Monday, June 27, 2016

Designer Again Celebrating 25 Years


Designer Again offers the opportunity to make and save money through the sales of quality consignment products. July of 1991, at only 20 years old Tiffany Parker started her venture with $1000 in her pocket at a storefront where Rolando’s is now. Her first consignors were connections her mother and grandmother had in town, and the store consisted of only clothing and accessories. Over the years they have changed locations moving to larger spaces as more people brought in items to be sold.

The first furniture sold were pieces that Tiffany bought at an auction and sold in her store. When those started really selling she decided to expand. The store now carries a little bit of everything; from clothes to home decor and even vintage pieces.

Customer service is Tiffany’s number one priority, for both the customer and the consignors. She realizes she has to have good people around her to make the store successful. Consignors make a shop like this successful, so Tiffany makes sure they stay happy! She doesn’t split sales 80/20 or 70/30 like other consignment shops, she splits 50/50 so everyone is satisfied!

This shop was “recycling” clothes and furniture before it was cool! Now they are celebrating 25 years! Come join Tiffany and the other girls at Designer Again July 7th from 5pm to 8pm with food, door prizes, special sales, and more!

Casey Millspaugh, Man on the Move


casey millspaugh.jpgCasey Millspaugh, full time Account Executive at UPS has an impressive hobby list. He is known as a “go-getter” and is highly involved in the community. Casey is the Chair of the Parks Commission Board, on the Trails and Freeway Committee, and in Friends of Recreational Trails. Along with all that, he has a couple of start up companies. When talking about everything he’s doing, he jokes that he may be drinking too much coffee.

He has a real passion for the development of trails in the city. He elaborated on a new project being planned, the “Blue Lion Bikeway”. This bike trail will connect UAFS to downtown along with another six miles of trail that has been approved and should begin construction in the next six months. With all the new trails being built, trail and bike rider safety needs to be considered.
A new project Casey has picked up is Pianos on Garrison. This project will put pianos around the downtown area for the public. The next parks commission meeting will open with someone playing the first piano of the project. So far Casey has twelve pianos lined up. It took half a day for him to pick up the first piano, so this is big! Unfortunately, due to humidity, each piano may only last a few months. Casey is definitely excited about this project, “For 2 months people are going to jam out on it, and it’s gonna get put on facebook and it’s gonna get shared... It’s gonna add a little more to the art culture conversation...It’s not permanent, it’s just a little something cool.”

In his spare time, Casey dabbles in real estate, “It’s just something in my back pocket, I’m not actively, really, looking for properties to’s just an option.” He rents a duplex and recently bought a house to rent out later on. Newly licensed, he is now learning the real estate through his mentor Damon Wright. Casey wants to get an investment property somewhere on a beach to rent out when he’s not on vacation.
casey food truck.jpg
Casey’s newest venture? A popcorn company! When he has free time he’s been working on the Fort Smith Popcorn Company by making bags, creating labels and perfecting recipes. This isn’t your regular popcorn shop with a storefront, it’s Casey we’re talking about, he has to have a food trailer! Casey is steering the direction of the food truck culture with the food truck park, so you know he has to have his own! You may have even seen him at this past weekend's Blues Festival!

If you're roaming around Fort Smith, stay vigilant! Casey is on the move and on the rise as an exciting young leader to the Fort Smith area.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Healthy Options Come to the Fort


Arthur Green (pictured) and Cody Barnes are the people behind The Meal Prep Pros. Early this year Cody had the idea to start a business whose goal is to offer healthy foods to people at an affordable price. With the help of Arthur to create the menu items, they started TMPP delivery services.

By mid-May they had a brick and mortar location in the old Skinny's White Spot Cafe on Rogers Avenue and started offering the option of dining-in. The Meal Prep Pros wanted to bring something new to the area. Their menu offers healthy options, like chicken stuffed zucchini, and quinoa stuffed peppers, which are their best sellers.  They also serve staple comfort food, like burgers. There are already a lot of low-sodium, gluten-free and vegan options on the menu, with more in the making!

Arthur and Cody keep their ingredients as organic and locally grown as possible by using vendors with farm to table beef, chicken and produce. They also go to the Fort Smith Farmer's Market during the season where local produce and meat are plentiful. It wasn't hard for them to find a good vendor as Northwest Arkansas is setting the pace for healthier eating, forcing Fort Smith suppliers to keep up with demand. 

While they service a solid number of dine-in patrons, 65-70% of their business is delivery to Fort Smith and Roland, they also deliver to Van Buren. Some customers will order a larger amount of food on Monday night to reheat throughout the week. Give The Meal Prep Pros a try today!

A Day at the Farmers Market


For thousands of years farming has been one of the most important, life-preserving, activities. Since Ancient Egypt, farming has been based around large, often-flooding rivers which provided fertile soil for the local community. Thousands of years later, we see the same models used for farming all over the world.

Fort Smith is a great example of this. The area is full of farmers and ranchers that take advantage of the fertile grounds. Located on the outskirts of the Arkansas River, Fort Smith’s Farmers Market on Garrison Avenue is attended by many of these local farmers. There you can find fruits and vegetables, grass fed beef, homemade baked goods, and everything in between, including craftsmen.

The Fort Smith Farmers Market is not the biggest one you’ll see, but it sure has a soul. These farmers have been coming here for years and will continue coming back as long as the market is there. Loyal customers from the community visit between 7am and noon on Tuesdays and Saturdays to come buy fresh, homegrown food from the trustworthy farmers of the River Valley.

Google Announces Major Changes to Adwords


Stephanie Nugent is the President of CyberSpyder Marketing Service, a local web design and internet marketing firm.  In 2000, she had a dream: to use her talents to help small and medium-sized businesses claim their place on the world wide web.  She and her team work hard to do just that for over 200 local clients.

Last week, Google announced major changes to Adwords.  These are not tweaks, but a fundamental change of direction. They have shifted their thinking, and mobile first is the focus.  Previously, desktop was the focus, with configuration changes available to account for mobile. This is an exciting change that will allow advertisers to interact with their audience in a more timely manner.
This is big! One of the changes announced is a new opportunity for local businesses to advertise on and Google Maps. Now, if you are a local advertisers using location extensions, you get more prominent exposure, including browsing inventory, right on Google maps and when people search for specific products or services.  

You can watch the full video (one hour) here:

If you build it, will they come?


With over 30 years of experience in the advertising and design industry, Fitzgerald currently owns and operates Four Leaf Creative, Inc. (FLC) in Fort Smith, AR. Since 2006 FLC has been serving a wide variety of clients locally and nationally.

Unfortunately we’ve all witnessed the downfall of one business or another. Maybe it was your own, maybe someone else’s. Either way it’s difficult to watch. Even if not directly involved each of us inwardly cheer for those start-ups. We share in other people’s success vicariously because it gives us hope.

We all know there are no guarantees but many times entrepreneurs put themselves at a disadvantage from the start by believing that success will find them just because their doors are open for business. That classic line from the movie The Field of Dreams, “If we build it, they will come”, rarely works in reality.

The reasons for business failure are many, but not promoting shouldn’t be one of them. When starting a new business or service agency always remember to budget for promotional efforts. You’ve worked too hard to reach the batters box so make sure that you don’t take a fastball to the head without your helmet. It’s one thing to strike out and quite another to receive a devastating blow because of unpreparedness.

Word of mouth promotion is fine but the results may take longer than your pockets are deep, so seriously consider your marketing strategy and budget accordingly in advance. Promote your field of dreams, we all want you to succeed!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Putting the Muscle into the Muscle Car

D & D Specialty Cars started in Denver back in 1978. To be closer to family, Dale and Stacy Johns moved the operation to Van Buren in 1985.
“We’ve designed and built award-winning cars,” said Stacy. “And we do some collision work on high-end cars.”
So, when Aunt Bessie slams into a tree with her 1959 Jaguar XK150, take her prized possession to D & D Specialty Cars. When these people are finished, the Jag will look and run better than when it was new.
“Many cars are brought to us by family members,” Stacy added. They want to restore an older car to the way they remember it looked years ago. Currently undergoing restoration here is a 1948 Cadillac.
“Sometimes, people want the original look, but they want power and efficiency (under the hood),” she said. They come to D & D because it is known far and wide for custom building and quality fabrication.
“We go to shows all over the country,” Stacy added. Scottsdale and Tulsa are coming up, followed by a full schedule across the United States.
They concentrate on restorations of cars dating from 1929 to 1976. Corvettes, Mustangs, muscle cars and others can be seen on the website.
Parts for older vehicles can present a problem. It depends on the part, she explained. Some are found in salvage yards or businesses that stock old parts or they might be fabricated and remanufactured.
Vehicles are the mainstay here. But D & D also has built custom bikes.
For more information, call 479 474-1114 or visit It is located at 1026 E. Uniontown St., Van Buren. Hours are 7 to 4, Monday to Friday.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

#XQAmerica: Future School #RethinksHighschool

        Fort Smith Future School has students, parents and business owners excited and engaged as our community rethinks high school. It's a concept that has created a sizable media stir. A high school designed by students...for students? What does that look like? 

      It begins with community participation - from students, parents, neighbors and business people. When you go to one of the Thursday night Create-a-thon meetings, you'll see a community of adults and students enthusiastically engaged in designing a school that provides students with an opportunity to learn in an environment that fosters real learning.         

       Future School doesn't look like my high school...and probably not yours. It takes
shape as students identify interests, as parents cut the apron strings, as educators listen, and as business owners become participants. It is no secret that today's students have different interests, new technologies at their disposal, and actively seek new learning experiences. And now, hi-tech business leaders are opening the checkbook to invest in tomorrow's young people as we #rethinkhighschool.

       America's educational system has not undergone a major transformation in nigh 100 years. Yet, our society has changed at an incredible speed. Recognizing the need for educational reform, Lauren Powell Jobs, widow of Apples Steve Jobs has committed $50,000,000 to seed the XQ Super School Project. Our very own Ft. Smith Future School is in the running to win $10,000,000 (yes, million) to seed the city's first, free public charter school. 

     So, how does a school go about winning one of the 5 awards that will be announced come August 2016? First applicants have to design their school to meet government standards and legal requirements. After that...the sky is the limit. 

     Ft. Smith Future School students are teaming with parents, educators and business leaders to define what their school looks like, the programs offered,and how they present these ideas. Students then go through a process to discover for themselves how they can accomplish their goals. What resources are required (people, money, money, equipment, etc); and what are the obstacles that will need to be overcome.

     One might rightfully ask, "How is this process working out?" Well, if you want to experience the project first hand, message Trish Flanagan on FaceBook and ask to be included in event reminders. If you're not quite ready to get involved, check out this video and share this story with others.

     Together, we can #rethinkhighschool and help our Ft. Smith win a $10,000,000 educational award! 


Monday, April 25, 2016

XQ Kick Off at Fort Smith Future School

   Fort Smith Future School has students, parents and business owners excited and engaged as our community rethinks high school. It's a concept that has created a sizable media stir. A high school designed by students...for students? What does that look like? And what does that mean to the business community?

    It begins with community participation - from students, parents, neighbors and business people. When you go to one of the Thursday night Create-a-thon meetings, you'll see a community of adults and students enthusiastically engaged in designing a school that provides students with an opportunity to learn in an environment that fosters real learning.

    With that in mind, here are 3 reasons your business may want to participate with the Fort Smith Future School program 
  1. Participating business owners have an opportunity to make an educational difference by giving interns exposure to a real world work experience.
  2. Be pro-active! Many of us are greatly concerned with the lack of fundamental skills possessed by high school students. The Future School program gives business owners an opportunity to participate in a program that can provide a better pool of future workers. 
  3. Knowledge share. Nobody knows your business like you do.'d be surprised at the fresh ideas these youngsters come up with that just might be the solution to a problem that has caused you a struggle.
     Fort Smith Future School is competing in a nationwide competition to win $10,000,000 from XQ: The Super School Project. Lauren Powell Jobs, widow of Apple's Steve Jobs, has committed $50,000,000 to seed the XQ project. Future School is in the running with 200 innovative schools to win one of the five $10,000,000 awards that will be announced in August. 

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Passion & Courage...One Woman's Journey Gives Options to Others

Boutique Offers Options and Hope for Breast Cancer Survivors

Women diagnosed with breast cancer face a harrowing journey. The times are scary, calling for understanding, compassion--and help with what’s ahead.
“I know what to expect because I’ve been through it myself,” said Bev Ramsey. She has experienced the surgery, mastectomy and post-surgery problems, chemotherapy, radiation and the lymphedema that can follow.
Ramsey operates the Pink Ribbon Boutique. It is a business dedicated to helping women through the turmoil of facing breast cancer, including the support and products they will need.
At Pink Ribbon, women find a kindred soul.
“I help mentor women through the process,” Ramsey pointed out. She considers “cancer coaching” much more important than the products she offers.

For years, her business was located in Russellville. Many women from there still seek her out. She moved the operation to Fort Smith last October. Pink Ribbon is located at 601 S. 21st St.
“Following surgery, women need a post-surgery camisole,” she explained. This is a camisole designed to hold drain tubes, and this can be customized for individual needs and comfort. The camisole not only serves a useful purpose, but also offers some form so that women do not leave the hospital flat chested – with the visual reminder of the trauma to both body and psyche.
“Once surgery is over, then you get chemotherapy--and you will lose all your hair, among other things,” she noted. “Following surgery, or before surgery, the doctor will probably suggest reconstruction.” This is a process about which Ramsey is passionate.
“When a mastectomy is performed, women basically undergo an amputation. At a time when a woman is going through an emotional as well as physical crisis, she often does not understand or realize the resources available to help her make educated decisions. Consequently, her only source of information is that which is coming from the medical staff,” relates Ramsey as she remembers her own situation.
“I was fortunate,” she continues. “I chose to not have the reconstructive surgery immediately following the amputation of my breasts. Rather, I gave my body an opportunity to undergo the chemo and radiation treatments and heal. This not only was beneficial physically, but it allowed me time to emotionally process what was taking place.”
“Once my body had healed and I had done some research, I was once again given the choiceundergo the reconstruction process. I opted to wear a prosthesis rather than put my body through the pain and ordeal of another surgery. This decision also gave my family a breather from the ongoing process,” Ramsey concluded.
Ramsey emphasizes that most women undergoing the mastectomy procedure are under-educated and not aware of the many options available. Nor are they aware of the lymphedema that can possibly follow. Her goal is to mentor, teach and work with women to help them become aware that there are options, and there is support for them as they face this harrowing journey.
At Pink Ribbon Boutique, custom breast forms are available, but Medicare does not cover custom prosthetics, she said. And there is a risk of lymphedema--presenting additional problems involving swelling in the extremities. If it goes untreated, lymphedema presents a host of additional medical problems.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Teacher to Store Front

Meet Mark Walters. At one time he was a vocational-tech teacher guiding his students through the ins and outs of woodworking. Today, he is the owner of a thriving business where he still gets to participate in his favorite activity - Woodshop.

As the owner of Mark’s Machinery and More on Towson Avenue, Mark identifies his biggest competitor as the Internet. “It’s crazy,” he begins, “people can go online and buy my product without having to pay sales tax. That can mean big savings on some products.”

Unfortunately, this is a dilemma that plagues every brick and mortar store. The question then becomes, “what can I offer that can’t be bought online?” For Mark, the answer is almost a no-brainer. Along with top quality products such as Festool, he offers a hands-on service that gets his customer into the store: Wood Shop!

Hands-on woodworking classes offer a community opportunity to learn a new skill, while giving Mark an opportunity to demonstrate the tools to make the skill easier. He even has a space in the store where fellow-woodworkers can show-off their artisan skills. Learn more at or stop in at 2210 Towson Ave. Ft. Smith, AR.

Monday, February 15, 2016

BBQ and Sports at Ralph's Pink Flamingo

Eight years ago, Ralph Taylor opened the doors of Pink Flamingo BBQ. He and his partner/son Jeff have built an incredible business serving finger-licking barbecue. And, according to Entertainment Fort Smith’s Reader Awards, it’s the BEST in town (for 8 years in a row)! The menu includes all the favorites: pulled pork, brisket, chicken, sausage and ribs with all the fixin's.

Pink Flamingo is a favorite eatery to gather with friends while, each Monday noon, ESPN Arkansas (95.3) broadcasts the UAFS Coaches Show from Ralph’s Pink Flamingo. For Lions fans what can be better than barbecue and a sportscast to catch up on the latest news and shake hands with the coaches?

This is where you go as family - friendly service, good food and kids are welcome! This is where you enjoy “Grand Champion Style Bar-B-Que! Located at 2801 Old Greenwood Rd. 
Like them on Facebook.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

A smile from Biddy Craig

Up in the morning, get the kids out the door for school, in the shower and off to work. Weekday mornings are hectic. But, as you swing through McDonalds on Kelley Hwy, your day is going to get better!

This is Biddy Craig. He smiles when he greets you, repeats your order before handing it through the drive thru window and sends you on your way feeling good - even makes you somehow look forward to the work that is waiting. Biddy makes you feel like he got up that morning with you on his mind and has been looking forward to seeing you all morning. And, his smile beams as he tells you, "Have a blessed day." And you can't help but smile back, return the good wishes...and look forward to your next McCafe.

Thank you Biddy for all those coffees, sweet teas and egg McMuffins. But most of all, thank you for making the mornings brighter and happier for so many customers. You are a shining star!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Putting risks to work for you

      Running a small business teaches the owner many things. One of them is knowing that everything you do carries a risk. Not all risks turn out well, but some do.

     If your mother had not given birth to you, you would not be reading this. Likewise, if you had not taken the risk of failing, you would not be in business.

     Life is full of risks. A tree limb can fall on you, but you still walk under trees. An oncoming vehicle can swerve in front of you, but you still drive.

     In business you are continually taking risks. You bring in new products or you offer new services. You make adjustments to customer service. You begin a promotional campaign on social media. 

     In every case, you risk failure. But small risks can help you inch toward your goal. And small risks help you prepare for the bigger, more important risks ahead.

     To grow a small business into a larger operation takes a dream, a plan, and follow-up. Taking risks along the way is part of the game. Of course, if you've built your small business to the size that you're comfortable with, and you don't want to grow bigger, that's one thing. But, if your dream is still not realized, then taking risks can get you there. Do the planning, step lively, and look back only to learn from it.

     Building bakeries -- Mary tried baking all sorts of goodies in her bakery until she settled on the mix of products that brought in retail customers and wholesale clients. She let the business "settle in" for a few years before deciding that the time was ripe to expand. She took a big loan, expanded her facilities and equipment, hired additional people, and purchased a van. When this expansion "settled in" Mary headed toward offering her first franchise. By taking risks along the way, she was following her long term plan--and the biggest risk of her life. 

     Once you get a risky step in the rear view mirror, it's time to consider the road ahead. That fear of failure can serve you well. Just don't let it prevent your tackling the next risk. After all, your mother didn't hesitate.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Teaching your way to success

     You are expert at what you do. And the general public is hungry for information. Put the two together, and you have a valuable way to promote your business.

     Hold a teaching session at your place, or offer to teach your subject at organizational meetings, senior centers, and elsewhere. Put your thinking cap on, and you'll come up with more than you want to do.

     Wellness -- An expert in Reiki holds regular classes in both beginner and advanced sessions. This is in addition to offering Reiki sessions privately to clients. These classes result in extending the interest in Reiki in the area, and it brings more referrals and clients.

     Social media -- A computer expert does animation, cartooning, web design, and the intricacies of social media. She decides to hold classes at her place, showing people how to use social media. Many business people attend the sessions, and they learn ways to promote using social media. This has brought new clients for the other services offered.

     Farming -- A dairy farmer turns his milk production into yogurt and specialty cheeses. Twice each year he offers extended classes in yogurt and cheese making. These are popular and are always filled. This hands-on teaching activity extends his marketing reach throughout the area--and brings in extra income. 

     Pottery -- A potter holds classes in her studio. She schedules both one time and on-going classes for both beginners and advanced students. These are priced accordingly, but the classes usually fill up, and she maintains a waiting list. The full schedule goes on all year. This promotes the sale of the potter's works.

     Teaching others can extend your marketing reach and bring you more clients. Attendees will pass the word around. And you use social media to do your advertising.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Goodbye to voicemail

     Statistics show that the days of voicemail are numbered. Recently published numbers reveal that more then three quarters of people do not leave messages when they are sent to voicemail. They simply hang up.
     So why do so many small businesses still depend on voicemail? The answer is simple. Voicemail is convenient for the business--not the caller. And that is bad for business.

     More and more customers are turning away from voicemail, favoring text messages and emails instead. Consumers know what's convenient for them--even if businesses are slow to catch on.

     The situation has led to the rise of speech-to-text providers. They turn voice messages into text messages and send them on. Big businesses can afford this extra service, but small businesses are likely to consider it a needless expense.

     All this confirms what has long been suspected. And it comes from experience. A deliberate decision was taken by the Business Owners Institute of New Jersey not to have voicemail. The organization received a continuing stream of phone calls from owners of small businesses seeking help with management and growth problems. Every phone call was answered before the third ring--by a live person. Callers responded positively to the set-up.

     Prompting a client or customer to go to voicemail simply delays--and sometimes kills--a relationship. Owners of small businesses need to realize that telephones are for the convenience of the customer--not the business owner. Phones should be answered promptly by a live person. If the caller is trying to sell you something, you can simply hang u.

     But if a caller is trying to place an order, arrange a purchase, or needs information, the caller deserves to speak with someone. Flipping the caller to voicemail and getting a hang up can mean you lose a customer. All of us know that you never want to miss a call from a fresh referral.

     Today, savvy business owners are turning their smart phone into their business phone. You have it with you all the time, and you answer it when it interrupts you. At the very least, have calls from your business phone automatically and seamlessly transferred to your smart phone.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Easy ways to get more referrals

     Every business owner knows the value of referrals. When people are referred to you, they arrive pretty much open to your products/services.

     Referrals are a natural part of human interaction. We talk with each other, and we want to share with each other our thoughts, feelings, ideas, and much more--like a new restaurant in town or a plumber we know. 

     Social media like Facebook and Twitter provide a mechanism for these interactions. But there are some other ways you can promote referrals for your business. 

     Nutritionist -- Mary has lots of training and experience in nutrition. To connect with new clients, she regularly gives informational talks and sessions at wellness centers, senior centers, organizational meetings and other venues. She answers lots of questions, makes future appointments, and hands out literature. All this results in people subsequently talking about her in the community. Referrals come in. These activities speed up a naturally-occurring process, and they are in addition to her Twitter and Facebook postings.

     Electrician -- Ralph is an electrician working alone, carrying his tools and equipment with him in his van. He targets homeowners and small businesses, handling their electrical problems and needs. Every time he finishes a job, Ralph meets with the customer, explaining the work and answering any questions before presenting his bill. Then, he hands the customer a half-dozen business cards asking that they pass them on to friends, neighbors, and other business owners. It is a simple process, but it has worked for Ralph. People receiving his business card call him to fix their problems. 

     Interior design -- Eric takes a more aggressive approach to getting referrals. He is an interior designer handling residential and commercial clients. When he finishes an assignment, he asks for referrals and frequently receives a couple on the spot. Then, in about three months, he calls the client again, asks if there's anything else he might do for them, and, again, asks for referrals. Not only does this provide client follow-up, but it results in more referrals. He also maintains relationships with several real estate professionals who pass on to him referrals of new people moving into the area. 

     There's more to life today than Twitter and Facebook. Some older methods still work very well.