Women’s History Month:
NEA women-led businesses continue to grow and contribute to the region
A variety of businesses are owned, started and/or led by women providing much needed regional products and services.
By Avery Jones
Delta Digital News-Service
April 3, 2023
JONESBORO – March was Women’s History Month. It’s a recognition of women’s contributions to culture, history, and society. The annual celebration began in 1987. It first started as Women’s Day on Feb. 28, 1909.
In northeast Arkansas, many women serve in leadership positions and have started their own business. In Jonesboro, several small, independent businesses are owned and operated by women. They range from medical practices to art schools.
One such business is Hope Found of Northeast Arkansas, a nonprofit organization focused on raising awareness to fight against sex trafficking. It officially became a nonprofit in 2019. Megan Brown co-founded it with Audra King, Mary Sellers, and Miranda Ballard.
Brown has been involved with anti-trafficking since 2009. She was living in Nashville and saw a documentary about trafficking, then felt called to help. She first worked with local organizations as an intern or volunteer.
Brown is originally from Jonesboro and decided to move back in 2011. Back then, there was only one anti-trafficking organization in the state, PATH (Partners Against Trafficking Humans) in Little Rock. She volunteered with them until 2015 and became a stay-at-home mom until 2018.
In 2018, Brown and the other co-founders first came together to discuss opening their organization. Brown and King had worked together before at PATH. Brown was always interested in starting her own nonprofit, but after three big trafficking cases around northeast Arkansas came to light, she became inspired to pursue it for the first time.
“We just really recognized there’s a need for an organization to serve these victims and also educate the community,” Brown said.
“We just really recognized there’s a need for an organization to serve these victims and also educate the community,” Brown said.– Megan Brown
They struggled to find time to dedicate to the project because Brown was a stay-at-home mom, and the other co-founders had their own jobs and projects to deal with. However, because it was her dream, Brown continued pursuing it.
“When you’re walking in God’s calling, you’re going to constantly have the devil try to knock you down or try to create challenges or barriers,” Brown said. “Just kind of navigating that through it all is difficult as well.”
Brown graduated from Arkansas State University Jonesboro with a bachelor’s degree and was a licensed social worker. When she was living in Nashville, she worked at a restaurant and became a bartender as well as a corporate trainer and opened restaurants in New England.
Her best friend at the time ran a nonprofit in northwest Arkansas, and Brown asked her if she would’ve worked with a nonprofit consultant if she could do everything over again. The friend confirmed this, and Brown decided to pursue this path.
When she was starting to think about opening a nonprofit, Brown worked with a local company called KHARIS Group Consulting. She learned from a consultant named Shunquetta Cunningham about how to manage a nonprofit.
Today, Hope Found NEA has two employees, one of them being Brown. They give sex trafficking awareness presentations for professionals, and they have a curriculum for youth. The curriculum teaches the red flags to look for in someone who might have been trafficked, how to avoid being trafficked, and how to identify positive influences in one’s life. They also set up booths at various events.
Tanya Eddy, 53, owns and runs Jonesboro Art School, a small, independent school for children. She opened the school in 2009. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, she used to teach in-person classes for children, but now she teaches exclusively online.
She has been teaching for 20 years. She used to teach private lessons with the Foundation of Arts and decided at 40 years old that she wanted to open her own school.
She’s originally from Pocahontas and went to school at Arkansas State University. She started out pre-med, but decided later that she wanted to be a teacher. She got her teaching degree with a major in biology and a minor in art.
While in college, she worked at a bank for 10 years and had become a supervisor by the time she graduated. She left banking 25 years ago.
Within the first year of her art school opening, her class grew from 6 students to 50 students. About 3 years ago, they went completely online.
Eddy enjoys teaching online because she gets to teach students who live in other states and who have moved away. She also works with her daughter, Maya Eddy, 24, who teaches elementary art and creative writing at their school.
Eddy also does digital art and has a YouTube channel where she records demonstrations. Online lessons and digital art work much better for her than traditional art due to her arthritis.
“I love working with the kids,” Eddy said. “I love those moments when they’re learning to do something, and they get it. You can tell that they realize they understand how to do it.”
“I love working with the kids…I love those moments when they’re learning to do something, and they get it. You can tell that they realize they understand how to do it.”– Tanya Eddy
Premiere Family Practice is a small clinic run by Carolyn Coleman, 49, and Elly Armah, 41, nurse practitioners. Armah has been practicing for over 10 years, and Coleman has been practicing for over 20 years.
Coleman is originally from Marked Tree while Armah is originally from Ghana. Armah lived there until she was 2, then moved with her family to Britain, then to the U.S. where she graduated high school. She’s been in Jonesboro since 1996.
Both attended Arkansas State University Jonesboro. Coleman earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing from ASU, then her master’s in nursing from University of Memphis. Armah earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing from ASU.
They both currently work as trauma hospitalist nurse practitioners as well as running their clinic. They first opened their clinic in April 2021. They wanted to have more autonomy and give back to the Jonesboro community.
“I enjoy building up those relationships with my patients,” Armah said. “We pride ourselves on allowing our patients to have access to us. Most physicians don’t give their patients access, and our patients can call the clinic and speak to us, they can call our cellphones and speak to us, so we pride ourselves on giving that personal touch when it comes to their care.”
Foundation – A Wellness Practice is a therapy center owned by Vicki White, 60, and Lauren Hannah, 37. They’re a mother and daughter duo who have been running their business for 5 years. They both worked previously as therapists in nonprofit community mental health centers.
White is originally from Missouri, and Hannah is from Massachusetts. They’re both married, and Hannah currently has four children. When not at school, they stay upstairs in the Foundation building. Hannah’s husband also works for Foundation.
White is a licensed social worker with a bachelor’s degree from University of Tennessee and a master’s in social work from University of Missouri. Hannah is also a licensed social worker with a bachelor’s from Arkansas State University Jonesboro and a doctorate in social work from University of Tennessee.
They decided to open their business because they wanted to offer more specialized care to patients. Their focus is on holistic treatments that prioritize therapy and other natural methods over medication, although they do still offer medication.
They also recently bought the building across the street from theirs in order to open another business, associated with their therapy center, that will offer several wellness treatments: a wellness spa, cryotherapy, halotherapy, IV therapy, a sensory deprivation tank, proactive health treatments, a wellness boutique, and more.
Foundation currently has five full-time therapists and three part-time therapists, as well as a psychiatric nurse practitioner that handles medication. Each therapist has their own specialty. White specializes in couples therapy, while Hannah specializes in anxiety and women.
When asked what she likes about owning their own business, White said, “One thing I really like about it is we have the flexibility to meet people’s needs. If someone we’ve been working with for a while loses their insurance, we can say, Hey, we’ll still see you, we’ll figure it out together. Whereas if you’re working in a bigger business, sometimes you can’t make those types of decisions for yourself.”
Women in northeast Arkansas continue to own, open and operate many businesses which contribute significantly to their communities. The presence of female business ownership and leadership continues to grow, revealing the importance of their existence to society.
Avery Jones is a sophomore in the Department of English and Philosophy at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro. She can be reached at email@example.com
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