This is the next in our series of showcasing entrepreneurs from within the Saddlers’ Company.
Michael started his career in the equestrian industry in 2007 after serving ten years in the military.
His first job was working at Jeffries Saddlery, as their southern territory sales manager. Working at Jeffries Saddlery gave him an opportunity to work with his father, Freeman David Darley, who was the UK Sales Manager.
This role taught him everything he needed to know about Walsall and the manufacturing of high-quality saddles and bridles. It also gave him a great insight into the world of sales and the processes involved in manufacturing, distributing and retailing.
After four brilliant years he decided to use these skills to become an independent sales agent specialising in riding aids, and in 2011 Darley Equestrian was born. This allowed Michael to work for numerous equine manufacturers and brands giving them the opportunity to grow by managing the sales and marketing side for them. Initially, this included NuuMed who manufactured saddle pads in Somerset and also Point Two Equine, one of the first rider air bag companies on the market. Being an independent agent meant that networking was crucial.
Michael met Jennifer, the owner of Pampeano at an equestrian event, where seeing his Royal Marine tie, she decided to create a belt using the Corps colours. Once Michael started wearing it, interest grew and other parts of the military started asking for their own designs. It soon became apparent that the belts were a perfect accessory for showing an affiliation to a regiment or club etc. This lead in 2017 to Michael founding Darley Lifestyle, specialising in these bespoke leather polo belts.
In March 2021 Darley Lifestyle was incorporated into Country Direct Ltd based in Corby Northamptonshire. This provided the opportunity and support for Michael to grow the business to the next level, including sourcing equestrian products for companies and institutions worldwide as well as bringing niche products to the market. Flying the British manufacturing flag, Michael represents many brands, including Albion Saddle Makers in Walsall and Racesafe Equestrian specialising in rider safety. He also works with European brands such as Pikeur, Flex On Stirrups, and Roeckl Gloves under the Shaws Equestrian umbrella.
Michael is currently the Chairman of the British Equestrian Trade Association (BETA), which is a great trade association looking after all the trade’s interests. He is also very passionate about running the BETA trade show which is a brilliant way of bringing the industry together.
He feels much of his success has been down to networking and being a positive communicator. “Put yourself out there, else no-one will know you. The worse that can happen is someone turns round and says no”.
Social media links:
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