Newport partnership aims to spark small businesses

NEWPORT, AR (KAIT) – Small businesses are the backbone of any local economy, and one Region 8 community is working to help new entrepreneurs succeed.

The Newport Economic Development Council, or NEDC, and ASU-Newport have formed a partnership to start Operation Jumpstart Newport Business. The six-week intensive course will assist people who want to start a business in Jackson County. The course work will provide tools to help small businesses succeed during their first crucial years, which is when most close their doors.

"It's kind of discouraging and demoralizing to a community to see a business open and close and open and close," said Jon Chadwell, executive director of the NEDC. "A lot of times, it's not the local economy. It's just that the person who was running the business wasn't equipped."

Jermaine Eason started Big E's Riding Academy two years ago in Newport, but the business has lately experienced some growing pains. More than 200 students have attended his programs. Thirty horses have been rescued, and a supply store will open soon.

"When it comes down to horses and everything, I already know about, but, business, I have to learn a little bit more," Eason said.

His love for horses has proven successful so far, but he says he needs some help to sustain that.

"Small businesses are the backbone of the local econommy, and the mom-and-pop businesses are the ones that aren't going to move off," Chadwell said.

That's why Eason would like to attend Operation Jumpstart.  The course would not only assist others who were in his position a few years ago, but would allow him to better maintain his business and stay in the saddle financially.

"We're hoping to give them tools, those folks who are actually going to start a business," Chadwell said. "But we also hope it helps give some folks who may have an idea that's just no quite feasible."

Being economically savvy is just one of the lessons taught during the six-week course. The curriculum follows a strict schedule that Chadwell and Bentley Wallace of ASU-Newport will facilitate.  Operation Jumpstart will meet three hours a night, two nights a week. Guest speakers and mentors will offer advice to the class of 20 to 25 entrepreneurs. The participants should end the course with a business feasibility plan that they can then present to a bank or the Small Business Administration.

The class also comes with a fee, as some participants can take it for college credit through ASU-Newport. Eason, though, says it's an expense that will help him maintain a business in a community he loves.

"You can't ask for no better," Eason said. "A lot of people think you can, but I can't. This is what I love."

Chadwell hopes to have the program running by March. To learn more about Operation Jumpstart, contact the NEDC office at 870-523-1009.

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