Three way partnership opens new doors for local businesses

Wednesday, September 9, 2020
Brandon Mathews, Chad Whitaker and Hazelle Whited are pictured working on the first podcast to showcase area businesses at the Spring River Innovation Hub.

A new resource is available to businesses in Sharp, Fulton and Izard counties after a three way partnership between White River Now in Batesville, Create Bridges and the Spring River Innovation Hub launch their new podcast studio located at the Innovation Hub in Cherokee Village.

According to Brandon Mathews with Create Bridges, the multi-year grant from the University of Arkansas Agriculture and Extension Office has allowed the team to work on rural development.

“Our focus is strengthening rural development especially in the areas of retail, accommodation, hospitality and entertainment sectors. We filmed our pilot episode of the Create Bridges podcast and are going to be highlighting different businesses both here in the Ozark Foothills in Sharp, Izard and Fulton counties, as well as in the 3 C’s which are Little River, Severe and Howard counties.”

Mathews said the purpose of the podcast will be to interview business owners with regards to best practices and share the information with other businesses.

“We’ll be talking to business owners about how they’ve changed with the pandemic, new practices they’re implementing, successes over the years in rural communities and all kind of things,” Mathews said. “Create Bridges is actually on it’s second round of selecting three other states, so we will be open to a larger audience. What we’ve done here is kind of trailblazing since none of the other communities are doing this yet. We hope to give them a guide.”

The podcast room is made possible through a partnership between the Spring River Innovation Hub and White River Now.

According to Chad Whitaker with White River Now, the station chose to sponsor the podcast room as a show of good faith.

“Hazelle [Whited, director of the Spring River Innovation Hub], when she was at Tri-County, was a great advertiser for us and we formed a partnership there and when she moved into this position with the Spring River Innovation Hub; we started looking for some opportunity,” Whitaker said. “We have one station that serves this geographic area here which is Outlaw 106.5 and we were looking for a way to engage more with the community and make more connections here and felt this was a great way to do it.”

Whitaker said he hoped through the facility individuals would be inspired to begin new businesses and through the podcasts, entrepreneurship.

“We want to help those entrepreneurs to make connections with entrepreneurs in other locations. Anytime you have some type of a community that can trade knowledge like that it is an excellent benefit,” Whitaker said. “With small communities like you have here, we need new business blood and need new things to come flowing in whether it’s a new service, product, whatever you might want to see to help repopulate the area. We have had so many businesses that have grown and then shrunk down, moved out or are non-existent. We have to bring some new life blood in the business world to communities that are smaller.”

Whitaker said in addition to sponsoring the podcast room, all of the podcasts will be uploaded to the White River Now website and the app.

“There will be some cross promotion of that on the radio stations. Hopefully the public will hear it on the air and check it out on the website and the app,” Whitaker said.

According to Whited, as director of the Hub, she said the exciting opportunity falls in line with the vision and mission of the hub.

“I am so excited to build these relationships outside of our region. We are able to develop and showcase what it takes, especially in rural America, to survive. You have to reach out to other communities and exchange ideas. You have to have a collaboration and not think ‘I can do it by myself,’ because let’s face it you can’t,” Whited said.

Whited said the partnership would not only allow for new connections to be made between the station and local businesses, but businesses being featured in the 3 C’s will also be able to exchange ideas.

“Often times, we get the same people helping our community and it’s nice to be able to reach out to others who are wanting to invest in us. Unless we ask no one is just going to come out and say ‘hey we want to help you’. By doing this, we’re not dipping into the same well over and over and we’re sharing in this opportunity to help our community.”

Mathews said another partner is Murriel Wiley, who will be conducting interviews and recruiting businesses for podcasts in the 3 C’s.

“...When you think about how we’re consuming media now, podcast is radio in a different way. We’re still listening to news and being up here, where it takes longer to get somewhere [traveling] the fact that you can download something and listen to it in the car while you drive, it’s a great way to reach people,” Mathews said. “For busy business owners, being able to listen to something while they’re settling in and doing paperwork at their job, they’ll still be able to consume this without having to just watch it and be focused on the content visually.”

Mathews said the coordinated effort between Wiley and the Innovation Hub to recruit businesses will provide a large variety of experiences, best practices and other hints, tips and smart advice business owners might be interested in putting into place.

“This is really exciting because you have the Hub, a radio station and different community partners coming together to promote this. We’re really grateful for the supporters and the equipment. We could not have done this without them,” Mathews said.

He also noted there is no charge to businesses who wish to participate and record a podcast.

“The podcasts will also be featured on the resources page. We have other content up as well. For example, we have a how to video series on how to get set up on online platforms like Google, Trip Advisor, Yelp and more,” Mathews said.

If you would like to ask questions or have your business featured on the podcast contact Mathews at

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