1st: Kyra Dismuke Photography 2nd: Especially For You 3rd: Praise Printing & Photography

Delicious dishes:

1st: Sweet Mama T’s 2nd: Fayrays & Cafe 1891 (tie vote) 3rd: Tacos Helen

Young Entrepreneur:

1st: Erin McMurrian — Century 21 2nd: Boomtown Nutrition 3rd: Leslie Rogers — The Latest Wrinkle

Caitlan Butler can be reached at 870-862-6611 or