For Lake Highlands graduates Ben Jenkins and Travis McElroy, everything comes back to baseball.
Both of them grew up in our neighborhood and played centerfield for LHHS coach Jay Higgins during high school. They went on to play in college and beyond, Jenkins on a minor league and McElroy on an independent league.
“We basically had the same lives,” Jenkins says, “just …”
“Ten years apart,” McElroy finishes.
It also was baseball that introduced the pair. Jenkins had formed an amateur league team for ex-pros and ex-college players — “a way-too-serious-for-our-age type thing,” he jokes — and convinced McElroy to play during the summer while he was home from college.
“I was really trying to recruit him for the baseball team more than anything,” Jenkins says, but McElroy wound up working as an intern for Jenkins’ design firm and later teamed up with him in business. It turned out that the two men had something else in common: Growing up, both had been perceived as jocks, but unbeknownst to most people, they each had an artistic streak.
Today Jenkins and McElroy are the creative directors at their brand solutions firm, Onefastbuffalo, whose clients include the likes of American Airlines and Dr Pepper. The big names add credibility, but the two men say they prefer taking on lesser-known clients and making them known. Currently, one of their favorites is soda drink Big Red, a company well recognized in Texas but not throughout the country.
“And we want to make it that way,” Jenkins says. “If we can do that, it’s much more impressive than having the No. 1 in every industry on our client list.”
That will, of course, require the logo and web design talents they used to originally launch the company, as well as a combination of advertising and marketing. But another factor is at work every time Jenkins and McElroy are working with a client — the spirit of competition.
“We run this place more like a baseball team,” Jenkins says. “We treat it like, put the right lineup out there, put the right people in place, get mad at them if they screw up, pat them on the back if they do well.”
That’s not necessarily the best way to do business, he says, but for two people who never went to business school, it’s a method that appears to be working. You can’t walk around Mockingbird Station or West Village without seeing Onefastbuffalo’s handiwork. Jenkins, who lives 50 yards from the proposed Town Center location, is hoping they’ll get a crack at that project, too.
“I’m dead set on if they’re going to do it, I want to see it done the right way,” he says. “It needs to be unique to Lake Highlands. I’m hoping we don’t settle.”
Their competitive spirit doesn’t just apply to going after clients; it also works in-house. Jenkins and McElroy each come up with their own design ideas to pitch to clients, and they laughingly describe the way they guard their computer monitors before a presentation.
“I want Big Red to like my ideas better than his,” McElroy says. “It’s kind of like baseball in the sense that you want your team to win, but you still want the best average. You still want to hit the most home runs.”
Their competition continues on the field, where the amateur team sponsored by their firm — aptly called the Buffalos — plays 40 or 50 games a year. They’re not complaining about their lot in life, but given the chance to play baseball professionally, Jenkins says:
“Yeah, we both would probably rather do that than this.”