Mat Faulkner (’02) is the founder and chief idea officer of Think Idea Studio, a full-service marketing agency based in Searcy. Mat met his wife, Shelley Lawson, at Harding, and they have three sons. Think Idea Studio began with Faulkner working as a freelance graphic designer during school, expanded to a home-based agency offering graphic design, web design and photography, and eventually grew into the award-winning team and agency it is today.
In 2014, the Faulkners purchased Robbins-Sanford Mercantile in Searcy’s Main Street district. The downstairs space continued operations as an event center, while the upstairs was renovated in 2016 to become home to Think Idea Studio and other loft tenant office spaces. Think had been providing pro bono design services to Main Street Searcy for several years, but their presence on the square catapulted Faulkner’s involvement with downtown Searcy. Always searching for ways to collaborate with other community organizations, Faulkner’s efforts have led to a monthly art and music festival, Beats & Eats, and the Think ART Project, one of many town revitalization and beautification initiatives.
“At Think, our mantra is ‘Small Agency. Big Impact.’ Our mission is encapsulated within the concise second half of our mantra. We strive to make a ‘Big Impact’ for our families, our clients and our community. Ever since we started this company, we have used whatever talents and resources we had available to try and help others.”
Faulkner’s knack for innovative problem solving and community mindset have been especially notable this past year, first as he led the charge for Searcy winning the Small Business Revolution hit Hulu series and now as he searches for ways to partner with and support local businesses through the COVID-19 pandemic. When the virus began making its presence known in the U.S., Faulkner was quick to jump into action.
“We took the early warnings seriously and pivoted our agency to a work-at-home status beginning the week of March 15. We have attempted to act as proactively as possible, both in taking safety measures for our team as well as clients, and also by applying for appropriate relief programs.”
In the month of March alone, Think saw a 40% decrease in revenue with further reductions expected as the effects of the virus on businesses and the economy persist. Faulkner took note of a piece of advice from an online webinar on how to survive the pandemic — stay true to your company’s mission and values during times of crisis.
“As a marketing agency, we are equipped to develop and deploy messaging and communication in a creative, swift and engaging manner. With regard to the COVID-19 crisis, our first step was to identify segments of the community who were being immediately adversely impacted and create and implement ways to encourage the community to support each other.”
In late March and early April, Faulkner and the Think team organized a COVID-19 press conference at City Hall; organized and executed a community Park ‘n’ Pray event where thousands came to Unity Health to encourage doctors and nurses; partnered with Burrito Day and facilitated over 30 small business owners’ families receiving free fresh groceries; helped (to date) 33 small businesses with an influx of revenue through the “Cash Mob” program by encouraging the community to support certain businesses all at one time; marketed a T-shirt fundraiser aiding a few dozen small businesses through shirt sales; and launched a “Big Bloomin’ Weekend” campaign to beautify the community and help bring revenue to small businesses that sell landscaping, paint and supplies.
In addition, Think has worked to provide free digital content to help businesses adapt to the changing economic landscape, covering topics like DIY iPhone photo tips, quickly transitioning to selling online, social media best practices during a crisis, and elements of websites that drive sales.
“When I take into account the effort our team is contributing in the middle of this challenge, I can say we are continuing to meet our mission and we are doing it by loving and serving our neighbors and being resourceful even when conditions are tough. Challenging circumstances can lead to innovation, and I am directing our team to explore new avenues of revenue that will help others, not only during this crisis, but to sustain our agency for the long term.”
It’s clear that Faulkner is not afraid to try something new and share what’s successful with those around him to benefit the larger community. When asked about Think’s creative process, he boiled it down to this: listen, learn, create, launch, repeat. Implementing this process has proved successful so far for Faulkner, Think Idea Studio, the Main Street district and Searcy, leaving no qualms that the town can rebound from the pandemic and grow stronger than ever.
“Searcy, as a community, continues to be a serving community. We are fortunate to have been coming together for the past couple of years, and this experience just strengthens those bonds. I believe Searcy is being true to itself — we are watching and learning from other areas of the country, we are supporting each other, we are showing we are a strong faith community, and we will continue to come together. Just like the Revolution mural on the side of Crafton’s Furniture downtown depicts: ‘Together, we can do so much.’”
— Jantzen Haley