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Small business awards up for grabs

Posted on September 24, 2019

Nominations will close tomorrow for the Spirit of South Arkansas Small Business Awards, where local businesses with 50 or fewer employees are celebrated.

A collaboration between the El Dorado–Union County Chamber of Commerce, the Arkansas Women’s Small Business Center and South Arkansas Community College, the Spirit of South Arkansas awards were created four years ago as a way to give the community a chance to recognize their favorite local businesses.

“We were talking about – ‘how can we identify the small businesses out there?’ There are a lot of businesses that belong to the Chamber but there are a lot more small businesses that they just didn’t have in their group at the Chamber,” said Dr. Barbara Jones, president of South Arkansas Community College who helped conceptualize the awards. “The United States is built on small businesses — that’s the backbone of everything that happens in these small communities.”

Jaren Books, membership and events coordinator for the Chamber of Commerce, said they have received about 40 nominations so far this year, half as many as were nominated last year.

“Any business likes to receive recognition. Small businesses are kind of our unsung heroes in America, because they make up a lot of the backbone of what supports America,” Books said.

There are seven categories businesses may be nominated in, each with their own requirements. In all categories, businesses must demonstrate a commitment to good business practices, employee relations and the greater community; must not be a subsidiary of another business; must have a valid business license; have no more than 50 employees; must have completed three full years of operation before Jan. 1, 2019; and must be located in Union County or be members of the El Dorado – Union County Chamber of Commerce.

The categories and their respective requirements are as follows:

Small Business of the Year — no additional requirements
Best Woman-owned Business — at least 51% of the business must be owned by a woman or group of women
Best Veteran-owned Business — at least 51% of the business must be owned by a veteran of the united states military
Best Minority-owned Business — at least 51% of the business must be owned by a person of African-American, Hispanic, Native-American or Asian-American heritage
Best Family-owned Business — most ownership or control must lie within a family and at least two family members must be involved
Customer-focused Business — no additional requirements
Young Entrepreneur — business must already have been started and the owner must have been born in 1979 or later
Delicious Dishes — no additional requirements
Decade Award — the business must have been established before Jan. 1, 2009

Books said it feels good to recognize those that help drive our community’s economy — and the business owners don’t mind it either.

“Everybody kind of gets excited because they get an award,” Books said. “We give them a plaque that says ‘first’ in whichever category."

Last year, Flower Pot Lawn Care & Landscaping took home the top prize for Small Business of the Year. Books said he couldn’t yet reveal any of this year’s nominees.

Once nominations close tomorrow, Chamber staff will certify each nominee, and voting will open to the public on Oct. 2. All members of the public are welcome to vote, he said.

An awards ceremony will be held on Oct. 23 at a dinner to be held at the El Dorado Conference Center, where the awards’ sponsors will present winners with their plaques. Second- and third-place winners will receive framed certificates.

“We’re having dinner and it’ll be lasagna,” Books said.

Books said several business owners will speak at the dinner as well. They will talk about their personal experiences opening their businesses — the goods, the bads, the do’s and don’ts. Speakers will be announced at a later date, he said.

“They’ll speak on how they started their business — you know, the first five years is kind of the ‘break-even point’ — this year, we’re just trying to really take those people that have made it past that point and kind of share their knowledge and their struggles and how they’ve had to adapt to a changing business environment,” Books said.

Nominations and voting are web-based. To nominate a local small business, visit For more information about the Spirit of South Arkansas Small Business Awards, contact the Chamber at or 870-863-6113.

“The success of El Dorado and Union County can be measured by the success of the small businesses here,” said Bill Luther, president and CEO of the Chamber. “The Spirit of South Arkansas Awards were created as a way to recognize small businesses that demonstrate a commitment to good business practice, employee relations and the great community.”

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