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Whirling derby

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of busy is “engaged in action, full of activity.”

 Rubye Del Harden

Rubye Del Harden

Perhaps the volume’s publisher should have added a photograph of Rubye Del Harden to accompany the text.

There is busy, and then there is Rubye Del Harden.

Consider that the Tupelo resident owns a printing shop, weekly newspaper, consulting firm and now a ballroom dance studio. A voracious lover of music and dance, the lithe Harden learned to dance during a business trip to Las Vegas in 2001.

Ironically, she never considered entrepreneurship growing up in Fulton at the feet of her father, Delmus Harden, then owner/publisher of the award-winning Itawamba County Times.

“I had no intention of being in business,” she said.“My love was music and I wanted to be a high school band director,” she said.

A music major at the University of Southern Mississippi, Harden fulfilled her dream. She taught band at Okolona and Seminary high schools after graduation.

However, the death of her dad in 1977 brought Harden back to Fulton to assume the reins of the family publishing business. Though it was not easy, her path on the entrepreneurial road was blazed as editor/publisher of the Times.

“While I was at the newspaper, I did a lot of things that got me involved in the community,” she said. “I loved it and we had a wonderful team of people there. If you work at a community paper, everyone has to do it all, including stuffing circulars. We won a lot of state and national awards for community newspapers.”

Harden sold the Times in 2005 and opened Sprint Print of Tupelo, a commercial printing business.  She also went to work for the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal in charge of the paper’s community publications division.

Though no longer with the Journal, Harden is still active in community newspapering as owner/publisher of a small weekly in Red Bay, Ala.

With all her time devoted to multiple businesses, Harden decided she needed a hobby. While attending a Las Vegas printing industry convention nine years ago, she called on a ballroom dancing studio to set-up a quick lesson.

Harden was instantly hooked.

“I’m not an athletic person but I’d always loved music and dance, so I felt dancing was a natural fit for me,” she said. “But when I came back to Tupelo, I realized that I’d have to go to Memphis and elsewhere to continue my dance lessons. The dance club owner left town and they didn’t have anybody.”

Harden was approached by local dance enthusiasts to buy The Dance Studio of Tupelo.

“I certainly didn’t set out to be a ballroom dance studio owner, but that’s what happened,” she said. “I’ve got a great team of instructors and we’ve had a lot of fun and great success.”

Ownership in the newspaper, printing, image consulting and recreational dance industries creates challenges, Harden said, adding that her managerial style is people-oriented and situational.

“The strength of any company is the people who help you run the day-to-day business,” she said. “Management is personal and situational specific — you do what you need to do in each situation. I hire people who are highly-motivated and have great attitudes. You can teach them the job, but they must like people and want to be really good at what they do.”

Asked which business venture she enjoys the most, Harden doesn’t hesitate.

“Whatever I’m doing at the time,” she said. “In today’s economy, you have to be more creative and pay close attention to the customer. You have to be excited about what you do — being miserable is a disease that I don’t want to catch.”

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