HELENA-WEST HELENA, ARK. – Southern Bancorp today announced that Helena’s new boutique clothing store, Bella, has been named runner-up in the Helena Start-Up Challenge business plan competition. Currently operating out of the gift store, Handworks, located on historic Cherry Street, Bella provides area women with a unique shopping experience designed to draw customers not just from Phillips County but across the region. Bella’s owners plan to use the $15,000 in matching funds to expand their clothing line.

“Bella was started out of a desire to provide area women with stylish, appealing, and affordable clothing, but that wasn’t the only reason,” said Jordan Yancey, Bella co-owner. “We also wanted to give back to the Delta community, and starting a business downtown that fills the retail clothing gap is one of the best ways we could think of to do that.”

The Helena Start-Up Challenge awards winning entrepreneurs with seed capital to turn their business concepts into start-ups. In late 2013, local manufacturer ShelWes Tools won the competition with their business plan for a contoured auto-sander, designed to streamline auto body work. ShelWes Tools owner, Shelly Haynes, has since used her $25,000 in winnings to secure her patent and improve her company’s manufacturing productivity.

“The Challenge is part of a comprehensive community development project led by Southern Bancorp to create economic opportunity in Helena and Phillips County,” said Dustin Choate, Southern Bancorp Community Development Officer. “With financial support from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), we’re working to help small businesses get off the ground, incentivize new job creation, and provide the spark needed to jumpstart redevelopment in the historic downtown corridor.”

The latest round of the Challenge kicks off this summer with another winner and runner-up expected by the fall. Applications will be accepted through September 30. Applicants are not required to be residents of Helena to participate; however, winning entrepreneurs will agree to start businesses in Helena-West Helena. The application process helps entrepreneurs refine their business concepts and create high quality plans to guide their launch and growth.

Applications and additional information about the Challenge are available by calling Dustin Choate at 870-816-1117 or dustin.choate@southernpartners.org.

About Bella
Bella’s simply stated style is on display at 229 Cherry Street in Helena, Arkansas. You can find them on the web at fb.com/shopbellahelena. Co-owners Jordan Yancey, Cathy Campbell, and Dorry Lea Davis invite you to stop by for a personalized shopping experience in Helena’s historic downtown.

About Southern Bancorp
Southern Bancorp is one of America’s largest rural development banks and a U.S. Treasury certified Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) with more than $1.1 billion in assets, serving over 80,000 customers at 39 branches in both Arkansas and Mississippi. Southern invests in people and businesses in rural communities; empowers them to improve their lives; and helps them transform their communities. On the web at banksouthern.com & southernpartners.org

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For More Information:
Dustin Choate
Community Development Officer
Southern Bancorp
Ph: 870-816-1117
Dustin.Choate@SouthernPartners.org