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Conversations with Dallas Riffle

Today we’d like to introduce you to Dallas Riffle.

Hi Dallas, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I have always been an artist – as a kid, you could always find me drawing… it was just a part of my DNA. Even in my elementary school yearbooks, the back pages are filled with notes from my classmates declaring I was the best “draw-er” in the class.

In high school, I decided to participate in the Akron Beacon Journal’s “Design an Ad” contest, where kids could enter their hand-drawn ads for local businesses. My ad for Goodyear (headquartered in Akron) won first place – and it was then that I knew I wanted to be in the world of advertising. It seemed like the perfect blend of creativity with purpose, where I could really use my talent.

My senior year, I won a full-ride scholarship to the University of Akron, where I attended the Meyers School of Art, with a major in Drawing & Painting.

I got started in the creative industry when I became a sign installer, and eventually a sign maker at a small sign company in Akron, Ohio. This was where I learned a lot of my graphic design principles, and first began to use software like Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator.

This experience inspired me to return to school in the early 2000’s, when I attended Cuyahoga Community College, majoring in Graphic Design, Web Design and Illustration. Immediately following graduation, I interned with a few local organizations and eventually was hired by a local agency, Ashby Dillon Advertising (no longer in business). This is where I really cut my teeth in the field, not only designing, but interacting with clients and eventually becoming Creative Director. I had reached the apex of my career, or so I thought. I was married with a beautiful house in the suburbs, a beautiful 4-year-old daughter with another on the way. It was the American dream.

When Ashby closed its doors suddenly in 2013, I was lost. Not only was I suddenly without a job, but I was also going through a painful divorce, along with being hit by a slew of additional life challenges. By the time 2014 came around, I found myself at rock bottom, a single dad with two small daughters in a tiny studio apartment, struggling to make ends meet, selling my half of the possessions out of a storage unit, and hocking my wedding ring to buy groceries. Little did I know that, as painful as it was, god was resetting my life for a greater cause.

While job searching, I began to receive a few inquiries from former clients who tracked me down. I began to do freelance work to keep the lights on, and eventually word spread to other companies that knew of me from my former position and were in need of marketing support.

Soon, I had put the job search on hold, and was freelancing full-time, eventually working under the name Dallas Riffle Media (I figured I’d just change that if I ever made a real go at founding an agency – ha). Before I knew it, I had hired my first part-time employee, and was cohabitating an office with another young entrepreneur, (video producer Mike Clum, who is now one of the best-known businessmen in Cleveland).

DRM’s first big break came in 2015. I was at a networking/charity event, and happened to meet Matt Fish, the owner of Melt Bar and Grilled, a very popular grilled cheese restaurant chain. We are roughly the same age and both musicians… the conversation flowed easily, as we traded war stories about playing various dive punk bars around town in the 90’s.

As I was ordering an Uber, I casually asked Matt who did Melt’s marketing. He said he basically did everything himself, with the help of a couple of artist friends. I gave him a business card, and told him to get in touch if he ever needed help or advice. I figured that was the end of it, and hey- it was cool to meet a local celebrity.

The next week, I was surprised to find an email from Matt in my inbox, requesting a meeting. He had been thinking about marketing since our conversation, and was now looking at several agencies around town for a new website… and he wanted DRM to be in the mix. As soon as I picked my jaw up off the floor, I began making phone calls. I needed to “create” the rest of my “agency” out of thin air, as it was just me and my part-timer at this point.

By the time the meeting happened, I was able to deliver the pitch with a table full of folks who were nice enough to be a part of DRM for the day. The pitch resonated with Matt, and by the next day he had signed the proposal and we were off to the races. Today, DRM is still Melt’s agency of record, and they’ve been a wonderful cornerstone client to have for seven years.

From that point forward, our organic growth only accelerated – we are now in our ninth year, 8 employees strong and growing. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for us.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
I would certainly NEVER describe the road of entrepreneurship to be a smooth one.

In fact, it’s more like a malfunctioning roller coaster. You never know what challenges you will face from day to day.

Starting a business requires a lot of sleepless nights, a healthy dose of self-doubt and many times questioning if you’re even doing the right thing.

Finding the right people, having a grip on your finances, weathering economic downturns, navigating through unhealthy client relationships, owning mistakes, big and small… all of this can take its toll in stress and uncertainty.

But I’d make the same choice to do it. Every single time.

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
As we state in our own marketing materials, DRM is “creative-first, brand-centric.”

This means that the brand is at the center of everything we do. When you are marketing, you are essentially speaking on behalf of a brand, whether that is through the words you use or the imagery you create. Without a strong understanding of the brand, messaging will not resonate.

DRM prides itself on great creative, but great creative that revolves around the nucleus of a brand’s DNA. We take the time to become experts in our client’s brands, and partner with them to reach their short and long term goals.

Do you have any advice for those looking to network or find a mentor?
The more networking you can do, the better! My own mantra is “Have every coffee (or beer), because you never know where a connection will take you.” A healthy and well-cultivated network can yield business for years to come.

Always look to help add value for those in your network. It may not benefit you immediately, but it will come back to you at some point.

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