Create Bridges: Small Business - Big Rural Impact

Episode 10: The Three Amigos of CREATE BRIDGES

January 28, 2021 Create Bridges AR Season 1 Episode 10
Create Bridges: Small Business - Big Rural Impact
Episode 10: The Three Amigos of CREATE BRIDGES
Show Notes Transcript

WOW! Celebrating our 10th Episode since we started this series, the CREATE BRIDGES team of Program Coordinators, Murriel Wiley, Brandon Mathews, and Hazelle Whited, recap the last six months of their time working with the business in Retail, Accommodations, Tourism and Entertainment to develop programs that answer concerns identified by each region affecting entrepreneurs and the workforce. Also, this trio is excited about the extension of their roles through 2021 and continue the conversation about additional programs coming down the pipeline as well as encourage businesses to reach out to be future guests on this podcasts. Join the us in what is a typical work session where we talk about you, our businesses and employees, and how we can continue to support you. #createbridgesAR, #Small-Business-Big-Rural-Impact, #ruralAR

For more information about CREATE BRIDGES, visit uaex.uada.edu/createbridges or reach out to Brandon at bmathews@uaex.edu, Murriel at mwiley@uaex.edu, or Hazelle at hwhited@uaex.edu. 


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Come join us, explore the impact of small business here in rural Arkansas.

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What challenges would you face? Who can help you meet those challenges? How do you get in touch with others like you?

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This is Create Bridges, Arkansas, and we invite you to come cross these bridges with us.

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Welcome to another episode of Create Bridges, Small Business, Big Real Impact.

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With me in studio today are my fellow program coordinators, the fabulous Murriel Wiley, the awesome Brandon Matthews.

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And my name is Hazelle Whited and wanted to take you on a journey of the last six months of being a part of the CREATE BRIDGES

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program through the University of Arkansas extension office and also what we are looking forward to doing here in 2021.

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But first,

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let me kick it off to my cohorts and have them introduce themselves again for you and what regions we represent as we just kind of have a fun.

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Hopefully an informative, but yet a very charismatic episode like we always try to provide for you guys on this.

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Hey, by the way, it's our 10th episode, Brandon Murriel can you believe it's our 10th episode?

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Whoa.. doesn't feel like it does not feel like it?

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No, I hope that means it's it was a good time with our guests, which I will let.

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Brandon, I'll let you start off and tell us just kind of remind us about you and the region that you were a part of.

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And just kind of a quick recap of what you experienced in the last six months with Create Bridges.

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I have the great fortune of working with Hazelle up in the Ozark foothills,

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one of the two program coordinators up here covering Fulton, Izard, and Sharp counties.

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It's been terrific learning experience for me. I've only lived in the area now for about

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Two and a half years. So getting a chance to travel. I've met a lot of different business owners.

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I've seen different types of business. I've seen new businesses open even during 2020, which has been a trying year for everyone.

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So that's been really exciting. But I'm probably most excited that my daughter gets to travel a lot with me

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who's two, to see these different businesses and see what rural Arkansas special up here in the north central area has to offer?

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So it's been great for me. Well, awesome. And if you get a chance to see Brandon, make sure he brings his beautiful daughter with him.

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You know, she's what makes him who he is. I will tell you, she is adorable.

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So, Murriel, will you let us know about what you do?

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Because you're actually many, many miles from us up here, and those are foothills.

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Yes. So I'm down here in what we call the three CS, which is the Castot River area region.

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That is Sevier, Little River and Howard counties. And I'm the regional program coordinator for those areas.

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And I've had so much fun getting to know the business owners and doing this podcast, especially making our engagement videos,

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all of the different events and activities and resources that we have coordinated and provided.

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And I can't lie at all. One of my most favorite things has been and interviewing some of the restaurant owners

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and finding out all about all the great cuisine that we have to offer in our region.

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I have, of course, had to sample all of the different types of food at the restaurants that I have visited.

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I mean, you can't just go in to drop off a holiday guide and then not also order takeout.

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So I have been enjoying all the deliveries, did delicious different types of food we have, whether it's barbecue, amazing Mexican food.

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I mean, I'm just here for it all. I mean, supporting these local businesses has been a blast for me.

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Yeah, we we talked about this the. So we have the lovely Julianne Dunn who gets to supervise us.

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And I know she's not been on any of the podcasts, but I know she listens so Julianne.

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We will have to bring you on one of these days. But she does talk about when she shares what we do on our podcast.

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She has mentioned that we talk about food a lot, but, hey, that's what brings people together.

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And that's actually what brings a lot of out of towners through our areas.

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You know, they they stop and they'll see a restaurant and they'll think,

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let's try that in our restaurants tend to be somewhat of a gateway to the things that we do.

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So. And as a reminder, you know, the the things that create bridges,

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actually part of our mission is to really focus on the retail, entertainment, accommodation and tourism businesses.

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Right. So the idea is that those folks are the lifeblood of rural communities.

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And what's interesting to me, Brandon and Murriel, is that since we've been able to work together is because we have Murriel as part of this team.

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I'm able to see truly like how different rural communities have to, you know, kind of the issues they have to address.

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And so that's been kind of nice because we've always said that rural communities have their own challenges and each community,

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you know, in different rural communities have their own challenges.

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So it's been nice to see what Murriel's challenges have been for her region versus what Brandon and I might experience for the Ozark foothills.

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Brandon, I don't know if you found that to be kind of something we learned over the last six months working with Murriel.

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Yeah, I have I have a new appreciation for the term rural.

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Well, you said it's a really generic term because rule in the hills up here is a lot different than down in southwest Arkansas or even southeast or,

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you know, tucked away east over on the other side of Crowleys Ridge, which is not too far from us.

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So, yeah. Different different struggles, different opportunities, but a new appreciation for what it means to be a rural community.

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Absolutely. And I think that is the what the thing that are that create Bridges Steering Committee,

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because they asked us to be a part of the process to solve some of the challenges in our communities.

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I think that has been something that has helped us, I think, to understand that, you know,

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rural communities are different even within themselves as being quote unquote, rural.

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And so as this program continues to get launched in other states, I don't think some of our listeners know this,

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that they're actually launching create bridges in other states that we can help contribute to their process as well.

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Understanding that they have their own unique challenges, that we may not understand, whether it's geographical,

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whether there's, you know, related to environmental things, you know, whatever those challenges are.

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You know, it's it's different for them. But some of the takeaways that we have, we can maybe give them a a ha.

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Oh, that'll work for us. Or that won't work, but something like it will.

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And so this process has not only helped our rural communities, but also other states as they roll out in their rural communities.

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Also, Murriel, I'd like to know from you, as you've heard, Brandon and I talk about the Ozark foothills quite often,

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you know, what are some of the unique challenges that you have in the three C's that maybe we don't experience?

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Yeah, so that's that's one of the ones that I have found specific to the severe county region and even a little bit in our Howard

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County region is our language barrier because we have a large Hispanic population and Spanish speaking business owners.

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And so trying to find ways to connect with those who do not speak the same language as us.

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And connecting with people who have something really great to offer, whether it is accommodations, retail, tourism or entertainment.

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But it's hard to, you know, connect with them when you don't speak the same language as them.

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So we've identified that as a challenge because I'm not sure that Ozark foothills

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has the same cultural diversity in terms of our Spanish speaking business owners,

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maybe in the same numbers that we do down here in severe county.

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So we've just been trying to find ways to develop strategies that we can connect with these business owners,

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identify what they need, what they're missing, what would help them, and how we can really support and uplift them.

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And we've found that connecting with our student ambassadors, with the local college and teaming up with bilingual young people,

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young people who have energy to hit the pavement and go around and visit the business owners

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and find out what they need and then translate that back to those who speak English for me.

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You know, I don't speak Spanish fluently epitomizing mentals, but I don't understand everything.

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So I need to learn it. And I need to also find people who speak it fluently so we don't have that language barrier.

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I feel like there's just certain areas of the state that have higher populations of different cultures.

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And we just try to make sure that even though there is a language barrier, it's not a barrier to us connecting and supporting those businesses.

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Well, it was really cool. Murriel, as you were talking about that, you know, what I was thinking is,

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is that this project is not unlike what businesses might have to go through,

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which is, you know, kind of identifying what we are lacking in and how to reach the businesses.

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And so businesses have to do that for their customers.

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You know, if they're if there is something there that may be causing that barrier, like you talked about, how do we overcome it?

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And, you know, and it may not be necessarily a learning an entire language,

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but certain keywords or having some documents that might speak that language.

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And I will tell you up here, having been a transplant, there's a there was a to me, a cultural language barrier.

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You know, in the beginning for me, I had to learn what some of these terminologies were, especially as related to AG.

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You know, I'm not a farmer. I'm not I don't you know, I didn't do cows until I moved here.

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Right. So, I mean, some of the some of the vocabulary, even for me,

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was so foreign that I had to look at individuals a couple of times that I have no idea what you're talking about.

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Will you please explain that to me? And I know I'm totally city, so hopefully you'll forgive me for that.

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But as a business owner, you know, you have to kind of understand what that is as quickly as you can,

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or at least get the either have people in place who know what you're talking about or, you know, kind of adapt because that's what we do.

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So I. I often think that what we're doing with Create Bridges is a mirror to what business owners will have to go through to try to,

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you know, to please their customers. Hey, Brandon. What kind of what have you enjoyed over the last six months?

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You know, the things that that maybe we put together, you personally put together for create bridges.

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You know what? Tell me tell us something that, you know, you've, like, been really, like, embraced and said, hey, this is great.

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Glad we're doing this. Yeah. So, you know, I think this is to the heart of create bridges.

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But. I never I've never had so much, I guess, access or opportunity to talk to business owners in here, like why they've started businesses.

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I got I got to admit, when we first got involved with create bridges, I expected every conversation.

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To basically be like. We need to, like every conversation, be about.

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How can I grow my business like fast and hard and you know that, you know,

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out of this, if it's just a mentality from moving from the city, moving out here.

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But what I come to realize is there are a lot of business owners that are here that are

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just just they're comfortable where they're at and they're easing into retirement,

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so to speak. There, you know, there's maybe still 10 years away from that, maybe fifteen.

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But they wanted to try something new. Want to try something different.

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And I think we forget sometimes that owning a business isn't always about maximizing profits or making it the biggest and best thing you can do.

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And that was that was something that I was really surprised by.

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I mean, I've heard that in every county and multiple one on one conversations with business owners that they want our help.

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They like what we're doing. And some do have that growth mindset, like how to open another store, how to open up location.

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What do I do to sell to more people online? How do I connect?

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We've got other people who maybe want more visibility, but they're not trying to open a second or third location what they do.

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So that's been really unique and interesting to me because I don't know if it's just that,

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you know, you think a business, I think a MBA and it's always that growth mindset.

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We don't hear a lot about, you know, having enough business to sustain your needs and what's right for your family.

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And a lot of these folks are like their family run businesses. I don't I don't think you hear about that too often.

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You know, if you go to Little Rock where I came from or my hometown of Fort Smith, I mean, they're there, but I can't tell you about any of them.

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And I can tell you about probably half a dozen of them here. Yeah, I think that connectivity with the businesses.

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Well, and we've talked about this in a couple of episodes.

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You know, that's what makes living in rural communities so unique versus like big urban cities sometimes is that we are able to be more connected.

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We know who our neighbors are and we all look after each other, you know, during some sad times and some celebrations.

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I know I started 2021, you know, not to get into too much detail, but, you know,

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we personally had some some situations occur and the outpouring of the community of even people I didn't know personally very well,

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you know, come out and give condolences and just, you know, reaching out.

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What can we do? I had more food show up at our business than, you know, I could have thrown a stick at.

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I mean, it was just I mean, amazing. You know, Joy and I have told you guys this, you know, we probably gained 40 pounds since, you know, our event.

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So, you know, so it's amazing to. And then we're just, again, just the outpouring of the community.

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And it's it it isn't necessarily unique.

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But for us, it definitely is heartwarming to really feel like we're part of a bigger family outside of, you know, blood.

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You know, this is sometimes thicker than than blood, I guess, because they choose to be a part of this community and they choose to be a part of us.

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So, Murielle, you know, you've got some interesting projects that you've been able to work on over there.

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And I know that you've also connected with some really neat people through the podcast and some other things.

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You know, kind of what what are you most proud of so far?

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Because we do have, you know, several more months ahead of us that we get to.

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We are blessed to be part of this project. And so what are you looking forward to?

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And let's start with what you've done and then what do you looking forward to? Yes.

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So some of the tangibles, the deliverables, as we call them, that we have cranked out include a holiday guide.

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And it was interesting because that was the first time I felt like we were doing something for the business owners instead of,

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you know, a lot of a lot of people will ask business owners for their help,

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you know, sponsor my kids little league team or can you donate to the county fair,

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but with create bridges where the group that is providing them with resources.

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So our holiday guide was something that we put together to give them ideas, suggestions, tips, tricks,

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things they could do to prepare for the holiday season from a retail standpoint and be able to also alter alternative selling.

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You know, maybe there's some businesses that have not even tried online selling,

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utilizing social media to promote their products or restaurants that need to do curbside delivery,

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take out prepackaged, you know, soups and taken bakes is what they call them, giving them some of those ideas.

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So that way they do together. That way they are prepared.

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And we just want to be the group that supports the businesses. And then, of course, also I just love this podcast.

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I feel like this podcast is something that benefits the average everyday listener who

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does not own a small business just as much as it benefits those small business owners.

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Anyone can listen to this, whether they have Spotify, Apple, their own breast, Buspar sprout,

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and they listen to this podcast and they're able to hopefully get a few laughs in.

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We'll also learn a lot about the behind the scenes of how to have a successful small business or tourism draws in a small town.

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You know, all the different things that we have discussed. I feel like those tangibles have been really exciting for me because it's something

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that we can physically hand business owners and community members alike and say,

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here you go. You know, this is something we've put together and it's specifically for you and for your use.

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So can I just interject there and say we have.

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And I'm sure you all experience this, too. When we go around and people like, so what exactly do you do or what do you have for me?

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And it's hard to explain what we have been able to put together. And I'm not saying that as like, oh, look at us, we're so great.

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But we do have a lot of resources for businesses. I mean, we've put a lot of work into this.

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We've had we've had quite a few. The businesses help us develop some of these.

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I mean, we have multiple, you know, video guides on how to get setup on like Facebook, TripAdvisor,

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Yelp, Google, my business, how to manage that and use the mobile app that comes with it as well.

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Those were all platforms that we thought were good tools. Maybe somebody doesn't need to be on all the platforms.

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We're not saying manage everything, but if you were interested in that,

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we were able to put that together in video and text file to be able to look and do that.

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We've partnered with Retail Minded and had a three part webinar series on how to get through the pandemic,

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how to maybe pivot and find customers in ways that you didn't.

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You know, looking at brick and mortar and how to transform that type of retail to a digital space or even do things differently locally.

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I mean, we talked about, you know, you think about delivery, but you never think about your local boutique making deliveries.

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But that was happening in some of our communities. It wasn't. We're mailing this to.

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You know, Memphis, Tennessee, or to Texarkana or or somewhere way off.

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But we were reaching the people who didn't feel safe to get out in our local community.

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That's another guide that's up. I mean, Arkansas.com

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We worked with Arkansas Parks and Tourism to host a webinar for our businesses and both communities.

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And I think that's a great free resource that if you were in the tourism,

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entertainment or accommodation or even in retail, if you're in any of those business areas,

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that's a platform that's one free to use to the state, is investing millions of dollars,

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advertising it and promoting it in other regions and markets and states.

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Next to Arkansas. So it's not very often that you hear the states giving you something back.

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Know always you know, you can argue about what am I getting for my tax dollars.

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I'm telling you, like you're getting something out of this one. It's been fun to work with them on that, too.

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And then, you know, each of us are out in the communities trying to have those one on one conversations and hear,

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you know, what are the other needs that pop up. So I just I just wanted to say, you know,

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there's a lot that we've done in addition to the podcasts continuing to highlight people, which I'm sure we'll get into later.

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But. And also to access those resources, if you don't know, you can go to uaex.uada.edu/createbridges.com

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, we'll put it we'll put it in the text line.

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I don't know why I'm here saying this, but just look at the show notes. We'll make sure it's in there.

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That's what all the cool podcasts are say go to. Well I think we're contractually bound Brandon.

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But you definitely bring up a good point, both of you do.

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I think that the the last part about having those one on one conversations with businesses, you know,

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once once the business got over the fact that we weren't trying to solicit them or we weren't,

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that's you know, it wasn't that we were trying to get anything from them.

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Like Merial pointed out, you know, oftentimes we as a business owner thinks of is that, you know, you're walking through my door.

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If you're not buying something, you're trying to make me buy something from you.

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But once that's, you know, the understanding and I think now we get more people understand we're here to help,

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you know, be able to have honest conversations about what their needs are.

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And through those conversations and an aha moment about, oh, well, that's something we hadn't explored yet.

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Maybe that's a good mechanism to get information out to you. That isn't what everyone's saying is easy.

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Things like Facebook. You know, there are, you know, especially up here in the rural communities are still people that don't have Facebook.

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So we need a defined they don't have email. And, you know, they depend on on their localities, on their governments,

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the mail system, you know, traditional ways that used to have news delivery systems.

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They still depend on those. And it was really Eye-Opening for me to remember.

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Oh, well, those are mechanisms that are still active in rural communities.

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And so we we need to not ignore them.

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Is there a better way to implement some of those or maybe just good old fashioned door to door and maybe that's what it takes.

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So I think having those one on one conversations I think makes our program even better

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because we are allowed to really interface with with the business owners and find out,

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you know, really what will help them. And that's what we're here for, right, guys?

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I mean, we've talked about this. We want we want you listeners to know if you're a business owner that hasn't reached out to us yet.

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Brandon, Murriel and I are extremely available. We would love to talk to you.

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We would love to get information about your business, really just to understand more of what you're doing and how we can help,

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because we promise you we don't think that our answers are cookie cutter.

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They may not work for you, but let's help you find what that answer is, because it may help somebody else.

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So, Murriel, you know what kind of like on that note of, you know, talking to businesses and says what other guests were you thinking of coming up,

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maybe at least for the next three months or so, if you know for the podcasts?

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So I think something that's been really cool, that's happening in severe county along with a little bit and over,

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and I'm Ashdown in Little River County and hopefully Howard County will get on board with this, too.

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It's the growing popularity of air b&bs and cabin rentals.

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And no Ashdown's already got some cottages. But really, because this is such a beautiful place, you've got these lakes to play off of.

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You've got these state parks in the local area. More and more folks are putting together air B&BS.

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Right. The accommodations industry.

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So as far as future podcast episodes goes, I'm really excited to kind of sit down and talk with, you know, some of these Air B&Bs,

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hotel managers, people who run these cottages and places that people can stay,

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because that's one of those things that really people need to know about.

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If you're going to plan a trip in this part of our state. You've got to have somewhere to saying you want to stay somewhere nice.

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And since the air b&bs are growing in popularity,

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I want to sit down with some of our air b&b owners and discuss, OK, how do you market your air b&b?

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Do you have a target, you know, audience or an ideal guest? How do you get people to even know about it?

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Where is located? Do you give them pamphlets and brochures about, hey, go shopping here, eat there.

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Check out the lake. I just really want to get an inside look at why air b&bs are getting so popular and

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how they have grown and become a really awesome feature in the southwest Arkansas area.

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So the accommodations industry is definitely one I want to focus on going forward.

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Well, great. I mean, and that's I think every rural community has, you know, those kinds of, you know,

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businesses that have the temporary lodging, because let's face it, there's not as many hotels in some communities.

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You know, there are in, you know, the larger ones.

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But we do find that 10000 people or less tend to have less opportunities for like the traditional type of accommodation.

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So. So that's a great one. So we're probably not getting a Marriott in the next 18 months.

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And we have some good places. But I mean, that's that's it.

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I mean, there are nontraditional and, you know, out here in Charlotte County, for example, you know,

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we'll have spring games at the ballpark and or basketball games over at the school district and all of a sudden.

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We're finding out that people are coming in from Memphis and they're they have no place to stay.

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They have to be forty five minutes away from where the venue is taking place in order to lodge overnight.

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And so to have some of these nontraditional lodging areas, you know, kind of come forward and say, hey,

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you know, this is where we're available, we can do this, you know, for your small, short time needs.

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Those are those are excellent resources to have.

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And so Brandon, I know that there were, you know, guests that you were kind of looking at for the future.

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Also, you know, if if we don't already have them slated, who would you like to talk to?

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Yeah, so one one that I think would be interesting to talk to is.

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And you kind of touched on this, talking about how people get their news.

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But I think talking to some of the local papers, maybe a local magazine who's ever publishing and maybe that traditional format,

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maybe there's some locally owned billboard companies.

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I know some here in our area feel like we need to, I think, talk to them and see how are they working,

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because they're doing the most from a print standpoint to to advertise, you know, if you're not working with them.

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You know, it's pretty much digital or people coming to your store to get the word out.

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So I'd love to hear from a few of them here what their take is, what opportunities they see for our communities.

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I know there's billboards on sixty three which runs through Fulton and Sharpe County.

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Right. They're almost up on the state line and at least on the intersection right at Mammoth Spring, Arkansas.

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They're Missouri area. There's about 8000 to 10000 cars that pass there daily.

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People are seeing those billboards and a lot of commuters who come through 412 has a number of those.

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And 412 is a section that, you know, people are it's not uncommon to hear people leave in Paragould or Jonesboro stopping in at Hardy or Salem,

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maybe stopping at Ash Flat somewhere on there for lunch maybe. And then they're heading to to the lakes, you know, over just outside of mountain home.

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So there's a lot of people commuting through there as well. So I think getting a perspective from them would be really cool.

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Just just to hear, you know, what are they doing, what are they hearing? What kind of businesses do they want to represent in the area?

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If they could just wave a magic wand and say, this is what we want to be doing, what does that look like?

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Yeah, it's amazing. I never realized how much how, you know, the impact of billboards in rural communities, you know, still are.

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I know that in bigger cities we tend to overlook them. You know, there there's so many other ways to get information in larger communities that,

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you know,  a billboard, there is something that's just in passing.

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But here I have found that billboards are effective and they they do work.

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You know, I've made comments to like some of the non-profits and said, you know, I remembered I remembered seeing you and thinking, oh, this is great.

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And then when I stopped seeing the billboards, I kind of forgot about them.

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And so there's something about messaging on static billboards that are truly effective in our communities, in a rural community, certainly.

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So, Brandon, that's a excellent. I think there'll be so if you are a you advertising billboard, media print what you know,

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we would love to talk with you about how you help rural communities get your their message out.

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You know, so come reach out to us. We'd love to hear it. I think radio to radio to absolutely.

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Which we do partner with the White River now out of Batesville. They have been an excellent partner of ours.

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And I want to at least acknowledge, you know, they they helped us immensely start this podcast and give us some training on on how to continue on.

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So we we definitely another thing about living in real communities,

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people will come out from all over the place and want to support businesses and our community members in such large ways.

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Certainly couldn't do it without all that help.

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You know, for me, one of the things I'd like to look at is and I am exploring it with a company out of Melbourne is a conversation about going,

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you know, nationally with their product, if not internationally.

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And so, you know, if you're a business that has been able to go out of state, do some interstate commerce,

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and especially if you've done some international commerce, you know, please come call us.

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I would love to learn more about what you've done and how that has changed.

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And quite frankly, you know, I'm sure that's affected your community in some way, shape or form.

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So I think those are really neat. So, yeah, give us a call.

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You know, about. About what you do. We want to hear. We think.

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We think you guys are great. So let us celebrate you on this on our podcast.

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We certainly would love to talk to you guys.

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Another large group that we haven't had a chance to talk too much about, our campground owners, those regular recreation areas.

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I know we have those in both areas, both communities. So hanging from them, maybe even the take from economic developers.

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You know, you talked about hotels and people coming.

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That's a voice we want to hear, too, because there are there are so many voices in so many parts that make tourism and just,

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you know, the regional rural economies work. And it takes a lot of people working together.

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So if you are hesitant to reach out about being on the podcast, like,

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at least just send us an email and we'll let you know if we can have you on the show or not.

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And chances are the answer is probably gonna be yes if you're doing something to support small businesses in rural communities.

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There's a good chance we want to hear from you. Yeah. And don't be shy about it.

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We're easy. Oh, my gosh. We'll sit there. Will make you laugh. I promise.

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And next thing you know, it's twenty five minutes later in this podcast is over.

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So, I mean. Yeah. Come come talk to us. You know, Murriel's great, too.

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She apparently hadn't realized how diverse you were. Murriel, you busted out the Spanish the way that you were.

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Oh, I like to think very long and all that counts.

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Well, and so we are working on a really cool project.

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So one of the things we have that we as part of our grant we address is also the workforce issues.

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Right. So. And through a survey with not only employers but also employees,

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there were certain skill sets that were identified that would be helpful, you know, in the jobs we do in the companies we own.

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And so we do a workforce training piece. What we're hoping to do a rollout, we're located right now for March timeframe.

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And we're super excited about Murriel. I know you guys are working some stuff at the with the UA Cosatot.

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And, you know, what kind of programs are you putting together for the workforce initiative?

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So there's going to be a few different classes.

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And what's cool is that, you know, they're all going to be video style so you can absorb on your own time.

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And we've even discussed possibly doing an assessment. Some of those classes are going to include, wow, customer service marketing for your business.

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I think photography for your business and Facebook. Right.

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So just learning. How the tools that already exists can work for you and your company.

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And then what's going to be cool about that? I'm so excited about this part because it goes along with what I mentioned earlier.

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Each one of those workforce development courses will be offered in both English and Spanish.

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So that way, if you don't speak, one is your first language.

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The other will be available so that you can absorb everything in the language that's more comfortable for you.

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And so that's what we've been trying to work on with create bridges in the three CS is

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that we don't leave anybody out with everything that we do if we do a holiday guy.

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We want an English and Spanish version. We do these workforce development videos, English and Spanish version.

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We're trying really hard to just incorporate and make it available so that everybody that, you know, wants to be included can be excellent.

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I'm so excited. I think the workforce pieces just I mean, it's been really fun to work with.

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And Brandon, I know that there are a couple components or, you know, groups that you were working with also on that.

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Yeah.

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So we're you know, one of the things we heard from employers and employees was that both saw an opportunity to grow and develop some essential skills.

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So, I mean, when we I guess traditionally we've called that soft skills.

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I think essential skills is a better way of putting it, because if you're not good in face to face interactions,

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if you're not good, you know, one on one with customers or clients, your business is not going to succeed.

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People will know and people won't want to spend their time there unless you happen to be the only person that exists.

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And then you're going to have a one star review and be struggling.

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But we're working on developing some courses that that help people just think through some of those things.

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And what it takes to be to present from employees perspective,

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to present the business you work for in the best light and from a business owner perspective, giving your employees the tools to succeed.

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Communication, you know, expectations being set between both. Those are really, really important.

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You know, from from training and how you train people on at your job to, you know, how you want to get feedback from them.

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You know, your your employees hear day in, day in and day out what is or isn't working.

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And if you don't have a way for them to feel safe and comfortable sharing that with you,

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they're going to be things that need to change that you're not going to take care of.

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So we're developing that and hoping looking forward to what we've got to come out of that.

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So it should be another good piece again that, you know, both employers and employees can benefit from.

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Yeah, and I know that we have one of the staff members from one of our local colleges here are also working on components for us.

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In addition to that, you know, essential skills piece, some advanced hospitality, understanding that really can be used across any industry.

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But, you know, kind of having because retail and restaurants and hospitality are they are big drivers for our communities.

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You know, again, more advanced programing is going to be coming out.

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And what's really neat is all of these programs we put together as a certificate program through Create Bridges,

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we are actually calling the program Create Lift because we're celebrating retail accommodations,

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tourism and entertainment by leading innovation through workforce training.

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So we are lifting our employee workforce as well as our businesses.

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So through Create Lift, which is a part of the Create Bridges program.

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And so I am so excited. I think, you know, Brandon and Murriel,

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that you agree with me that we have really seen some great opportunity of things that we've already developed through create bridges,

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businesses that I feel like have gotten something out of the work that we have done,

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but really, you know, covid kind of put some of that stuff on hold.

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And so we have an opportunity in twenty, twenty one to really launched these, you know, continue with these missions and move them forward.

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00:36:02,770 --> 00:36:11,And I'm I'm really excited. And the fact that we know that we're here, at least for, you know, till almost the end of the year.

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You know, we have been told that if we want to stay, that we can and and I think staying to help you businesses and our community members,

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I think it's something that we absolutely want to do. And so, again, you know, Brandon Murriel, is there anything else that I'm missing?

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You know, besides just really wanting to cast that net out and grab people to come talk to us?

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Is there anything else that that our folks should know before we wrap up?

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For me, I'm just really thankful that our work has been extended.

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You know, I was under the impression originally this was going to wrap up with the program coordinators roles in October of twenty twenty.

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Then it was extended to December of twenty twenty. And now we're getting a whole nother year.

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So I just want to say thank you so much to those who've made that possible.

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And I'm just excited that we get to continue our work and keep supporting our small businesses in rural areas.

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All right, Brandon. Yeah. So you say, you know, I guess you hear a lot, you know, don't makes your personal and professional life.

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But one of the greatest things for me is that I have an opportunity to help build the communities that my daughter is going to grow up in.

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In a way that I don't think I'd be able to if we were still living in a larger city.

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And just to have that impact, to meet the business owners, some of which are going to be their children are going to be classmates to my child.

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They're going to be competing in whether it's band or sports or gymnastics or whatever, offering.

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I don't know what my my kids getting into horseback riding.

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I mean, there's there are trap teams at these high schools. Like that wasn't something I had just, you know, seeing that.

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But I digress a little. But I think just being able to, you know,

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invest in a personal way and in the community that my family and I've chosen to be in is just really, really incredible.

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Well, and I echo that sentiment, Brandon being a 12 year transplant to even Arkansas, let alone to a real community.

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For me, this has been an experience that I truly embrace and also am proud to say that I have found home.

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I can't envision myself being anywhere else and have lived in some, you know, in a lot of places.

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But certainly here I feel connected with individuals who didn't know anything about me.

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Over a dozen years ago. But now I've I will have allowed me to just really integrate and be a part.

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But that was a two way street. I had to do my part to integrate and be a part of this community as well.

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So I guess that's a reach out to anyone who might be looking to come out to rural communities.

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You know, there is a there is a give and take.

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But once you you know, if you're as invested into the community, you'll see that that community will invest in you as well.

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And that also goes with our businesses. Loyalty runs deep.

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But you definitely need to do your part and meet them halfway.

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So. And that's really everything. I think we.

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You know, this is what we talk about on a pretty regular basis. You have heard what Brandon, Murriel and I will.

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You oftentimes do you know, talk about when we talk about your businesses and your communities.

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It is a fun, engaging conversation about how we can help you.

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So really, come talk to us. We'll have our contact information in the summary.

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But we want to hear from you. We want to know how we can help. And as you have heard, we have a little bit more time to do so.

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We love coming up with ideas. I promise you, our supervisor, Julianne,

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always says we tend to come up with more work and then she says than you guys need to go take care of it.

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So give us more work. We would love to do that.

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But for today, this is the 10th episode of the CREATE BRIDGES podcast, Small Business, Big Impact, Murriel, Brandon and myself, Hazelle Whited.

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Thank you so much for joining us. And we'll see you next time.

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For more information about this or any Create Bridges podcast or more about Create Bridges, Arkansas, visit us uaex.edu/createbridges.

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The Create Bridges Arkansas podcast is made possible by Wal-Mart grant to the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture,

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Cooperative Extension,

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Community, Professional and Economic Development, and with the cooperation of Spring River Innovation Hub and White River Now Productions.