Benchmarks: Creativity

Highlights from the Arkansas business community.


Stationery Shop Thrives in
Digital-Communications Era

When commerce and communication are increasingly taking place online, where does that leave a stationery shop? That’s a question AMP posed to Trisha Logan, owner of Shindig Paperie, a paper store offering everything from greeting cards and personalized stationery to — as the name implies — invitations and party decor.

Logan said being analog in a digital world isn’t a concern she has for Shindig Paperie. “Some things just shouldn’t be picked out virtually,” she said. “Paper, especially high-quality paper and invitations, are a tactile experience.”

Logan and her team consult with customers, helping them comb through the many options for paper and design to fully customize their invitations.

“We tend to be involved with important occasions in people’s lives,” Logan said. “As such, we share in those occasions and really develop a relationship with them.”

In addition, the shop has ready-to-buy cards and stylish office supplies and gifts.

Logan and a partner opened Shindig Paperie in 2012 in Fayetteville after Logan had been working as the creative lead and designer at a large paper and gift company.

“We recognized that the region desperately needed a good paper store and that the retail scene was really exploding here,” Logan said. After her partner moved, Logan took over complete ownership.

A second Shindig Paperie storefront opened in downtown Bentonville in April 2015. Both locations offer workshops and classes to complement their in-store goods, and a third location is not out of the realm of possibility. “We’re certainly investigating other markets for the future, and we’d definitely like to expand our online presence and web store,” Logan said.

Shelwes Automatic Contour SanderSanding Tool Startup
Attracts National Attention

The Shelwes Automatic Contour Sander has proven to be a game changer for body shops across America since 2013 — and the tool was invented, patented and manufactured right in Helena, Arkansas.

Shelley Haynes, owner and CEO of Shelwes Tools and Body, said the idea for the tool was born in 2010 when she was chatting with body shop owner Wesley King about how sanding was the most time-consuming part of his work. Together, they developed a mechanism that can be attached to any standard automatic sander and will conform to irregular surfaces.

“Being a science and English teacher, I approached the task as if we were entering a science fair,” Haynes said.

The path from ideation to a marketable product involved the support of the Helena Entrepreneur Center, which offered business classes and resources for startups. Haynes also won a $25,000 prize in a business-plan writing competition, which “went a long way toward helping pay for the patent and those first test materials,” she said.

Shelwes launched the Automatic Contour Sander at the 2013 Specialty Equipment Market Association trade show in Las Vegas and was named runner-up in the Best New Tool and Equipment and Best Collision Repair & Refinish Product award categories.

“Not only has our product received interest and orders from body shops,” Haynes said, “but boat and canoe companies, aircraft maintenance companies, the [Federal Aviation Administration] for use on Doppler radar maintenance, and Sherwin-Williams Automotive Finishes, [too].”

Back in Helena, Haynes does it all, handling accounting, administration, customer service and all the duties of a CEO. “Shelwes is basically a one-woman operation right now,” she said.

WOW FitnessFitness Company
Declares War on Obesity

While working as a packaging engineer at L’Oreal USA in North Little Rock, Kameelah Harris, executive director of WOW Fitness in Little Rock, started working with a personal trainer and developed a passion for fitness. She became so passionate, in fact, that she switched careers entirely to become a certified instructor and open WOW, which stands for War on Weight, in 2009.

“Even if you are at your ideal weight, you still have a heart that can benefit from an intense workout,” she said. “The name works because many in our community are overweight — it’s just a fact. Sad but true.”

Harris said it’s the level of personal attention members receive at WOW Fitness that sets her practice apart from other gyms in the area.

“Most people have no clue what to do when they enter a gym,” she said. “Once a member [of WOW], your goals become my goals. I take everyone’s fitness journey personal.”

Besides taking a personal approach to fitness, WOW is standing out from the competition through a long lineup of special programs. In addition to classes like Zumba and boot camps, WOW offers bridal packages; kids fitness classes; and Faith & Fitness, a program that encourages local church leaders to work out together and stay healthy.

Additionally, the WOW Foundation, a nonprofit arm of the company, aims to make fitness activities and education available to those in the state who need it most. “Ultimately, I would love for everyone to benefit from our WOW programs without the financial piece — the foundation makes it happen,” Harris said.

WhatIfMarketing Agency
Pushes Creative Boundaries

What If Creative is a small team of marketing creatives aiming to challenge corporate marketing norms. That’s according to Lea Taylor, owner and president of the Fort Smith firm.

After 13 years working in marketing in Dallas, Chicago and Raleigh, North Carolina, for clients such as Subaru, Quaker State and TMP Worldwide, Taylor moved back to her hometown and had the initial idea for What If.

“I identified the opportunity to craft a creative firm that was different from others in the region,” Taylor said. “The inspiration for the company name derived from the endless possibilities that can result when one pushes themselves to think differently, creatively.”

It took awhile to get the timing right, Taylor said, but in 2007, What If opened.

Visit the firm’s website, and it’s clear that What If values a sense of humor. Taylor says she owes her branding to years in corporate cultures.

“That environment wasn’t for me,” she said. “I prefer a welcoming, open and less stringent office culture. Our company’s culture is inviting, colorful and professional. Authenticity to one’s brand, personally and professionally, is our company’s passion.”

What If has just one other full-time employee — a senior graphic designer — and Taylor said having a small team allows her to handpick additional team members from all over the country.

Since opening What If, Taylor said she’s enjoyed the flexibility, freedom and rewarding nature of being her own boss — but, she acknowledged that the responsibility comes with its own set of challenges.

“As an owner, you often wear multiple hats,” she said. “That means you are responsible for operational tasks, whether they are your favorite things to do or not.”

Gallery 26Little Rock Gallery
Celebrates 20 Years

In September 2015, Gallery 26 in Little Rock celebrated its 20th anniversary with an exhibit by owner Renee Williams — a first in the gallery’s history, she said. Her art depicts unexpected scenes of the natural world inspired by magical realism.

“It’s symbolic; it’s a reminder to let nature guide your decisions,” she said.

Williams said the decision to open her own business happened after the framing gallery she worked for closed. She and a partner opened Gallery 26 and offered framing, as well as an art gallery, something Williams had wanted to do since she was a student at Hendrix College. They faced the challenges any small business faces when first starting out, but the gallery is now a staple storefront along Kavanaugh Boulevard in the Hillcrest neighborhood.

“It just takes awhile to have people find you and get going,” Williams said.

Art at Gallery 26 covers almost every inch of wall space from floor to ceiling, and Williams said she is currently showing 70-80 artists’ work, from paintings and glass to handmade jewelry and art prints.

She credits her Hillcrest location — which she moved into 10 years ago, after 10 years in what is now Next Bistro and Bar — with some of her success.

“The neighborhood is super arts-supportive; the people support anything locally made,” she said. Events like HarvestFest in Hillcrest and the Indie Arts & Music Festival, which take place right outside the gallery’s doors, also help.

Williams said she’s been able to find new talent over the years mostly by word-of-mouth.

“There’s so many good artists in Arkansas, it’s amazing,” she said. “Art in Arkansas has grown immensely. It’s a very positive growth without that much of a population increase.”

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