Knoxville, Tennessee may not be the first place you expect to be carrying on the 2,300 year old Chinese tradition of dragon-boat racing. You might be even more surprised to learn that the sleek, stylish, reptilian boats cruising by are doing it all for charity.
But it’s that creative combination that has caused Dynamic Dragon Boat Racing, LLC to make such a splash in waterways across the country. Owner Penny Behling was initially hesitant when offered the opportunity to buy out her partner in their business that organized and managed events and rented dragon boats – 46-foot-long canoe-type vessels powered by a team of 20 rowers, a drummer and a steersperson. The business had been struggling, and Penny's financial situation made buying the business questionable. She contacted SCORE in 2009 for aid in analyzing the situation and determining the right move.
Dynamic Dragon Boat Racing offers boat and equipment rentals and team-building opportunities, along with fundraising facilitation and good old-fashioned competition.
With Beres' help, Behling created a business plan that allowed the firm to increase the number of events it managed from three in 2008 to ten in 2011. She also has added new equipment to her fleet. In 2010 alone, racing events raised more than $200,000 for the charities they benefited.
Dynamic Dragon Boat Racing LLC was the recipient of the 2011 Client of the Year Award from the Greater Knoxville chapter of SCORE.
Behling began meeting with SCORE mentor Bill Beres in 2009, focusing their talks on how to revive a struggling business and expand its existing customer base. Collaborating with Beres allowed Penny to gain confidence in her ability to manage a business, and she soon realized that this type of event had a huge untapped market.
"Previously we concentrated our efforts on cities on the Tennessee River, but through market analysis we began to realize that any city with a body of water was a potential prospect," Behling says. "That gave me the confidence to purchase the business and grow it through market expansion."
“My SCORE counselor encouraged and equipped me with methodology to reach what I thought originally might be impossible goals," Behling says. "It’s been a long road, but now the ride has been worth it.”