“If you always lead with the needs of our women first, you will always come to the right conclusion." - Angel Harris, executive director, Dress For Success

After serving as the executive director of Dress For Success for two years, Angel Harris has accepted an offer as the chief advancement officer at the United Way of Greater Houston.

Dress for Success Columbus, a company dedicated to helping women reach economic independence both in and out of the workplace, has been providing a consistent outlet of support for 14 years. Recently, the company went mobile to help reach and assist clients during the pandemic.

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In her current role with Dress For Success, Harris shares that her day could consist of many tasks. She may be meeting with community partners and leaders to strategize, advocating for women in court, or discovering new ways to break down barriers to economic success.

As executive director, Harris led a team of seven full-time and three part-time employees, as well as 40 volunteers. In 2020, the company had revenue of $1.1 million. With the help of her team, Dress For Success has served over 1,000 women and girls this year.

Stephanie Campolo-Merkle, the senior director of fundraising, marketing and strategic communications at Dress For Success, shares that while the team will miss Harris, the impact she has made stretches much farther than the company’s walls.

“I was thinking about what the loss means for Dress, and, of course, we’re sad to lose her,” Campolo-Merkle says. “But I think this is an even larger loss for the city of Columbus. She has spent her career focused on eliminating poverty, so it’s really no surprise to us that she’ll be focused on that in her next and we’re thrilled that she’ll be doing that on an even bigger level …”

Harris, who was named a CEO of the Year for 2020 in the Small Nonprofits category by Columbus CEO, feels grateful for the time she has dedicated to the mission.

“It’s been rewarding to continue to expand,” Harris says. “Especially the work we’re doing with young women now, 16- to 18-year-olds, to give them the confidence so they can understand the connection between the decisions they’re making today and the lives they want to live tomorrow.”

When Harris started her role with Dress For Success, she recalls the board sharing that they wanted a leader to take the organization to the next level. Harris played a part in launching a mobile career center, designing two new programs and building lasting relationships with other nonprofits.

“When the call came about Houston's role, I felt it was the perfect time to take that next step after successfully taking our women and organization to the next level,” Harris notes.

In her position as chief advancement officer, Harris will help mobilize the Houston community by advocating for families in poverty. Operating in the fourth largest city in the country, the United Way of Greater Houston has raised millions to support those in need.

Harris previously worked with the United Way of Central Ohio from 2001 to 2018. During her tenure, she served as the chief development officer and senior vice president.

In her new role, Harris will not only advocate for families in poverty, but she will also help working families who still cannot afford basic necessities, she says.

Harris will continue to serve Dress for Success until Jan. 14. For now, there is plenty of work to be done, she says.

For her not-yet-named successor, Harris offers one overarching piece of advice: “If you always lead with the needs of our women first, you will always come to the right conclusion.”