Inspiring Women, Episode 18: Darla King, King Business Interiors
Darla King joins “Inspiring Women” to talk about the journey of building her thriving office furniture business, lessons learned along the way, encouraging other women business owners, and giving back. The host of “Inspiring Women” is Betty Collins and this series is presented by Brady Ware & Company.
Darla King, King Business Interiors
Darla King is the President and Owner of King Business Interiors. After more than a decade in the furniture business, Darla started the company in 1998 and serves as the company’s Owner and President. Early on, the vision was clear: King Business Interiors will always be more than a furniture vendor.
Today, King serves hundreds of clients in numerous markets and industries. Along with being a Haworth furniture preferred dealer, King represents 300 product lines, operates a full service commercial flooring division, offers inventory and warehousing and provides total move management services. In all that King does, King is dedicated to a single goal: providing customer’s with a “Zero Punch List.”
A commitment to going the extra mile for clients has enabled King to grow from a small five person start up into an established multi-million dollar business with 50+ employees. According to Columbus Business First, King ranks second among area office furniture and supply companies, and ranks ninth in the top 50 women-owned businesses.
King is a proud, family-owned business with a strong focus on their employee’s family lives. Two of the passions at King are “kids come first” and “never miss a ball game.”
King is also a certified woman-owned business, and Darla is active with the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), Columbus Chapter. Darla takes pride in mentoring fellow women leaders throughout the Ohio community.
Through Darla’s leadership, King is very active in giving back to the community, particularly through an innovative recycling program, Connecting the Dots. This initiative takes reusable furniture and connects the items with nonprofits, startups and charitable organizations throughout Central Ohio.
For more information on King Business Interiors, follow this link.
Betty Collins, CPA, Brady Ware & Company and Host of the “Inspiring Women” Podcast
Betty Collins is the Office Lead for Brady Ware’s Columbus office and a Shareholder in the firm. Betty joined Brady Ware & Company in 2012 through a merger with Nipps, Brown, Collins & Associates. She started her career in public accounting in 1988. Betty is co-leader of the Long Term Care service team, which helps providers of services to Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and nursing centers establish effective operational models that also maximize available funding. She consults with other small businesses, helping them prosper with advice on general operations management, cash flow optimization, and tax minimization strategies.
In addition, Betty serves on the Board of Directors for Brady Ware and Company. She leads Brady Ware’s Women’s Initiative, a program designed to empower female employees, allowing them to tap into unique resources and unleash their full potential. Betty helps her colleagues create a work/life balance while inspiring them to set and reach personal and professional goals. The Women’s Initiative promotes women-to-women business relationships for clients and holds an annual conference that supports women business owners, women leaders, and other women who want to succeed. Betty actively participates in women-oriented conferences through speaking engagements and board activity.
Betty is a member of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) and she is the President-elect for the Columbus Chapter. Brady Ware also partners with the Women’s Small Business Accelerator (WSBA), an organization designed to help female business owners develop and implement a strong business strategy through education and mentorship, and Betty participates in their mentor match program. She is passionate about WSBA because she believes in their acceleration program and matching women with the right advisors to help them achieve their business ownership goals. Betty supports the WSBA and NAWBO because these organizations deliver resources that help other women-owned and managed businesses thrive.
Betty is a graduate of Mount Vernon Nazarene College, a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, and a member of the Ohio Society of Certified Public Accountants. Betty is also the Board Chairwoman for the Gahanna Area Chamber of Commerce, and she serves on the Board of the Community Improvement Corporation of Gahanna as Treasurer.
“Inspiring Women” Podcast Series
“Inspiring Women” is THE podcast that advances women toward economic, social and political achievement. The show is hosted by Betty Collins, CPA, and presented by Brady Ware and Company. Brady Ware is committed to empowering women to go their distance in the workplace and at home. Other episodes of “Inspiring Women” can be found here.
Betty Collins: [00:00:00] Well, today, I am really fortunate to have a guest with me, Darla King, with King Interiors. Guests are always phenomenal. People love the story. They love to hear how they did things, how they didn’t do things, and some insight from them. Darla King, and King Interiors is kind of a big deal in Columbus, Ohio. She probably … She’s laughing already, but it’s true. Everyone knows them, and Darla is just- they founded this with her and her husband in 1988. The philosophy was, “We will be more than furniture.” So, we’re going to talk a little bit about that today.
Betty Collins: [00:00:39] I know Darla because of NAWBO Columbus. I joined that in 2014 and, of course, the board and the players in Columbus that are part of NAWBO, which is the National Association of Women Business Owners, we’re just a fun group. I liked it from the beginning. She was on the board and became president. Then, I got on the board because, you know, we always need a treasurer, and that’s what CPAs do. So, I got there, and one day, we were all trying to figure out who should be the next role, the next leaderships. She’s looking at me, saying, “You should be president!” I’m shaking my head, “No, I am not doing that ever!” But what it did was it planted a seed in my head that maybe I could do this because NAWBO Columbus is a pretty big honor to be on that board and to be on that track. It’s also about what NAWBO does, and I’m passionate about it.
Betty Collins: [00:01:33] That’s how we kind of got to know each other, and we’re both involved with women’s things all over Columbus. A lot of times, either we’re writing the checks, or we’re sponsoring, or we’re opening up our office, and trying to make this because we believe in all of this. We have that common vote. But we also believe in the business and the marketplace. I know her through NAWBO. She’s a member and she has, of course, been in leadership. She’s also in the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, and WPO, which is Women’s President Organization.
Betty Collins: [00:02:05] She’s really done some amazing things for women, as well as run a business. Without the marketplace, our country doesn’t do well. So, the marketplace has to have success in it, and we have to give those people that have an idea, a passion, and then, all the sudden, they’re an employer, which means you’ve got households that form communities … The marketplaces, the success, we get to experience every day in our country. I love it, and I love that I get to be a CPA and be part of that venue. Even though it’s depreciation, and GAAP things, and all that, it’s important. We’re going to go on a journey. So, first of all, Darla, can you just kind of tell us a little bit about King Interiors; what you guys do? You are family business.
Darla King: [00:02:50] Yeah.
Betty Collins: [00:02:51] That’s a whole ‘nother dynamic we’ll talk about a little bit today but tell us a little bit about King Interiors. It goes back to 1988.
Darla King: [00:02:57] Actually ’98, but [crosstalk] We’ve been in business 22 years. It’s King Business Interiors, under King Business Centers. Believe me, we struggled with the name, in the beginning, saying, “What should it be?” I worked out of my dining room for the first three months trying to get things rolling. But, I look at … We had a pretty good start, as far as I was already in the industry. I was getting things going for just two or three customers, and I let them tell me how to set it up, like, “What do you need? What do you need?” They really guided me to say, “Nothing’s going to change.” They’re going to have the same national account agreement with the furniture line that we represented.
Darla King: [00:03:43] At that time, we were the third Haworth dealer in Columbus. That happens in places like New York City and maybe San Francisco, but not Columbus, Ohio, because we’re like a secondary market. But slowly, that eliminated … One bought the other and ended up filing bankruptcy. Then, we were the only- King was the only Haworth dealer, which is a major brand; like number two in our industry.
Betty Collins: [00:04:08] Sure. Okay.
Darla King: [00:04:09] Anyways, when we started, we had four partners because I really felt like I needed a whole crowd of people to help me. I look at that today, and I think that’s one of my biggest mistakes was just not believing in myself, but also not understanding what four partners- and even number … Relying on everybody to do what I thought we could do. Slowly, I had to eliminate one partner, and I had to eliminate a second partner. My husband was not one either one of them, so-
Betty Collins: [00:04:38] That was good.
Darla King: [00:04:40] Dave and I- yeah, that’s good. Dave and I’ve been married now 40 years-
Betty Collins: [00:04:43] Very nice.
Darla King: [00:04:44] -but in business 22 years. I think it’s a classic. We’re opposites. He’s very much on the numbers. He’s very black and white. He takes all the details in. That’s not me at all.
Betty Collins: [00:04:56] Yeah. It’s necessary. You gotta do it [crosstalk] right?
Darla King: [00:05:00] Yeah, so I look at that, and I think that was one thing that – back in the early days – was I needed the expertise around me; someone that knows how to start a business. I needed somebody that knew how to build a culture. Those were the two partners early. After a year, year and a half, we made those changes. Then, slowly, it grew. Our kids, at that time, were very young.
Betty Collins: [00:05:22] Sure.
Darla King: [00:05:24] So, there was no intention of them having to get into the business or forced to get in the business. But my daughter did go through O.U., and interior design. Then Chris, our son, he’s 37, and he went to Ohio State for American history, and so-
Betty Collins: [00:05:39] So, he started selling furniture.
Darla King: [00:05:43] Yeah. Actually, he … The best thing is both of them have worked in the business, somewhere along the line. Chris did a lot on weekends, and summers at the warehouse, and with the installers, when he was in school and in college. Then he first came on and was in the accounting department and was in accounts receivable. A couple of years went by, and he said, “Mom, people … I don’t like this job. People lie!” [crosstalk]
Betty Collins: [00:06:05] Really? They don’t want to pay us? Okay.
Darla King: [00:06:05] They got excuses. He’d go, “I got notes here. They were gonna pay; the check was in the mail.” It’s like, “Okay …” He goes, “Can I do something else?” He ended up showing some interest in sales, and he has been in sales since.
Betty Collins: [00:06:17] Good, good.
Darla King: [00:06:17] He’s been with us a quite a while. Chelsea’s been with us seven years, and with her design background, she brought a new look to it. Even when we interviewed at O.U., the counselor asked me to step out of the room, and he asked Chelsea, specifically, “Is your mom forcing you to get in this business because she’s in it?” Chel said, “No, I kinda like it. I wanna do this.” So, everybody’s watching out for is it going to be a family business? Is it a forced issue? Is it [crosstalk] It wasn’t for either one of them. They have worked hard. They’re there every day, and they have great interest in how we’re going to find the next customer, and where we’re spending our advertising money, and all the things that a business owner needs to think about.
Betty Collins: [00:07:02] Right.
Darla King: [00:07:03] So, yeah, now we’re up to 81 employees.
Betty Collins: [00:07:06] Very good. Very good. That’s a lot.
Darla King: [00:07:09] Yeah, and a lot of families, and a lot of kids, and now, a lot of grandkids.
Betty Collins: [00:07:12] Wow. Right.
Darla King: [00:07:13] There’s not a day goes by that I don’t think about the day four people walk walked in; and now we’ve got 81. Everybody’s busy. The Columbus market right now is fantastic.
Betty Collins: [00:07:25] It’s hot.
Darla King: [00:07:26] It is.
Betty Collins: [00:07:27] It’s hot.
Darla King: [00:07:28] Everybody’s got their job to do. They work as a great team; in small teams, too. We’re very fortunate to have some customers that have been with the whole 22 years.
Betty Collins: [00:07:38] Wow. Very nice.
Darla King: [00:07:39] They’re very dedicated to helping us understand better how to get better. Some, I’ve been with for 30 years, but they’ve changed personnel in their businesses, and we’ve kind of been their steady; their facilities partner. Not just selling the next chair, but really understanding their buildings. As we grew, the one thing customers kept saying to us is, “I need warehouse. Can you get a little warehouse?” Well, now we’re at 150,000 square foot of warehouse-
Betty Collins: [00:08:08] That’s a lot.
Darla King: [00:08:08] -because customers don’t build their buildings to have a big basement in the bottom or some storage space. The larger customers, the more product they need, the more churn they have, there are more needs for having inventory readily available. That’s kind of how we’ve grown is through [crosstalk]
Betty Collins: [00:08:26] -it’s a great story. Great path. Not an easy path, for sure. As a CPA, I’ve seen the generations. You have that original generation … I had a grandmother who started a nursing home at the age of 63.
Darla King: [00:08:45] Wow!
Betty Collins: [00:08:46] In her home, which, at that time, you could do that. It was- 12 people could fit- could stay in her home. Today, the third generation is running that. Her secret to success, and I want you to talk about this, was if you want to work at this nursing home, you’re going to do dishes, you’re going to cook food, you’re going to learn to do personal hygiene for people; you’re going to learn how to meet with a family.
Darla King: [00:09:11] Right.
Betty Collins: [00:09:12] I’m sure- and that was what they had to do first.
Darla King: [00:09:15] That’s amazing.
Betty Collins: [00:09:15] It wasn’t because they were, “a King,” they got to be there, right?
Darla King: [00:09:19] Right.
Betty Collins: [00:09:19] Talk a little bit about the dynamics that you’ve experienced with that; because they’ve got to really have an entrepreneurship heart. They’ve got to have a passion for the business. Do you feel like you guys have done that well as a family?
Darla King: [00:09:36] You know, I have learned a lot from them. They’re both millennials. They both have a different perspective on it. For me, being in the business 30 years, I’ve had a lot of my customers retire, and the new face shows up that’s a person that’s going to be running and controlling that company’s facilities, and they needed to talk to somebody at their age.
Betty Collins: [00:09:59] Right. That’s perfect.
Darla King: [00:09:59] They needed to be able to relate to them. It’s like I needed- there were obvious spots where I needed to get out of the way and let them start their conversation. Not that they knew it all by then, but the new person at the facility didn’t either, and it was like, they just want to be heard. They just want to know how to find the solutions. Come back, and let’s talk about it, and let’s pull the team together. We really have four generations in our group, right now.
Betty Collins: [00:10:29] That’s awesome.
Darla King: [00:10:30] So, there’s a lot of people that can help them.
Betty Collins: [00:10:32] What do you feel like the biggest challenges a family-owned business – then we’ll move on to other things – but, for you, because our audience is going to have a lot of family-owned people, and they’re sometimes trying to get through those dynamics. What’s really the biggest challenge that probably will never go away – maybe it has gone away – that you deal with?
Darla King: [00:10:51] Just to avoid competition. We all stay in our own lanes.
Betty Collins: [00:10:56] Yeah. Good.
Darla King: [00:10:56] Dave’s in finance. I’m in sales and marketing. Chelsea is in design and works with architects and designers and goes out after folks that are specifying our products. Chris stays on national accounts and handling the sales side of it. So, we all see different parts of the business, but we all realize we’re in the right seats.
Betty Collins: [00:11:18] Right. Good.
Darla King: [00:11:19] When it starts to compete, like overlap, that’s where you feel the frustration and stress.
Betty Collins: [00:11:26] You’ve done this a long time. I know, for myself, my kids never wanted to be CPAs or in business, and neither of them are. One’s a minister, and one’s a teacher. They’re like, “Nope. No, we’re not … We’d never do that.” My husband and I, I just know how we do loading and unloading the dishwasher. I can’t imagine us being in business all day together. But, you know, talk to us a little bit about being a woman in your industry – is that an issue? Is it not? – and did you have challenges that you worked through as a woman business owner, just back in 22 years ago?
Darla King: [00:11:59] I think I was insulated by having my brother-in-law, and my husband, and another partner there; that I just went ahead and did what I did, which was [crosstalk] sales and [inaudible] focused on finding business. Their job was the insurance, the banking- all the other things that just were not my expertise-
Betty Collins: [00:12:20] Right, and very male. Those are male-dominated things.
Darla King: [00:12:23] They already had people they knew in those places and areas. Since then, growing into it and realizing the struggles of people with NAWBO; women in NAWBO, and them getting the national certification for being a woman-owned business. It elevates a company – if you’re in the right- in certain categories – to be seen by large corporations that would have never noticed you.
Betty Collins: [00:12:47] Right.
Darla King: [00:12:48] Quite frankly, they’re looking to do business; like the automotive industry. They want to do business with women because women buy cars. So, they’ve made this huge initiative to really look out and find suppliers that are that way. So, right away, we started being noticed and seen and then understanding what they needed. In fact, one day I had a call from a company, Japanese automaker. They said, “Any chance that you own the company?” And I said, “Well, yeah. I do.” They go, “Good, I don’t have to change vendors.”
Betty Collins: [00:13:22] Wow.
Darla King: [00:13:22] Because they were searching to find where they could bring as much as 10 to 15 percent of their vendor suppliers into woman-owned or minority. That’s been an initiative for 20 years, but now, it’s even more today and very focused on it. I’m not sure if I answered your question [crosstalk]
Betty Collins: [00:13:41] No, you did, because it really kind of leads into, you know, you’ve really … You did play a really great role in NAWBO.
Darla King: [00:13:47] Oh, thanks.
Betty Collins: [00:13:47] What was the passion behind that? You kind of already answered that – the passion of being involved in NAWBO and helping women in business today; because you do that a lot.
Darla King: [00:13:58] Well, you know, women need to help women. It’s silly. You see so many times where a woman gets to the top of the company, and she doesn’t help anybody up. “I got here by myself. I’m not gonna …”
Betty Collins: [00:14:09] That’s common.
Darla King: [00:14:09] Wow! How selfish!
Betty Collins: [00:14:13] Right.
Darla King: [00:14:14] You look at the people in NAWBO, and the NAWBO roundtables, and even the WPO roundtables. Sitting with a group of eight women that are all business owners that are different size, different scale, but all the same problems; whether you’re selling $40 million or whether you’re selling $3 million, and you’ve got employees, and you’ve got leases, and you’ve got bank loans, and you’ve got lines of credit-
Betty Collins: [00:14:36] Right.
Darla King: [00:14:36] -you’re trying to figure out when you hire your second employee. They’re all issues that some of us with longer time in the business have experienced. I like to relive it, especially with some of the younger women [crosstalk] It’s a whole different start for them than it was for me. I often am so gratified that I had a team that I could rely on back then that did the kinds of things that I think all of them, individually, are trying to do. All hands on deck; do everything.
Betty Collins: [00:15:06] I had that same … I’m in a very male-dominated business-
Darla King: [00:15:09] You are.
Betty Collins: [00:15:09] -especially in 1988. Well, in this- right now, over 50 percent of women are accountants, but we’re still having some of those same struggles of … The perspective around that roundtable, the perspective of that support, whether it’s WPO, or the WSBA, or the different groups in town … You’ve been a big supporter of so much of that, and it’s very appreciated. I know that Darla King has made mistakes in her journey … Not very many, so we won’t spend long on this, but this is where you get your MBA, your own personal MBA … Could you just talk with the audience about these are challenges that I went through, and this is why they probably were a really good learning experience that I had to probably go through to get to some next levels or even just I made a mistake and I had to rebound, or whatever. So, what do you think of when you think of- just off the top of your head, what comes to your mind?
Darla King: [00:16:07] I made a lot of mistakes. I’ve got to say, I mean, the best thing about being a small business and being able to make decisions fast and to be agile is reverse. Yeah, we tried it. You know, give it three months; give it six months. The biggest mistake was a five-year lease, and I mentioned that earlier. I thought we needed a downtown presence, and I also had a line of furniture that was extremely expensive, but it was one of our brands that we were expected to represent and show, and it was very difficult to separate it, or put it in the same showroom. We needed to separate it and make it look more like a art studio and a feeling like that.
Darla King: [00:16:43] At the same time, there was a big presence of being downtown, potentially, and having- a lot of customers of ours are really close to downtown, so it made sense. We stood on the eighth floor of that building and looked around and said, “There’s a customer, there’s a customer, there’s a customer,” and we were clear up north off 161. Every time we had to leave to go to a customer, we’d leave a half hour early because you don’t know about traffic and parking the whole nine yards.
Darla King: [00:17:09] After about a year and a half, two years into that, we realized nobody really wanted to work isolated downtown at the studio. It wasn’t our culture, and we tried two or three different groups. So, after the time, I said, “Look, we’re just going to turn this into an incubator.” It was fully furnished. I had talked to several- in fact, six of my friends from NAWBO had been working in their dining rooms, or in their living rooms, or in some other kind of space. They took that on. It literally was a win-win, and we turned it into- lemons into lemonade.
Betty Collins: [00:17:39] Right. You helped them; they helped you. We all learned a big lesson. But, you know, you really, probably, at the time just thought, “We’ve got to be downtown,” you know?
Darla King: [00:17:49] Yeah. It was early. It was early on that. Then, our lease was up, up north. We were only two years into it when we realized we found a better space, which is in Grandview. Again [crosstalk]
Betty Collins: [00:17:58] -I’ve been to that show.
Darla King: [00:17:58] Close to downtown; minutes for getting to our customers, but completely different than being clear up north. So, location, location, location is key.
Betty Collins: [00:18:10] Fortunately, you do have- I mean, your husband, I mean, probably dynamically going, “The numbers do not work, but we’re gonna do this because we got a line. It just makes sense.” I bet numbers weren’t showing that, but then you did it anyways. Well, we all have challenges. We all have stuff that happens. That’s just called business.
Darla King: [00:18:28] You live and learn, and you make the best of it or you fix it.
Betty Collins: [00:18:30] Yep. Anything else that comes to your mind that you’d love to share with the audience: “Learn from this. I went to the Darla MBA, got my MBA School,” whatever it is?
Darla King: [00:18:39] Trust your peers and be a good listener because they’ll teach you a lot.
Betty Collins: [00:18:46] Right.
Darla King: [00:18:46] You’ll learn just from the experiences or the way they put things in their company, and their words out there. I learned a lot from that. Whether it was Vistage, or [crosstalk]
Betty Collins: [00:18:55] Women, generally, and the statistics are there. I’m a data person, unless I have to go research and find it, I’m a data when you give me numbers. “Oh, good. Let’s play with this.” The data’s out there that women don’t ask. They think they have to do this, and they carry it. That’s just not … It’s a big challenge that I see in business owners all the time.
Darla King: [00:19:19] Yeah.
Betty Collins: [00:19:20] One of the coolest things about your Grandview space, and you said to me, “Yeah, you can use the space,” because you wanted people … It’s your give back.
Darla King: [00:19:29] Yeah.
Betty Collins: [00:19:29] You have very cool coffee there [crosstalk] but it’s your give back is the mentality. Talk a little bit about that.
Darla King: [00:19:36] Yeah. Give them the space. I had some really good bosses, prior to getting my business started. One of them always gave the space. Rodney Wasserstrom always said, “We’re not here after 5:00. Let them come in and have an art show. Let them do this …” It’s like good parking. No one was in that space, so they could get in there. They could have events. I thought, that is amazing. The people that walk through the doors in that community would have never come in there, if they hadn’t been invited through that group.
Betty Collins: [00:20:04] Right.
Darla King: [00:20:04] So, it was obvious, when we moved down here, that we were going to be doing that more, and more, and more. Even in Worthington, we got involved in the Worthington Chamber, but also the libraries called and said, “Is there any chance we could put you on as an option room?” Our space.
Betty Collins: [00:20:18] Oh, wow.
Darla King: [00:20:18] I said, “Absolutely.” When someone would come in and they just wanted an alternative to where they had been meeting or they want to spend a half a day, we had the space; training rooms, or a conference room, or places in the space that you only use 10 percent of the time. What I love about our new space is, at the end of the day, there’s 250 parking spots. If a larger event or a nonprofit wants to come in there, we do not charge. There’s public restrooms … Just all the things are right there ready for it.
Betty Collins: [00:20:48] Right.
Darla King: [00:20:49] But giving back and letting people know that you’re there for it, it just, you know, it feels good [crosstalk]
Betty Collins: [00:20:58] Yeah, because you just had a big fundraiser for Bridgeview.
Darla King: [00:21:00] We did.
Betty Collins: [00:21:01] So, tell us a little bit about- that’s the part of giving back, you know? You’re not selling them furniture, you’re just … You probably will sell some furniture over it, but I mean …
Darla King: [00:21:08] This is our 16th year to have Create for Cause. It’s an event where we give back to the community. We get our vendors involved, and we invite everybody we know. Again, this was a learning curve for me. We started it in our fifth year in business [crosstalk] The reason we started it was every year we were giving a customer a small clock; a Howard Miller small clock. After the fifth year, the salespeople said, “How many more clocks … [crosstalk]?”
Betty Collins: [00:21:35] -don’t want any more clocks, yeah.
Darla King: [00:21:38] We were realizing we had such a repeat business that, yeah, we needed to do something different. So, we kicked it into gear with, hey, let’s have a party. Let’s invite everybody there. Let’s do something about it. Let’s have some fun. So, we created this, which we paint 100 ceramic plates is how it started. Now, we’ve been doing platters; this last year was a tray. We put them in as a silent auction. We invite artists, architects, designers in town to paint the ceramics. If you ever painted ceramics, they come out very chalky when you’re painting them. Then, when they get fired, they’re glazed, and glossy, and pretty, and just glow. So, they can see their finished painting, their finished piece of art, when they come to the party.
Betty Collins: [00:22:24] Very cool.
Darla King: [00:22:25] So, it creates a nice crowd. This year, I think we had over 750 people. Everybody in our company knows that they invite their circle of friends, relatives, neighbors, because it’s not just … It’s you don’t know who knows who. I know you’re a CPA. You know I’m in office furniture. You know somebody that’s in a certain industry, it just connects. So, you never know who knows who knows who that could influence and/or say, “If you’re going to get some new chairs, call King.”
Betty Collins: [00:22:54] Well, you know, that’s really the cool part of giving back. You end up creating something that turns into not what you really thought. Let’s give a clock because, hey, we need to give something to our people. Now we have a party that’s owned, and connection, and you get to do some fun, and you raise money all at the same time. 750 people, that’s awesome.
Darla King: [00:23:13] Well, the exposure for Bridgeway was nice [crosstalk]
Betty Collins: [00:23:15] Sure, sure. Great organization.
Darla King: [00:23:18] -they had the opportunity to explain how they take care of kids with autism [crosstalk] It’s amazing.
Betty Collins: [00:23:22] I’ve been down to their school several times, and it’s just … They’re so passionate. They’re really good. Well, you know, Darla, you’ve not always been a big deal, right? You just haven’t. You started out like every business owner. There’s that commercial out right now; I always love it. “We’ve seen a few things,” No, “We know a few things because we’ve seen a few things …” [crosstalk] According to Darla – we’re going to wrap up a little bit – what would you advise women who are, or want to be in business? Maybe they have the idea; they’ve launched already; they realize, “I’m in this because I got a bunch of liability and I got …” or “I’m going to make this- I want to go full circle. I don’t want- I want this to be more.” What would you say to them?
Darla King: [00:24:05] What [crosstalk].
Betty Collins: [00:24:05] What’s something that you would go, “Do this, or don’t do this, or persevere,” whatever?
Darla King: [00:24:10] I’d say reach out and call folks like yourself; call me; call people that have been through it, because we’ll take the time to go have coffee and brainstorm it and then find the next right spot to be, whether it’s a NAWBO roundtable, or it’s WBENC convention or something. It just depends upon what industry they’re in and how it might help their business. Networking is key, and just picking up the phone and calling somebody, and hope they call back, and hope they can connect with you. That’s big. I think you can’t pass that up. That’s just one big part of it. I know there’s a lot of young gals that get discouraged. They want to start a business. They want to get into it. You don’t have a business unless you have a customer.
Betty Collins: [00:24:58] Right. Very good.
Darla King: [00:24:59] It’s great to dream of something, but you got to think it all the way through, and you’ve got to walk it/talk it with somebody. I think that was the one thing I learned about peer-to-peer learning or understanding was just that really sitting down and sorting it out and thinking through how did that happen to me, and how does it happen to her? How can she get connected to somebody else I know? Because helping them is … It should just be natural.
Betty Collins: [00:25:30] Yeah. Well, no, I’ve called on you several times with … We have a mutual friend, right now, who she just- I loved her from the minute because she was just tenacious. She made sure she got to Betty Collins. She did it through several people because she wanted to meet with me. I thought, you know, I need to meet with her because she’s brave, and she’s bold. Then I said I need to connected as somebody who knows a bunch of big businesses that need commercial real estate … It was just cool to do. It took, what, a half hour my time to think it through and talk with her.
Darla King: [00:26:00] Right.
Betty Collins: [00:26:00] Then, you were like immediate. So … When you’re launching, and your starting, you’re getting out there, and you’re going through those rough times, it’s a constant. You’ve got to be asking for help. I think that’s what you’re really saying.
Darla King: [00:26:12] That’s right.
Betty Collins: [00:26:12] Don’t hesitate to do it because your success … Then, sometimes, someone’s going to ask you, and you’re going to be able to help, and do. Darla, I appreciate you meeting with us today. I love meeting with women business owners.
Darla King: [00:26:23] Thank you.
Betty Collins: [00:26:23] Someone who’s had success. They’ve gone through times. Respected in the community. I appreciate all you do with giving back. Of course, you have something called Connecting the Dots, as well. Tell us about that, and then we’ll close.
Darla King: [00:26:34] Real quick. Gosh, in 2004, we had an outlet store, which is the obvious thing for office furniture dealers. Put your old stuff, or the things you made a mistake on [crosstalk]
Betty Collins: [00:26:45] It’s on sale again, yeah.
Darla King: [00:26:45] That business was like 5:00 to 8:00 at night, and on weekends – Saturday and Sunday. It was like, okay, I’m going to work 8:00 to 8:00, and then 8:00 … So, spreading that out and getting other people involved in it and then, also being located clear up on 161 Huntley Road, it just was not right. I got onto a board of directors through a customer of mine and it was the New Direction Career Center for Women. I noticed they didn’t have two chairs that matched, and I thought, here I sit with this abundance of furniture, and it’s sad; they don’t have the money to spend, and I really don’t want to keep on going with the expense of a warehouse and overhead. So, let me just see if I can’t- if they’ll accept me giving it to them.
Darla King: [00:27:27] Some things we owned, so we could take some kind of write off on it. Other things we were- customers would say, “I don’t want this anymore,” but it still had some life to it. So, we created a program where we are not the nonprofit, but we connect the dots for the used furniture – lightly used and/or brand new – to the nonprofits and charities that need it. Interesting enough, we never advertised.
Darla King: [00:27:51] I probably get five, six phone calls a week, or on our web site, people that are requesting things. No one ever needs the same thing. One time I had a guy call for TVs, and I said, “Boy, we’ve never taken in TVs or appliances, except one-offs because I just don’t know how to maintain them [crosstalk] be good. She said, “Well, I have five men’s group homes, and I have no way to get them to gather in the living room. If I could just get some TVs … ”
Darla King: [00:28:17] Two weeks later, company calls and says, “We just got all new flat screens. We have TVs, if you’d be interested.” I said, “You know what? Send me a picture, if you will.” I called her, and I got the addresses, and we delivered five TVs. I said, “The only bad thing is they’re kind of strapped on to one of these mobile carts,” and she goes, “Good, because I don’t have any furniture to put it on!”
Betty Collins: [00:28:39] So, it all worked out.
Darla King: [00:28:42] It did. It did. So, it’s that kind of thing. I think it’s just that putting it out there in the universe; see how it comes back to us. The groups are really good because they don’t need- nobody needs everything, but they’re looking for something that could make their life easier and better. The last thing they need to spend money on is furniture. They need [inaudible] programs, and people, and computers, and all that, so, yeah …
Betty Collins: [00:29:05] Well, it was a good pleasure talking with you today, just getting to know you a little bit more.
Darla King: [00:29:08] Thanks.
Betty Collins: [00:29:08] A lot of good content for women in business, women business owners to talk about and think about, and I just appreciate your time.
Darla King: [00:29:15] Thank you. I appreciate you-
Betty Collins: [00:29:16] Betty Collins. I appreciate everyone who listens. I am passionate and really fortunate to be a woman business owner and to get to have a podcast, a company that believes in empowering women. Have a great day.