In an inconspicuous yellow house in Searcy, Mat Faulkner has set up shop in the home that belonged to his wife’s great-grandparents. Here, his team of writers, designers and photographers work with clients on branding and advertising, but the advertising company is only one aspect of the impact Faulkner has made on the community.
Faulkner is the president and creative director of Think Advertising and the president of the board of directors for Jacob’s Place Homeless Mission, serves on a Small Business Committee through the Searcy Regional Economic Development Corp. and somehow finds time to coach his three sons’ soccer teams.
Growing up in Florida, Faulkner made his way to Searcy when he started college at Harding University. He met his wife, Shelley, the first day of school and they have been together ever since. He majored in communication management, but he taught himself much more than what was required.
“While I was there, I was always inventing things and coming up with ideas,” he said.
After writing a children’s book and getting someone else to draw illustrations for it his sophomore year, he decided he wanted to learn how to color the illustrations on the computer. He spoke with Daniel Conley, who suggested some software.
“I bought the software he recommended and kind of self-taught myself how to do graphic design,” Faulkner said.
Through his church, Faulkner met Jeff Smith, the inventor of a popular trout lure. Being an inventor himself, Faulkner showed Smith one of his ideas. Smith told him it was a good idea, but that packaging is what sells products.
“Since I knew how to work with the software, I designed my own packaging and showed it to him at church,” Faulkner said. “Jeff said, ‘Hey! I didn’t know you did that. Why don’t you do some of my stuff?’ So Jeff was my very first client while I was still at Harding.”
When Faulkner graduated, he had a few clients and started LASSO Creative, which stands for literature, art, sports, solutions, organizations. In 2007, Faulkner launched Think Advertising as a sister corporation, and the two companies merged in 2011.
The company does a lot of work with nonprofits, and through that connection, Faulkner got involved with Jacob’s Place, a homeless shelter for families in White County. He was asked to join the board several years ago, and in December he was asked to be the president of the board. Through that experience, Faulkner said he has learned a lot about homelessness.
“When you hear that someone is homeless, you automatically make assumptions that they’re on drugs or they have made decisions that put them in that place, and there’s not a lot of compassion,” he said. “Although that is the case in some instances, there are many reasons people find themselves homeless.”
Faulkner said many of the families at Jacob’s Place are single mothers who may not have worked for a while and recently left or were left by their husbands and have no place to go. Others have fallen on hard times with a poor economy and either have no place to go or do not want to couch surf any longer.
“Awareness has been a big eye-opener for me,” Faulkner said.
Jacob’s Place only houses families with children at this time. Faulkner said it is a
ladder program — “a hand up instead of a hand out” — that provides temporary housing while families start saving money, get a job and pay off debts that hold them back, and receive counseling.
The home is an effort of the Ministerial Alliance, which brings together several area churches to help the community.
Jacob’s Place can currently house up to four families. It has served more than 132 homeless families, including 173 children, since the doors opened in 2008. This year, the organization has had to turn away 23 families and 60 individuals.
“We were full,” he said. “We have a waiting list all the time. We’re looking to the future to service and grow Jacob’s Place to house more families and start taking on single men and women.”
In addition to serving clients and homeless families, Faulkner also helps small businesses in Searcy as part of the Small Business Committee.
“Generally, your economic-development segment of your chamber is trying to get the big factories in,” he said. “This area is trying to get small businesses from 20 to 50 employees to the area. Small businesses are really hiring right now, so if we can attract an equal amount of small businesses to the area of what a factory would employ, what we’re finding is that some small businesses are doubling their staff.”
Looking into the future, Faulkner plans to continue working in the support and communication industry as his company grows and diversifies. As a natural inventor, new ideas on how he can serve others continue to spring forward, and he said he wants to keep doing what he is doing for the community.
Staff writer Angela Spencer can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or firstname.lastname@example.org.