Red Dress Boutique Turns 10, Expands To Offer Home Decor

By Hilary Butschek Athens Banner-Herald, Ga.

Diana Harbour seldom puts away her smartphone.

The owner of Athens-based Red Dress Boutique is constantly responding to Facebook messages, talking with customers and managing her women's clothing and home goods store.

"I can kill a phone battery faster than anyone," Harbour said.

Featured on the TV show "Shark Tank" last year, Harbour received $1.2 million from investors Mark Cuban and Robert Herjavecon. The woman behind the national clothing brand returns to the show Sept. 25, when the investors will take a look back at the progress she has made since she received the capital.

Despite the national attention, Harbour still aims to keep her store local.

This week, Harbour celebrated the Athens community that continually supported her store after it opened 10 years ago.

The entrepreneur spends much of her time talking with a group of about 500 Red Dress Boutique customers, who she invited into a VIP private Facebook group. She uses group members as guinea pigs for new merchandise or troubleshooting.

"We had one customer, she would buy multiple sizes of things and then return most of them. We noticed that," Harbour said.

"One of our employees said she thought it was because she was trying to find the right fit."

In an effort to improve her business, Harbour created the RDB Style Squad. Using the customer's measurements, Harbour finds an employee to serve as their body double - someone with the same body shape as that customer.

When a customer places an order, the body double tries on different sizes of the clothes and sends photos to the customer to see which size will be the perfect fit. While this service has only been available for VIP customers, Harbour will open it up to all customers soon.

With minute focus on its customers -- down to their measurements -- Red Dress Boutique has become an online empire. Harbour estimates 98 percent of business takes place through the Internet marketplace.

This past year, the clothing boutique did $15 million in online sales alone, Harbour said. "It's been awesome," she said. "It's been surreal."

The company recently began selling home goods; another idea born on the VIP Facebook group.

"We started asking customers what they wanted to see and a lot of them said they were spending less on clothing because they were buying things for their homes," Harbour said. "Also, I would post photos of my house and people would say, 'Where can I get that?'"

In-store and online shoppers can find trinkets and decor items, most of which are less than $50, to add to their homes. Harbour said even though the store has grown tremendously since its beginning, she still aims to keep it personal.

"We still send out hand-written thank you notes with every order," she said.

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