Richmond branding firm buys its way into Nashville

Native Collaboration founders Kasey Hayes, left, and Liz Stiff. (Native Collaboration)

Update: This story has been updated to include the family relationship between Robert Dyar Jr. and Native Collaboration co-founder Liz Stiff, who are siblings. The relationship was not mentioned in Native’s acquisition announcement and was brought to BizSense’s attention post-publication.

A local marketing firm is expanding its book of business with a recent acquisition in Music City.

Native Collaboration, a 5-year-old firm focusing on branding strategy and design, has closed on the purchase of Welker House Films, a division of Nashville-based Welker House Group

The acquisition closed May 31. Terms were not disclosed. Welker House Group’s music-management arm was not included in the deal.

The purchase brings Welker House Films founder Robert Dyar Jr. into the Native fold, increasing the agency’s staff count to 10.

Dyar  – brother of Native co-founder Liz Stiff – will serve as creative director and remain based in Nashville, traveling to Richmond each month to spend a week working with Native’s local staff, said Kasey Hayes, agency co-founder.

Robert Dyar

Native has worked with Dyar for years on projects for clients such as Bridges for Music, a South African-based nonprofit. Hayes, who launched Native in 2013 with co-founder Liz Stiff, said the agency has been getting more requests to create digital content, leading them to consider cementing their collaboration with Dyar.

Hayes said the combination also allows the firm to look at its own branding, with a new video reel and website in the works.

“I’ve asked him to see Native as a client,” said Hayes, who previously filled the firm’s creative director role. “He’s really helped us get in the trenches and look at who we are as a firm and where we want to go creatively.”

Because Dyar and Stiff are siblings, Hayes said she handled negotiations and led all aspects of the acquisition, which included Dyar’s book of business and all of the film division’s content.

Dyar brings with him a decade of experience working for clients such as Harper Collins Publishing, Red Bull Media House and Warner Music Group. He was recently lead producer on “Honky Tonk Moonlight,” a feature film for CNN’s Great Big Story.

Hayes said Dyar’s addition will help Native broaden its focus to include website and video production. They are currently working together on a two-year project for American Evolution 2019 Commemoration, a multimedia campaign highlighting themes and historical events of 1619 Virginia.

Native’s local clients have included Henrico-based Spark Product Development. The agency also helped promote last year’s inaugural Pocahontas Reframed: Native American Storytellers Film Festival at the Byrd Theatre.

Native’s Main Street office. (Jonathan Spiers)

Previously based in Shockoe Bottom, Native moved to a storefront at 416 E. Main St. after purchasing the building through an LLC in October 2016. City property records show the LLC paid $330,000 for the building, which includes an adjacent storefront that Native is renovating and plans to move into later this year.

Once it moves next door, Hayes said the company plans to rent out its current space to a commercial tenant or for use as an event space or gallery.

A Richmond native and Freeman High School grad, Hayes launched Native with Stiff after each moved to Richmond following stints in Miami and Washington, D.C., respectively. They met while attending the College of Charleston in South Carolina. Hayes went on to get an MBA from the University of Miami.

Hayes said local ties and Richmond’s business climate led to their decision to locate the business here.

Native follows other Richmond-area marketing firms extending their reach. A comparable acquisition by Shockoe Bottom-based Red Orange Studio resulted in an expansion to Virginia Beach, and ad agency ndp recently put boots on the ground in Northern Virginia.

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