Group Five West has been telling its clients’ stories boldly for a half-century, all the while flying somewhat under the radar as a small but focused marketing and advertising company in downtown Little Rock.
A couple of weeks ago, company President Lisa Hemme got a chance to tell Group Five West’s story, starting with her father, Richard Hinkle, founder of the firm.
The tale, including the origin of the firm’s unique name, goes something like this.
In 1969, a young graduate of the Philadelphia Museum School of Art with a few years of commercial art experience moved from his native New Jersey to central Arkansas, where he’d once served in the U.S. Air Force.
In Little Rock, he formed Group Five West Inc., so named by the agency’s five local artists who rented space together on West Markham Street. “Thus, Group Five West,” said Nicole Hemme, Lisa’s daughter and now the third generation of the family to work in the shop, which has six full-time employees and a like number of part-timers.
Eventually, Hinkle’s partners began to “get married, move out of state, and pursue other interests.”
They were watercolorists Bill Lewis, who died in 2012, and Richard Stevens of Hot Springs, as well as local artists Ron Kincaid and Rich Richards. Hinkle bought out their stock gradually and became sole proprietor. “At the demands of agency clients, Group Five West built itself out as a full-service marketing and advertising firm.”
Lisa Hemme, Hinkle’s eldest daughter, joined her dad in 1987 as a media buyer and has served in just about every role over the past 34 years. She became the firm’s president in 2015, and Nicole hired on last year as an account executive and the agency’s digital marketing director. The agency moved to 810 W. Second St. more than three decades ago, and Hinkle, now 84, still comes into the office regularly. He’s open with advice, Hemme said. “It’s nice to have that wealth of knowledge.”
It’s reassuring, she said, recalling how she grew up in the business. “My father always told me that if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. I’ve been at this a long time, and I still get up every day very excited to get down here.”
The firm does everything you’d expect a full-service firm to do, Hemme said, including branding, digital media, website design and development, search engine optimization, direct marketing and email marketing.
“But through the years, we’ve differentiated ourselves in that we are a full-service advertising firm, but we’re a marketing firm first,” said Hemme, who represents Art’s Marine, Telcoe Federal Credit Union, Success Credit Union, Environmental Services Group Inc. and many others. Recently, the firm added Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Arkansas to the list, reflecting a continuing commitment to nonprofits, Lisa Hemme said.
“We really push hard and require our clients to undergo rigorous upfront findings so that when we market their companies or build their brand, we have a very clear understanding of their business,” Lisa Hemme said. “We dive really deep into their business to offer a precise approach to the marketplace.” When clients hire Group Five West, she said, “they get direct access to the entire team.”