Why We Chose Springfield

Jarad Johnson
10 min readMay 6, 2015

And Why More Startups Should Consider Smaller Cities

For everyone at Mostly Serious, and even the company as a whole, there was a point when the question was asked, “do I want to stay in Springfield forever?” For all but one of us (more on that later), the answer was to continue growing our roots in the Queen City of the Ozarks. When we took time to truly ask ourselves what we wanted to build with our time and energy, Springfield was surprisingly at the top of the list for best cities to help us meet those goals, even if we weren’t already living there.

The Midwest doesn’t have the history of being a tech startup destination like San Fransisco, Boulder, or Austin, but with the help of Google Fiber and some key entrepreneurial organizations, Kansas City has crept into the elite startup city group, even if still in the early stages. Springfield, just a jump south of KC, has seen tremendous benefit from the spread of startup culture to nearby cities. Add to that the work ethic, outdoor opportunities, relaxed culture (within our industry, at least), and passion that comes with a tight community ready to make a difference, and it becomes a lot easier to see why a small city in Southwest Missouri makes sense for a tech startup to call home.

This is my top 10 list of why I personally chose to stay in Springfield, from the entirely logical to the absurdly emotional:

10. Springfield Cardinals

Photo by Richard Banks

Until the Royals bandwagon strolled through town last season, Springfield had more St. Louis Cardinals fans than any other city (based on the scientific research of counting red shirts in select sports bars). We are a sports city, with great local college teams and a reach spreading from the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Kansas City Chiefs, but until 2005, we had no single team to stand united behind and cheer on with popcorn in one hand and a Mother’s Brewing beer in the other. The Cards fill that void.

9. Kind People

Okay, let’s start by addressing the bigoted elephant in the room. Yes, Springfield recently made national headlines by narrowly voting to repeal a previously passed LGBT nondiscrimination ordinance. Yes, those people are on the wrong side of history and make up just a sliver over half of the population, but the narrow margin of that lost battle was a show that the face of our city is rapidly improving.

Outside of the mega-church-sponsored fear, the majority of Springfield residents are kind people who genuinely want to improve the community around them, especially in the creative tech industry. For a company that provides services to area businesses and is deeply engrained in the happenings of creative people, it is difficult to express the importance of being around and working with others who value your time, effort, and general wellbeing. We don’t work with assholes and Springfield makes that business policy a lot easier to uphold.

8. Beautiful Outdoor Activities

I will take the perfect Ozark Spring weather over the snow in Boulder, blazing heat in Austin, or San Fransisco’s season-less weather (okay, fine, it’s perfect there) any day. One night camping on a beautiful Southwest Missouri riverbank in May, and I bet I’ll win you over too.

Trail Spring is a nonprofit dedicated to establishing Springfield as a premier regional destination for trails and bicycling.
Two Rivers Identity design by Mostly Serous

Outside of the grab-your-tent-and-hit-the-road adventures, there are plenty of outdoor opportunities, including a nearly 400-acre world-class bike park. We helped roll out the original website for Trail Spring and designed the identity for their first park, Two Rivers.

7. Springfield Style Cashew Chicken (and other great food)

Traditional Springfield style cashew chicken | Photo by Meryl

There are few things in life that can make me instantly happy when I’m in a bad mood. Taking a walk with my wife, my 10 month old daughter’s smile, that perfect day in May I mentioned earlier, and this miracle of a meal. I actually prefer general chicken, extra spicy, but basically the same thing. This is the stuff of Gods, people. Fried nuggets of chicken covered in delicious sauce and topped with onions and cashews. Toss in some rice and an egg roll and you’ve got yourself a Springfield staple. Visit us and we’ll take you on a tour of our favorites. Come hungry.

Fried chicken not your thing? Lucky for you, there are plenty of fantastic local options in Springfield. Seriously, lots of great food.

6. Cost of Living

If you live in one of the startup holy cities I mentioned earlier, you might want to skip this section, because you’re about to get real sad when you see how much more money I have to spend on cashew chicken.

Here’s an overall cost of living breakdown from some website called Best Places:

  • Springfield: 83.8
  • San Fransisco: 242.6
  • Boulder: 155.1
  • Austin: 106.5
  • Kansas City: 94.1

Still there? I’m impressed. Now, dry your eyes. We’re gonna dive a little deeper. San Fransisco has a 732% higher housing cost than Springfield. My house costs as much as that cardboard box the stray dog lives in next to your apartment in the Mission District. Someone making $144,749 in San Fransisco would require just $50,000 to maintain the same lifestyle in Springfield.

Unfortunately, there isn’t some magic series of tubes or telephonic system to allow people to work remote yet, but when that day comes, I’ll see you here.

5. Silicon Prairie + Silicon Valley = ♥

Remember that one person on our team who didn’t stay in Springfield? That’s Chris (aka PAPERBEATSSCISSORS!), who now represents Mostly Serious in San Fransisco. He has an apartment next to the stray dog in the Mission.

We always wanted to be with the cool kids in The Valley. We just weren’t so keen on uprooting our business and moving there. This year, Chris and his wife Jenna made the jaunt out west and, just like that, we’re going steady with the West Coast. So far, so good. She stays out a little later than we’d like and gets up halfway through our workday, but she brings along lots of great friends and opportunities we’re excited to know.

Until we bring the East Coast into the mix in some type of weird landmass three way, it looks like this relationship is set for success.

4. Local Coffee, Beer, and Spirits

Photo by Missouri Division of Tourism

I’m a big NBA fan, which means I hear the phrase “the big 3” at least 3 times a day. The tech industry equivalent to Lebron, Love, and that old man who dresses up like a kid is, of course, coffee, beer, and spirits. Our lifeblood.

Springfield is lucky to be home to some of the best coffee shops, breweries, and, as of 2011, our very own distillery. These folks are passionate about the drinks they create and we’re proud to enjoy them.

Missouri Spirits | The Coffee Ethic photo by Keegan Jones

Within just a few blocks of our office, we have access to The Coffee Ethic and Mudhouse Coffee for our morning and afternoon lift. A few blocks further for our evening drinks with friends at Missouri Spirits and Mother’s Brewing Company. And so far, we’re still within walking distance to go sleep it off at the office. Plenty of great places, like Dancing Mule Coffee Company, Brick & Mortar Coffee, and White River Brewing Company, are just a short drive, ride, or walk away. As the great Steve Jobs may or may not have said, “Stay thirsty. Stay foolish.”

3. Startup Support

Springfield has been ranked as high as number 3 on Wallethub’s list of best cities to start a business in. The community support infrastructure, area colleges, access to talent, and an uprising of events and groups for creative tech industry professionals has all helped to push Springfield up the list.

1 Million Cups organizer, Rick Thomas. Photo by Missouri State University

The success of The eFactory, a program by Missouri State University, has brought new energy and engagement to the startup culture in Springfield, offering assistance and education to small businesses as they grow into mature organizations.

Beyond programs, services, and organizations, the uniqueness of the community to become emotionally and financially invested in the businesses that aspire to build in Springfield acts as an echo chamber of inspiration and determination. The unspoken reality that we are all in this together allows for a different motivating factor, beyond what personal goals and seed money may be able to provide.

2. Talent

Mostly Serious is a culture-driven agency, which is buzzword speak for the actions and direction of our company are directly influenced by our team. That means, in order for our little company to function the way we plan, every team member has to be a perfect fit. For that team to exist, we need access to talented people who are capable of deciding the direction of a business. Oh, and they have to be willing to take a chance with a company that has a name every bank teller mistakes for a band.

The talent in Springfield has always been strong, but those people typically left. Ryan and Brad left to start Virb, Keegan moved to Austin and eventually worked on Gowalla, Ted biked all the way from Springfield to San Fransisco to work with Disqus, and the list goes on. At some point the trend of staying and starting long-term businesses in Springfield began to stick. Agencies popped up all over town, a kickstarter game was funded, and, more recently, startups began to gain direct access to angel investors located in Springfield and surrounding communities.

The tide has shifted and, although there are plenty of reasons to want to move to other areas of the world, the community in Springfield is focused on building a location where creative tech professionals can establish their foundation and have the same access (or as close to as reasonably possible) available on the coasts.

1. Creative Community

Last month I attended an event hosted by Springfield Creatives — a member driven organization representing and improving the lives of creative professionals — The Marlin Network, and Missouri State University that brought Aaron Draplin to town. Two workshops and his standard presentation later and the biggest takeaway — other than to just do your work and enjoy life — was his affinity to visit smaller communities. He goes there because there are creative people everywhere, not just in Portland or New York or wherever.

Aaron Draplin doing his thing | Photo by Incase

I work primarily with designers and developers, but dig just a bit deeper and everyone has talents hidden below the surface of what may be paying the bills that week. Musicians, writers, woodworkers, architects, painters, tattoo artists, decorators, gardeners, fashion designers, brewers. They are all interlocked in a community of creative professionals lucky enough to influence a city as malleable as Springfield. This is our city and for the first time, it is clear that the creative community has the power to shape it.

Other Great Local Businesses That Chose Springfield

Summer Trottier & Brittany Bilyeu

Founders of Culture Flock Clothing | @CultureFlock

We love the growing community of young creatives here in Springfield. The opportunity for local artists and makers to show off their talents continues to expand and we are so proud to be a part of it.

Jeremy Boles

Founder of Central Standard | @jeremyboles

One thing that I really love about Springfield is that it has all four seasons. In other places that I have lived one season dominated the others but here you get just about all of them equality.

I also really think we have a great local food scene, especially if you like to cook. Its not as in-your-face as it is in other places — which is actually a bit refreshing to me — and you have to go looking for it. But when you do you’ll find that we really have some first-class farmers and producers in the area. It wouldn’t seem right to leave out how inexpensive it is to live here. One time I look a friend of mine out for a burger in San Francisco and for two burgers, one coke and one beer the bill was $60. And it wasn’t even as good as Grad School.

Charlie Rosenbury

President of Springfield Creatives & Independent Developer | @chuckmo

We chose Springfield because we like it here. Mainly our friends and family plus the ratio of stuff-to-do for the cost of living.

Springfield is also very malleable. It’s easy to get involved and make things better.



Jarad Johnson

Co-Founder & President at Mostly Serious. I am a designer, writer, and lover of the Midwest.