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Northwest Homegrown 0

DaySpring Celebrates 50 Years of Everyday Encouragement

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Four guys from California bring their new business to Arkansas for expansion and growth. It sounds like a familiar economic story in Northwest Arkansas. But 50 years ago, a different climate and culture existed. It was the perfect setting for these men to relocate their growing printing company.

Coffee conversation determines everything

Dean Kerns and Don Leetch were two California friends supporting each other in pastoral ministry but feeling an urge to do something more. One day over a cup of coffee, they asked each other a question.

“If we had 10 years left, what would we do to make Christ known in our generation?”

They each met with an unexpected answer. It was not more work, playing with their children, taking more trips or learning a new hobby. Instead, they both felt a calling to “literature ministry” and left their respective churches.

The two men used a printing press in Kerns’ garage to establish Fellowship Press, a business that produced commercial and Christian ministry-related printed materials. The company outgrew the garage as they fulfilled large orders for organizations like Moody Bible Institute.

Roy Lessin and Russ Flint attended the church where Kerns and Leetch were serving. Lessin had experience with publishing and writing. Flint was in college, honing his artistic skills.

The four began to work together and learn more about the printing process.

DaySpring shares that “none of them realized at the time that their paths were moving toward a four-way intersection, a significant meeting that would set the stage for a venture – an adventure – that none of them could have imagined.”

The foursome decides to press their luck

A conversation was always on the table to start a publishing company, something that would focus on tools to express faith in everyday living. Large Christian literature companies placed orders, and the garage operation, Fellowship Press, expanded.

While spread out in oversees ministries and working states apart, the men and their families would visit from time to time. Getting something started was always a topic of discussion.

Kerns and Leetch sold Fellowship Press, reaping a gain from the investment. The men met together at a motel in Lodi, California, to dream about something new. A handshake established four foundational roles for a new company: Outreach Publications. Kerns and Leetch were the business minds with the printing background, Lessin would bring his writing skills, and Flint would offer his artistry.

As the four moved into their business roles, they sought opportunities to connect with their ideal customers and listen to what was happening in pop culture. They knew showing up with unique Christian products that offered hope and encouragement would set them apart.

One such opportunity led to the Hollywood Bowl, a music venue in southern California. The business owners interacted with attendees at the “Jesus Christ Superstar” musical, presenting a line of products designed exclusively for the crowd.

But it was a family conversation resulting in a Christmas card that changed everything for Outreach Publications. The card made an immediate impression in the marketplace; the businessmen learned their customers wanted short, encouraging, hope-filled messages with corresponding Scriptures.

The greeting card market was born and set them apart from other Christian publishing companies.

Making the move to Arkansas

As the market for Christian cards and products increased through trade shows, corrugated retail space displays and an expanding card line, it was time for the entrepreneurs to do something new to combine all their endeavors into one ample space.

Kerns, Leetch, Lessin, and Flint gathered together and climbed the San Gabriel Mountains to seek solace and direction.

They came down with a list of criteria for the new location, and the search began for a place:

  • Large enough to accommodate the publishing company, a growing ministry and their families’ homes.
  • Near a river or lake.
  • Plenty of open fields for expansion.

When locations in Colorado, California and Texas did not fit, a plot of land in Siloam Springs, Arkansas, stood out. So, they hired new team members to manage and build the new world headquarters for their expanding card line in the Ozarks.

Success is taking the next step of obedience. -Dean Kerns.

In 1979, eight families in 11 moving trucks moved from California to Arkansas. And the rest, as they say, is history. Outreach Publications expanded and was eventually purchased by David C. Cook Publishing Company and later acquired by Hallmark. The access and exposure of these two companies expanded product lines to mainstream customers in stores where they were already shopping.

While DaySpring had been the name used for the greeting card line, in 1995 it became the name of the whole company, replacing Outreach Productions. Most consumers and retailers were using the DaySpring name synonymously with products beyond the greeting card line and it was a clear marketplace decision by company president, James Barnett.

Using everyday opportunities to share a message

The ultimate goal for DaySpring is equipping their consumers with tools that can help them offer hope and encouragement as an everyday expression of their faith in fresh, true and inspiring ways. Some of the ways their customers can interact with their brands include:

  • Greeting Cards: the most significant production pieces for DaySpring each year. Multiple card lines cover seasonal dates and life occasions.
  • Gifts: tote bags, mugs, planners, calendars, stationery and jewelry.
  • Home décor: tableware, office, blankets, pillows and wall hangings.
  • Books & Bibles: journals, devotionals, children’s books and bible accessories.
  • Digital Resources: a daily email devotional as well as mobile wallpapers, free e-cards and digital graphics.

Other customer favorites include partnerships and exclusive items:

Ways to connect with DaySpring:

DaySpring Outlet Store | 200 N Progress Ave. | Siloam Springs
Their Warehouse sale is hosted each November on the DaySpring campus.
Website: Dayspring.com
Social Media: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Pinterest

Meet the
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Keisha (Pittman) McKinney lives in South Arkansas with her husband and sweet Boxer, Bailey and one-year-old son! Keisha is passionate about connecting people and building community, seeking solutions to the everyday big and small things, and encouraging others through the mundane, hard, and typical that life often brings. She put her communications background to work as a former Non-profit Executive Director, college recruiter and fundraiser, and Digital Media Director at a large church in Northwest Arkansas. Now she is using all of those experiences through McKinney Media Solutions and her blog @bigpittstop which includes daily adventures, cooking escapades, #bigsisterchats, the social justice cases on her heart, and all that she is learning as a #boymom!

Read more stories by Keisha Pittman McKinney

 

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