Asheville | Coral Darby | www.darbycommunications.com
The SBTDC takes the fear away. Now I look at my financials and I understand them. Similar to my kayaking analogy, I can now hit my roll and plot my downriver course with confidence.
ABOUT DARBY COMMUNICATIONS This public relations firm representing leaders within the outdoor and fitness industries is expert at finding creative ways to make sure potential customers know about their clients and their innovative products. Darby has a knack for going above and beyond traditional PR tactics by generating opportunities in the digital space. They take the time to involve themselves in social platforms daily, combing through Instagram, monitoring Snapchat, studying Twitter and keeping up with Facebook so their clients don’t have to. A specialty at Darby is aligning their clients with the movers and shakers of the social media world and tapping into their established social networks – ultimately, getting the influencers advocating for the brands and products in an authentic way that their audiences appreciate.
WHY THE OUTDOOR MARKET? I went to Colorado State University and surrounded myself with passionately outdoorsy people. When I got into an internship program, I asked the director to reach out to Patagonia, Inc. even though it was a long shot. I ended up getting a marketing internship with them and spent a semester in Ventura, CA, at their corporate office. After graduating, I worked for an advertising firm in Montana that specialized in representing outdoor gear companies and pioneered their PR department before deciding to go out on my own. My husband and I were looking to move to Asheville. So, I asked my employer at the time if they would be my first client and they agreed to take a chance on me.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO MARKET PRODUCTS BY TARGETING ONLINE INFLUENCERS? There are a lot of intelligent and magnetic people out there who are able to make a livelihood for themselves via social-media accounts, and those people have built enormous followings. So in a sense, this is another media channel. But this one takes a lot of time and a lot of finesse. People pick up on brands that self-promote regularly, and for a lot of people that becomes a turn-off. You have to find a voice that represents the brand in a really authentic way.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE? Breaking through the fears that hold me back personally. For the most part, I’m completely self-taught. I don’t have all the answers, and they rarely come easily. It’s nerve-racking, but there are resources like the SBTDC that I can tap into.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE WORKING WITH THE SBTDC? Working with SBTDC reminds me of whitewater kayaking, a sport in which flipping over in your boat is inevitable. It’s scary – you’re upside down in the water with your lower half wedged into the boat, but, before you run a rapid you train to be able to ‘right’ your boat. Every so often I’d hit my roll, but more often than not I’d freeze. I’d pull my spray skirt and swim, which is actually much more dangerous. And, you can’t fully enjoy the beauty of the river if you’re running a rapid with that constant level of intensity and fear. The SBTDC takes the fear away. Now I look at my financials and I understand them. Similar to my kayaking analogy, I can now hit my roll and plot my downriver course with confidence. I’m by no means a pro, and I still have a lot of questions. But I’m in there every month, and I know where I’m going to be at the end of the year. We’ve already hit our projections for the end of 2016; our gross revenues are up 20%. And we’ve just added two new employees.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT RUNNING YOUR OWN BUSINESS? The self-confidence. It’s really empowering, especially as a female in a primarily male-dominated industry. And I know this sounds cheesy, but we’ve done a really good job hiring here. These employees are my second family and we wouldn’t be where we are today without them. And our clients, too. I mean we have fantastic clients. Plus, it is just so much fun. I get to help outdoor gear brands sell tents and hiking boots and things I’m passionate about, and who wouldn’t love that?
This story was originally published in the SBTDC 2015-2016 Annual Report. View the entire report here.
More Success Stories
Our counselor, Janis Mueller, helped us find the right bank, figure out my financials, and put together our presentation to get an SBA loan. We still work with Janis regularly; in fact, I called just yesterday with some concerns. She was able to bring in an expert in the field that I had questions about while I was still on the phone with her. It was that quick. I think it’s unique that I can call her spur of the moment and get that kind of response. It has been very valuable to us and I would say we probably wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t reached out to the SBTDC. I talk about Janis like she’s magic but she is kind of magic.
The thing about the SBTDC is that I’m never actively looking for these opportunities, but my counselor comes to me and says, “what do you need now?” and offers these students, or interns, or a workshop, or whatever will help us at that moment. We’ve seen a 20% increase in sales and the addition of seven employees. The biggest benchmark, however, was getting to a point where Calibration Solutions was big enough and attractive enough to buy.