There’s a new CULT in town, one that invites and accepts everyone who is interested. The preaching can be heard through spoken word, poetry, rhythms and lyrics captured on video. Ideas and events are created to promote social change and are archived via social media. A unified viewpoint of change for Topeka and Northeast Kansas, one which celebrates diversity and cultural awareness, can be felt through photography and graphic design. CULT or CREATE/UPLIFT is the local creative company from partners Tobias Harvey and Marcelino Gonzalez III (Marcy) with office space in 712 Innovations, downtown Topeka. But it’s more than just a creative agency or a couple of young entrepreneurs picking up some freelance jobs.
Marcy and Tobias have been collaborators since 2013, and been in business together since March 2016. Tobias brings experience and expertise in clothing design, graphic arts and music, where his production work has been nationally recognized. Marcy has documented the hip-hop music scene in the tri-city area for almost a decade. It was The Midwest Invasion, Marcy’s video start up, which came together with Well Cultured to form CREATE/UPLIFT.
The Entrepreneurial Spirit is alive and well in the Top City
Marcy was born in San Bernardino and is a 2006 Topeka High graduate. Tobias is a Topeka native from the Highland Park area and graduated from Topeka West in 2008. Like most entrepreneurs, the two burn the candle at both ends. Marcy works full time as a leasing agent, and Tobias works for a national drug store chain.
“Our work ethic is big. This is the age of the infinite information,” said Tobias. As a result, many of their skills are ones they learned on their own, which is not surprising given their basic creed.
“The acronym CULT has been spread everywhere we go. It’s what we are built on and what we are still made of. Create, uplift, learn, teach – the four original concepts during our start up continue to be our foundation today,” states the founders on their website.
With their creed as a foundation, CULT’s deliverables are a multimedia company serving Topeka, Lawrence, Kansas City and beyond. They provide “professional photography, videography, graphic design, website development, interactive marketing and creative consulting to brands and businesses.”
The theme that ties these disparate services together, however, is the duo’s immersion in hip-hop music and the culture from which it emerged. It doesn’t take much time on their website to see CREATE/UPLIFT’s clients and services reflect the diversity that is found in the artists and devotees from Topeka down the Kansas River to Kansas City. Tobias tied his early clothing line to it, and Marcy eagerly documented it.
How CREATE/UPLIFT came about
Tobias tells the story on the Web page:
In my senior year of high school, my close friend Jarrod Mason and I spent a lot of time daydreaming about running our own clothing line we called “Creative Culture,” and subsequently doodled some designs and illustrations for it. It wouldn’t be until 5 years later that I would have the opportunity and resources to actually try and make those daydreams a reality.
In 2013, I registered a domain and launched what was known as Well Cultured, or CULT, an online platform that served as a home base for everything creative. I didn’t have any plan or path for success, it was just something I started as a hobby. Later that same year I was on a road trip heading from Kansas to New York City, when I brought up my website and ideas to a couple close friends. When we got back home from NYC, the three of us started to put a plan in motion.
In early 2014, Chris Partee, Jermaine Adams, Jarrod Mason, and I launched a full campaign for Well Cultured, and debuted our clothing line at the annual ‘KC Sole Sneakfest’ where we brought our brand to thousands of sneaker and streetwear enthusiasts. Our brand was well received and met with praise from fellow creatives in the community. Things were going well as we continued to grow through our main outlet, music. It wouldn’t be until later that year we were faced with adversity, when in September, Christopher ‘Eightball’ Partee passed away in a car accident traveling through Oklahoma.
Disheartened from Chris’ sudden passing, Jermaine and I were left to pick up the pieces and try to keep the brand moving forward. Things staggered for quite some time until mid 2015, when the CULT brand acquired a small Topeka video start up called “The Midwest Invasion.” Adding Marcy Gonzalez and his TMI platform to the team, Well Cultured relaunched in early 2016 as what is now known as CREATE/UPLIFT.
Current and past clients include Mulvane Arts Fair, ARTSConnect, Jayhawk Theatre restoration project, including producing shows and most recently Reser’s Food to produce a training video. Two other recent projects include work with the City of Topeka and the USD 501 summer meals program.
Bottom line: These are two creative, focused, energetic and hard-working young men. Watch for big things from them in the years, even decades, to come. No doubt, whatever they choose to create in Topeka will have an uplifting effect. They are just those kind of people.