How One Business Is Expanding Beyond Its Local Market

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This story appears in the December 2011 issue of . Subscribe »

When Darren Mahuron was young, there was only one thing he wanted to be for a living: an artist. The window opened one day when his employer needed a product photographer. He taught himself about cameras, learned Photoshop and figured out that he hated taking pictures and doing it someone else's way. So in 2006, he decided to let the establishment have its way and he'd do it his, and he founded Summit Studios.

In 2011, it's hard to walk through the idyllic town of Fort Collins, Colo., and find a business owner or culture-centric person who doesn't know Mahuron and his work. In addition to having a successful photography business, he's a fixture on the local art scene. But 2011 brings with it a separate challenge for Mahuron, who's carved himself a deep niche in his own backyard: getting out of his backyard. "I need to find a way to get my work into larger markets," he says. "Larger markets means larger projects and new challenges for me professionally." And so comes the question of busting out of your comfort zone--and shaping your business and brand to make the leap.

For many, building a business is a whole lot easier in your backyard. People know one another. People talk. So how do you take what you've done so well on a local scale into new markets without blowing your budget and wasting time and resources?

While it might be different for your business, Mahuron's identified one of his primary targets to be advertising and marketing agencies. "If I can get on their radar and show them how my photography can make their clients look like rock stars, then I'm another tool in their toolbox," he says.

Even though he's known he should for quite some time, Mahuron has never done a showing of his work outside of Colorado prior to this year. In late September, he changed that. So how are you getting out there?

For many consultants and entrepreneurs, getting out means getting involved. You can't grow a business in a vacuum, so seek out things like professional organizations, chambers of commerce and perhaps more important, conferences and trade shows.

While you might not feel the price of entry for a particular conference or trade show is accessible, here are a few things to consider. Events like these are more about the people you can potentially meet than the speakers and swag. Those relationships are what get business done. If you still feel like the price of a pass is too much, there are plenty of people who head to conferences and the associated parties to mix and mingle without ever stepping foot on the exhibit floor.

Sometimes the best path is to ask someone who's done it--which is exactly what Mahuron did. When you can tap into the expertise of someone who's already made the leap, you're poised for an inspiring conversation. While you can't expect these conversations to always come for free, a few hundred dollars spent on consulting with a colleague you admire can save you a few thousand in missteps.

What's next for Mahuron? Check out his work at I'll bet that over the next year, you'll be seeing some bigger brands and bands come his way for a slice of his artistic pie. After all, there is an art to marketing, even for artists and entrepreneurs who don't fancy themselves marketers. Growing is about creating--what will you create today?

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