Going with the roll: Darby Communications

“Taking risks for business growth is like white-water kayaking: If you never learn the ‘combat roll,’ you never freely experience the river,” declares Coral Darby, owner/CEO of Darby Communications, a five-person, Asheville-based boutique PR firm dedicated to serving outdoor, wellness and active-lifestyle brands. Darby has worked one-on-one with a Mountain BizWorks consultant; now she’s ready for her next “roll” — expanding the business.

Why did you start your business?
Back in 2004 I made the commitment to my family and myself to go independent. I always dreamed of being self-employed, and I craved the freedom of a flex schedule, especially with being a mom. The clients were right, the timing was right, and before I knew it I was hiring people and building the brand.

What’s your biggest challenge as your business grows?
The biggest challenge to date has been my indecisiveness. I am constantly questioning, wondering if I have the business acumen to reach the next level with this agency.

How has your business model changed over time?
While our target market has not changed, the services we offer within this market have certainly changed. PR is now so much more than editorial coverage in a newspaper or print publication; it’s an all-encompassing term that includes digital media and social media. We serve our clients in the realm of traditional PR, digital PR, event marketing, athlete support and general promotions.

What are your current plans for growth?
We’re going for smart expansion. The time is right because the team is incredible. We operate like a well-oiled machine and we enjoy one another’s company immensely. The right people make all the difference. In addition, our branding approach is now resonating with established players and industry newcomers. Our credibility finally gives us the opportunity to bid on businesses we never would have been in the running for in years past, which strengthens our client roster. Just recently we picked up three local brands doing business throughout the country: Astral Buoyancy, SkinFare Topical Nourishment (formerly referred to as SkinFood), and Bellyak Kayaks.

What advice would you give to entrepreneurs who want to grow an existing business?
Invest in your professional development, seek an advisor and/or build an advisory group to provide you with feedback.

Once you gain confidence and start hitting that combat roll, you can enjoy the river with a whole new perspective. These days, I’m practicing my roll daily.

To learn more about how to grow an existing business, register for Mountain BizWorks’ upcoming course, MODELS: Improving Money-Making Ideas. This three-session course begins Thursday, Sept. 13. For more information, contact Bob Dunn, director of consulting, at bob@mountainbizworks.org or (828) 253-2834.

Anna Raddatz is the development and communications coordinator for Mountain BizWorks, a nonprofit that supports small businesses in Western North Carolina through lending, consulting and training (learn more at www.mountainbizworks.org).

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