Then & Now: Idea over beers leads Walker to next chapter

by Jeff Della Rosa ([email protected]) 321 views 

Editor’s Note: The following story appeared in the Sept. 26 issue of the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal. “Then & Now” is a profile of a past member of the Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 class.

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Tim Walker, principal and chief creative officer for Fayetteville agency Doxa/Vantage, has developed numerous relationships with clients and staff over the past 30 years in the marketing and advertising industry.

In 1992, he founded a Fayetteville design firm doing business as Walker Creative Inc. before it transitioned to Doxa. In 1998, the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal named him to the Forty Under 40 class. In 2003, Walker and partner Neil Shipley established Doxa as they looked to build a brand in which employees could take ownership.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Doxa merged with Vantage Point Communications to form Doxa/Vantage. Partners include Walker, Shipley and Aaron Bleidt, formerly CEO of Vantage Point Communications.

“We were talking one day over beers at Maxine’s,” Walker joked. “The idea came up, and it took about a year of talking about it before we made it happen. It’ll be three years in February, and it’s worked out well.”

Walker, 56, explained that the merger combined two uniquely-focused competitors with overlapping business that increased as clients sought a more full-service agency. Doxa primarily handled design and branding, while Vantage focused on media and marketing. The two companies had a common interest in clients in the arts, nonprofit, community service and destination sectors.

The merger increased revenue and the client base and expanded business development opportunities as a full-service agency. Doxa/Vantage has about 75 active clients, including Collier Drug Stores, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, University of Arkansas, Walton Arts Center and Washington Regional Medical Center. About half of the company’s clients are in Arkansas. The remainder are spread throughout the United States, including art-related clients in Michigan and a Washington, D.C.-based convenience store association.

“Marlon Blackwell Architects is a client,” he said. “We just finished the new monograph coffee table book of his work.”

Walker transitioned from daily creative work into an executive creative director role in his current position. He’s responsible for developing new business, creating the employee atmosphere and overseeing the creative department that includes two senior staff who manage the daily work. Doxa/Vantage has 12 employees.

“This year has been a really good year,” he said. “Last year was a good year … At the beginning of the pandemic, we were fortunate and stayed in the black that year [2020] …

“We navigated the pandemic and came out OK. We didn’t have to lose any of our people. It tested us in terms of a new partnership but proved it was a good partnership.”

The Jonesboro native moved to Northwest Arkansas in 1989 for a creative services coordinator role for the UA’s Office of University Relations. He left to start his company in 1992.

He said the Northwest Arkansas National Airport, which opened as a regional airport in 1998, was significant for the growth of his business outside of the region before the rise of the internet.

“We have developed clients in Atlanta. We had an office in Seattle for a few years and traveled out there a lot,” said Walker, adding that the world opened to Northwest Arkansas while his business indirectly benefited from the growth of J.B. Hunt Transport Services, Tyson Foods and Walmart.

Walker said he still feels like he’s chasing his career highlight but noted accomplishments, including his work published in the design journal Communication Arts, the partnership with Shipley and taking on Bleidt as a partner in the 2020 merger with Vantage. Other highlights include those with whom he’s worked, including an employee who’s worked for him for 25 years, and the relationships he’s developed.

“If I’m going to be remembered for anything, I hope it’s for the work and relationships that I’ve had,” he said.

He helped launch the Northwest Arkansas chapter of American Institute of Graphic Arts and was an adjunct design instructor at the UA and John Brown University.

He’s an architecture enthusiast and enjoys painting and photography. One of his photographs was recently accepted into German photography magazine Leica Fotografie International. Also, one of his paintings will be in a visual arts exhibition that opens in October at the Walton Arts Center. He resides in Fayetteville and has two daughters.