Photo Release -- Small Business Grant Assists Arkadelphia Couple With Health Club Purchase

ARKADELPHIA, Ark., June 27, 2014 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Julie Kelly has been in the fitness industry for more than 30 years. But never once did she aspire to own her own fitness center.

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It wasn't until the owners of the fitness facility where she taught announced they were selling the business that owning her own fitness center didn't seem like such a bad idea.

"It fell into my lap," Mrs. Kelly said. "I wasn't looking to buy the gym at all. I've known the owners for a very long time and didn't know they were selling the business. When they approached me about buying the business it made sense. I'd been working there as a trainer and group fitness instructor, and if they were selling it I really didn't want a new owner coming in and telling me what to do."

When Mrs. Kelly and her husband, Michael, decided to purchase the business they worked with Lori Ross, executive vice president and commercial lender at Bank of the Ozarks, to get financing. It was during that process that Ms. Ross told the Kellys about a program offered by the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas (FHLB Dallas) that could assist them with the costs.

The Kellys received a loan from Bank of the Ozarks, which was funded by an advance from FHLB Dallas' Economic Development Program (EDP). The kicker is that the couple also received an accompanying $18,750 EDPPlus grant from FHLB Dallas.

EDPPlus grants, which are offered through FHLB Dallas members like Bank of the Ozarks, are noncompetitive and available on a first-come, first-served basis to promote and enhance small business development and job creation. In 2014, FHLB Dallas made available $1 million in EDPPlus grants through members.

"When we talked with Julie and Mike about purchasing the health club and their passion for fitness, we knew they were an excellent fit for this program," said Ms. Ross. "Bank of the Ozarks is committed to helping small business owners and the EDPPlus grant is an excellent resource to aid in that endeavor. It's a win-win for us and our customer.

As part of the program, the Kellys worked with Leah Hasley at Henderson State University's Small Business and Technology Development Center to develop their business plan. Ms. Ross says the center has been instrumental in helping several small business owners secure additional funding.

"We are very fortunate to have the assistance of Leah Hasley and Henderson State University's Small Business and Technology Development Center," Ms. Ross said. "They are great partners."

The center has been educating borrowers and lenders about the EDP and EDPPlus programs for five years.

"We want our clients to have every leg up that they can," said Ms. Hasley, director of the center. "If they can get $25,000, or whatever the grant turns out to be, for working capital, that money can really help them be successful. There are not a lot of grants out there for small, for-profit companies. So we let the bankers know this program is available and how it can help them help their customers."

In November 2013, the Kellys took ownership of Arkadelphia Health Club, located at 3030 Pine Street, in Arkadelphia, Arkansas.

"If Lori hadn't mentioned the grant I would never have known it existed," Mrs. Kelly said. "It was a huge, huge help for us. I was able to use the money immediately for improvements to the club. This club opened in 2001, and it has had the exact same everything since 2001. It worked, but it was nice to come in and spruce it up, and put some new things into the business."

Among the enhancements was an automated check-in system, a smoothie bar, child care center, and lounge area. Mrs. Kelly also added new upright bikes and expanded the group fitness schedule.

Being a business owner is a lot easier than Mrs. Kelly's former gig. Up until the time she bought the fitness center, Mrs. Kelly was a Zumba Education Specialist (ZES) for Zumba® Fitness, and she spent Thursday through Sunday away from her family conducting trainings for Zumba instructors. Mrs. Kelly says running the fitness center has given her more time with her family – she and her husband have 12 children – and allows her to continue her passion for fitness instruction.

Despite spending 10 years as a full-time ZES traveling the world and teaching at conventions with upwards of 8,000 participants, Mrs. Kelly said she doesn't miss it, and is thankful for this new opportunity.

"Zumba is crazy and busy. I was gone quite a bit, so I was ready to reconnect with my family and community," she said. "It was a huge sacrifice. I missed a lot of soccer games. I missed a lot of activities because of that. People in the Zumba world only saw me on weekends. But during the week I was busy on my laptop answering emails and finding new hosts for the training sessions, booking venues. I'd leave on Thursday, come back on Monday to unpack, do laundry, feed the kids, hug them then say goodbye again."

But had it not been for the opportunity to own her own business, Mrs. Kelly would likely still be living that lifestyle.

"God gave me another opportunity to be in the fitness industry aside from just teaching," Mrs. Kelly said. "I couldn't have found a better way to obtain a gym than this. God just said, 'Here you go.'"

Since Mrs. Kelly took ownership of the club the reaction from gym-goers has been positive.

"It's been awesome," she said. "We had a really good response to all of the changes I made in the club from putting in the smoothie bar to making all the changes to the group fitness schedule. A lot of people at first are resistant to change. Because I wasn't a ZES anymore I could teach more classes and better serve their needs. Overall, everyone has had a great reaction to it."

About Bank of the Ozarks

Bank of the Ozarks, Inc. is a bank holding company with $5.03 billion in total assets as of March 31, 2014 and trades on the NASDAQ Global Select Market under the symbol "OZRK." The Company owns a state-chartered subsidiary bank that conducts banking operations through 165 offices in Arkansas, Texas, Georgia, North Carolina, Florida, Alabama, South Carolina, New York and California. The Company may be contacted at (501) 978-2265 or P. O. Box 8811, Little Rock, Arkansas 72231-8811. The Company's website is:

About the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas

The Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas is one of 12 district banks in the FHLBank System created by Congress in 1932. FHLB Dallas, with total assets of $30.6 billion as of March 31, 2014, is a member-owned cooperative that supports housing and community development by providing competitively priced loans and other credit products to approximately 900 members and associated institutions in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Texas. For more information, visit the FHLB Dallas website at

The photos are also available via AP PhotoExpress.

Julie Kelly Smoothie Julie Kelly

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