Simplicity essential to Soldotna business

Posted: Thursday, June 20, 2002

"Let's talk about Mark's grand experiment in simplicity," said Soldotna entrepreneur, Mark Anderson, who transformed his sprawling suburban Kansas City, Mo., advertising agency into a modest, work-from-home enterprise on the fringes of the Alaska wilderness.

"I've been doing what I do for over two decades," he continued. "Over the years, I've been slicing more complexities out of my life."

This meant getting back to doing what he said he began his business, Idea Creative Inc., to do. Anderson, an artist, said the idea was to simply be creative.

"If you think of something to do with visual arts, (either) commercially or visually, we're probably able to do it," he said.

This includes magazine and newspaper advertisements, graphic art, Web design and some TV commercials. His firm has worked with several nationally known companies, including Sprint, Microsoft, and the Senior Professional Golf Association. And after shedding much of what he deemed unnecessary to his career, and even undergoing a bit of reinvention, Anderson said he feels he is doing more with less.

A former executive for Hallmark Greeting Cards, Anderson said he struck out on his own with two of his colleagues to be free of the corporate concerns that constricted creativity. But Anderson soon discovered his first venture in business ownership put him in the same predicament, with more responsibilities and less time to actually create.

"Things were becoming great until I realized we were becoming exactly what we walked away from," Anderson said. "So I sold my partnership with them."

He started Idea Creative in Liberty, Mo., with less overhead, more autonomy and, he said, with the concept "of meeting clients' needs instead of my own."

Anderson said this concept came because in previous jobs, he and some of his colleagues were more concerned with winning accolades for their work, than with providing a service.

In February 2001, Anderson decided to pack up his company, Idea Creative Inc. and moved its central driving force -- himself -- to the 49th state following a career opportunity in midwifery for his wife, Kim. In so doing, he said he had to really take advantage of the virtual office he had been slowly creating and reinvent some of the strategies he had been using since the company's inception.

"I told clients, 'If you think about it, you never see me anyway,'" he said. "We lost some clients, and I figured there would be some attrition. So I was prepared.

"Most of them said, 'Yeah. Let's give it a shot.' My clients have a relationship with me."

Anderson said as technology advanced, he was able to do more and more of his work in virtual space. Even the majority of manpower came from what he called "strategic alliances" formed with freelancers and contract workers. And he still works with clients who were his local base in Missouri -- Clay County and the City of Liberty.

Sept. 11, Anderson said, was a defining moment for Idea Creative. Some of his clients went out of business, and some of his pending assignments were put on hold, as the nation paused to recover. He was forced to scale back his endeavors even more.

"I began redefining my business," he said. "We looked at things that had up to (then) been peripheral activities."

He began to place more focus on arts education, providing workshops around the area and teaching adult and children to draw and paint. He said Idea Creative started doing more public arts jobs and fewer commercial projects.

And the company is doing well, he said, without many of the things it started with. He is working on a mural for a Soldotna business and said he wants to begin doing portraits.

"We had to edit stuff out of our lives that were extraneous," he said. "Business is beginning to expand again. We're beginning to focus on the things that are really important."

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