WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — As small business owners diligently navigate the local and frequently changing market, a Wichita Falls videographer is finding a way to make it easier to spread the word about local living.
Storyteller Kyle Coker started Explore Local, an inclusive web series that highlights small businesses and community events in the area in a 30-minute episodic manner.
So far, the series has three episodes revolving around Crashworks Steam Studio, Backdoor Theatre and Maniac’s Mansion that feature the businesses’ experiences. Meanwhile, a guest host learns about their 3 Fs: The Function, Frustration and Fun of operation.
“I’m always looking for a good story,” Coker said. “I’m not about pushing an industry or a business just to help them grow financially. I want to tell a great story.”
To tell such stories, Coker and his wife created Explore Local, using personal experiences to guide them along the way.
“I created Explore Local because [I] love small businesses and have friends who are small business owners,” Coker said. “We really wanted to do something that could help them out [and] give them exposure. There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes that is so amazing. When it comes to mom-and-pop businesses, we wanted to show that. We wanted to showcase that.”
Once a small business owner himself, Coker said he understands the difficulty in maintaining a successful business while still effectively reaching the community.
Since he moved to Wichita Falls just over 18 years ago, Coker and his wife have owned and operated multiple small businesses. Throughout that, Coker said, he would attempt to promote the businesses locally but found it difficult to balance between running the business itself.
“I was doing graphic design, photography and a little bit of video for those, but running those businesses and being a business owner, there wasn’t extra time to do those things,” he recalled.
After COVID-19 hit, Coker and his wife turned their part-time marketing agency, Kreativ Media, into a full-time endeavor.
“It gave me another avenue to be creative,” Coker said. “It’s something I’ve always loved doing, creating things. I’m not a professional at any rate, but I love drawing and painting and woodworking, so there was always that aspect of developing something from nothing.”
How it all Began
Once Kreativ was thriving, Explore Local was born.
Coker said he and his wife had the idea for the local series after brainstorming ideas about how to share great stories, especially in the film realm.
“With Kreativ, we already had the equipment and the base knowledge of creating a video, filming and editing it,” Coker said. “It was really just plugging in what we wanted to do in what we already had going on with Kreativ. We didn’t entirely start from scratch, but we launched the idea from scratch.”
While Explore Local just started earlier this year, about six weeks before the first episode was released, Coker said, it has been integral in helping out local business owners.
“Because I was a small business owner, I understand the time, stress and money it takes,” he said. “We’ve focused a lot of our efforts [on] helping small business owners. The small business owner is not only struggling to survive in a changing environment, but they don’t have time to do the things that are necessary to get the word out about their product and company.”
The couple produces Explore Local free of charge in their spare time.
“So my plan was to create something that gave them a leg up, gave them the ability to share and connect with potential clients and customers and showcase how unique they are,” Coker said. “I’d love to make money with Explore Local, but that’s not the plan.”
A natural creative, Coker wanted to give a unique and refreshed feel to the new local living series.
“I don’t want it to be cookie-cutter, same episode different business,” he said. “I want the guest host to be themselves. I want them to be able to be excited about what they’re talking about.”
The guest hosts spend their time with the businesses to really get to learn their Function, Frustration and Fun. According to Coker, the guest hosts are unpaid volunteers from local theaters or individuals active in the community.
“That’s one of the goals with Explore Local, to have a ton of guest hosts that get to experience the business, not just to interview somebody, but to really pull out the personality of the business owner and to inject the personality of the host,” Coker explained. “Those on-screen things that come out through them being a host, that’s their personality. All the quirkiness that happened is their personalities. I love the fact that we captured that on film.”
The 3 Fs of Explore Local:
As each guest host puts a unique flair on the episodes, each one reviews the 3 Fs. Coker defines Function as the primary role and use of the organization, Frustrations as the underlying difficulties with the operations, and Fun as the best parts of the job.
While Coker consistently highlights other organizations’ 3 Fs, I was curious to know what the 3 Fs of Explore Local were.
“The majority of it function-wise is manipulating pixels for 10 to 12 hours a day,” Coker said. “You really have no idea. You get on YouTube and see these videos and think ‘Oh that’s cool, that wouldn’t take too long’ but in all honesty, crafting a video, crafting a 30-minute video of anything, is almost an insane process. I’ve got a video that I’m working on. It’s a five-minute video, and I’m on day four of editing.”
While he spends much time behind a computer screen, about 50 to 60 hours per week, Coker said that he enjoys being out in the field when the occasion arises.
“I love being out,” he said. “I’ve got a couple of video projects this week where I’ll be out and about holding a camera and talking to people. That sort of breaks up the monotony of sitting in front of a computer.”
While running a business may seem tricky enough, Coker said that dealing with technology and the Texoma heat has proven to be significantly frustrating.
“Computers and cameras and things like that don’t respond well when they overheat,” Coker explained. “Thursday night, I’ll be out at the Art Walk for Texoma Gives, and yes, I’ll be getting hot walking around for three hours, filming, but it does not do good for the cameras and equipment when the sun bakes them.”
Despite the outside factors, Coker said, there’s much to love about the work he does for Explore Local.
“The fun is seeing somebody’s enjoyment with the finished project,” Coker said. “We’ve gotten really good reviews and results from Explore Local. It’s not a TNT production, it’s not something that’ll be on Netflix, but I would love to see that people just anticipate and enjoy and want to see the next episode. Being able to share a story or testimony and it impacts the person that watched it, that’s fun to me.”
What’s Next for Explore Local?
While the episodes are only available online and on YouTube right now, Coker said that ideally, Explore Local could expand into something much larger.
“We didn’t name it ‘Wichita Falls Local’ or ‘Texoma Local.’ We named it Explore Local,” Coker said. “By design, we wanted to create the ability to craft an Explore Local for Vernon, for Midland, for Tyler, wherever.”
In the meantime, however, Coker’s plans for the show are a little more centralized.
“Our next one that we’re working on is about the Art Walk,” he said. “We’ve got a ton of footage from that, and I think that’s a great story. Even though it’s not a business or organization, it’s local and something that occurs. It’s grown from a couple of little points here and there to an entity that has a life of its own.”
…And why Texoma?
Despite the big future plans of Explore Local, Coker said that he loves highlighting this area because there is no one like Texomans.
“I think it’s the people,” Coker explained. “Wichita Falls has some of the worst weather I’ve lived in. We’re super hot in the summer and super cold in the winter. It goes through dry spells or muggy spells, but the people in the Wichita Falls area are different in a good way. I think that’s what I love about it.”
While he’s not originally from Wichita Falls, Coker said he’s eager to give back to a community that has provided him with so much.
“No, we’re not native to Wichita Falls, but those that I’ve run into [who] everybody knows them, everybody loves them, they don’t act that way,” Coker said. “They treat somebody like you, like me, that are new to the area as if they’re native Texomans. They’re certainly willing to help, they’re certainly willing to do things to help grow the community, and that’s one of the things that drew us and helped us create Explore Local. There are so many entities and people doing things for the community. Let’s do our part.”
As the production grows, Explore Local is looking for more businesses to highlight in future episodes. If you’d like to submit a business or event for a feature on Explore Local, visit their official website.