The long drive from the gatehouse into Colleton River Plantation allows for a natural decompression from the morning bustle on Highway 278; when D'J Moore opens the door to her beautiful home everything-inside and out-feels calm, ordered and serene. Like the lady of the house.
The challenge of writing about D'J is to strip away the overworked superlatives that could accurately describe this accomplished woman. She is too genuine to be reduced by excess. She is wearing a tasteful aqua knit pantsuit. Her earrings are understated diamond hoops. Her manner and voice are refined and gracious. So is her house, decorated in neutrals with black accents and exquisite art she has collected from as far as Asia and as locally as the Lowcountry. Her style is something to be observed. It is not her focus.
From the moment she hands me my cup of coffee and we sit at her glass topped breakfast table, D'Jaris A. Moore, President and COO of Lowcountry Small Business Hub, Inc. is all business. She hands me a black folder. It contains: a two page resumÈ of her educational and professional achievements; a brochure for potential clients and a five page status report, written on Lowcountry Small Business Hub, Inc. letterhead, and titled Preliminary Results September 2011. I will read all of this later and realize yet again how many remarkable people find their way to this area.
The Lowcountry Small Business Hub, Inc. was incorporated in July, 2010. It grew out of a two year grant program funded in 2008 by the USDA Rural Development Organization under the auspices of the Technical College of the Lowcountry (TCL). D'J was the director. According to the now independent "Hub" website*: "The Hub was founded to facilitate and coordinate the efficient use of available resources in support of business development and sustainable growth. It functions as the 'go to place' for small businesses and entrepreneurs in Jasper, Beaufort, Hampton, and Colleton counties by providing strategic support services that will enable them to succeed."
The website is as professional as the high-powered woman who is president of the "Hub". I encourage anyone interested in starting or growing a small business in the Lowcountry to go to the website and discover the wealth of resources that are available.
Sitting across from this woman, I want to know more about her.
Her story has two consistent threads: how important her family is to her; how important education is to her family. She says, "My grandfather and my mother are the two smartest people I've ever known. My grandfather moved off his farm in Talladega, Alabama and went to work at the US Steel Mill in Birmingham. He had eight children-my mother was the oldest- and every one of them graduated from college. That was my grandfather's expectation. I loved spending time at my grandparents' house. My grandfather taught me to read the newspaper when I was three-years-old. We did the New York Times crossword puzzles together. My mother was a teacher. My younger sister has a PhD in entomology. Many of my cousins have graduate degrees."
D'J was an honors student. She excelled in math and science. She was a high school biology teacher in Hawaii for four years while she got her Master of Science Education in Biology degree. Then life changed course. She interviewed with IBM in Honolulu. They had no positions, but encouraged her to check with their Greensboro, NC office. Her academic record, her work ethic, and recommendations made her stand out among applicants. She got the job.
She was the first female, African-American hired in the Large Systems, Data Processing Division. It was the first of many firsts in a remarkable 30-year career with IBM that took her from Greensboro to New York, LA, Chicago, Washington DC, and Atlanta in top executive and managerial roles.
I ask her to reflect on her career. Like many successful people, she deflects the credit for her success to others. "I was given a wonderful opportunity for a good education by a family who supported me. They encouraged my independence. Opportunities came my way. At IBM, I learned how to be excellent because of the quality of the people I worked with. They were straight with me. They understood the challenges could be tough, but there was an assumption that you gave your best effort-and that would be measured by successful results. Now in my work I give my best attention and advice to every person who walks in here. Each person deserves a straight answer, an honest assessment."
No excess. Just solid values and an incisive intelligent integrity. D'Jaris A. Moore is a woman to admire.
Confession: With a smile, D'J admits there is a special man in her life.
Second confession: Despite good grades, D'J and her uncle (only 12 months older) were "troublemakers" until she was 12-years-old, when she decided it was time to start being "good".
Proud grandfather: At a time when "doing dishes" was considered women's work, he helped D'J clean the kitchen so she could get to her homework; and he took her "A" report cards and showed them to his friends.
*Contact the "Hub": www.lowcountrysmallbusinesshub.org or call 843-645-1992