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Artist shares vision for a more vibrant community

How changes in Springfield’s IDEA Commons inspired MSU Alum Jeff Rawson.

When you’re thinking about how to turn art into a career, the pathway isn’t always drawn out clearly. Jeff Rawson, 2007 alum of Missouri State University, turned his passion for arts into a career in marketing.

Pairing advertising and graphic design is a common marriage. When you add in his flair for community development, you see a much more colorful picture.

In college, Rawson said he made his own opportunities by freelancing graphic design work for upcoming events – just hoping to get a paycheck.

After graduation, he worked at the Blunt Jordan Valley Innovation Center in IDEA Commons, completing marketing materials for the center. He even designed the first efactory logo.

After a few years, the Dexter native began interviewing for new positions all across the country.

Shaping a community

Jeff Rawson headshot.

Rawson swung through Cape Girardeau on a whim as he was interviewing. There, he met his current boss Gary Rust, which turned out to be a right place-right time scenario.

“I hadn’t been in the area in 15 years or so,” Rawson said. “It was a dramatic change in downtown. The changes I saw in the revitalization of Springfield’s downtown and the growth of the IDEA Commons district, I saw that starting to happen in Cape. I realized I could be on the ground level of what’s happening here.”

In 2014, he joined rustmedia, a design and strategy agency based in Cape Girardeau. The work has evolved quite a bit during that time, he notes.

One major change has been rustmedia dipping their toe into experiential marketing.

“I have a real love of this place, and my time in Springfield allowed me to learn a lot from folks that were doing similar things. It’s fueled me and given me some ideas for how I could adapt some of those for our market,” Rawson said.


Then in 2017, he launched about The Scout, an award-winning,  Midwest-centric lifestyle and media brand. The core is a daily email product that connects readers to the good things happening around them (food, music, events).

“The Scout was the catalyst for Shipyard (our music festival), The Next Project, and now our mixed-use residential/commercial property and new venues at Scout Hall that opened earlier this year,” he added.

Drawing inspiration

Due to his love of travel, Rawson also draws inspiration from many other communities and conceptualizes how Cape might be able to scale them for their community.

Rawson gets excited about the other innovators in the community who continue to develop opportunities for those living in a rural space but want amenities and activities similar to an urban market.

He mentions specifically Codefi, a frequent partner of efactory, and a Cape Girardeau-based innovation hub.

“I think we all benefit from what Codefi is doing,” Rawson said. “I’ve been lucky to work with a lot of the startups that are there, and that’s a huge impact that continues to grow here in the area.”


Jeff Rawson stands in mid-street with Charm and Hustle banner.

What he appreciates the most is that he’s been able to design a meaningful career doing something that he loves while helping to build his local community.

“No two days are ever the same. I’ve been given the freedom to explore and identify needs in the Midwest at large and chase some initiatives that we can contribute to and help the area see some progress in.”

Though his work is complex and reaches into many avenues of marketing, design, advertising and community development, Rawson values that he’s made his childhood dream come true.

“I get paid to draw pictures,” he adds. “As a kid, I never thought I would get to.”