Influential Arkansans 

We highlight more than 50 who shape our state.

Page 3 of 24

As for being influential, Fisk said one of his greatest accomplishments was the establishment of a bladesmithing school in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in 2001. He had 14 students that first year, and the school has since raised a whole generation of young artisans out of poverty.

"Three of my original 14 were living in the streets in cardboard boxes," he said. "Now they're in the middle class, they all have a house, they all have students of their own, and a lot of their students have students. So I have great-grandchildren."

KENNY TOMLIN
Digital advertising

How does a one-man start-up become one of the most respected ad agencies in the country in a matter of years? Kenny Tomlin, who's seen Rockfish Interactive grow its revenues by 60 percent to 100 percent every year since he founded it in 2006 (meteoric growth that prompted ad giant WPP to scoop up the company for an undisclosed sum last year), has four answers: "It was a good business idea and a good location at a good time filled with good people." In a profile accompanying a 2008 award for small agency of the year, Advertising Agency magazine said of Rogers-based Rockfish, "You might call it the advertising agency of the future, except that its time is clearly now." In other words, while legacy agencies were busy trying to hire programmers and hold onto clients eager to launch innovative campaigns on the web and on mobile, Rockfish was founded on a digital-first approach. That Walmart is just down the road from Rockfish and gave the company business early helped it land a number of other big fish, Tomlin said. Today, clients include Walmart, Johnson & Johnson and EA Sports. Its most recent high-profile job was building Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's Mitt's VP app for iPhones and Android phones, through which the campaign first made the announcement of the selection of Paul Ryan. That Rockfish has managed to steadily attract tech talent — today, its staff of some 200 works in offices in Rogers, Little Rock, Dallas, Cincinnati and Austin — might owe to its culture of innovation. Rockfish was founded as two parts, one devoted to servicing clients and another to creating spin-off companies. Maintaining a healthy balance can be challenging, Tomlin said. "Especially when your professional services side of the business has grown so rapidly, it's hard to ever want to put resources on something else when you know there is billable work to get done." The incubator side of the company, Rockfish Labs, has created a half a dozen ventures, including a specialty coffee shop, a digital coupon creator and an employee rewards platform. Tomlin said Rockfish had already had an opportunity to sell the coupon creator, couponfactory.com, for "a meaningful amount of money, but we think we've got a lot of good opportunity in front of us."

ROBYN HORN
Sculpture, philanthropy

Wood sculptor Robyn Horn has done some heavy lifting in her life, turning enormous chunks of wood into art with the use of a chainsaw and other tools. She's also done a lot of lifting of the arts in Arkansas, promoting contemporary crafts and arts education, including the Applied Design program at the University of Arkansas, with generous gifts of money, time and passion. She's made it possible for instructors and students at UALR to become involved in Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina, is working with the Thea Foundation in its efforts to promote the A+ arts-infused curricula in the schools, and promoted the Conversations in Contemporary Craft presentations at the Arkansas Arts Center. She's newly involved with programs likes Hearts and Hooves, a physical therapy program for children, and Our House. "I feel less influential and more like a facilitator," Horn said. "There are people here doing extraordinary things." Without Horn, though, they'd be having a harder time.

BILL DILLARD III
Retail

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