Principal, Creative Director
We’re teaming with talent.
It’s 2008… do you remember 2008? What a terrible year. A scary year. The DOW dipping to 8000 points. It seemed like we were headed in a downward spiral as a country. Businesses were being crushed. No one was spending money. That is when Farmhouse was founded.
Ben Fant started the firm now known as Farmhouse from his home in Midtown Memphis. The company grew to take on the name of the home in the Evergreen neighborhood which was an old farmhouse. Ben named the firm Farmhouse because design and marketing firms can be as mysterious as some farms. Things come in and things go out. But where is the transparency? Where is the communication and the accountability. Ben looked to create that with his agency, Much like some food producers can inspire people and get them excited about food, Ben wanted to make that same connection with business owners about their branding and marketing message.
Ben also knows that in lean times, those are the times to forge ahead. So in 2008, when no one could get a job and many were being laid off, he invested in himself and opened his creative firm.
With a background in photography, Ben helped business owners establish their visual identity and message and keep it consistent. During these years, Ben was a one-man show. He exhausted countless hours strategizing, consulting, designing, photographing, developing web and learning new tactics. These were the formative years of this agency. One that makes Farmhouse uniquely poised to help small business owners because there is literally nothing Ben has not tried or managed for a small business client.
In 2011, Ben met Jason Prater. Jason was Senior Art Director for Niche Publications at the Commercial Appeal. They met, ironically, when Jason interviewed Ben for a stringer position as a photographer for the publications. Ben had done a little research on Jason and saw what a supreme design talent he was. Their meeting forged an instant connection, and Ben just knew he had to have Jason by his side. They started working together as Ben sent Jason freelance pieces to fulfill. To say they worked well together from the start was an understatement.
Jason is an amazing talent. He is a graphic designer by trade with a keen understanding of branding and brand experience. And, when called upon, can draft some compelling copy to boot. Jason is also a renowned and sought after hand letterer. He conducts speaking engagements and seminars on the subject, and when he builds brands, he always looks to create something that has yet to be seen.
Jason came on board full-time in 2013. At that moment, Ben had a unique three part strategy in mind. First, as a fledgling design firm, and one whose majority of clients were outside of Memphis, Ben wanted to get instant recognition for their unique abilities, style and strategy. Ben decided to focus their efforts on collecting hospitality clients. His assumption was that if Farmhouse could get consumers interacting with brands they develop and the experiences they created, then this would lead to more work. And that is exactly what they did. Farmhouse activated and helped launch 20 store fronts in 24 months. The speed at which they worked and the uniqueness of the experiences they created was obvious. These guys could fly.
The second part was to ensure these businesses stayed open. It is one thing to get the doors open, the other is to ensure an experience that resonates and creates loyalty. According to Small Business Association statistics, 30% close in the first two years, 50% in the first five years, and 66% in the first ten years. For the businesses that Farmhouse create full brand stories, 90% of them are still open today.
The third part of Ben’s strategy was to get peer recognition. Awards aren’t everything, but validation and accreditation in an industry that seems to have a lot of smoke and mirrors is important. There are lots of ways for marketing and design firms to receive accolades, but one of the most recognized is through the American Advertising Federation (AAF) that holds a three-tiered judging of materials on a local, regional and national level. Ben chose these awards so Farmhouse could compare their small business design efforts against projects with massive budgets. The AAF ADDYs have multiple categories, but the materials are all scrutinized at the highest level. Farmhouse first entered ADDY competition in 2013. They won their first National ADDY Award in 2016. Since entering, they have won 11 National ADDY Awards (7 Gold and 4 Silvers). To put this in relative terms, large agencies that represent huge corporate clients such as Nike, M&M and Chipotle may win two or three National ADDYs each year. An agency of Farmhouse’s size winning this many National awards is unheard of.
But this is just the beginning for Ben and Jason. They are now doing national work more than ever with clients across the southeast United States while they are continuing to support their hometown small business clients. They are constantly learning and expanding services, but the key thing is the same… they are building things together.
The dynamic duo sets Farmhouse apart from every other agency, and their ability to visualize things and create them together is the real difference maker.
If you want to see how your business can start making a more personal connection with your consumers and generate a narrative that increases loyalty so your business can remain open for years to come, contact Farmhouse.