Client Stories

River Valley Counseling & Therapy 

River Valley Counseling & Therapy

Amanda Jones-Shelton is proud to announce the opening of River Valley Counseling & Therapy, PA in Clarksville, with the assistance of the Arkansas Tech University Small Business and Technology Development Center.

Amanda started working with consultant, Nathan George, more than a year before settling into her current location. During that time, she received one-on-one counseling in financial planning, business organization, writing a business plan, and other startup steps.

“Working with SBTDC assisted me with my financial planning and helping me with organization of this business as a whole. My business plan we created together has been the envy of many!” remarked Jones-Shelton.

River Valley Counseling and Therapy, P.A. provides individual, relationship, crisis intervention, and suicide prevention counseling to manage depression. They also provide assistance with anxiety, anger adjustment, trauma and many other health concerns.

The first mental health counseling center to open in Clarksville, Jones-Shelton is assisted in her clinic by Dr. Dana Thomason, a licensed professional counselor. They are both very proud to be able to serve Johnson County and the surrounding areas with counseling and mental health services. Both are very passionate about the mental health services that are now available to the public in the Clarksville area. Their slogan is “helping people navigate the storms of life with hope and support”.

For more information, call them at 479-264-7307 or visit them at 1304 W. Main Street, suite A-1 in Clarksville.

Other Client Stories

Kneading Hands Bakery

Gabrielle Short recently expanded her business to a full-service bakery when she purchased The Cake Place with the assistance of the Arkansas Tech University Small Business and Technology Development Center (ATU SBTDC). Prior to the expansion, Short operated a home-based bakery selling her goods exclusively at farmers’ markets.

Short began working with an ATU SBTDC consultant more than a year before she found her current location. She received market research and one-on-one consulting while searching for a building that would be ideal for her bakery. When The Cake Place came on the market, Short continued to work with her consultant throughout the purchase and loan process and her business setup. Short received a loan from Simmons Bank to finalize the transaction and make the bakery her own. She continues to work with her business consultant for marketing, bookkeeping, and other operational questions as they arise.

“The benefits of working with ASBTDC and Ronda Hawkins are more than I could begin to explain! If it hadn't for the many hours that Ronda put in helping me build a business model and financial analysis, I would not have been in the position to purchase the business when the opportunity was presented. With her help through the purchasing process, I was better prepared for all the ins and outs of running a business. I could never thank ASBTDC for all they have done for me and our business!” explained Short.

Kneading Hands Bakery specializes in cupcakes, cookies, and cakes for weddings and other special occasions. Short has given the property a new look and expanded her product line by adding scones, espresso, balloons, and other treats. Stop by and congratulate Gabrielle Short and her friendly staff at 411 West Parkway Drive in Russellville, visit them on Facebook, or give them a call at 479-968-8945.

Newton Tire Company

A familiar face at Newton Tire Company has become the new owner of this well-known Russellville business. Michael Heaton took ownership in December after working at the tire and automotive service center for over three years.

When the business came up for sale, Heaton started working with an ATU ASBTDC consultant for assistance with financial analysis, business planning, market research, and loan packaging. “The step-by-step guidance provided to navigate through the purchase process was huge. There would be times when the bank would ask for something specific, and the ASBTDC staff would have examples or even take my information and come up with the documents for me to look over. They also gave me market research specific to this type of business in the River Valley and helped me create a business plan,” said Heaton who obtained SBA-backed financing from Regions Bank for the business purchase.

“The entire experience was more than I could have ever imagined. The ASBTDC staff looked out for me during the entire purchase experience. They took the time to talk with me and know my ideas for the future of the business and then took me through the process to make it become a reality,” said Heaton.

In addition to offering the same great tires and auto repair/maintenance services, Heaton plans to expand the business’s vehicle accessory and customization services to offer a larger stock of custom wheels, lift kits, and other specialized services. Visit Newton Tire Company at 1907 East Main Street in Russellville or online at

Catfish Cove

Drew McGuire and Roland Johnson, lifelong friends, purchased Fort Smith’s Catfish Cove in April.  The restaurant, in business since 1971, is known for its all-you-can-eat seafood buffet and “Crab Leg Tuesdays and Saturdays.”  Frog legs, shrimp, chicken, catfish, ribs, and all the fixin’s have made this establishment a legend in the Fort Smith area.

McGuire worked with the ATU ASBTDC on his startup and loan packaging. “I found the ASBTDC’s market research and analysis to be most beneficial.  My business consultant, Ronda, dissected Catfish Cove’s current and historical financial statements and compared those statements against other local industry averages, to which I didn’t have access.  This was particularly advantageous, because it identified areas we could improve on from day one,” said McGuire about the assistance he received.

McGuire and Johnson decided to purchase the restaurant because it has maintained a fantastic reputation for an unprecedented forty-five years, and the pair felt it was a solid investment.  They decided to keep the existing staff to create a seamless transition and maintain the current level of excellence expected by their customers.  Johnson handles the day-to-day operations at the restaurant while McGuire handles the business operations from his satellite office in Tulsa.

McGuire worked with Regions Bank to secure an SBA loan for more than a half million dollars as a portion of the deal and advises others, “Involve your lender during the early stages of negotiations, especially if it’s your first business purchase. Your lender can help you value the business and provide valuable input prior to going under contract. You can minimize your mistakes by talking to mentors and taking advantage of programs like the ASBTDC.”

Visit Catfish Cove at 1615 Phoenix Avenue in Fort Smith or online at

Edge Salon Academy

Corey and Bridget Price of Knoxville opened a new cosmetology school in Russellville in December.  With a capacity of thirty students, Edge Salon Academy uses state-of-the-art education methods in their state-of-the-art facility. Two instructors assist the owners in leading personalized classroom and hands-on education. Students serve clients who come for manicures, pedicures, massages, haircuts, color services, waxing, and more. “We put our students first and teach them beyond passing a test. We want them to be ready to work in a salon, day one of their first job,” said Bridget Price, co-owner who has over twenty years of experience as a stylist and salon owner.

Corey Price came to the ASBTDC for assistance in gaining capital for the project. He worked with an ATU ASBTDC consultant on loan packaging and to determine the amount of financing he was able to obtain based on his financials. “I gave them my business plan, my tax returns, and a lot of other documents. We went over everything to make sure I wasn’t missing anything or there wasn’t a program for which I could apply. It was reassuring to have an expert to ask for this type of assistance,” said Mr. Price.

Edge Salon Academy owners also have plans to educate beyond their own students by bringing in top-name speakers at events for continuing education for existing stylists. 

For more information about Edge Salon Academy, call 479-219-5074 or visit them at 410 South Arkansas Avenue or on Facebook.

Real Life Apparel

Friends Jasa Babb and Suzanne Gately along with Jasa’s daughter, Leighton, have created a new clothing line that expresses southern style.  Real Life Apparel, LLC sells t-shirts and hats for men, women, and children. This rugged yet comfortable gear is available in a multitude of designs and colors. Each branded piece reflects a “Southernly” feel featuring designs like sweet tea, pickup trucks, and the American flag.

Since their startup in September, the company’s clothing has been a success at War Eagle, Dazzle Daze, Mistletoe Market, and other events across the state. Their brand debuted at the Dallas Apparel and Accessories Market in January and is now available in 20 stores. Real Life Apparel items are also available online.

Jasa and Suzanne first encountered the ASBTDC at a Website in a Day workshop to build their e-commerce site. About the workshop, Babb said, “It was such a blessing to find out that someone could walk us through building a website step by step for a reasonable price. It was very beneficial, informative, and we got the building blocks we needed for our website that very day.”

Through one-on-one consulting, Babb has received assistance with issues such as business entity questions, accounting setup, and sales tax compliance.  She has also received consulting to help put the finishing touches on her website. “The ASBTDC's assistance has been priceless for my company. We would not be where we are today without it. I had attempted to start my own business years ago and failed simply because I didn’t have the knowledge or guidance and direction I needed.  Holding my hand and walking me through this step by step, the ASBTDC has put us on the road to success,” remarked Babb.

Learn more at Real Life at

Creature Comforts Pet Boarding & Daycare

Creature Comfortsrecently opened its facility to assist pet owners who work, travel, or just want their pets to have company during the day. The full-service boarding and day care business welcomes dogs, cats, other small mammals, birds, and reptiles. Pets can visit for hours or days, depending on the needs of their owners.

Fourteen rooms are currently available with fourteen more opening soon. All rooms are climate controlled and furnished with beds, toys, and blankets. Different room sizes are available, including suites. To ensure pets get exercise, each room has a private outdoor run and animals are matched with playgroups for outdoor activities.

Noel and Betsy Young Snyder opened their pet boarding and day care business in September. The Snyders are both former Little Rock Zoo employees and bring a combined 40 years of animal care experience to their new endeavor. Because the owners live on site, pets are never left alone.

The Snyders first came to the ASBTDC in 2013 and received startup requirement information and help with their business plan. They also received market research, financing information, and loan packaging assistance. The ASBTDC continued to assist them throughout their construction phase and is currently working with them on marketing and other aspects of running their business.

“The ASBTDC has been a wonderful resource for us for both planning and operating our new business. They spent a lot of one-on-one time with us, organizing our goals and priorities so we were sure to concentrate on the most important steps. Through the ASBTDC, College of Business students even did a project on our company and found multiple funding options for our startup. We received visits from Nathan George all throughout our construction phase, and that support was invaluable to us,” said Betsy Young Snyder about the assistance received from the ASBTDC.

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The Brain Storm Agency

The Brain Storm Agency officially opened its doors on September 15, 2014. After doing freelance design work and working as a lead graphic designer at a local news outlet, Emily Young decided to go out on her own.

Young visited the Arkansas Tech office of the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center (ASBTDC) for startup assistance. She obtained help with her loan documents so that she could go forward and move into her office. Young also received free market research from the center and came away with key industry and market information pertinent to her business. To help Young find clients, the ASBTDC worked with her to define her target market, to understand business-to-business marketing techniques, and helped her generate a lead list to begin working her business.

Of her experience, Young said, "The ASBTDC team is friendly, welcoming, and there to help you in any way they can. Not to mention it's free! They helped me think through business decisions, really consider certain choices, and loaded me up with tons of reading material that I couldn't have done without. They are a godsend."

The Brain Storm Agency is located in Russellville at 103 North Fargo Avenue. Visit them at:

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George Termite and Pest Control

Serving more than 8,400 clients and growing, George Termite & Pest Control has outgrown its current location on State Highway 22 West in Dardanelle.

Dusty George wanted to know his best option for funding his expansion, but he didn't have time to do the research himself. He joined in on a money and banking student project. Students investigated four loan options, prepared a report, and presented their findings to George. "The students did the work and showed me that I could afford to make the expansion happen. I went to the bank with the report that the students provided and did exactly what the plan recommended" said George.

George obtained a loan for $117,000. He is constructing a brand new building across the highway from his existing location which is scheduled to open in July 2014.

Visit them in their new location at 1966 State Highway 22 West in Dardanelle or on the web at

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Kitchen Essentials

Arkansas River Valley food enthusiasts can spend more time cooking and less time driving now that a local option for gourmet kitchen supplies is available. Kitchen Essentials owner, Becki Bryson, said she made the decision to open the store when she realized there was need in the community.

Bryson started doing research on her idea. While looking at the SBA website, she discovered an ASBTDC office right here in Russellville. "Without their help with market research, advice, and encouragement, we would not have been able to put everything together for our business plan. The help we received really made me realize my dream was possible," Bryson said about her experience with the ASBTDC.

Kitchen Essentials offerings include, "everything you need for a kitchen," according to Bryson. In addition to kitchenware and small appliances that can't be found elsewhere in the River Valley, the store has food and gadgets. Food items include a variety of dip mixes, sauces, fresh-roasted coffee beans, and more. They also have the River Valley's first olive oil station which allows customers to save money on high-quality olive oil by reusing their bottles.

Kitchen Essentials is located in the Russellville City Mall at 407 N. Arkansas Avenue. Visit them at

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Dusty Walker

Dusty WalkerDusty Walker has always enjoyed working on a farm, and owning his own farm has been a dream come true for him. "I knew that obtaining financing for these new expensive houses would be tough, so I contacted Nathan George of the ATU ASBTDC. Not only did I know that Nathan had over two decades of banking experience, but that he also had over 30 years' experience running a large poultry operation. Nathan was knowledgeable in our discussions of new equipment requirements, chicken house placement on the farm, and income returns that each size house would bring. He helped me with details like cash flow forecasting and other information for my loan refinancing which allowed me to build these two new houses."

Walker obtained a loan for $840,000 for the construction of two chicken houses and the refinancing of his current farm. Walker recently completed his first batch of chickens with the new houses. His farm's performance was near the top of the charts which increased his earning for that batch. He was very excited about how well his new equipment and computers performed and has plans to add additional chicken houses in the future. He said he would definitely continue to work with the ATU ASBTDC to help him reach his business goals.

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United Welding Institute (UWI)

United Welding Institute

The first private welding school in the state recently opened in Pottsville. United Welding Institute (UWI) is licensed by the Arkansas State Board of Private Career Education. Owner and instructor, Jonathan Humphrey, started his school to meet the need for qualified welders in different industries. While working in the oil fields, Humphrey observed the difficulty employers had in finding newly-trained skilled welders. United Welding Institute uses a hands-on approach to training students in TIG, MIG, and arc welding and prepares them for state certification and employer testing as qualified welders.

Humphrey has worked with the ASBTDC since 2012 to bring his dream to fruition and said, "The ASBTDC helped me by showing me different ways to market my school. They also helped me find the right agency to obtain my license in private career education which was critical to getting started." Humphrey's office staff recently attended an ASBTDC seminar and rated it as overall "excellent." 

The school is located at Exit 88, right off of Interstate 40 on Mountain Base Road. Humphrey invites area companies to tour his facility and discuss their specific welding needs with him. Students interested in a career in welding should contact the school at (479) 264-2495 or gain more information by visiting their website at United Welding Institute.

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Cyclone Car Wash

Cyclone Car WashCyclone Car Wash owners, Matthew Wilkins and Bob Lorimer, wanted to provide the latest technology for their customers to get a clean vehicle using an environmentally friendly process. To fulfill this goal, the partners purchased an existing car wash on the west side of Russellville and have turned it into the most modern car wash in Russellville.
The ASBTDC assisted the clients with their loan package and helped them in determining viable financing options to purchase and renovate their car wash. "We really appreciate the assistance the ASBTDC gave us during the planning process of our business. The information and data they helped us obtain was a very important part of the development process," said Wilkins.
The owners invite you to visit their car wash and experience the convenience and quality they offer. Cyclone Car Wash is located at 2614 West Main Street in Russellville.

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Joshua's Fine Jewelry

Joshua's Fine JewelryJoshua's Fine Jewelry brings three-dimensional technology to the ancient art of jewelry making using an innovative, new custom design system. The store recently remodeled its sales floor and added the 3D customization system in an effort to attract and meet the needs of more customers. 

"Our goal is to be a cross-generational retail business, so we requested market research from Arkansas Tech's ASBTDC to find out what consumers want," said store owner Chris George. "The information we were given gave us insight into what people of all ages in our area want. The market research also included industry analysis and retail floor plans which helped us decide on the right layout for our store. Now that we have the technology and the information we need, we are taking customizing to another level. Our customers are instrumental in designing their purchases, and they can see their piece develop right before their eyes. It is fascinating to watch their faces when they see that digital render."

This innovative new custom jewelry design system is only available at select jewelry stores across the country. Stop in at Joshua's for a free, no-obligation demonstration at 310 W. Main in Russellville or go Joshua's Fine Jewelry.

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Healthy U

Healthy U

Cathy George is on a mission to help people get healthy. Her passion is teaching people to make their lives more healthful. "Going on a diet is not a solution, so we teach people skills for healthy living that leads to real, permanent changes. Eating right is just a piece of the puzzle. We work with the whole person through counseling, nutrition and fitness to make these changes something each person can live with" said George.

After opening her new wellness center, Cathy George came to the ASBTDC for assistance in marketing including improving her web presence. "When you are in business on your own, it's difficult to know the steps to take to get your name out there. I knew I needed a website but didn't know where to start." George attended an ASBTDC seminar entitled, "Small Business Website Planning and Marketing" in October and had her professional-looking website up and running shortly thereafter. "I never thought I could do this myself, but after the class I investigated the different web services discussed during the seminar and chose one that fit my needs. It was helpful to know how to organize the site and plan it out beforehand so once I got started I had a vision of what it should be. The website I built represents my business; not someone else's idea of Healthy U" added George. "The help that the ASBTDC gave me helped me improve my online presence so people who want to improve their lives can find me." Healthy U is accepting new clients and is located at 911 West B Street in Russellville and online at Healthy U.

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Rendezvous Formal Wear

Rendezvous Formal

Michelle Litterst is the new owner of Rendezvous Formal Wear & Party Planning in Russellville. The ASBTDC assisted Michelle with financial planning, market research, and other business assistance throughout the process of purchasing this existing business and making it her own.

Michelle says, "The ASBTDC at Arkansas Tech not only provided me and my husband with support for our new business, but they also built a trusting friendship with us. The ASBTDC always stops by to check up on things and provides us with additional information that might benefit our business. The Tech team goes above and beyond to make sure I have all the resources and information that will make my formal wear shop succeed. This whole experience has been a blessing to me and my husband."

The business is located at 208 West Main Street, Russellville and online at Rendezvous Formal Wear.

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