Five Conway community members have been recognized for their achievements in the minority business sector.
“Every business person in Conway makes an impact, and minority businesses are no different,” said Whitney Cumming, director of membership development for the chamber. “They make a significant impact in Conway, and we want to highlight them for doing that.”
The Conway Area Chamber of Commerce holds the Minority Enterprise Development or MED gala to celebrate the achievements of minority entrepreneurs and the individuals and organizations committed to advancing minority business enterprise.
The Chamber established the MED committee to foster growth and sustainability of minority businesses and as a way to recognize minority businesses and their supporters. It accomplishes this through five categories of MED awards. Community members nominated individuals or organizations for each category.
“It’s a range across the spectrum from minority individuals who have been working their entire lives to young professionals who will make an impact throughout their lives,” Cummings said.
The awards will be presented at the MED awards gala, which will take place Thursday, Sept. 12, at 6:30 p.m. in McCastlain Hall on the University of Central Arkansas campus. Darrin Williams, CEO of Southern Bancorp, will be the keynote speaker.
Tickets are sold out for the MED awards gala. The money from the ticket sales will go toward funding outreach programs for more minority business in the area, Cummings said. The following individuals will receive awards at this year’s gala:
Brent Salter Salter Properties
Brent Salter, vice president of Salter Properties, is the recipient of the Access to Capital award. This award recognizes the individual, organization or business that has demonstrated outstanding leadership in the financial community by providing working or investment capital to minority businesses.
Salter graduated with a degree in business finance from the University of Tulsa. After working in Los Angeles as a financial advisor for a few years, he returned to his hometown of Conway. “I knew I wanted to come back home to start a family and develop the city and state where my heart resides,” he said.
Salter Properties is a leader in residential real estate and also manages a number of commercial real estate properties. Brent Salter works closely with his father, Gene, and brother, Nathan, who own and operate Salter Construction, Inc. He credits his father and grandfather with his ability to bring his ideas for property development to life. “When I see land or an older building that needs a little TLC, my wheels get to turning,” he said. “At that point, nothing can stop me from making it into something its city can be proud of and grow from.”
Kristy Carter University of Central Arkansas
Kristy Carter is the recipient of the Advocate for Opportunity award. Carter is the executive director for the Division of Outreach and Community Engagement at the University of Central Arkansas. The Advocate for Opportunity award recognizes the individual, organization or business that has demonstrated significant accomplishments in educating and advocating for minority business enterprise.
Carter began her career in higher education in 2006 as a program coordinator for Outreach. The division connects the campus with the community through a variety of community engagement services offered through UCA. In addition to her role as executive director, Carter mentors multicultural students at UCA and has served on the staff senate.
Although she is currently a doctoral student in UCA’s Ph.D. in leadership program, Carter makes time to volunteer for a number of associations. She is an executive board member for the Arkansas Distance Learning Association and president of the Arkansas Council for Women in Higher Education. Carter is state coordinator for the Women in Higher Education’s national office, a member of the Arkansas Community Development Society, and a member of Central Baptist College’s Business Advisory Council. She also volunteers her time and talents to assist minority entrepreneurs and minority-owned nonprofits and small businesses with branding and marketing initiatives.
Phillip Fletcher The City of Hope Outreach
The City of Hope Outreach, owned by Phillip Fletcher, is the Outstanding Minority Business of the Year. This award recognizes the business whose practices have had a significant impact on the community.
Fletcher is a native of Louisville, Ky., and has lived in Conway since April 2007. That same year, he founded the Church at Oakwood and eventually established two additional churches – Church at Oakwood-South and Brookside Family Church. In 2009, Fletcher and his wife, Nicolle, co-founded The City of Hope Outreach. The mission of CoHO is to promote, through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, “holistic community renewal in under-resourced areas.” Its philosophy is simple: people should care for people. Fletcher seeks to address issues of leadership, the local church and social engagement through the lens of the Gospel.
Prior to moving to Arkansas, Fletcher served in the U.S. Army for seven years. During his tenure in the Army, he moved through the enlisted ranks and finished his time at the rank of Captain. His awards included the Army Achievement Medal, Army Commendation Medal and Meritorious Service Medal. Fletcher is currently pursuing a doctorate in organizational leadership from Regent University.
Johnny Hò Umami Sushi Lounge and Grill Fusion
Johnny Hò, owner of Umami Sushi Lounge and Grill Fusion, is the recipient of the Outstanding Young Minority Professional award. The award recognizes an individual between the ages of 21-39 who has committed himself or herself to business and community service.
Hò opened his first Umami Japanese restaurant in Russellville one block away from Arkansas Tech University’s football field. The restaurant was an instant favorite and outgrew its location within 10 months of opening. He then opened a second, larger location in Russellville near Wal-Mart. The success of both restaurants led Hò to expand to Conway. His third Umami restaurant opened at 500 Amity Road on April 30.
Hò was born in Taiwan and moved to the U.S. when he was 8 years old. His mother and aunt owned Chinese restaurants, so he had always been around the restaurant business. He worked as a head chef in Little Rock for many years before opening his first restaurant. “I wanted to put my own twist on Japanese cuisine and offer it to the world,” Hò said. “I plan to open many more restaurants, and can’t wait to see what the future holds for me and my family.”
Thelma Moton Choosing to Excel
Thelma Moton, founder and executive director of Choosing to Excel, is the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award. This award is presented to the individual who has played an integral role in the creative, technical or professional progress of minority business development over the course of his or her life.
Fueled by her desire to see an increase in proficiency rates among African-American youth and a decrease in teen pregnancies, Moton established what would become one of the largest mentorship and healthy-choice organizations in Arkansas. Excel is a multifaceted and multi-tiered organization that develops the character and competence of high-risk youth through safe, structured, in-school and community-based mentoring relationships. When the organization began, it had no budget and a staff of five. “All we had was a heart to make a difference,” Moton said. Twenty years later, Excel’s 18 full-time and part-time staff members and 30-40 volunteers serve more than 6,500 youth annually.
A native of Faulkner County, Moton graduated from Guy-Perkins High School and attended Philander Smith College and UCA. She moved to California in 1970 where she met and married her husband, Daniel. The couple returned to Arkansas in 1987. They have been married for 40 years and have 11 children.
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