The 2019 recipient of the Alumni Achievement Award is Diana Best Harbour. Diana graduated from Calvary in 1999 and is married to Josh Harbour. They have a son, Robert who is 8. Her family is parents, Bob and Diana Best and her younger brother Matthew. They owned Best Nursery and the Georgia Pumpkin Patch. Below is our interview with Diana.
Diana was presented the Alumni Achievement Award at the 2019 Senior Graduation Commencement Ceremony.
What did you do after CCS graduation? (College, work, etc.)
Raised in Fortson, Georgia, I learned the value of hard work and family from my parents through their own business. My mother instilled in me a sense of dedication to the task at hand through Girl Scouts, dance lessons, basketball, and art. My father gave me a business sense that is constantly pushing me to achieve. My brother…constant encouragement.
Instead of choosing an education in fashion, I chose to get a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and Professional Writing, and a minor in Art. Throughout college, I apprenticed with local boutique owners, gathering every bit of advice and guidance I could. I chose as my electives courses that have been invaluable to me as a store owner; Painting 101, Metal-smithing, Advertising and, Accounting. I briefly considered a Master’s Degree but felt that the best lessons in life are learned through experience.
Right after graduation, I got married, and we both went to work in cubicles at a credit card processing company (TSYS). I worked there 90 days and slowly felt my dream of owning a store fading into the background. I feared staying in that cubicle for the rest of my life more than anything in the world. In life, you have to choose either security or freedom, and I wanted the freedom. So in those 90 days, I plotted my clothing store.
What are you doing now?
I currently own www.reddress.com. But it started out as a tiny store in Athens, Georgia, that I opened in 2005. I wanted to fill a void in the women’s market. Sure, I could go to the mall and see stores that carried merchandise I either could not afford or that would increase my chances of having at least five other people wearing the same outfit. But I also wanted to create this place that would bring color and confidence and happiness to a woman’s day. Sometimes just having that one fantastic new outfit is all a woman needs to turn a bad day into a good one, to give a woman the confidence she needs going into an interview or to give that stay at home mom a reason to smile after that rare moment she treats herself. So I started handwriting all the thank you cards that went in our orders, packing it up like the present that it was and sending it off in hopes that it brought a smile to the woman it went to. I wanted to give women like me a bit of “happiness” in a world that could all too often make her feel like she just wasn’t “this” or “that.” I began asking our customers what they wanted to see in our stores and on the website. It had never been done before. Imagine going into your nearby department store and asking the store manager, “Hey, can you find me a caged wedge…or a palm print maxi?” I listened. I took notes. And I went on a hunt for their wishes and wants. To make it feel like it was just as much their store as it was mine.
In 2014, Josh and I went on Shark Tank and made a deal with Mark Cuban to acquire funding for the website. That experience led me through twists and turns that shaped who I am today. In January of 2019, I bought all my shares back so I now own all of my company again.
How did CCS prepare you for what you are doing and/or where you are?
The most important thing Calvary taught me was about my relationship with God. I got saved on my basketball retreat when I was 14. Calvary was also as safe a space as I could be in for my own difficulties. My son has Asperger’s and ADHD. I do as well. My parents chose to put me in Calvary all while keeping that knowledge a secret to protect me and allow me to be myself in what they felt was a less judgmental environment and also hoped that finding a relationship with God would give me comfort and guidance navigating those things. I found strength in playing basketball and, through my coaches, I learned tenacity, goals, and to never ever give up. My coaches shaped me as much as my parents because the fundamentals they taught me were life skills, and they have been invaluable to me as a business owner.
My faith has carried me through many low points. Losing my father strengthened my relationship with God far more than anything in my life. Anyone who knew my family knew how close we all were, and my father was someone everyone enjoyed talking to. But when he died I couldn’t walk through that valley of grief, He carried me and carries me still. He showed me ways to live my father’s legacy through the local charities we actively support: Hope Haven of Northeast GA, the Sparrow’s Nest and ESP, and our local church, Athens Church.
What advice would you give a CCS student?
That life is hard. All of it. And it throws you around in ways you cannot anticipate. But your faith is what grounds you. It’s the thing you can hold onto and know it is stable and dependable. When my father died, my world shattered, but I wouldn’t have the relationship with God that I have today without my teachers, (Ricky Smith especially) or even without attending Calvary at all.
My second bit of advice came from my father, and it’s worth passing on again and again. In life, your choices are freedom or security when it comes to your career. So you can be secure in a job and it not feed your soul but it feeds your checkbook, or you can take a different path and choose freedom, which may not come with that security but you can wake up every day knowing you are making a difference and can go to sleep knowing you left your day with a job well done. However, if you work your butt off, you can have both. He also said God, family, and job. If any of those three get out of order, don’t expect anything to go the way you think it should.
What are your future plans?
To keep expanding my website. I currently have over 100 employees. I love what I do.
In three or four sentences, what would you tell someone about yourself?
I’m not what anyone expects me to be. I’m quirky, pretty terrible at social conversation, and fairly quiet. But I am deeply determined, self-motivated and my own worst critic. My family is my world. I love to travel, and I am inspired by my adventures. I practice Brazilian jiu-jitsu with my husband and my son as well as kickboxing. But to summarize, I’m a square peg in a world that is a round hole. And I’m okay with it. Because I know I’m not alone in feeling that.