by Lee Pierre
For anyone wanting to make a fashion statement, She’s International Boutique is the place to shop for international fashion trends. Anyone entering her upscale shop at 108 Market St. downtown will quickly see and feel the unique flair that has led to her success.
Being international is something that owner Diane Speaks knows well. Her family lived in various places depending on where her father, a military man, was stationed including Japan, London and other parts of the world. This instilled a love for traveling in Diane who found a great way to travel. She was an international flight attendant for 33 years through which she visited 15 countries and embraced a world of experiences. Using the relationships she made, Diane has created a career of handpicking fashion items from around the world.
“I got a job with Piedmont Airlines flying out of Roanoke originally on short distance flights. As Piedmont grew, the airline started flying to Los Angeles, San Francisco and most of the West Coast.”
After 9/11 the airline company gave flight attendants a 40% pay cut. Unsure of what she was going to do, Diane decided to use her traveling to her advantage. It was during this time that she decided to open a boutique offering unique items. She found tulip bags in the Netherlands (Holland) and bought items from Paris, Rome and Madagascar as well as from Pittsburgh and Utah. “If it’s different that’s what I want,” she said.
Her store, which opened 18 years ago, features clothing, jewelry, handbags, and accessories with personal styling appointments also available by registering on her website.
Diane willingly shares her entrepreneurial knowledge and success with the community and features a jewelry line called “Star City” with proceeds from sales going to the Roanoke Valley United Way program “Rehousing Youth for Success in Education.” She and the Taubman Museum also cosponsored a workshop on February 26th for youth ages 13 and older. The “Spark Your Creativity” workshop entails a visit to She’s International where Diane discusses entrepreneurship and business ownership and also how aviation is an excellent career choice. Students also toured the Taubman Museum art exhibits to learn about the various jobs at the museum. “We had spots available for 30 students however we ended up with 35 students.”
As an icebreaker, during a Q&A session, Xavier Duckett of Humble Hustle and Ashley Pannell questioned the youth about their dreams and future in preparation for the event. From that workshop, Diane recruited two students to work as interns in her boutique and is looking forward to the next workshop, scheduled for Saturday, March 26 at 10:30am.
But her involvement in the community doesn’t stop there. As a flight attendant, she was part of the Pillowcase Project with flight attendants in Roanoke and Salem in collecting over 900 pillowcases that were taken to Ghana where the women were taught to create dresses from the pillowcases. The women sold the dresses creating income to support their family.
For another project, Diane asked for flipflops for people in Africa and ended up with 4-5 hundred pairs as well as cowboy boots, high heels and over 100 pairs of Crocs. A traveling businessman, who was in town heard about the project, bought every pair available from one store then delivered them to her. Diane has also launched efforts to collect and ditribute items for the homeless and has received toothpaste and toothbrushes from dentists and collected blankets, sleeping bags, bug spray and Orajel from the community, which she delivered to the Homeless Assistance Team, to Bethany House and the Salvation Army. She also campaigns for individual families as one that found their way to the area after losing everything during Hurricane Katrina. Her efforts involved eliciting donations from family and friends to help the family provide food for Thanksgiving.
“When there is a need in the community, I can count on my family and friends to support any effort I undertake.”
Diane is also keen on helping the youth especially when it comes to education and broadening their knowledge. On April 6, a group of students will be taken to the Mill Mountain Theatre to see the play “In the Heights.” The purpose is to expose students to live theater and increase their knowledge about careers as well.
“Anything with education, that’s my kind of thing!”
by Lee Pierre