Courtesy of the Harding Bison.
Six local Searcy businesses were chosen three years ago to be featured in season four of the “Small Business Revolution,” sharing a $500,000 prize that went toward a makeover. Since then, three of those businesses have closed while the other three continue to seek ways to grow.
The three businesses that closed were Savor + Sip, Arganic Woodwork and Zion Climbing & Event Center. Zion was the last to close as its business decreased during the COVID-19 pandemic and its building was condemned, being declared a nuisance property by the city last year.
Nooma Yoga Studio, Whilma’s Filipino Restaurant and El Mercado are the businesses that are still operating today. Casey Cox, owner of Nooma, a local heated yoga and fitness studio, said Nooma has progressed in the last few years, now having four studios. They are all located in Searcy, Little Rock and Rogers, Arkansas. The fourth studio is online.
Nooma also has its own app and is available on platforms such as Hulu, Amazon Fire, Amazon Prime and Google Play. Nooma is launching a new website soon, as well, looking to improve the experience for online Nooma members. Nooma currently has around 75 leaders within its organization.
Cox said her future goals include obtaining more studios that are corporately owned along with franchises. She said she enjoys seeing her dream come true.
“For me, it’s watching something that was my dream, something that I needed personally,” Cox said. “And I really, really threw my own story in the things that I needed in life, both mentally and physically, that I dreamed of this idea. And being able to watch it every day, bless others and help others the way that it did me, it’s hard to call it a job.”
Whilma’s Filipino Restaurant has also experienced growth in its business since 2019. Manager Kristina Frogoso, the daughter of restaurant owner Whilma Frogoso, helps run the restaurant with her mother and her fiance Jared Abelson, who serves as the assistant manager. Frogoso said other family members help out occasionally as well.
The restaurant offers a traditional Filipino menu, handmade and cooked to order. Frogoso and Abelson said the “Small Business Revolution” remodeled their business physically and built their website, helping them obtain more customers and business.
They also purchased a new building that is two doors down from their current rented location on East Race Avenue. They are planning to move to the new location later this year. Their current location houses 18-20 inside diners. Abelson said the new location will increase the occupancy limit to around 49-50.
“I like serving the community of Searcy,” Frogoso said. “I like when locals are happy about eating our food and dining in, and they just leave happy and want to come back. They just really enjoy the experience. I also like working with my family. That’s really important to me.”
El Mercado owner Catrina Mendoza said the El Mercado grocery store has come a long way since its debut in 2017. She said the business is managed by her, her husband and brother-in-law. The grocery store specializes in imported food items mostly from Latin America.
Mendoza said she and her husband began in 2017 with selling mainly snacks and drinks with no experience in business but continued to grow. The “Small Business Revolution” later came and helped remodel their store. They also gained an online presence. Mendoza said the show played a big role in helping them begin a bakery as well. She said a Mexican baker from Little Rock was also willing to show them how to manage a bakery.
“For us, the Revolution was a turning point and just a big push forward for us,” Mendoza said.