Interview with Will Collins of Archetype Productions

in Artistic Jobs, Design, Entrepreneurial

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What do you do for a living?Will_Collins_Pic

My job is to make things look good.  I’m also the founding partner of Archetype Productions.

How would you describe what your company does?

We’re a small-scale and multi-disciplinary design studio with motivation to create admirable brand experiences through web, print, film, and applications.

What is unique about what your company does?

I don’t know whether we’re unique or just strive to practice a good ol’ fashioned American work ethic, but at the end of the day our team takes a personal responsibility to ensure that everything that comes out of our shop is executed flawlessly. We’re all about the detail and this has really been our only business model from day one.

What does your work at Archetype Productions entail?

We’re small, so every piece of every project is more or less worked on by all of us. My favored role is being the creative guy. I’ll help develop a concept and will work to deploy it through my design toolbox. It’s kind of like being handed a bunch of legos from various sets and making something fresh out of a mixed bag of hidden gems.

How did your company get started? 

I had just completed my thesis in 2007 after a semester studying Maori music in New Zealand. I guess I was on track to pursue a doctorate in cultural anthropology but decided to take a semester off and return to Fayetteville to play music. Performing with several groups, I received an expedited crash course in ‘guerilla’ marketing by necessity.

I think most local startups would agree NWA is the place to be for growing a business. There’s unbelievable opportunity here and to me that can be credited to a uniquely southern influenced ecosystem…Organizations like the ARK Challenge and NWAEA are a huge win for us and have been a major contributor to establishing national credibility and bringing a lot of great talent to our backyard.

First of all, to stand out from every other band applying to SXSW you have to be doing something inventive. The music is one thing, how you look on paper and the web is another. So, being broke I started designing posters and websites for bands. I didn’t have any background in marketing, graphic design, or computer science but I really enjoyed the process. I remember my first flyer. It was cobbled together in Photoshop using low-res graphics found on a Google search. I think it was a cutout picture of Fidel Castro’s beard with bold Futura type, “The Fayettecong Trio.” Looking back, everything about that poster was terrible but seeing my bandmates’ faces light up as I handed them a print with their name on it made it well worth it.

I eventually got better and with a quickness. There were a few local ‘Jedi’ designers that were doing some amazing gig art at the time. Making mine look like as good as theirs was the goal and I really learned a lot by studying their composition. Sooner or later, all sorts of bands were asking me to design their posters, album covers, and websites. Within six months I was designing everything from wine labels in California to branding a security validation company in Virginia out of my house in Fayetteville. I had so much work that I couldn’t even keep up with my part time job at the University. So, at the end of that year was working full time under my anthropological inspired company name, Archetype Productions.

Later I moved out of the house and shared office space in downtown Fayetteville with my fiancé and marketing extraordinaire, Jeannette Balleza. I knew if I was going to keep up with the growth of the company I was going to need assistance. I reached out to my long time cohort, Mike Milburn, who left his budding career at a big agency to become part of the team. We took a legal ownership in the company and moved into a bigger facility to accommodate our growth after partnering our efforts with Emily Collins, my sister and founder of Cordial (a PR outfit with roots in the Bay Area). Today we’ve happily served around 200 clients on a national level from local coffee shops to Fortune 500 companies.

What do you like about owning/being part of a startup?

I just like being me and working with the people and clients I love.

What do you dislike?

Working 7 days a week.

How does your company make money?

Although we recently ventured into developing our own products, we are primarily a service driven company.

How have you funded the company?

We’ve bootstrapped Archetype from the ground up. Our assets are minimal and we don’t really have a need to own much fancy stuff. So monetarily speaking, I haven’t funded the company much at all.

Is there any specific education you received or skills you have that have helped you?

Although my background is in anthropology, my job at Archetype is not entirely unrelated. I work with new people everyday and help tell their story. From the technical side I’m completely self taught.

What is the most challenging thing facing your company?

Our biggest challenge is keeping up with our growth. It’s our full intent to deliver quality work to every client both big and small. Too much growth too fast can lead to quality oversight and we want to make sure that doesn’t happen.

What is your opinion on the startup community and the business climate in NWA?

I think most local startups would agree NWA is the place to be for growing a business. There’s unbelievable opportunity here and to me that can be credited to a uniquely southern influenced ecosystem. Yes, we have money, and yes we have Walmart, and those things are good, but I believe most importantly we develop long lasting and strong relationships. Organizations like the ARK Challenge and NWAEA are a huge win for us and have been a major contributor to establishing national credibility and bringing a lot of great talent to our backyard.

What advice would you offer someone considering starting a business?

Don’t forget to eat three meals a day.

How much time off do you get/take?

Sometimes you just have to take a trip and leave the laptop in the bag to recharge. I’ll definitely have those moments throughout the year.

What is a common misconception people have about what you or your company do?

The great thing is there aren’t too many misconceptions about what we do. At least that we’re aware of! Our clients understand the skill needed to produce a great logo or website and leave it to us to ensure it’s done professionally and we understand what they do couldn’t be done by anyone else. That mutual understanding really makes for great partnerships.

What are your goals/dreams for the future?

I try to just focus on what I can do today improve my business and my personal life and that usually will keep me busy enough. Today I think I would say I would like to release a solo album in the future.

What else would you like people to know about your company?

We have fun and love Fayetteville for so many reasons. Come see us!

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