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Winter 2012 Arkansas On Their Mind

Two entrepreneurs, who love their state but like to joke about it, build a following through Facebook. And expand the concept of personalization to an entire state.

It was around a year ago that Keith Carter started kicking around the idea of specialty T-shirts capturing the spirit of his state, Arkansas. He remembers telling a friend from Kansas, “AR-kansas is better than your Kansas.” Funny taglines such as this form the basis for much of the merchandise sold by the company: AR State of Mind Clothing. The new concept, which features more than 50 designs with slogans about places in Arkansas, opened last July in the Park Plaza Mall in Little Rock.

The company is the brainchild of Chris Jordan and Keith Carter, two friends who love their home state but don’t mind poking fun at some of its idiosyncrasies. Jordan and Carter have since developed slogans for various Arkansas towns and designed T-shirts around them. For instance, there’s “Welcome to Sherwood: License and Registration, Please” for a town with a notorious speed trap. “Pulaski Tech: When Doing your Best is too Hard” pokes fun at a community college in Little Rock. For the town of Gurdon, which has a mysterious light that shines over the railroad tracks, the shirt reads: “Welcome to Gurdon: we’ll leave the light on for you.”

These shirts allow people from various localities within Arkansas to show off the quirks of their hometown, Carter says. “This was something we could do that was purely Arkansas—that would tap into the passion we have for the state, which a lot of people share, and combine it with our sense of humor and sarcastic view of the world,” he adds. Besides being the state’s abbreviation, the “AR” in the company name is a play on the word “our.”

The biggest sellers are a T-shirt with the Arkansas flag—which Jordan says attests to the state pride that Arkansans feel—and a shirt with a map that reads “Arkansas Dry Counties: Know Before you Go.” The company developed a shirt with the slogan “Save AR boobies” for breast cancer awareness month in October.

In addition to its cart in the Park Plaza Mall, AR State of Mind Clothing sells items online through its website. Since its inception, Jordan and Carter have promoted the concept heavily on Facebook. “We have a very active following on Facebook,” Carter says, noting that the company advertises exclusively through social media. According to Jordan, 65 percent of the company’s Facebook fans are women but 65 percent of the shirts purchased are for men.

The company started selling its T-shirts during Riverfest, a popular Memorial Day weekend event in Little Rock. At that time, it had eight designs, and about 50 fans on Facebook. Since then, the number of Facebook fans has increased to more than 2,500. Fans get coupons as well as previews of T-shirt designs. “We send designs to them and they’ll tell us whether they like them [or not],” Carter says. Often, Facebook fans will request that the company make a design for their town. Carter recently got such a request from Maumelle, a suburb of Little Rock that only has one road leading to the city. “It takes forever to leave there for work, so I designed a T-shirt that says ‘Maumelle: One road in. No way out’,” Carter says.

In addition to the 50-plus designs the company currently has, Jordan and Carter have ideas for an additional 50. “Fortunately, we know the state very well and the quirks of many of the towns,” Carter says.

Most T-shirts cost $22. The company is looking to expand to a full line of hoodies, thermals, crew-neck shirts, sweat shirts, caps and belt buckles.

Mall operations

For the mall cart, getting a hang of inventory—how much of each size to stock—was challenging. Previously, the company had men’s and women’s sizes, but it has since simplified things by stocking unisex sizes from extra-small to triple-X. There are kids’ sizes as well. Five employees work at the cart. Carter and Jordan plan to open two additional locations in the Little Rock area soon.

“Eventually, we would like to be in every major metropolitan area in the state,” Carter says.

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Bernadette Starzee

Starzee, a Long Island, NY writer who covers business, sports and lifestyle topics, is a senior writer for SRR. She can be reached at .

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