Susie Cowen, executive director of Legends of Arkansas, was the featured guest Friday, September 15 on KABF 88.3 radio broadcast of Up In Your Business with Kerry McCoy. The show airs weekly at 2 p.m.
Cowan, a Pine Bluff native, started her career in radio and worked at a business community station, KTRN, in Pine Bluff for almost a decade. While there, from 1997 to 2006, she was the mid-day disk jockey where she operated the sports board, did public relations, was the outside sales representative and assistant traffic director.
“I learned a lot about small business and how important it is to our communities,” Cowan said. During her time at KTRN, Cowan became the Executive Officer for the Pine Bluff Jaycees until August of 2005. She planned Easter egg hunts, Christmas parades and Fourth of July firework displays, as well as a well-known chili cook-off and a night time golf tournament. “The Pine Bluff Jaycees made a huge impact on my view towards being community minded,” she said. “All of the events we did was a community effort and it was always a ton of fun for all. Through my experiences with the Jaycees, I learned how important it is for a community to support itself and that collectively, we can make a positive impact.”
Taking a class to earn her pyrotechnics license was one of Cowan's favorite experiences. The license was required for executing the Pine Bluff Fourth of July firework display. In 2013, Cowan started the Legends of Arkansas festival to promote Arkansas’ own musicians, artists, craftsman and independent businesses. A year later, Cowan led the beginnings of Local First Arkansas, which is a support organization for independent business in the state. Local First was a direct result of the connections and relationships formed from Legends of Arkansas and has over 100 active business members.
“I am a founding member, event planner and executive director of LoA Inc,” Cowan said. “We formed this organization to help educate our community on how easy it can be to live local and shop small.”
The Legends of Arkansas festival is an annual event that is used to promote and showcase the local businesses of Arkansas. This year's festival is on Saturday, September 16. Cowan and Legends of Arkansas are launching a statewide reward/loyalty card called Local Arkansas during the festival.
Check out this fun video from Legends of Arkansas.
Up In Your Business is a Radio Show by FlagandBanner.com
[0:00:03.2] TB: Welcome to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy. Be sure to stay tuned till the end of the show to hear how you can get a copy of this program and other helpful documents.
Now, it's time for Kerry McCoy to get all up in your business.
[0:00:19.1] KC: For the next hour, my guest, entrepreneur and community activist, Susie Cowan and I will be getting up in the business of supporting local businesses, artists and musicians and we’ll be talking about tomorrow’s fifth annual festival, Legends of Arkansas. We help through our storytelling of hope we maneuver the path of entrepreneurship in pursuit of our dreams that you will learn something, want to get involved or be inspired to take action in your own life.
We’ll be answering questions via phone and email. For me, it began over 40 years ago when I founded Arkansas Flag and Banner. During the last four decades, Arkansas Flag and Banner has grown and morphed form door to door sales, to telemarketing, to mail order and catalog sales and now relies heavily on the internet.
Each change in sales strategy required a change in the company thinking and procedures. My confidence, leadership quality and my confidence grew. My initial $400 investment now produces nearly four million in annual sales.
Each week on this show, you’ll hear candid conversations between me and my guest about real world experiences on a variety of business topics that I hope you’ll find interesting.
Starting and running a business or organization is like so many things. It takes persistence, perseverance and patience. I worked part time jobs for nine years before Arkansas Flag and Banner grew enough to support just me. It’s now grown so much that to operate efficiently, we require 10 departments and 25 people to maintain them.
Thus reminding us all again that small businesses are not only the fuel of our economic engine but also impact and empower people’s lives.
Before we start, I want to introduce you to the people of the table, we have my technician Tim who will be running the board and taking your calls, say hello Tim.
[0:02:01.7] TB: Hello Tim.
[0:02:02.5] KM: My guest today is Susie Cowan, founder and executive director of the festival, Legends of Arkansas. Susie first began her Arkansas career as a mid-day disk jockey for KTR in Pine Bluff Arkansas. Where she spent a decade operating the sports board, working in public relations, making sales calls and assisting the traffic director.
Also during this time, Cowan became the executive officer for the Pine Bluff, JC’s. This is when she fell in love with event planning for the community. She planned Easter egg hunts, Christmas parades, fourth of July fireworks, Chili cookoffs and golf tournaments.
In 2013, Cowan fulfilled a dream of hers by starting a festival in north Little Rock called Legends of Arkansas, whose mission is to promote Arkansa’s own musicians, artist, craftsman’s and indie businesses. Just a year after starting this festival, Cowan led the conversation that inspired Local First Arkansas.
An organization for independent businesses in the state. She has followed that theme with yet another grass root idea, a reward loyalty discount card simply named Local Arkansas. She’s trying to mess me up with all this Local Arkansas business.
We’ll dissect it all here in a minute, explain it to all the listeners. Celebrating their fifth year, legends of Arkansas 2017 festival is September the 16th and here to talk with us today is its founding member, Susie Cowan.
[0:03:35.5] SC: Thank you so much, I really appreciate you inviting me on here.
[0:03:38.8] KM: You’re so welcome. You actually contacted me which is one of the first one to come on that I didn’t know and I met you today, it’s nice to meet you.
[0:03:45.6] SC: Very nice to meet you Kerry.
[0:03:50.5] KM: Let’s talk about the festival at the beginning of show and then we’ll talk about it at the end of the show for the people who are tuning in and out. Legends of Arkansas. Tell us about that name.
[0:04:02.1] SC: Man, the name has been a blessing and a curse but you were right, you hit it on the nose when you said, it’s not about the legends of the past, it is about what’s going on today in Arkansas. What we’re going to look back at in 10 to 20 years and remember as the legends of Arkansas in our memories and our lives.
That is the people that own businesses, that is the people that make jewelry or the new breweries, the musicians, the artist, the talented people that make up our community here in Arkansas.
[0:04:36.9] KM: They are the legends. It’s not past legends, it’s current legends?
[0:04:41.7] SC: It is.
[0:04:43.0] KM: For your festival – you all just sitting around the room one day and you just came up with that idea or was it your idea or how did it kind of come about?
[0:04:51.0] SC: It was me and six of my friends and we –
[0:04:54.2] KM: you were all down at Vino’s drinking beer?
[0:04:57.0] SC: No, but we could have been. Just fun and especially on Sundays, we just wanted to create an event that was actually state wide that pulled in all of the artist and the musicians and it’s not just Little Rock or it’s not just northwest Arkansas or northeast Arkansas.
That gave us a place to kind of find out what everybody’s doing, find out who’s showcasing what this year, find out what musicians are releasing what or what artists are up to now. It’s almost like an annual check in or showcase of what’s happening in Arkansas today.
[0:05:34.1] KM: Well five years, that’s a big deal, it’s working. It really is working. When do you all start planning it?
[0:05:41.7] SC: It’s 12 months, yeah.
[0:05:43.3] KM: Who are some of the musicians?
[0:05:45.5] SC: This year is really exciting. All headliner lineup on the stage, there’s not one band that’s not headliner material. The day starts with Brian Nolan. He does the college radio show on here I think?
[0:06:02.9] KM: ABS?
[0:06:03.1] SC: On Saturdays, I think it is. The Brian Nolan band and he just released a CD a few months ago that includes an all-star cast of musicians from central Arkansas. We’re really excited to have that whole band out there.
Then, there’s going to be Dads and Bree and they actually won their spot when they won the Arkansas town’s musician showcase. They won a spot at River Fest and then they won a spot at Legends of Arkansas as part of their prize.
Then, it’s Rodney Block.
[0:06:35.9] KM: Everybody knows Rodney Block.
[0:06:36.6] SC: He needs no description, he’s fantastic. Then Knox Hamilton and they are Arkansas’ own boyband.
[0:06:45.7] KM: Really?
[0:06:47.2] SC: Yes.
[0:06:47.4] KM: I love boybands, I really do.
[0:06:50.6] SC: Then you should definitely come see Knox Hamilton.
[0:06:52.8] KM: I mean, Justin Timberlake’s from a boyband.
[0:06:55.2] SC: Absolutely.
[0:06:56.7] KM: Where is the stage?
[0:06:59.4] SC: It’s literally almost under the main street bridge.
[0:07:03.9] KM: Okay.
[0:07:04.8] SC: We’re right in between the main street bridge.
[0:07:08.5] KM: The festival starts at 2:00 and goes till 9:00 but the bands are every two hours or every one hour or?
[0:07:18.9] SC: I mean, it will be all day.
[0:07:20.6] KM: All day.
[0:07:21.2] SC: They hour and a half sets.
[0:07:24.4] KM: The weather’s going to be perfect tomorrow isn’t it? You’re lucky. Then you got artists?
[0:07:30.8] SC: We do, there will be artist lined up going down to the river, painting live and then they’ll be performing artist of all kinds, stilt walkers, fire throwers, hula hoop artist, hula hoop dancers from Arkansas Circus Arts. We will have a roaming magician which is Paul Prader and just all kinds of things.
[0:07:54.1] KM: I love that artists painting live. I bet you, you can get some caricatures of yourself if you wanted to. Then we’ve got vendors.
[0:08:01.5] SC: Yes.
[0:08:01.8] KM: I mean, that is the back bone of the small businesses of our community.
[0:08:06.6] SC: It is.
[0:08:07.1] KM: You got Loblolly I guess?
[0:08:09.4] SC: Absolutely.
[0:08:10.1] KM: Anybody else? I mean, everybody loves ice cream.
[0:08:12.9] SC: Yeah, we have Black Hound Barbeque, I know they’re going to be there, Katmandu Momo, this guy makes Nepalis dumplings and they are out of this world. He has a little spot in the river market now but he started with just with the truck so now he has two trucks and a spot in the river market.
[0:08:30.8] KM: How many food vendors do you think you have?
[0:08:33.5] SC: There’s eight.
[0:08:34.2] KM: That’s nice. Then it’s family friendly.
[0:08:36.7] SC: Absolutely. The kids area this year is going to be absolutely amazing and filled with different activities.
[0:08:42.4] KM: Like what?
[0:08:43.8] SC: There’s going to be a baby pool full of bubble juice. There is paintings.
[0:08:48.6] KM: I’m so glad I’m not a parent. Bring a change of clothes.
[0:08:53.1] SC: Yeah, absolutely. Just all kinds of crafts and then there’s kiddieoki so it’s karaoke for kids that’s going to go on from three to five. Then there’s an open mic where anybody can get up and kind of do their thing and then just different, like I said, all different kinds of activities.
[0:09:13.8] KM: Kids love karaoke. You better get ready for a line.
[0:09:17.2] SC: I know.
[0:09:17.7] KM: They just get up there and give it their all. I love watching kids do karaoke. The atmosphere is family friendly.
[0:09:24.6] SC: It is absolutely family friendly.
[0:09:26.5] KM: It’s hip and cool.
[0:09:27.9] SC: It is.
[0:09:28.2] KM: What do you think the age group is?
[0:09:30.5] SC: Six months to 80 years old.
[0:09:32.8] KM: I like that. It’s sad to hear that after 40 years, River Fest will no longer be happening in May on the Little Rock side of the river. Do you think you’ll be getting any of the River Fest volunteers who are Jonesing for a festival fix?
[0:09:48.6] SC: It is really sad, a big loss for our community. Will we get some volunteer?
[0:09:56.5] KM: Have you had any?
[0:09:57.5] SC: Well, okay. That’s kind of a loaded question because we actually gave Legends of Arkansas to The Van last year. Now it’s their annual fund raiser, they’re the 100%.
[0:10:11.3] KM: The Van, they help the homeless here in central Arkansas.
[0:10:13.9] SC: Okay, the van that helps the homeless.
[0:10:17.2] KM: You gave Legends of Arkansas to them, what does that mean?
[0:10:20.2] SC: Yes, there was six of us that started it and then we didn’t really know what we were getting ourselves into and had to start a nonprofit to support it and then ran it for five years.
It outgrew us, we’re over 20,000 attendees now and that’s a lot for six people that have no experience in large special events. Last year, we gave the festival to The Van.
[0:10:47.9] KM: Well, it’s not a big organization, is it?
[0:10:51.3] SC: They have a whole lot more supporters than we do.
[0:10:53.6] KM: Really, I just thought it was one guy who drove around in a van, I really did.
[0:10:58.0] SC: I think there’s five fans now and he has a team of about 20 people.
[0:11:03.6] KM: You think they’re equipped to put on a festival?
[0:11:07.0] SC: Absolutely, they’re out there setting it up right now.
[0:11:09.4] KM: You don’t have anything else to do with it besides be a super volunteer.
[0:11:12.5] SC: Well, this year, I did the event planning so I’m 100% involved. Next year, I’m hoping to be about 20% involved. That’s the goal.
[0:11:23.3] KM: Because you’ve got other businesses you started. We’re going to talk about them.
[0:11:26.9] SC: We do, and another festival.
[0:11:31.3] KM: What? I got to write that down to remember to ask you. Another festival, alright, don’t let me forget to mention that. I didn’t find that on your website. It’s time for us to take a break but before we do, I want to tell everybody it’s our birthday, isn’t it Tim?
[0:11:45.1] TB: That is right. It is our birthday.
[0:12:01.8] KM: You’re listening to Up in your business with me, Kerry McCoy. My guest today is pine bluff Arkansas native and founder of the north Little Rock festival, Legends of Arkansas, Susie Cowan.
Let’s learn about you Susie. You said, now, we’re going to go back and talk about your festival at the end of the show but to learn about you, you said you left Arkansas for a while during your college years? Can you tell us about that?
[0:12:29.9] SC: It was actually radio that led me to Tulsa Oklahoma, where I went to the American broadcasting school while I worked part time at the Tulsa comedy club.
[0:12:41.8] KM: You’re a standup comedian?
[0:12:43.1] SC: No, I just worked the door. I just like funny people so it seemed like the appropriate job.
[0:12:48.9] KM: Well you and I will get along well then.
[0:12:53.3] SC: No, it was a really great time in my life and I was an intern at The Edge in Tulsa and they had – when Edge Fest was big, huge in the 90’s like ‘97, ’98. I met all the big bands and my job became like autograph.
I would go back to the autograph booth. I was in charge of it so I would go back and get all the bands and bring them up to the autograph booth and make sure they had everything they needed while they were signing autographs for the bands.
It was a really cool little gig and kind of hooked me on radio and events and then when I started my family, we of course had to come home because that’s where my family is and back to Palm Bluff and went to work for K Train and had like I don’t know, five or six titles.
[0:13:44.9] KM: K Train is KTRN, a Prime Bluff radio station.
[0:13:50.1] SC: It is.
[0:13:50.2] KM: Is your husband from Pine Bluff?
[0:13:52.2] SC: No.
[0:13:52.8] KM: Where’s he from?
[0:13:52.9] SC: He’s from Oklahoma.
[0:13:54.2] KM: He’s from Tulsa and he came to Pine Bluff Arkansas, that is love. People, that’s love. Is he a band guy? Did you meet him?
[0:14:04.4] SC: He actually plays in the band Free Verse and they’re actually doing the after party at Four Quarter Bar tomorrow night, it’s the official after party for Legend.
[0:14:14.4] KM: That’s private though, isn’t it?
[0:14:15.4] SC: No, please come, this will be a great time.
[0:14:18.0] KM: I think it’s past my bedtime. You went to KTRN where you were everything. You were the disk jockey for sports, you sold add, you were – you supported the – you did the traffic control.
[0:14:42.6] SC: Well I was the assistant traffic manager.
[0:14:45.2] KM: You assisted the traffic manager. Then during that time, you decided to volunteer for the Prime Bluff JC’s and that’s when you fell in love with event planning?
[0:14:57.6] SC: Absolutely.
[0:14:58.7] KM: Tell us about that.
[0:15:01.4] SC: Well, its’ a small town in Arkansas so there’s not just a whole lot to do. I realized that community events were the key to a healthy community. As we were promoting the businesses at the radio and getting to know the different businesses and what they need, it just kind of made sense to incorporate them in to the community events.
Connect them with their consumers, you become friends, you want to support somebody. So it’s kind of that time period in my life that led me to where I am today of devoting all of my time to supporting businesses and then trying to connect the businesses with the consumers.
[0:15:45.4] KM: You moved to Little Rock, what happened that changed that life to the life you have now?
[0:15:50.8] SC: I got a job at Equity Broadcasting, programming TV stations up here in 2008 and moved my family up here and about four or five months later, they went bankrupt and we all got laid off.
They had been around forever, they programmed 101 TV stations all over the nation for 20 years before I got there.
[0:16:16.5] KM: It’s was all about you.
[0:16:17.8] SC: I know. That’s how I got there and that just led me into a time period where I went back to school, got some marketing under my belt and actually it was May 4th of 2013, I turned to my friend and said, “I’m absolutely just crazy bored, let’s do something big.”
[0:16:45.1] KM: How many kids did you have?
[0:16:45.9] SC: I have three kids. Well, I had two at the time.
[0:16:49.3] KM: That just wasn’t, I understand, that wasn’t quite, it was fulfilling but not fulfilling in a whole way?
[0:16:56.6] SC: Well, I wasn’t really involved in a community in any way at that time because I was just being a mother and going to school and in my own little world. I had kind of taken, I was missing that part of being the community involvement. So that’s kind of why – I mean, that had a lot to do, we wanted to build something to showcase our friends that are musicians and artist and that own stores and make T-shirts and make soap.
We’re wanted to build something for our circus friends that perform all over the state but don’t really have a place to do that here.
[0:17:32.3] KM: Well, a lot of people get on the phone and talk to their girlfriend about feeling unfulfilled but they don’t’ do what you did. Tell me how you did it?
[0:17:44.6] SC: Sometimes I wonder if it’s not just like blind determination because if I stop to think about it or put the numbers to it, I would have quit a long time ago.
The hundreds of hours that we’ve put in to this event, the years of volunteers just – then when we go out there and work 22 hours in one day and every year we just sign right back up to do it again. It’s a lot of dedication but the moments that are created at Legends of Arkansas are something that will live forever and they can’t be recreated because it’s our community that built it.
[0:18:31.6] KM: That’s what keeps you going?
[0:18:33.1] SC: Absolutely.
[0:18:33.6] KM: If I want to start a festival tomorrow, what’s the first thing I would do?
[0:18:39.2] SC: Dig deep into your community, get with your boy scouts, get with your nonprofits of any kind, invite everyone to be involved. In the past we’ve had Thea involved, we’ve had obviously The Van involved. In fact, that’s how Aron and I met.
Just like, we know it’s working because…
[0:19:04.5] KM: Who’s Aron?
[0:19:05.1] SC: Aron is the director of The Van that we gave legends to. We met at 2014 Legends of Arkansas. That’s the connections that we’re trying to make happen or create an environment for them to happen and it’s just magic from there.
[0:19:26.8] KM: Did you pick September always as the date you wanted to have it in Argenta?
[0:19:32.1] SC: We started at the River Front Amphitheater in 2013 and the first three years were over in Little Rock. In 2016, we moved to north Little Rock to Argenta because it’s fantastic and we love it over there. We have a smaller event that we do in the spring that is Legends of Argenta.
We moved the big event over there last year. The property left a lot to be desired, though it had big rocks all over it, it just didn’t – on paper it looked great but it just didn’t work out at all. Now we have the most perfect spot in all of north Little Rock.
[0:20:10.8] KM: Well that’s good. I didn’t talk about this when you were at JC but you learned pyrotechnics.
[0:20:16.9] SC: Yes. I am a licensed pyro tech.
[0:20:21.1] KM: Is that dangerous?
[0:20:24.9] SC: Honestly, I have blown up fireworks my whole life. Really big ones, right in your face but if you want to experience fireworks when Dicky Stevens does their firework extravaganza.
Go to the property, The North Shore River Walk and walk up and sit on that hill right behind Dicky Stevens. It will be the most intense experience of your life.
[0:20:49.6] KM: Can you feel it in your chest?
[0:20:50.8] SC: My gosh, yes.
[0:20:52.2] KM: I don’t think I’d like that. Let’s talk about what came from all the connections, you already have a little bit, but let’s talk about more about the connections that came from your festival. Because the very next year, 2014, you started another, one of your brain children called Local First Arkansas.
[0:21:17.2] SC: Yeah, I literally was working in my friend’s store at Freckled Frog because when you run festivals and nonprofits, you don’t get paid a whole lot, so you have to work for your friends for money.
I was working at the Freckled Frog which is right next to cash and a gentleman came in by the name of Mike Steely and he asked me the business story because he was – he is who brought One Million Cups to Little Rock.
[0:21:47.0] KM: What is that?
[0:21:48.2] SC: It’s an entrepreneurial program that is sponsored by the Kauffman Foundation from Kansas City but they do it in 80 cities all over the country at 9 AM every Wednesday morning.
Ours is now at The Hub at the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub, every Wednesday morning at 9 AM and they tell entrepreneurial stories in hopes to connect the community and inspire people. I’ve never seen anything work better here in Little Rock.
[0:22:17.3] KM: Really?
[0:22:18.1] SC: Yes, every time I need to hire somebody. I go to One Million Cups and look around that room and somebody’s right there to fill that.
[0:22:24.9] KM: What a great tip. If I want to hire somebody, I go to One Million Cups on what time? What day?
[0:22:31.3] SC: it’s 9 AM every Wednesday morning and what I mean by hire someone, is if I have a question about graphic arts, well, my friend over there I’ve met through the program does that. Or whatever it might be but my web master, our marketing company, endless, the list goes on of people I’ve hired out of that room.
One Million Cups is fabulous, that’s what Mike came in to the store to find out about and when I went for my huddle hour, so that I could interview or I could present at One Million Cups, he said, “You’re going to help me start Local First Arkansas.” I promise you I looked at him like he was crazy because I already had three jobs and three kids.
I didn’t know that I need anymore. He was right. After he explained to me what Local First is and they are also all over the country.
[0:23:28.2] KM: Really?
[0:23:29.0] SC: Yeah. Local First Arizona is who we are modeled after and mentored by. They’re the largest independent business alliance in the country, or even the world.
[0:23:42.5] KM: There is a local, what’s it called? Local First?
[0:23:47.2] SC: Local First.
[0:23:48.5] KM: Local First in every state.
[0:23:51.3] SC: No, not every state, there’s only three that are state wide. There’s Local First Arizona, they’re the biggest and the best and then there’s Local First Utah. Other than that, we’re the only other –
The rest of them are usually communities, there’s ten in Boston within a 20 mile radius.
[0:24:09.6] KM: The guy that does A Million Cups has heard about it and wanted to bring it here?
[0:24:14.4] SC: Yes, because he went to the Ballet Convention which is…
[0:24:16.8] KM: The what convention?
[0:24:18.0] SC: Ballet, it’s at being beingalocallist.org and Mr. Pat Riley that owned the Little Rock Athletic Club for 30 years took a group of 12 people to the Ballet Conference in 2014. Right about the same time I was having Legends of Arkansas. When they came back, they’re all fired up and they’re wanting to build an independent business alliance but Mr. Pat Riley’s retired and he doesn’t want to be a director.
One of them was Jack from The Root. He’s got a restaurant to run so there wasn’t anybody to lead what they were wanting to see built. That’s when I met Mike around that time period and he saw it in me before I even knew it existed. It took about two years to get it all I motion but we did Local First Little Rock first and literally spent two years meeting with business owners once a month.
Asking them, “What kind of support do you need?” When you’re a big corporation, there’s always like – you learn constantly, you’re always going to workshops, there’s always new trainings. For local business owners that doesn’t exist.
We want to be that for our business owners, that’s where we started doing a lot of social media classes, a lot of SEO classes. Now, we realized through those two years plus this last year, what the business owners really want and even a group of kids from the East Initiative.
We pulled them on what they think about buying local and they said, “Where’s our reward card system?” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard business owners say, “Where’s our reward card system?” And you’re talking about something that only drives traffic to our independent businesses.
Now, think if outside of just the people that live here. When people come to Arkansas, don’t you think they want to visit like a local?
[0:26:23.6] KM: Yeah.
[0:26:24.8] SC: Right. We’re working with the state of Arkansas through their group travel. So when people call the state of Arkansas for group travel, now this will be an option. Would you like to visit like a local I should say, #visitlikelocal because that’s us.
[0:26:42.1] KM: Okay, what is it hashtag?
[0:26:44.6] SC: Visit like a local.
[0:26:46.2] KM: That’s your hash tag?
[0:26:48.0] SC: For the tourism part of it, yes.
[0:26:51.8] KM: I’m a little bit overwhelmed by everything you said. So when they come, if someone wants to come to visit Little Rock and be like a local, which everybody does when they travel. The Little Rock Visiting Convention Bureau is going to say, “Here’s your card?” What are they going to give them?
[0:27:10.7] SC: Well it will be an option where they say – when someone calls the State of Arkansas for group travel, there’s different options. They say, “Do you want us to take you on the bus to the dog races? Do you want us to take you to the horse races?” And now they’re going to say, “Would you like a discount program to travel or visit like a local?” And they’ll have an option to buy the card.
[0:27:31.6] KM: And you just buy it while you’re here and you get a pamphlet that says, “These are all the stores that are honoring this card. Go visit them and you are going to get whatever discount the store offers.”
[0:27:42.5] SC: It’s all online though. I mean you would get a physical card but there’s no pamphlet of businesses.
[0:27:49.4] KM: Oh you go online to find – and then there’s a website that lists all the businesses.
[0:27:52.9] SC: Yes absolutely.
[0:27:54.3] KM: Is that what I went to? What’s the website?
[0:27:57.4] SC: It will launch tomorrow.
[0:27:58.1] KM: Oh okay, so I went to Local First which is not the same as?
[0:28:02.4] SC: Yeah, Local First Arkansas is a support organization for independent businesses in Arkansas.
[0:28:08.1] KM: That’s right and local Arkansas is a gift card so to speak.
[0:28:13.6] SC: Yes, it’s a reward loyalty card.
[0:28:15.4] KM: A reward loyalty card. Alright this is a great place to take a break and when we come back, we’re going to really dissect all of those. We’ll come back and talk with the ambitious and community minded, Susie Cowan, founder of the Legends of Arkansas Festival that is happening tomorrow. Saturday, September the 16th in Argenta Arts District of North Little Rock, Arkansas. We’re going to hear about all of these different avenues she has. Organizations for businesses and the state wide reward and loyalty card.
And if you missed any part of this show, you can hear it on Blog Talk and a podcast will be made available at flagandbanner.com. If you go to flagandbanner.com and click on “Radio Show” there is a link to iTunes, YouTube, Blog Talk and there’s a direct download. Alright.
[0:29:02.8] TB: You’re listening to Up In Your Business with Kerry McCoy, we’ll be right back.
[0:29:20.8] KM: I used to have a crush on that guy, what’s his name, John Mellencamp?
[0:29:23.5] SC: You know his Pink Houses.
[0:29:25.7] KM: Little Pink Houses. You are listening to Up In Your Business with me, Kerry McCoy. My guest today is Pine Bluff Arkansas native, Susie Cowan. She is one of the founders of Legends of Arkansas Festival that is happening tomorrow, September the 16th in the Argenta Arts District of North Little Rock, Arkansas. If you’ve got questions or comments for my guest or for me, this is your chance. You can call:
[0:29:51.7] TB: The number is 501-433-0088.
[0:29:55.9] KM: And you can send an email to me.
[0:29:58.9] TB: The email is email@example.com.
[0:30:02.8] KM: You can also Tweet me a question @askkerrymccoy and we are using the #upinyourbusiness. For the listeners that just tuned in – you have a festival Susie, it’s $5 and it’s family friendly. Tell us a little bit about the times tomorrow and you know, what they can expect.
[0:30:24.6] SC: Okay, so we start at 2 PM and we go until 9 PM. There’s going to be live music, local food trucks, arts and craft vendors. There will be artists painting live. There’ll be performing artists doing stilt walking and fire and hula-hoop dancing. For the kids, there is a hula-hoop play shop. Barefoot studios, Breezy, is going to come out and do yoga, family yoga. Yeah, it’s really great. It’s really fun to see kids doing yoga with their parents.
So we love that, that’s one of our favorite features every year. She does that for us and so yeah, we encourage you to come out and bring your dogs. We have a pop up dog park that ArkanPaws will be there to help take care of and spoil your furry friends.
[0:31:17.7] KM: Oh that’s nice and it goes for a great cause. The Vans of Arkansas has grown to five vans you’ve said and they’ve taken ownership over this festival and they’re going to – $5 goes to a great, great cause.
[0:31:35.7] SC: It does.
[0:31:36.7] KM: And you’re launching something special tomorrow.
[0:31:40.4] SC: We are. The launch, the official launch party for Local Arkansas is at Legends of Arkansas 2017. So that’s going to be a lot of fun.
[0:31:50.5] KM: And the Local Arkansas is a loyalty and rewards card, do you buy the card?
[0:31:57.9] SC: Yes, it is $15 for the consumers to buy the card and then you’ll get deals all over the state. One of the more popular deals right now is at DeLuca’s Pizza, you get $5 off a pie. I mean that’s substantial savings.
[0:32:13.3] KM: Where’s DeLuca’s Pizza?
[0:32:14.3] SC: It’s in Hot Springs and it’s amazing. Anthony is a hoot. Talk about a great business owner.
[0:32:21.5] KM: So to find out who all is partnering with you on this card, you can go to the website and will the website be ready by tomorrow?
[0:32:31.1] SC: Tomorrow, everything launches tomorrow.
[0:32:33.2] KM: Oh good luck, that’s scary to me.
[0:32:37.0] SC: Yeah, I will give you a little preview that here in Little Rock, we have the Green Corner Store, the Freckled Frog and Barn Mercantile have already signed on. So those are right off the bat.
[0:32:49.7] KM: How about my favorite Loblolly?
[0:32:51.4] SC: Not yet but they will.
[0:32:52.9] KM: They need to. I eat ice cream for dinner every day of my life.
[0:32:57.3] SC: Yes you do, yeah and they’re a great candidate for the loyalty part. So if we go in there our tipped cone should be free Sally.
[0:33:05.3] KM: Yeah, Sally was my second guest on the show.
[0:33:08.4] SC: She’s so great.
[0:33:09.5] KM: She’s great, she’s a great entrepreneur, she’s locally minded. You have another business that we talked about earlier that is for small business organizations and it’s called?
[0:33:19.2] SC: Local First Arkansas, a non-profit.
[0:33:20.7] KM: And it’s a group of small businesses that come together with like minds to get training.
[0:33:28.5] SC: Education, networking.
[0:33:30.7] KM: And you said you had classes. Where did you hold those classes?
[0:33:33.2] SC: We do, most of them are done at the Hub at the Arkansas Ritual Innovation Hub.
[0:33:38.2] KM: In downtown Little Rock on Main Street.
[0:33:40.2] SC: No, that’s the tech park. The Hub is actually in North Little Rock in Argenta across the street from Verizon.
[0:33:49.0] KM: So do you do it weekly or do you just do it on demand, or on need?
[0:33:53.5] SC: Yes on need, that’s a good way to put that. So we do a lot of assessing and try to figure out what our business owners need. That’s how we came up with the business or the educational series and over the past four months, we’ve been doing it Pine Bluff now too and now we’re headed to Hot Springs next.
[0:34:16.3] KM: So I went on your website and it said that if you joined, you get optimized business listing which is linked back to your website which everybody likes that for SEO. You get discounts with our local media partners for marketing and advertising. People don’t realize how important advertising is for small business. Every time a small business gets in trouble the first thing they cut is their advertising budget and that’s like cutting your foot off.
[0:34:42.0] SC: That’s exactly right.
[0:34:43.0] KM: They need to actually advertise more.
[0:34:45.5] SC: And this is to help drown out the noise because if they’ve made it to where they’re a business all for about us that means that it’s working for other people and we know them personally. You are not going to get an offer through Local First Arkansas that is not by a reliable person that is local, a locally minded fellow business owner that is providing the ones that we offer.
[0:35:10.1] KM: You get a rotation for our featured business in the directory. So you write an article about them, that’s great for SEO, you get free admission to local events, some of them. You get a connection to locally minded business owners that you were just talking about, access to educational programs, sponsorship opportunities and monthly newsletters. That’s a lot of work, do you do all of that?
[0:35:33.2] SC: We have a working board but yes, I direct the traffic there.
[0:35:41.0] KM: How many members do you have?
[0:35:42.7] SC: We have over a hundred business members now and 40 localists.
[0:35:46.6] KM: So if somebody wants to get involved, how do they do it?
[0:35:49.9] SC: www.localfirstar.com.
[0:35:53.2] KM: www.localfirstar.com and this is the business model that is modelled after Arizona and Utah.
[0:36:03.9] SC: We’re part of the larger group of businesses alliances around the country and in June, I actually went to the sustainable conference, Sustainable Economy’s Conference in Boston and we convened with everyone. It was quite fabulous to learn what has worked elsewhere in the country to bring back to Arkansas and try here.
[0:36:28.8] KM: And not everybody can afford to travel or to leave their business. So you go and do that for them and then you go back with the information and you spread the good news.
[0:36:36.3] SC: Absolutely.
[0:36:37.1] KM: I think every time I go out of town I learn something. I’m going to a flag convention, yes flag makers have conventions. I’m going to one in two weeks to be with other likeminded people. How much does it cost to join?
[0:36:49.5] SC: It is a $125 per year for a business.
[0:36:53.0] KM: That seems cheap.
[0:36:54.4] SC: It is. It is very affordable for educational opportunities, networking opportunities, directory listings and access to good deals.
[0:37:04.1] KM: So are you in north west Arkansas?
[0:37:06.2] SC: Not yet, we’re headed that way now.
[0:37:08.3] KM: What’s your long range goal?
[0:37:11.1] SC: Well, Local First Arizona is the biggest in the country and they have 2,000 businesses. So not that I am trying to beat anyone because I’m a huge fan of their director, she’s been my mentor for the past three years. But if we could hit that 2,000 that would be pretty sweet.
[0:37:31.4] KM: That seems doable.
[0:37:33.3] SC: It does.
[0:37:33.8] KM: It really does, you have only been in business for one year and you’ve already got a hundred.
[0:37:37.7] SC: We do.
[0:37:38.7] KM: Because I think everybody likes that community minded local, shop local, support local is really, really big right now. If I want to buy a card and I can’t come to the festival tomorrow, what do I do?
[0:37:52.0] SC: You’ll go to localar.com or I’m sorry, it’s mylocalar.com and that will be live after tomorrow.
[0:38:02.1] KM: And you can just – so you go there tomorrow to the website?
[0:38:04.9] SC: Purchase the card and you’ll have a digital version on your phone and then they’ll mail you the hardcopy of the card. It’s really pretty, I wish I had one to show you. I keep giving them away though.
[0:38:16.5] KM: Well give me one.
[0:38:18.5] SC: They’ll be available at the Green Corner store just down the street at the Barn Mercantile and Freckled Frog after Monday.
[0:38:24.6] KM: I noticed you had a lot of restaurants that were with your business organization. So this is where we take our next break. When we come back, we’ll talk with the ambitious and community minded, Susie Cowan. She’s one of the founders of the community festival, Legends of Arkansas, that is happening on Saturday, September the 16th at the Argenta Arts District of North Little Rock, Arkansas and if you missed any part of this show, a podcast will be made available next week.
Just go to flagandbanner.com website, click on “Radio Show” and there will be a link to iTunes, YouTube and Blog Talk.
[0:38:59.7] TB: You’re listening to Up In Your Business with Kerry McCoy. We’ll be right back.
[0:39:17.7] KM: You are listening to Up In Your Business with me, Kerry McCoy. My guest today is Pine Bluff Arkansas native and founder of the North Little Rock Festival, Legends of Arkansas, Susie Cowan. Susie before we tell everybody again about your Legends of Arkansas Festival, I want to ask you where do you think all these entrepreneurship and community mindedness comes from, are your parents’ small business owners?
[0:39:38.3] SC: No.
[0:39:38.9] KM: Really?
[0:39:40.1] SC: No, my father was a CPA, a certified public account accountant for Big Curds and Dobson.
[0:39:46.9] KM: Well that’s good for you, you can go in there and ask them questions about all of this stuff. Is the first thing he says, “Quit working so hard for no money?”
[0:39:53.7] SC: Yes, that’s absolutely what he says.
[0:39:57.1] KM: Being a business owner, I can listen to everything you’re doing and I know that you are getting five cents an hour. What is your big goal in life? Are you just going to be a volunteer forever?
[0:40:10.3] SC: Well, I don’t know. My seven year old daughter asked me the other way what I was going to be when I grew up and I could not answer that question yet.
[0:40:18.3] KM: You say “I ain’t grown up yet honey.”
[0:40:19.7] SC: I am not there yet, I don’t know. I don’t know, I know what my mission is and my mission is to connect community through events. It’s what I’m good at, it’s what I love. It’s those moments of silly moments. Like Josiah Moody when he makes beer, he was Moody Brooze, he met a guy at Legends in 2015 that made furniture and so he had old – Josiah gave him the old barrels and now he’s turning it into beautiful furniture.
[0:40:54.7] KM: I love that.
[0:40:55.2] SC: I do, it’s little things like that that really – they change our community. They connect our community and that’s the world I want my kids to grow up in.
[0:41:04.8] KM: I think that a lot of young people have got this really wonderful way of looking at life. You know I’ve heard that the millennials are more like the World War II generation than any other generation.
[0:41:15.5] SC: Oh wow.
[0:41:16.1] KM: I know, are you a millennial? I think so, no?
[0:41:19.3] SC: I don’t think so.
[0:41:19.9] KM: You’re an X-er?
[0:41:20.5] SC: But thank you for that.
[0:41:21.5] KM: You act like a millennial, you’re more community minded, service minded like the greatest generation from World War II, that’s a great thing to hear. From this festival that you launched five years ago so that would have been 2013, came an off shoot, a business organization because you met all these vendors and people through this festival and so you started another company called –
[0:41:48.2] SC: It’s another non-profit called Local First Arkansas.
[0:41:51.1] KM: And it is?
[0:41:52.2] SC: A support organization for independent businesses in Arkansas.
[0:41:55.6] KM: She acts like she said that a few times. So if you’re a small business person out there and you want to meet other small business likeminded people and hear the same problems over and over and over because we all have the exact same problems. Training, hiring, learning this technology that is moving like the speed of light these days. I know one of hardest things for me was learning how to hire, train and knowing how to fire and how to do it all correctly.
[0:42:26.3] SC: That’s a good point.
[0:42:27.9] KM: It was one of the hardest things I ever had to learn in business. I could sell, I like my product but learning the human resources side of it was really difficult for me. I actually begin to learn it from another mentor. I had a breakfast that I went to just exactly what you are talking about and we met once a month. You should think about doing breakfast.
[0:42:47.7] SC: Well that’s a good idea.
[0:42:48.7] KM: And we met once a month and we all shared what was going on with each other and somebody always had good advice for me.
[0:42:56.8] SC: Yeah.
[0:42:58.0] KM: So that’s what it does. In addition, you get a link back to get on your website in your newsletter, to become a featured person of your story?
[0:43:06.4] SC: Actually that featured thing has now taken form in its own blog called the Boar Blog which is business owners of Arkansas and we get this super cute, little nerdy boar with big glasses on and that’s on Instagram, it’s an insta blog.
[0:43:21.8] KM: That is, you all are so creative. If you ever need a job, if you ever want to work for money, call me. And then out of that business organization, blossomed what you’re launching tomorrow which is?
[0:43:37.4] SC: Local Arkansas.
[0:43:38.5] KM: That is?
[0:43:39.5] SC: The new hottest thing that’s going to hit Arkansas and save our independent businesses from bad marketing decisions.
[0:43:45.8] KM: It’s a rewards card that visitors to Arkansas will get?
[0:43:51.0] SC: It is. I mean, it’s built for locals but it’s also built to attract and drive our tourism because tourism is the number two industry in Arkansas. As much as I love it when people come here and go to Cracker Barrel, that’s not exactly why we want them to come here.
We want them to come here and go eat at The Root, we want them to come here and shop at the green corner store.
[0:44:14.6] KM: I know you talked about you could buy the card for how much?
[0:44:16.9] SC: $15.
[0:44:17.6] KM: For $15 but what if I want to be one of the people on the card?
[0:44:20.3] SC: Okay, that’s a whole other deal.
[0:44:21.8] KM: I didn’t talk about that earlier, what is that?
[0:44:23.4] SC: It’s a whole other deal. It’s $500 a year but you know what it includes? One year of marketing, digital marketing from like the hottest marketing company in Arkansas and a membership to Local First Arkansas.
[0:44:35.3] KM: Who’s the hottest marketing company in Arkansas?
[0:44:36.0] SC: They’re called Render Creative and they’re so cool.
[0:44:38.0] KM: Really?
[0:44:39.0] SC: Yes, they’re so cool.
[0:44:40.3] KM: Are you being sarcastic?
[0:44:41.4] SC: I am not at all and the reason why you don’t know about them is because they haven’t left Hot Springs until tomorrow, when they go state wide.
[0:44:47.3] KM: They’re not the best marketing company because I haven’t heard of them.
[0:44:51.3] SC: Well. The best in Hot Springs.
[0:44:55.1] KM: We get a lot of tourists at Arkansas Flag and Banner that are downtown because we’re downtown. I want to join that.
[0:45:01.2] SC: That’s fantastic.
[0:45:02.2] KM: I can’t believe I didn’t ask about that earlier. I’m sick about it. Alright, I’m so glad I met you. I’m serious, if you ever need a job, call me. No, really, I’m really happy to meet you. You’re a one of a kind, really are, you’re a real go getter and I love your mission and your philosophy on life and because you’re like in Arkansas, there’s a desk set for you of a miniature Arkansas flag and a miniature US flag for you to put out for all.
[0:45:29.8] SC: I need that for my desk.
[0:45:31.1] KM: You do, for all your local Arkansas.
[0:45:33.1] SC: Keep me inspired and on track.
[0:45:35.9] KM: There you go. Thank you, Susie really, I really enjoyed meeting you. Who’s my guest next week Tim?
[0:45:41.6] TB: Next week it’s going to be the former mayor of north Little Rock, the current head of the North Little Rock Parks and Recreation, Terry Hartwick.
[0:45:49.8] KM: That guy is something else. Besides being handsome and I hope he’s listening. He was the mayor of north Little Rock, he was the North Little Rock Chamber of Commerce, president of the North Little Rock Chamber of Commerce for 15 years and you know, 15 years about all you’ll ever want to do anything.
Now, he’s the director of North Little Rock Parks and Recreation and when I called him the other day to get him on the radio, he was playing golf. I was like, yeah, that’s what you get to do if you’re the director of parks and rec.
[0:46:19.3] TB: I like it.
[0:46:19.9] KM: I do too. I want to be that. If you have a great entrepreneurial story you would like to share, I would love to hear from you. Send a brief bio and your contact info to, firstname.lastname@example.org and someone will be in touch just like Susie did, that’s what you did Susie, I’m so glad you did because I met you. Finally, to our listeners, thank you for spending time with me. If you think this program’s been about you, you’re right, but it’s also been for me. Thank you for letting me fulfill my destiny.
My hope today is that you’ve heard or learned something that’s been inspiring or enlightening and that it, whatever it is will help you up your business, your independence or your life. I’m Kerry McCoy and I’ll see you next time on Up In Your Business. Until then, be brave and keep it up.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
[0:47:02.2] TB: You’ve been listening to Up In Your Business with Kerry McCoy. Want to hear today’s program again or want someone else to benefit from it, jot this down. Next week, a podcast will be available at flagandbanner.com. Click the tab labelled, “Radio Show”, there you’ll find today’s segment with links to resources you’ve heard discussed on this program. Kerry’s goal: To help you live the American Dream.