The Whispers Blog

Arkansas' breaking business news blog, with news and commentary from the Arkansas Business staff.
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CEO: Wal-Mart Taught Me How To Be A Leader, Manager

The co-founder and CEO of SmartStar, a mobile application that teaches children life skills, says everything she knows about herself as a leader and manager was learned during a summer internship at Wal-Mart. 

Josilyn Tan spent last summer working as a field management intern at one of the Bentonville retailer's stores in Sahuarita, Arizona. Tan recently shared what she learned from that summer in a post on LinkedIn that has now been picked up by Quartz.

The internship did not start as well as expected. Tan said it was the most difficult work experience she had encountered. 

Tan also mentioned the guidance she received from the Arizona Wal-Mart's store manager, which she called "the most seasoned store manager in the market" with 7-8 years of experience.

"Given all the bad press Wal-Mart gets about its workers, let me tell you why they are still the world's largest retailer: it is because they are still doing something right," Tan said in her post.

In the end, Tan says she found out retail was not for me, but she greatly enjoyed her time at Wal-Mart.

"Wal-Mart didn't breed another store manager, but it is still an instrumental part to my story. When I become a millionaire, I will always remember that summer with Wal-Mart, and where I was then. I will laugh, but I will also be grateful, and I will always tell the story of how Wal-Mart has shaped me into the strong person that I am today."

To read her entire blog, click here.

Video: Both Sides Claim Harassment in Wet-Dry Signature Drive

Arkansas Business' Lee Hogan writes this week about all the money behind groups on both sides of the wet-dry initiatives in Arkansas. He also posted word late yesterday about an ethics complaint filed by David Couch, the Little Rock attorney who's leading an effort to put a proposed constitutional amendment on the November ballot that would legalize alcohol sales in all Arkansas counties.

Couch's complaint alleges that a local-option ballot question committee called They Win, You Lose, which opposes Couch's efforts, had hired "blockers" to block petitioners from gathering the signatures they need to get the proposed amendment on the ballot.

They Win, You Lose is also part of another bit of back-and-forth over the wet-dry question in Faulkner County. In the video above, our news partners at THV 11 report on accusations of harassment between people involved in They Win, You Lose and the group Our Community, Our Dollars, which is also trying to get a vote on whether to make the county wet.

From THV 11's report:

"Unfortunately we've had some opposition that has really tried to harass the people who have tried and sign the petition and that's disappointing," [Natalie Ghidotti, an Our Community, Our Dollars spokeswoman, said].

On the other side of the fence there is the group They Win You Lose, which is protesting the petitions.

"Tough cookies. I'd say that's a pretty good description of them," said group spokeswoman Mary Dillard.

Feelings are running high over the wet-dry question, particularly Faulkner County. Meanwhile, the groups that want to put it for a vote have until July 7 to collect the signatures they need.

Report: Fernando Madeira Named CEO

Fernando Madeira, president and CEO of Latin America at Wal-Mart e-commerce, has been named chief executive officer of

That's according to a report from Bloomberg that also says current head of, Joel Anderson, is leaving the company June 20 to become president of Five Below Inc. (NASDAQ: FIVE).

Madeira, who has been based in Sao Paulo, has fueled a sales gain at Wal-Mart's Latin American e-commerce site by offering a broader assortment and improving fulfillment, the company said.

"We've seen Brazil grow twice as fast as the market, while increasing traffic fourfold," Neil Ashe, Wal-Mart's CEO of global e-commerce, said in the memo. "In other markets, they've leveraged sales and marketing efforts, driving triple digit growth in Argentina, Chile and Mexico."

Recently, Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT) has moved more focus to online sales and its battle with Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN). Last month, the Oakland Tribune reported the Arkansas-based retail giant was expanding its e-commerce operations in Sunnyvale, Calif., including the hiring of hundreds of tech workers.

Arkansas Business' Mark Friedman recently reported of Wal-Mart and Amazon are expanding pilot programs for same-day delivery services. The offerings from both companies range from groceries to televisions. Read Friedman's report here.

Donnie Ferneau's 'Good Food' Moving to Argenta

Donnie Ferneau's new catering and takeout venture, Good Food by Ferneau, will soon have a home in North Little Rock's downtown at the old Argenta Market, according to our sister publication Little Rock Soirée.

Our sister publication Little Rock Soirée is reporting that the newest venture of Little Rock chef Donnie Ferneau will soon have a home in North Little Rock's downtown.

Soirée reports Good Food by Ferneau, a catering and takeout business, is moving into the old Argenta Market on Main Street, which closed Feb. 8 after nearly four years and a switch in ownership. The announcement was made Monday morning on the business's Facebook page.

Dates for the move-in date were not provided.

Ferneau's new gig, currently open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Pulaski Presbyterian Church in Hillcrest, is meant to provide healthy meals for those on-the-go. The daily menu, which changes about every other day, offers a entree choices for lunch and dinner, in addition to a few salad and snack options.

Ferneau told Little Rock Soirée earlier this month that he has future plans to ship his meals across the country and have dispensaries in central Arkansas.

"One of the main reasons people fall off in eating healthy is because of time," Ferneau told Soirée. "It has to be available to them. If we're in say, North Little Rock, and the customer lives in west Little Rock, there are a lot of shiny signs in between there and here that are going to attract them."

For more on Good Food by Ferneau, check out Soirée's report here.

Barbara Graves Intimate Fashions Is Closing

Barbara Graves (file photo).

Our sister publication Little Rock Soirée is passing along word that Barbara Graves Intimate Fashions in Breckenridge Village is closing after more than 40 years in business.

Graves announced the closing and a "retirement liquidation sale" in an email to customers and on the shop's Facebook page.

"Please know that it has been an absolute joy to have served you for forty-one years," Graves said in the email. "Thanks so much for your business and our friendship during this incredible journey."

The store was closed Tuesday to prepared for the sale.

Soirée has more on the closing sale here. Graves founded the shop in 1973. It sells lingerie, swimwear, loungewear and products for women who have had mastectomies.

Outside her role as a small-business owner, Graves been a key figure in nonprofits and local politics.

She is a past president of the Little Rock Chamber of Commerce and has served on the boards of a number of organizations, including the Central Arkansas Executives Association and Centennial Bank of Little Rock. 

Graves also served on the the Little Rock Board of Directors, resigning in 2006 to run for mayor in race won by Mark Stodola. She unsuccessfully ran for Arkansas House in 2012.