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In this episode of the Arkansas Inc. Podcast, Host Jeff Moore, AEDC’s EVP of Marketing, talks with Zach Hill and Elizabeth Strandberg, the CEO and Events Manager of Few; a Little Rock, Arkansas-based design and development agency. Few is hosting their sixth Made By Few conference, a design conference in Little Rock this October for professionals from across the country. Listen or read below all about how Arkansas was the perfect choice for Few, what they’re passionate about, and the unique offerings and opportunities available at the Made By Few conference this year.
Announcer: Welcome to the Arkansas Inc Podcast where we discuss the latest topics and trends in economic development with subject matter experts and influencers from across the nation and around the world.
Jeff Moore: I'm your host, Jeff Moore, EVP of Marketing and Communications for the Arkansas Economic Development Commission and today our guests are Zack Hill and Elizabeth Strandberg of Few a Little Rock, Arkansas-based design and development agency. Zack is the CEO of Few and Elizabeth is the Events Manager.
Jeff Moore: We're going to be chatting with Zack and Elizabeth about their upcoming design conference here in Little Rock called, Made by Few. How the conference will be held here in Little Rock, October 25th through the 27th with events, speakers and parties in multiple locations including CALS Ron Robinson Theater, the Great Hall at the Clinton Center and the Dust Bowl Lounge, so welcome to the show guys.
Few: The Agency
Jeff Moore: Before we talk about the Made by Few Conference, Zack, I thought, tell us a little bit about Few and your agency.
Zack Hill: Yeah, so, Few has been around for about a little over four years now. Started as a very humble design and dev agency building out just about any kind of website or software you can imagine and just building a customer base.
Zack Hill: Over the past 4.5 years we've grown to 12 full-time employees, most of them are based here in Arkansas but we have employees across the country. We also have clients in Arkansas and across the country, also. We do design development, as you mentioned, but we also do prototyping MVP, proof of concept and, on the backside, we also do go to market strategy support the launch of the products that we're building and other companies. So we work with everything from enterprise, to startup companies to help kind of bring their products to life. When I say products, I mean their digital products, applications, software and things like that. It's a very exciting field to be in and Few has positioned itself very uniquely in Arkansas because there's just not a lot of companies that kind of bring what we're able to bring to the table.
Jeff Moore: Why Made by Few, what was the thought there?
Zack Hill: Yeah. Made by Few, the idea there was, it was really kind of founded by Arlton Lowry, which is one of the founders of Few, and a group of friends. The conference actually predates the agency. A lot of people don't quite understand that or know that, the conference was simply built to create an opportunity for the creative community in Arkansas to be invested in, and to grow and to bring something a little bit different to the table for the community.
Zack Hill: When it started it was maybe 30, 40 people in a room and with group of speakers who, at the time were, and still today were, prominent figures either in the state or in surrounding states to now where we have speakers from very large companies like Netflix, and Google Ventures, and Facebook and things like that. So clearly the community needed that investment, has really rallied around the conference and it's just really an opportunity for us to use the agency and use what we're doing to really invest in the creative community of Arkansas.
Jeff Moore: The creative community is such a great part of our city, in the culture here. Elizabeth, what caused you to want to get involved with Made by Few?
Elizabeth Strandberg: Well, I've actually been following Made by Few for a few years. I had the unique opportunity to see the behind the scenes picture of it in 2015 and then I was an attendee in 2016. So I have been an admirer from afar and when the job opportunity was posted, I jumped on it.
Jeff Moore: You guys have a great list of speakers on hand so what can you tell us about some of these digital design A-Listers, as we might call them?
Elizabeth Strandberg: Yeah, I'd say this year we have the most diverse and inclusive lineup to date. We've got some amazing speakers from some amazing companies, Marc Hemeon, he's a Project Design Lead the Facebook AI.
Jeff Moore: I think the Design Chief at Walmart, I think was one?
Elizabeth Strandberg: Yeah. Natasha Jen, she's a partner at Pentagram. We've got Valerie Casey, she is the Head of Design at Walmart. She is previously the Chief Product Officer for Samsung, she is a previous Executive Leader at IDEO, frog design, and Pentagram.
Jeff Moore: That's a good lineup. So there's a lot of tech stuff, you know going around the nation, I mean you've got South by Southwest, you've got all these kinds of conferences going, so why would someone choose to come to Made by Few if they had a few conferences they can attend in a year? What's a good reason for them to attend the conference? What would they get out of it?
Elizabeth Strandberg: I think Made by Few offers an incredible value, especially in comparison to some of the regional and national conferences. Attendees are going to be inspired on multiple levels from the speaker talks, to the parties that we've got programmed to just networking with people, shoulder to shoulder.
Jeff Moore: Yeah that tells me a little bit about the conference, maybe good high level of what folks can expect when they come to visit? They come for the conference, what can they expect in the two days of the conference right it's a couple of days long, or?
Elizabeth Strandberg: Yeah, so the conference is three days, two days of talks, we've got an opening reception on Thursday, so three full days. Attendees can expect a wide range of talk content. Talks from product design, to graphic design, to marketing, entrepreneurial talks as well.
Elizabeth Strandberg: As well as parties, wonderful swag, wonderful opportunities to network and connect with people.
Zack Hill: Yeah, we also have some workshops lined up that will allow people to engage in a different way. A lot of people don't like to just sit and listen. There's going to be opportunities for them to get hands-on, learn a new skill so a lot of unique experiences. It's just something that you don't really get an opportunity to see very often in the state of Arkansas. Hopefully we more and more of things like this, you know building that creative community as I mentioned, but as Elizabeth kind of talked to, if you are in Arkansas and you want to see or want to learn from the caliber of speaker that we have at Made by Few, most often you're going to be have to be going to Austin, to New York, to San Francisco or somewhere along those lines. That usually comes with a very hefty ticket price and that's usually double, triple, maybe even quadruple what our ticket price is.
Zack Hill: It usually comes with lodging, flight or travel, meals, things like that. Most of that is all inclusive within our ticket. Your meals, your parties, all of that is included. Especially if your local, you don't have to worry about the travel and the lodging side of things. If you do, you're not going to find many markets that are as affordable to do the travel and to do the stay for the conference as you'll find in Little Rock.
Zack Hill: So I think the value as far as the total price of what you may see whenever you're talking about a South by Southwest, which I've been to many years, over the past five years, just the lodging alone is more than, can be, five times your ticket price.
Jeff Moore: I tried to move to Austin once and just didn't work out financially.
Zack Hill: Yeah.
Jeff Moore: What's the draw in terms of folks? Are you looking to draw from the middle part of the country or you looking to draw from coast-to-coast or what do you kind of foresee there, what has been the trend in the past?
Elizabeth Strandberg: Yeah, historically, in the past, we've drawn heavily in the region, heavily in the state to start with, but more heavily in the region in the mid-south but, surprisingly, we've also had attendees come from all over. From the UK, from Canada, from coast-to-coast, California, New York and we're really, really gauging to build this conference out as more of a national draw because the value is so high, as Zack mentioned.
Elizabeth Strandberg: We think that a lot of people will compare conferences and chose Made by Few because of the high value and the lower cost and price but then also the amenities that the state offers that are a lot more affordable in comparison to New York or Austin as we were just talking about.
A Labor of Love
Jeff Moore: In terms of Few and I've sort of browsed your website a bit but this passion and this desire to better humankind, does that find its way into the conference? That's really a compelling position.
Elizabeth Strandberg: Yeah, absolutely. Made by Few, I think that the passion has continued in content and programming to date since 2012 when Arlton first began it. He coins it as a labor of love. I think that he really had no motive other than programming content and bringing people together to continue to inspire them, to pursue their day jobs, their side hustles or their goals and dreams that they have not, that they weren't able to yet see happen. That's what we continue to aim for today, especially in programming content, bringing people from different kinds of backgrounds that have really made their dreams work.
Elizabeth Strandberg: We have an amazing speaker this year, his name is Jason Mayden, he started out as an intern at Nike and he was there for 13 years and now he has his own company it's called Super Heroic, it's a product company building shoes for youth. He recently won a Red Dot Award. I believe that he was the first African American to win one of those design awards and so that just one example of the amazing speakers that are going to be inspiring for all types of people.
Jeff Moore: That's awesome. You've been listening Arkansas Inc Podcast, we're going to take a short break and then we'll be right back with Zack and Elizabeth to talk more about Made by Few.
A Culture of Connection
Jeff Moore: Now we talked a little bit about the content, you know what to expect in the day-to-day, the venues, of course, CALS Ron Robinson Theater, awesome venue, been there many times. The Great Hall at the Clinton Center and then Dust Bowl Lounge, so we expect to have beers and networking I'm supposing?
Elizabeth Strandberg: Absolutely.
Zack Hill: Yeah, if it's a Made by Few or a Few related event, you can expect to have beers and networking.
Elizabeth Strandberg: Absolutely.
Jeff Moore: It's a must. Yeah.
Zack Hill: Yeah, in relation to Few, Made by Few has always been that opportunity while Made by Few predates Few, the agency, its really been an opportunity for Few, the agency, the take the culture that we have, the passion that we have, and the caring mentality that we have and then put that culture on display through Made by Few. I think it's just an extension of us but positioned in a way that others can get involved in and invest in a feel like they're getting a lot of value though.
Jeff Moore: Yeah they develop their own personality, right? These conferences, they kind of it comes out of Few but also the participants. I always love the networking possibilities there and just how you can mix have a beer with folks and talk-
Elizabeth Strandberg: Yeah.
Jeff Moore: ... and mix. Is that part of this too in terms of interaction?
Elizabeth Strandberg: Absolutely.
Jeff Moore: Part of how ideas come about?
Elizabeth Strandberg: Yeah. We've been very intentional in programming that throughout the conference. We feel like building relationships and networking, forging relationships to an even stronger, different level is very important. I've heard stories from people that have gotten jobs that have met their spouses, that have longterm friends via conference and that's just so profound and exciting for me as the Event Programmer because there's beyond the inspirational content, there's a networking factor there that's real. Also, it's so valuable for people because they're looking for that type of networking ability and they otherwise wouldn't be able to find that in different conferences or different environments.
Jeff Moore: People are meeting their spouses, I mean you have farmers only, maybe you have developers only dot come or something?
Zack Hill: We might run with that.
Elizabeth Strandberg: Maybe we can build it?
Jeff Moore: There you go.
Zack Hill: We might run with that.
Elizabeth Strandberg: Yeah.
Zack Hill: I mean we'd literally have had people meet their spouses, do long distance relationships that all kind of spurred from that networking and that they had at Made by Few.
Jeff Moore: Love is in the code.
Zack Hill: Yeah.
Elizabeth Strandberg: Yeah.
Zack Hill: If you're a young designer, I mean there's huge amount of value from coming because most of the local agencies get involved and send people. It's the perfect opportunity if you're looking for an internship, if you're looking for a foot in the door at a particular agency. I almost bet that they're going to be there, their creative directors are going to be there, it's a great opportunity to make those connections.
Elizabeth Strandberg: Yeah and beyond that, the conference aims to foster relationship with creatives by providing work for them. It's a unique thing about Made by Few is that every year, we commission a new brand identity from designers locally, regionally or nationally where it's a job. They get paid to come up with a new identity for us.
Elizabeth Strandberg: We also aim to provide multiple platforms for these designers to be able to expose their work via our channels or just, again, with that networking opportunity so think that's an incredible value that we offer that a lot of conferences, they don't.
A Natural Choice
Jeff Moore: Do you find that some of the folks that visit from around, they've never been to central Arkansas, been to Little Rock or whatever, do you find that they're surprised? Are they pleasantly surprised and, "Wow this is a pretty cool place?"
Elizabeth Strandberg: Yeah, I think so. I can speak from my own experience, I'm a transplant and coming to central Arkansas has been a wonderful surprise but I think, similarly, people that have visited the conference enjoy the city feel that's not too urban but also connected to nature. We're also wanting to program elements of allowing our attendees the experience the natural parts of Arkansas, as well, via bike rides and just touring the downtown areas that connect to the river and to the different beautiful resources here in the city.
Jeff Moore: Yeah. Lot to enjoy.
Zack Hill: Yeah, many of our attendees, attendees but then also speakers, many of them my have a connection to Arkansas but most don't. It's their first time here, they live in San Francisco, or they live in New York and they're coming to Arkansas for the first time. It's why it's so important to have the support of AEDC and to have the support of other agencies and groups because it really is an opportunity for these heads, VPs of Netflix and other companies coming into the state and really having an opportunity to kind of put our best foot forward, show them not only what we offer from a natural environment side of things but also that are forging our own path from a technology standpoint, from an economic development standpoint. Really opening their eyes to, "Man, there's some opportunity in Arkansas." So that's, I feel like that's a huge part of what we're doing it just kind of happens very naturally because we're bringing them down to speak at a conference but then they leave with a very eye-opening experience when it comes to the people of Arkansas.
Zack Hill: It's not all the stereotypes that you might think. Then, on the flip side of that, Made by Few is going to the other conferences across the country. Few is working with a number of clients outside of the state so it gives us an opportunity to put our best foot forward in these other markets. What's a true representation of Arkansan?
Jeff Moore: So much to showcase, I mean how many times I can't tell you how many times we hear folks come in and say, "Wow, northwest Arkansas, central Arkansas this place is awesome." A lot of folk move here. For being part of the ADC and the economic development, we see a lot of companies move here and they're just amazed at all the talent, and I could go on, but especially the natural beauty.
Jeff Moore: October 25th through 27th, man, you couldn't pick a better time to be in central Arkansas.
Elizabeth Strandberg: Absolutely.
Jeff Moore: I mean it blows up with color.
Elizabeth Strandberg: Yes.
Jeff Moore: So, yeah, it's a great time.
Elizabeth Strandberg: There's so many fun events, yup.
Jeff Moore: If a young designer has one event they can choose in the year, budget-airily, and they to go their supervisor, what case to they make for Made by Few?
Elizabeth Strandberg: I think that there's so much talent on our speaker roster this year. That's the most important case. That's where we really want young designers to be inspired and motivated to come to conference. There are people from, again, all demographics represented on that list and it's going to be even more inspirational this year, we're really working to program actionable content as well. So we really, that's what we really want our designers to focus on and bring to their CEOs and their bosses to come to the conference with.
Designed By Few
Jeff Moore: There's a really interesting component to this conference, I don't know that we've touched on at length yet, it's this live competition, Designed by Few. Tell us about that real quick because that's really cool piece of it.
Elizabeth Strandberg: Yeah. Designed by Few is going to be our premiere after party. It's programmed on Friday, October 26th and that's going to be at Great Hall.
Elizabeth Strandberg: It's a live design competition, every single year that's it happened, its aim to promote and benefit a non-profit here locally. We put three designers up on the stage and they create an asset for that non-profit that they'll actually turn around and use but that gives an opportunity for the audience to engage with the design process, to mix, mingle, have a good time as well as benefit a non-profit. So they can use something to promote their corporation or and event or just elevate their brand.
Jeff Moore: You say live design competition, I'm sort of thinking like MMA, right? Like the chain-link fence thing and everybody sitting around these designers.
Zack Hill: It almost is like that. I mean, minus the chain-link fence. I mean they're pretty cutthroat about-
Jeff Moore: They're throwing bottles and stuff.
Zack Hill: Well if you know anything about designers, the thing that makes them the most anxious is having people sit there and watch them design.
Jeff Moore: No creative likes people looking over their shoulder.
Zack Hill: Getting them to engage and actually go through with this is that's why we have to offer a great cash prize just to get them in that comfort zone of "Okay, I'm going to design with a live screen in front of a number of people." Luckily, again, most of those people are drinking beer and talking and networking so it's not-
Jeff Moore: Lost their inhibition.
Zack Hill: ... not all their attention is on that designer's every move.
Jeff Moore: Okay. So Zack, my last question for you, with all the success of Few, so growth and we've seen it. We're fortunate from the Economic Development Commission side to be able to be a spectator for watching you guys grow and are so excited to kind of see the industry blossom and bloom and kind of blow up here in central Arkansas, around the state.
Jeff Moore: Now, this event, sixth year, it's growing, becoming more and more popular, folks coming from around the world as Elizabeth alluded to. So the looming question for me is, at what point does Few outgrow its name? Is Few become Some or All, or Many? Is there a point where you outgrow?
Zack Hill: I don't think so. I think in the grand scheme of things, what Few represents is it's the few people, overall, that can get the job done. Really, whenever you're talking about the type of work that we do, it goes beyond borders and so when we're talking about what the potential of the company, and agency and the conference, ultimately is, it's still in the grand scheme of things, it's still going to be that group of people that few people that can actually deliver and get the job done for folks. That's really where the name comes from and that's really what our goal is and will always be.
Jeff Moore: Elizabeth, tell us a little bit about how folks can sign up for Made by Few.
Elizabeth Strandberg: Yeah. Folks can sign up on the internet at MadebyFew.com. There they'll be ticket registration links that they can click on. We've got our tickets live, right now, as well as workshops. We've got more events and details to be announced very soon.
Jeff Moore: If folks want to sponsor if some other businesses want to sponsor the program, how might they do that?
Jeff Moore: We've been fortunate today to have a few of the Few with us on the Arkansas Inc Podcast. Thank you so much, guys. I appreciate your time and best to you guys as we work together with you. Actually, we're fortunate to be participating with you in the Made by Few Conference so thanks a lot.
Zack Hill: Yeah. Thank you for your support.
Elizabeth Strandberg: Yeah. Thank you.
Zack Hill: We're super pumped to bring this to the state.
Elizabeth Strandberg: Thank you so much.
Jeff Moore: All right. I'm Jeff Moore and I've been your host for the Arkansas Inc Podcast. We've been fortunate to be speaking with two of the Few, Zack Hill and Elizabeth Strandberg from Few and the Made by Few Conference. The Made by Few Conference will be held October 25th through the 27th and you can go to MadebyFew.com to sign up and register to attend the conference. Thank you guys so much for being here, we've enjoyed having you.
Zack Hill: Thank you. It's been a pleasure.
Elizabeth Strandberg: Yeah. Thank you so much.