Entrepreneur Dardi Jarman has always been a big advocate for self-improvement. Her drive to help others develop has helped many community members better themselves and obtain successes that were previously considered unattainable.
“I empower in my community women, children, men and businesses,” she said. “I volunteer and support everything that I can to help build people inside and out, and the reward is I get empowered from their joy.”
Dardi was born and raised in Cove City, and she quickly learned the importance of being part of a tightknit community and being self-sufficient. She attended ECU for two years, then chose to focus on her three daughters and show them the importance of overcoming obstacles and moving forward without giving up.
She worked as an insurance agent at the Barbara Perry State Farm Insurance Agency in New Bern for 15 years. She also ran a summer youth camp called Dare to Dream for 10 of those years, serving over 100 children from low-income households each year. Dardi used funds from her personal retirement plan to purchase food and supplies and provide transportation for many of the children. With help from the community and the Bate Foundation, she was able to purchase a bus and took the children on field trips to expose them to different things they may not have otherwise experienced, including riding in limos, riding on motorcycles and traveling to different states.
“It was just absolutely awesome,” she said. “I really believe that what you sow, you will reap in due season — and that’s financially, spiritually and emotionally, as well as physically. I believe that whatever you give out, you’re going to get it back. And if I don’t get it back, it will go to my children and my grandchildren.”
All the children who attended the camp are now either college graduates, attending college or excelling in high school. Dardi does not take credit for their academic success but does believe that exposing them to different experiences early in life can really impact their viewpoints and give them confidence.
“The awareness that they got at such a young age empowered them to know, because I believe that the exposure that you give to a person endows them with that drive to go do better and live better,” she said.
Dardi then pursued her entrepreneurial interests and opened a seasonal store in Cove City that sold gifts such as Valentine baskets before deciding to open the Dardi Jarman Insurance Agency in 2016. She wanted the freedom to spend time with her seven grandchildren while also having an opportunity to help others in the community.
“I said, ‘if I can do this for myself and teach people how to do what I do, then I could be helping someone else live better,’” said Dardi. “So that’s just my focus all the time is trying to figure out how I can help someone else be better, live better and teach them to help somebody else do the same.”
She provides in-depth education and information sessions for community members who need life, health and auto insurance. She presents free workshops for churches, civic organizations, motorcycle groups and many others to help spread awareness.
“I market my business in a different way,” Dardi explained. “It’s based upon educator awareness and education. I gear it towards the community so that they can understand just how important it is to have these items, but also to understand them and to gain trust enough that they can understand that, ‘hey, I need this.’ GoFundMe is not life insurance; that’s not the way to go. We need to leave some legacies for our families.”
About two years ago, she started an organization called Diamond of Encouragement, or DOE, which recently became a nonprofit in 2020. She utilizes the nonprofit’s Facebook page to promote insurance awareness and provides information and tips such as how to clean gutters, check heaters and service cars during winter months. She reviews life policies for free to ensure that families don’t go without them or that their policies are still enforced, and she travels across the community doing that for seniors. She realizes there are countless resources available but not everyone is aware of them.
“The education part of it is important to me,” said Dardi. “If you understand something a little better, you are more likely to keep that in place. And that’s what I think our community suffers from is the lack of communication. It’s not the lack of resources, but the lack of information.”
Dardi hosts a Back-to-School Bash each year for area youth and provides bookbags and supplies, a DJ, food, and prizes. Her insurance company partners with Craven Community College’s barbering program, which provides free back-to-school haircuts for youth. She also collaborates with several other businesses to provide resources and services for the community.
“We partner with fire departments around the tri-county area to provide them with coloring books and materials for Fire Safety Month,” she said. “And I provided some of the local schools with those books as well. I became an honorary fireman with the Cove City and Dover Fire Departments. That was really fun — met a lot of fire chiefs and things like that.”
She also holds coat and shoe drives for schools, finds transportation to help elderly who need help getting their medicine or other items, and helps raise money for community members such as single parents who are down on their luck. Just like the summer camp, a lot of her nonprofit initiatives have been funded out of pocket.
Her office is often used as a training site where people can get work experience. She partnered with the local Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) program, which pairs motivated jobseekers with an experienced career adviser to provide on-the-job training and experience, especially single moms. She has also housed interns from UNC-Chapel Hill to provide education and work experience. Dardi has been extremely proud to witness several of her interns go on to work for her agency, as well as other businesses both local and in other states. Seeing them in successful roles as employees and business owners makes her feel like her hard work has really paid off.
In addition, she helps other businesses obtain nonprofit status and obtain grants and loans, especially those in the Five Points area, and noted that it is gratifying to see all the progress that area has made. She hosts a Small Business Expo that provides networking opportunities and explained that DOE promotes small business and entrepreneurs through “Spark Up,” an event for people who have a small
business or would like to start one. The event connects them with resources and other contacts to help their business ideas to grow.
“So many people have become self-employed or able to help provide more things for their family, just by joining the Spark Up,” she said. “It works if you network and you get people’s minds working together. I think my pastor says it best: ‘reach one, teach one.’ And I would go on and say if you reach one and teach one, that person can reach another and teach them and before you know it, we have a whole community that’s running like we need to.”
Dardi is a member of Bryant Chapel A.M.E. Zion Church in Cove City and was active as a youth choir director and part of the Christian Education department before the pandemic. For the past year, she has worked with the Boys and Girls Club to deliver meals to local families and has provided bags of food and other essentials for the homeless. For Domestic Violence Month in October, she filled purses and bookbags with personal items for Coastal Women’s Shelter and the Center for Family Violence Prevention in Greenville, both nonprofits that support victims of domestic violence and abuse.
She is also part of the Cove City Community Outreach, which brings together volunteers to meet the needs of their community and surrounding counties. They have traveled to neighboring counties to provide meals for people who lost everything due to hurricanes, and recently they have cooked for people struggling during the pandemic. Dardi’s insurance company has also partnered with the Cove City Community Outreach to provide snacks for the New Bern Police Department and Craven County Sheriff’s Department during the pandemic.
“My motto is, ‘be the best you that you can be because no one can be you but you,’” said Dardi. “Just being involved in the different things as far as youth are concerned, such as the Boys and Girls Club, Fire Safety Month, teaming up with Craven Community College to provide free haircuts for the youth—those types of things actually empower me to live better, be better and help someone else be better.”
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From the nominator:
Dardi Jarman was born and raised in Cove City, NC. She owns a local insurance agency that focuses on all, but provides in-depth education to those who need life/health/auto insurance, the most. She developed a summer youth camp, Dare to Dream, for low-income families needing summer care for their children. She provided transport and food, prior to ever being eligible for grants. For the past 5 years, she has used her office to provide a location for community service, training site for young adults being introduced to entrepreneurship, and a place to help others promote their business. Dardi exemplifies the role model that both men and women look up to. For the past 30 years, Dardi has dedicated her life helping other people.
– Ashley Best Bryant