We Need You

Yesterday I wrote an article called, "The Death of Fort Smith," a lot who read it said that it was incredibly negative. While I was presenting a problem, solution, and somewhat of a wake up to a few individuals, adding to the noise is not my intention. However, I got the exact reaction I intended. I get it, you get it, we've identified the problem. The point of the article was to compel action – not by those who can actually do something about it with their resources or money. The article was pointed at individuals who don't think they can do anything about it. People like you and me.

Fort Smith needs you. Fort Smith needs you to stop adding to the noise of negativity. Fort Smith needs you to stop waiting. Fort Smith needs you to act. 

Over the past four months, it's been easier to compel high school students with no agenda or motivation to create something in this town – and they're doing it. They aren't waiting for permission or for a way out. They are doing it.

Which brings me to the point of this post.

Don't wait for permission. 

Have an idea? Do it.
Have an event? Plan it.
Want to play some music? We've got venues.
Want to create some art? Ana Maria can teach you.

The whole point is, don't wait to be chosen, don't wait to start, and don't wait for the right time. The time is now. We need you. Fort Smith needs you.

I'm going to go back to regularly scheduled programming of inspiration and fashion posts, but I had to let my voice be heard. We need you.


The Death of Fort Smith

Over the past 10 years, Fort Smith has seen a 32% decrease in manufacturing. (Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Over the past 5 years, we've seen a 14% increase in Professional and Business Services, which is awesome. (Bureau of Labor Statistics)

As our city's population has grown only 2.2% from 2010 to 2015. I think it's important to address what our community looks like moving forward and the future of a fleeing generation. While companies like ArcBest, OK Foods, Baldor, and the University are incredible, two of which are my clients, that only accounts for around 6421 jobs (as of 2014). What about the other 81,773 of us?

Small business is the fuel of the present and our future.

Recently I've found myself in several conversations where people have expressed topics like Trane leaving, Core Brewing not moving forward with its downtown distillery, and why we can't seem to fill the Whirlpool building. Every time I get in these discussions my simple question is, what is the alternative? While our chamber and other ambitious organizations seek to fill our communities with industry and jobs that don't rival those of our neighbors in NWA, we seem to lose track of who will be living here in the next 5-10 years.

Here's another interesting fact: 45% of Fort Smith's population is under the age of 34 (as of 2015), and 17.1% of that group is under that age of 18. What?!

We're expecting the upcoming 17.1% of our population to work in some sort of industrial job? I'm sorry, but that doesn't work. I have five interns, under the age of 19, that work with me on an active basis. If you'd like to understand the likes and dislikes of a community, surround yourself with young people. I've learned more working with these students than I could have ever learned by reading statistics.

Working with these students has been the source of inspiration for BASH and Arkansas' first streetwear company, HEM Apparel, that will launch in the Fall. We must listen to what this generation wants and built it to suit. Don't like the music? It doesn't matter. Don't like how they dress. That doesn't matter either. What matters is that their ideas, start-ups, and passion for humanity, are scalable, profitable, and we must have them as an essential business function of our community.

I commend organizations like, Future School, for promoting career readiness over test scores, and groups like EAST Initiative (which has a program at both Northside and Southside) for giving students technical skills and knowledge for the 22nd Century.

The death of Fort Smith will come down to one thing: Perspective. Fortunately, it's not too late.

I say this all the time to prospective and current clients, we aren't better than any one company, we're just more aware. We are expected to have a good and functioning product, but what sets things apart is the awareness and ability to understand the future. The same goes for our community. Perspective is everything. If we, as a community, can't see that Trane leaving or a major manufacturer closing down is the push we need to spur more creative and sustainable jobs, forget it. We've stopped evolving. 100 job losses are 100 opportunities for small business ideas and growth in our community. No, it isn't easy and it will require some action, but why be good when you could be great? Think I'm biased? I'm actually a non-college educated 24-year-old who chose to stay in Fort Smith to build my own business with zero funding. It doesn't get any more grass roots than that. What's your excuse?

Seen properly, everything that happens – be it an economic crash or a personal tragedy – is a chance to move forward. Even if it is on a bearing that we did not anticipate. - John D. Rockefeller

So what will you do? What is your part? I'm angry. I'm angry that we can't seem to see past 5 feet in front of us. I'm mad that only a few individuals in our community (thank God for them) understand the role of my generation and the generation after me. I'm mad that we focus on antiquated forms of "creative processes" and excuses for why we aren't innovative. I'm doing my part, be it with little to no money, but I'm trying. What will you do?

The Chamber of Commerce has created a great initiative for young people in Fort Smith called the Junior Leadership Academy, however, I'd like to see them actively promoting small business and assisting in real, tangible, resources to help small business get started in our community.

I've spoken with City Administration several times and they are 100% behind new growth. I would like to see public support from our Board of Directors for the little guy and not just big business. In addition, an initiative or partnership with the chamber to streamline facilitating new businesses that involve permits or zoning concerns.

Most importantly, I want to urge our citizens to think bigger. While our foundation is built on history and heritage, this doesn't mean our present and future will survive on those things alone. It won't and it hasn't. Our kids are fleeing this place because we're not oriented to the proper perspective or even the value of that perspective. I spoke with a young entrepreneur who has recently moved his business to NWA, he told me: "I can't do business here because of value. It's dependent client to client, but if you don't want to pay me for what I'm worth and the value I bring...then why would I live or invest my time here?" We have got to realize and understand the perspective that this upcoming generation brings to our community and the value of it for the future.

While the purpose of this article isn't to highlight the negative, it's meant to do the opposite. Recognize that the future is here. The generation to prepare for is here. We must adapt and keep up the good work we've been seeing recently.

I'll end by saying thank you to everyone who has pushed this community forward and who will continue to just do it without permission. The Unexpected, Peacemaker Music & Arts Fest, Gateway Master Planning, 64.6 Downtown, Bordertown Brew Fest, FSDBA, Chaffee Crossing, I could go on these are all amazing things happening. The growth of small business in Downtown is incredible. Let's keep it moving. Get educated on the positive. Get involved.

 


6 Highlights from 2016

2016 was quite the year. It had its highs and lows, but it also brought some very inspiration and life-changing moments. I've selected 6 of the most inspirational moments from 2016 to share with you.

1. Attending A Trump Rally - February 2016

Now go with me for a second on this one...I'm not a Trump supporter and definitely didn't vote for the guy. I did, however, attend his only rally in Arkansas to see what was up. This was a very inspirational moment for me because it showed the true democracy of our country. It was at this moment I realized just how divided our country was and still is. I overheard good and bad. You can read my full review here. All in all, it made my beliefs stronger. It rooted me in my perspective.

2. Moving Into My Own House - March 2016

Yes, I had never lived alone before March of 2016. I've either lived at home or with roommates. This was probably the most liberating thing about 2016. While a lot of responsibility came with this, it gave me freedom and relieved stress in ways I hadn't felt before. Knowing that I had a space that was truly mine was so refreshing.

3. Bentonville Film Festival - May 2016

This one might be even weirder than attending a Trump rally. I spent almost a week, with my best friends, working. That's usually a recipe for disaster, but it brought us closer together as friends and gave me a unique perspective on what the future holds. We had great fun, but also learned a lof of lessons. We're all in our early twenties and running a major festival together was one for the books!

4. Beyoncé in New York City - June 2016

As shallow as it might sound, seeing Beyoncé up close at Citi Field was life changing. You don't exactly understand until you've been there. She was not only inspirational but her passion for her music and fans was contagious. I'll forever remember standing there, literally 15ft. from her, questioning if my dreams were big enough.

5. Vegas With My Best Friends - June 2016

This was one of the more fun inspirational moments of the year. My friend Zak had his 21st birthday. We surprised him with a trip to Vegas and the see our friend DIPLO. There is nothing like traveling to your favorite city with your best friends to really put life into perspective.

6. Finally Doing Me - August 2016

The photo above pictures Chairman of the U.S. Marshals Museum Board of Directors, Cole Goodman with President & CEO of the Museum, Patrick Weeks. Just an hour before I took this photo I had gotten off the phone with my inner circle of friends letting them know I was going to leave the Museum and transition to my full-time role at Baseline Collective. What is so unique about the situation is the support I received from my Museum family. They were supportive and I couldn't have asked for a better former boss(es) Jim and Patrick to give me their blessing to transition.


Baseline

This will be the first time I've posted since May. I wanted to do a really cool photo set with this post and have everything planned out nicely, but as always, that's not how this will go. Recently I've been so scared. Scared of where my life is at, where it's going, and the person I'll end up being. The word Legacy comes to mind. What will my Legacy be? If you read my blog you know I travel a lot. For those of you that just landed here, I'm no stranger to traveling and submerging myself into other cities and cultures. I was born and raised in Fort Smith, Ark. It's my hometown and currently where I reside. My community was once known for being a dead, boring place. This is simply not the case anymore.

I've got a long line of failed ventures and harebrained ideas that just didn't work. Maybe it's because I didn't have enough money, seek enough counsel or they just weren't timed right. Starting and creating is in my DNA. Even if it doesn't end well, creating is a passion of mine.

With all of that said, it's time for a new chapter, a new beginning, a new baseline if you will. In typography, a baseline is where most of your letters sit. It's the starting point or a point where something begins. I'm at a baseline moment in my life.


Baseline Collective is the biggest risk I've taken in my adult life, all 24 years of it. Up until now, I've played it safe. I mean, I've taken risks but only those I'm 90% sure of the outcome. This risk, however, I'm not sure. Time will tell.

In October of 2015, I set out to create an entity with enough room to grow and scale as my brain could dream. That statement sounds much more magnificent than the current state of the company. Nonetheless, I took the risk.

Zero to one is the hardest step you will ever take. Click To Tweet

With all that said – almost a year later, countless clients who have stuck with us while I worked a full-time job and put in full-time hours (sometimes at their expense), and endless support from those in my life – it's here. Baseline Collective is finally a thing. Alongside my fearless co-pilot, Megan Young, my zero to one now turns into one to two. The next hardest step I've ever taken.

Why Fort Smith?

The past few months I've finally been able to tell those around me about this career transition. The most common question I get is, why Fort Smith? This answer is simple, and if you'd like, I recommend taking notes on this part.

  • Fort Smith is a safe place to fail. We have a strong community that will pick you up, lend support, and be there at a moments notice when trouble hits.
  • Fort Smith will be the center for Art, Culture, and History in Arkansas.
  • Did I mention we have a strong community of supportive people already? Because we do.

What is Baseline?

The second question I get asked a lot is what is baseline?

Baseline is a collective of individuals working to tell brand stories through creative direction, live experiences, concept development, and content creation. We create for a purpose.

Simply put, that is what baseline is. The heart of this organization is building a better community, creative and economical alike while raising the standard of excellence in this region. We haven't gotten far yet, but we've only just begun.

The opportunities are endless when pairing creation with execution. Join me. Let's create a better world.

Mason


What I Want

Too many smart people are pursuing boring stuff. Click To Tweet

Have you ever thought about what you really want out of life? This isn't your typical "life goals" conversation. It's a conversation about what you personally want out of life. In the words of Elon Musk, "The greatest minds of my generation are figuring out how to make people click ads...that sucks." We are a brilliant group of people yet everyday we fall short of what we could be. Why is that? Are we just not focused? Are we forced into circumstances beyond our control?

I believe that we do not address what we want out of life enough. I'm not talking about, "I see pizza, I want pizza" type of want. I'm talking about the deep rooted things that if we don't do them we will feel as though we have failed. Have you ever thought about achieving the things you want out of life? Sometimes that can be a bit scary to look at. What if we looked not at things as this massive list that is impossible; but as trying to expand the reality box and the list of things that are possible.

I've heard it said that, "If your dreams seem obtainable, you're probably not dreaming big enough.

If your dream seems obtainable, you're probably not dreaming big enough. Click To Tweet

I subscribe to this type of thinking. If the path ahead isn't rocky, unstable, and unknowing, it's probably not worth pursing. Most of the time we are just too scared to jump out of the box and create our own path. So how do we do this? How do we take a leap and pursue those things?

I keep a list. This list has just a few statements on it about what I want out of life. It sits by my desk, in my house, and on my phone. Looking at these statements daily helps me focus on pursing my purpose in this world. Here is my list, I want to do something that:

  • changes lives on a mass scale.
  • serves a purpose to change the world and touches hearts.
  • leads others to find their purpose.
  • helps others get from point A to point B.

These four simple statements can be applied to almost every area of my life and anyone I come in contact with. Whether this is at work, home, or just simply passing someone on the street. These are my filters. The purpose of everything I do gets siphoned through these statements. I challenge you to create a few filter statements to help you get what you want out of life. This radically changed the way I look at opportunity and circumstances in my life.

Do something that matters today,

Cheers!