Free to new and existing entrepreneurs in Phillips County, the Start-Up Program is a 7-week business development workshop series that covers the major components involved in starting a business. Topics include writing a business concept, evaluating industry and market size, and determining necessary cash flow. The course features multiple instructors, guest speakers, multi-media presentations, and workbook materials developed by the Kauffman Foundation.


For entrepreneurs who confirm the feasibility of their venture upon completion of Phase 1, Thrive's business mentors provide additional one-on-one consulting. Topics include calculating startup costs, cash flow projections, developing key partners, generating a business narrative, and more. Thrive also provides Phase 2 entrepreneurs with marketing materials (logo, business cards, website) and brand coaching, to prepare organizations for the 21st century marketplace.

This package of tailored business plan coaching and design is available exclusively to Phase 2 entrepreneurs for $1,000. When compared to market rates, this price saves clients thousands of dollars in business startup costs. However, Thrive is also willing to work with clients' financial situations, with the possibility for financial aid and flexible payment plans.


Founder, Shelwes Tools & Body

The Shelwes Automatic Contour Sander is an auto body tool that conveniently fits in a standard air sander, and it automatically conforms to the curves of any type of car. It was invented in Helena, Arkansas, and is now being shipped across the country. Recently, Shelwes won two awards at the SEMA show in Las Vegas for new product innovation.


Founder, Reclaimed Helena

Reclaimed Helena creates furniture out of reclaimed building materials sourced from within the Delta while cleaning up neighborhoods and creating jobs in the process. A recent Kickstarter campaign helped RH successfully raise over $30,000 to be used for workers' salaries and the manufacturing of custom parts.


Owner, T-Mac's BBQ

Established in 2011, T-Mac's Catfish Cabin & Delta BBQ is a family-owned restaurant specializing in BBQ and catfish dishes in the Arkansas tradition, as well as modern and adventurous riffs on old favorites. 



The Helena Start-Up Program (originally the Helena Entrepreneur Center) began as part of a plan for job creation in Phillips County, Arkansas, as found in the Phillips County Community Strategic Plan—an initiative created by the Delta Bridge Project that started as a five-year plan in 2005 and was renewed as a 10-year plan in 2010.

After performing a feasibility study, work began on developing an action plan to fund a program to offer technical assistance, tangible resources, and financial incentives in hopes of creating new, strong, small businesses in Phillips County. This plan came to fruition in July 2010 and was funded later that year by a grant for $186,000 over three years by the Walton Family Foundation.

A program designed by Thrive and made possible by a partnership with the Phillips Community College of the University of Arkansas and a host of strategic partners locally, regionally, and nationally, the Helena
Start-Up Program continues to support the birth and growth of new businesses each year.

Goals for the Helena Start-Up Program:

  • Launch 11-14 businesses over a three-year period, with eight remaining viable after three
    years of activity
  • Have 32 unique participants take part in
    the 7-week seminar
  • Create 14 full-time jobs

In response to these goals, we have:

  • Launched or assisted 18 new businesses
  • Hosted over 100 unique class participants