By Shelby Jo Fenter
For those who have never heard of Helena, it is a small town in Arkansas located on the Mississippi River. It is no secret that there are many areas of the Delta, including Helena that are in serious need of economic growth. It requires an enormous amount of heart and an even greater amount of hard work to build a startup that is successful.
Thrive, a non-profit start-up founded by Will Staley and Terrance Clark, is known for providing low-priced strategic planning and marketing assistance to local small businesses and non-profits. Their services include brand consulting, social media coaching, print design, web design and much more. Formal development of Thrive began in 2011.
Thrive relies on donations to exist. They accept monetary donations, office supplies, computers and any other relevant equipment. In addition, Thrive has fundraising events and sponsors such as Allstate, Hays Grocery, UPrinting, Hargraves Insurance, HM Lumber, Hickory Hill pharmacy, West Helena Flowers and Gifts and Wal-Mart.
According to their website:
VISION: “Rural America will be a global model for vibrant, prosperous, and thriving communities.”
MISSION: “Thrive designs opportunity in impoverished regions of rural America in an effort to increase economic mobility and decrease rural brain drain.”
I admire this start up because of their desire to make a difference. Thrive describes Helena as “culturally and historically rich, but economically poor.”
One event they hold continuously is called “Helena Second Saturdays.” In 2011, Thrive united with the Phillips County Chamber of Commerce, Main Street Helena, the Delta Cultural Center and the Arkansas Delta Arts Partnership to create Helena Second Saturday. The long-term goal for Helena Second Saturday is revitalizing historic downtown Helena. This free community is a monthly fair located in downtown Helena. The event provides an atmosphere for local artists, musicians, entrepreneurs and citizens to come together and attract visitors. You can learn more about Helena Second Saturdays here.
Thrive revealed its Impact program in 2013, which is “a rural think-tank. Impact projects will utilize external internship and fellowship programs, and invite local professionals and visiting experts to take part in rural development efforts under the 501c3 status of Thrive.”
Thrive believes that baby steps are the key to helping small communities reach their maximum potential.
In an article written by Casey Penn in the latest magazine issue of Talk Business Arkansas, he wrote, “While many Delta communities are struggling to survive, Will Staley and Terrance Clark are working to make sure at least one of them thrives. He elaborates, “After just one year of passing muster, Thrive had already caught the attention of city managers who approached Staley and Clark about running a small business incubator, the Helena Entrepreneur Center (HEC).”
“We make money from pretty much any rock we can pull money out from under,” said Clark, who is quick to defend their methods in a county with a history of abuse of non-profit funds. “We’re not seeking grant money to pay our salaries, and we know that for this to exist [long-term], we have to work as hard as we can to make sure it’s sustainable.”
Will Staley and Terrance Clark of Thrive received the Pat Audirsch Community Advancement Award.
The Community Advancement Award is presented annually to an individual or organization that has had an amazing impact on their community involving community development in Helena.
“During the past five years, Thrive’s efforts has created programs and community-wide initiatives designed to create jobs and improve the quality of life in Phillips County. The Education Innovation Award is given to an educational/training entity that develops innovative approaches to training and education in the Crossroads region,” says Randy Hogan of The Helena Arkansas Daily Word.