Harriman, president and CEO of Daruby Enterprises, has managed
to steer a steady course toward success despite roadblocks, red
lights and detours. Just a few years ago, the CPA firm, where
she was managing director of training, went bankrupt. Soon after,
her husband, David, was diagnosed with cancer and died within
two months. However, he left her with a plan and the determination
to make it happen. Today, Daruby (pronounced DAY-rabee, a combination
of David and Ruby) is a thriving, community-based education center,
specializing in computer technology and employment readiness training
for welfare recipients, the disadvantaged and the chronically
“My background is in teaching and my husband also was an educator,”
Harriman says. “We saw a need for a skilled training program that
addressed the needs of low-income, hard-to-serve people in the
St. Louis metropolitan area. We wrote a business plan, but we
didn’t take the time to launch it.”
But in 1994, Harriman, a recent widow with an active teenager,
faced a choice: get a job or start the business. “I leased two
rooms on Lindell and came home and thought, ‘Oh God, what have
I done?’” she says. “But I stepped out on faith and had a lot
of support, and things have worked out quite well.”
At first, Daruby Enterprises offered computer software training
for the St. Louis Public Schools and other businesses. After six
months, Harriman approached SLATE (St. Louis Agency on Training
& Employment) to offer vocational training for St. Louis City
employees. That required certification—which required program
graduates. But she couldn’t get contracts for students without
certification. “I ended up giving away some of our services to
have some graduates and get certified,” she says. Before long,
Daruby moved to larger quarters on Jefferson Avenue, and last
year moved to its current Central West End location.
The business continues to grow. Currently, Daruby offers on- and
off-site computer software training, and vocational career training
for administrative assistant, computer aided drafting, medical
assistant and more.
In addition, every student receives customized job readiness training.
“This means how to complete a job application and interview, plus
what it means to go to work every day, be on time and get along
with co-workers,” Harriman says. Daruby’s students come from state
and city government agencies and from neighborhood recruiting.
Last year 225 students graduated from its various programs and
more are expected this year due to welfare reform.
Another part of the business markets specialized seminars to companies,
including diversity and motivational training. There are eight
Daruby helps students find jobs through its wide network of corporate
and business contacts, and through frequent job fairs held at
the school and area churches. Once a student lands a job, Daruby
maintains contact up to a year. This follow through has resulted
in an impressive placement rate of 85 percent and a retention
rate of 78 percent.
Equally impressive are Harriman’s activities outside Daruby Enterprises.
She serves on the Proprietary School Advisory Board, which oversees
the school certification process for schools throughout Missouri,
and the statewide Commission on Affordability of Higher Education.
Harriman recently completed her term on the board of regents for
Linn State Technical College, to which she was appointed by Gov.
Other affiliations include Delta Sigma Theta sorority, an African
American women’s service organization, the Black Women’s Entrepreneurial
Network, Missouri Employment & Training Association, the National
Association of Women Business Owners and the St. Louis Minority
Business Council. She has won the YWCA Leadership Award for entrepreneurship,
the Unsung Heroine Award from the Top Ladies of Distinction, Inc.
and most recently was named a district winner/Welfare-To-Work
Entrepreneur by the Small Business Administration.
Unfortunately, Harriman recently encountered another detour, when
she learned Cardinal Ritter Institute planned to purchase several
lots in the neighborhood for a new high school. But she found
an ideal new location: a former nursing home on 3.6 acres in North
County, into which Daruby will move in October. “We’ll have our
own state-of-the-art early childhood education center, where we
can really educate our children, and also educate the parents.
It will truly be a family center,” Harriman says. “That will be
a real dream-come-true.”
Pam Droog is a St. Louis-based free-lance writer