Guest Blogger Mat Faulkner Reflects on Inspiring and Supporting a Community of Entrepreneurship

How does a community create a culture that inspires entrepreneurship and is supportive of one of the most challenging and risky pursuits in one’s lifetime?

You are likely aware that Searcy rallied to win a national vote to be featured in eight episodes of the hit online show Small Business Revolution  co-starring Ty Pennington and Amanda Brinkman. The show’s premise is to help revitalize a town’s Main Street by conducting make-overs for six local small businesses. Deluxe Corporation utilizes the television show platform to market their small business services, which is an example of content marketing at its finest. 

The show championed small business owners and the common challenges that most entrepreneurs deal with. Amanda Brinkman, the brainchild behind Small Business Revolution and Deluxe’s chief brand and communications officer, emphasizes how most entrepreneurs start a business because they are skilled at what they “do”  but may not be a specialist at wearing all the hats — such as marketing, human resources, legal document drafting, and accounting — needed to run a small business successfully. 

The creative magic for Think Idea Studio happens in the historic Robbins-Sanford building in downtown Searcy. The stylish renovation also provided conference space and an event venue on the ground floor.

Entrepreneurs tend to survive in a steady state of nervous energy: pursuing new sales, retaining employees, juggling costs of benefits versus profitability, upholding quality, maintaining the facility, creating social content, carving out family time, eyeing the competition and keeping up with technology.

So, it is safe to say the first step in creating a conducive entrepreneurial environment is affirmation and encouragement. Entrepreneurs are heroes. They are the backbone of this country and vital to the sustainability and uniqueness of our communities. Owning a business is hard and it can consume most of your mental, physical and emotional energy. It is risky and many business owners leverage personal assets as collateral to get their baby off the ground. The fact that they are doing it (or thinking about doing it) exemplifies a courageous spirit, ingenuity and adaptability. 

Encouragement is powerful. Community leaders need to publicly champion entrepreneurs, setting a tone of appreciation and validation. This should be a consistent message that resonates across all community organizations and reinforces that the community is behind those who decide to take the leap. It also cultivates an atmosphere of shared experiences, allowing entrepreneurs to know they are not alone and there are many who empathize with what they deal with on a daily basis.

Amanda Brinkman congratulates Faulkner after the announcement that Searcy had been selected for the show, and that six local businesses would receive consulting and a makeover.

Along with consistent affirmation and encouragement, entrepreneurs need networks and programs for peer-to-peer information sharing and cross-promotion. Even businesses within the same vertical market can participate in being supportive of each other while still protecting their trade secrets. We were first-hand witnesses to this during the Revolution experience. Restaurants within walking distance were promoting each other and sharing foot traffic. Brinkman coins it as “a rising tide lifts all boats.”

When the community is generally successful, the residual benefits can affect everyone. In a typical competitive environment, businesses keep everything close to the vest and work hard to rise above their competing neighbors. So it may feel unnatural to support a competitor, but we witnessed several business owners lean into cooperation over competition and it didn’t negatively affect their bottom line. On the contrary, it built goodwill, camaraderie and even produced unique co-op opportunities through cross-promotion and shared ‘shop local’ efforts.

The Small Business Revolution competition galvanized local resources around a common objective. Faulkner entered the town in the competition and was key to promoting the opportunity to local businesses.

Beyond competitors transitioning to supportive cheerleaders is the initiation of information-sharing groups. Commonly, this comes by the way of Chamber economic development programs. However, communities who are heading in the right direction will also see more grassroots efforts where business owners begin taking it upon themselves to be proactive. For example, an all-women entrepreneurship group recently formed and began meeting monthly at various locations. It is an open forum for women entrepreneurs, facilitated by volunteers and is centered around information-sharing. These organic, less formal groups represent a healthy entrepreneurial community where citizens are taking the time, effort and initiative to better themselves and others.

Searcy is getting a lot of things right and is generating a culture that inspires and supports entrepreneurs. The winning formula is a community that champions its entrepreneurs through encouragement and affirmation, generates opportunities to share both information as well as customers, and consistently communicates all the resources available to them through university and community partners. The Small Business Revolution poured fuel to a fire that was [and still is] burning bright. Entrepreneurs are champions who give communities uniqueness and character. We are fortunate to have had the opportunity to tell a few of their stories on a television show, but there are still so many stories yet to tell. 

*For links to the Small Business Revolution episodes and behind-the-scenes photos, visit

Mat Faulkner is founder of Think Idea Studio, president of the board for the Searcy Regional Economic Development Corporation, former chair of the Searcy Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business Committee, director of the Think ART Project, co-director for Searcy Beats & Eats festivals, past president for Jacob’s Place Homeless Mission, member of Searcy’s Beautification Committee and Holiday of Lights Committee, member of Harding University’s chapter of Sigma Nu Tau National Entrepreneurship Honor Society, and 2017 member of Arkansas Business’ 40 Under 40. 

Mat and his wife Shelley have 3 boys: Easton, 14; Lawson, 12; and Jace, 9. The couple renovated the old Robbins-Sanford Mercantile in downtown Searcy, which now serves as an event center and loft studio offices. Faulkner is a Fall 2002 graduate of Harding University with a degree in Communication Management. Recently, Faulkner served as the point person for the Searcy community winning the Small Business Revolution hit online TV show, where six local small businesses received $500,000 in makeovers as well as community improvements.

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OneLife Provides a Different Model for Primary Care

The OneLife partnership includes Lance Kemper, P.A.-C;
Christie Brooks, Functional Medicine R.D.; and Joe Dugger, M.D.

Dr. Joe Dugger and partners have assembled a multidisciplinary team in a newly-renovated facility —  and along with traditional and urgent care, provide an innovative practice model for wholistic treatment. 

Everyone agrees there is room for improvement in American healthcare. Statistics indicate that emphasizing wellness, access to preventative care, and consistent management of chronic conditions improve patient outcomes and reduce the overall cost of care. OneLife Wellness and Primary Care, a new clinic, provides a model of primary care that takes all these factors into consideration.

After 20 years as a traditional primary care physician, Dr. Joe Dugger and his partners, physician assistant Lance Kemper and Functional Medicine Registered Dietitian Christie Brooks, have opened OneLife Wellness Center at 901 E. Beebe-Capps Expressway, the former Ann’s Bridal location. Community Relations Director Todd Miller discussed the concept and introduced the team. 

“The clinic will offer the traditional primary and urgent care to which patients are accustomed,” Miller explained, but what distinguishes OneLife from other practices is that they also offer an alternative known as concierge medical care or direct primary care (DPC) — in which the physician contracts with a patient for a flat monthly fee. In exchange, patients receive a guarantee of a provider who knows their medical history, is available to communicate, and offers preferential appointments to members. 

Todd Miller, Community Relations Director

“The vision for a better kind of clinic really stems from Joe’s faith. He’s a motivated achiever —  but he’s a soul/body/spirit thinker. Those different parts of our being are connected, and he was very interested in reaching patients wholistically. The vision was to have a place where patients would receive primary and urgent care with excellent providers, but where we also emphasize treating the whole person.”

Dugger is not only an experienced primary care physician with a loyal following —  he’s also an entrepreneur, having been part owner of Doc’s Grill and Searcy CrossFit. Partner and physician assistant Lance Kemper contributes deep experience in orthopedics; partner Christie Brooks is a registered dietitian with expertise in functional medicine and weight loss. Dr. Wade Fox, who specializes in men’s health and sports medicine, recently moved from Bentonville to join the OneLife practice. Physician Assistant Amanda Diles has a particular interest and experience with diabetes management. Physician Assistant Mary Madill is the director of the medically-supervised weight loss program. Mary Darden, Advanced Practice Registered Nurse, specializes in women’s health and family medicine and has years of college health experience. 

OneLife offers monthly memberships for $89 per individual, $149 per couple, and $189 per family. Family memberships for families of three or more include a couple and all children under the age of 25. There is a six month minimum requirement for monthly memberships; some exceptions apply. Student memberships are $299 per semester. Student memberships are $75 a month.  

OneLife is located at 901 E. Beebe-Capps Expressway, the former Ann’s Bridal location.

Memberships include: 

  • Guaranteed same-day appointments 
  • After-hours phone and email access to a primary care provider
  • Nearly unlimited access (up to 99 visits per month)
  • Office care and minor procedures (such as stitches, rapid strep test, flu vaccine, urinalysis, pregnancy test, EKG, and in-office labs)

The multidisciplinary facility also houses the following specialties:

  • Byram & Finley Physical Therapy
  • OneLife Hand Specialty, Cyndi Seevers, O.T.
  • Life Within Mental Health Counseling,  Thomas Ritchie, Jr.
  • Restore Cryotherapy
  • Searcy Crossfit

Miller says providing a positive experience and minimizing stress for patients is central to the philosophy of OneLife, so staff members emphasize friendly faces in reception and are mindful of patient wait times. 

A final offering by OneLife will take another step to improve access to care: in March, OneLife will roll out a no-deductible health insurance plan to include a membership to OneLife along with major medical coverage. They expect that small business owners, churches, and anyone who is without employer-provided health insurance may be interested in examining this product, which will be underwritten by a third party.

The Waldron Center is interested whenever people apply new methods to familiar processes, whether it’s professional services or manufacturing. Know someone we need to write about? We’d love to hear from you. Email