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T-shirts + social media + Arkansas = AR State of Mind Clothing

By: 15 July 2011 14 Comments

Ever wanted a T-shirt that represents your part of Arkansas?

AR State of Mind Clothing — a Little Rock company that set up shop in a kiosk at Park Plaza Mall — is betting a lot of Arkansans want such T-shirts. What’s more, they’re taking suggestions from potential customers and making designs based on some of the better ideas. The idea that drives the company, according to co-owner Chris Jordan, is both forehead slapping obvious and innovative — reach potential customers through social media outlets, offer them the chance to talk about what’s important about their parts of the state and then design some shirts that matter to people throughout the state.

Jordan, of Sherwood, started the business with Keith Carter of Little Rock with the social media component in mind. New designs and ideas are shared on the company’s Facebook site, which Jordan said serves as both a gathering point for people interested in what the company is up to and as a way for the business to do a bit of research.

Both Carter and Jordan are very familiar with central Arkansas, but not so much with other parts of the state. When designing a shirt that appeals to residents in, say, Conway or Russellviville, why not ask the people who live there what matters to people in those cities?

Jordan said a good example of how that dynamic works involves a shirt that references the Gurdon Light, an unexplained phenomenon that some maintain has roots in the supernatural. Would such a design be regarded as obscure? Perhaps, but not to those who live in that town and have seen — or heard about — those mysterious lights hovering in the air near a railroad track or patch of forest. Speaking of obscure, how about a shirt bearing the slogan “down like University Mall?” People in Little Rock will likely get it, but might leave people from outside the area scratching their heads.

That, Jordan said, is rather the point. There are plenty of companies that bank on mass appeal, but AR State of Mind is out to reach various regions in hopes of creating designs that are considerably more “personal” than those aimed at the entire state.

Of course, there are some designs that do have statewide appeal — one that simply sports the Arkansas flag or another encouraging people to buy local products. Still, an intensely local focus is a major component of the company’s business plan.

Puns and sarcasm figure into the company’s business plan, too.

“Our natural disposition is humor,” Jordan said. “We make light of most things.”

That’s not always the case, of course. For example, a t-shirt commemorating the demise of Yarnell’s Premium Ice Cream in Searcy is available through the company and is commemorative rather than mocking in tone. Still, that design is unique to AR State of Mind as are a good number of designs that simply can’t be found elsewhere. Jordan said he hopes the approach to getting people involved in determining what the company produces and a “hyperlocal” focus will result in a viable business model and an organization in which Arkansans are proud.

“I want to be part of the fabric of Arkansas,” he said. “We want to be known for making classic, vintage-looking products.”

Jordan said the company has been well received thus far and is making plans to expand past its mall kiosk. The company is putting the finishing touches on a standalone headquarters/storefront on West Markham in Little Rock and is expanding to McCain Mall in North Little Rock and the Hot Springs Mall.

Meanwhile, North Little Rock residents can meet company officials and check out the business’ products for themselves on Friday (July 15) at the day long grand opening for Dogtown Coffee and Cookery at 6725 JFK Blvd.

Jordan said the company is expanding its marketing efforts in a novel way by launching a competition between the Saline County cities of Benton and Bryant. In short, they’ve got tee shirt designs for both cities and are banking on the natural rivalry between the towns to attract attention. The prize? The residents in the city with the most popular design will get 25 percent off products from the company for a time. That contest will run until the day before the Salt Bowl and the winning city will be announced during that annual first game of the year between the Benton Panthers and Bryant Hornets.

Find contest details — as well as the latest designs and information from AR State of Mind — by clicking here and visiting the company’s Facebook page.

About: Ethan C. Nobles:
Benton resident. Rogue journalist. Recovering attorney. Email = Ethan@FirstArkansasNews.net.

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