B.B.A ’08, M.B.A. ’12
Hometown: Anchorage, Alaska
Fun Fact: Mister French, Dia’s four-year-old French bulldog, has become the unofficial company mascot
Meet Dia Matteson—the youngest female Harley-Davidson dealer in the world. At age 26, Dia is at the helm of Motorcycle Times Inc. , which owns and operates dealerships in Anchorage, Wasilla and Soldotna. She’s an enthusiastic business owner who’s passionate about riding, Harley-Davidson and working hard.
“[Working hard] comes from my raising. I don’t accept failure,” Dia says. “I never give up and hold myself and everyone to a high standard.”
Dia admits her ambition and work ethic comes from her father, Barry, who sold the business to Dia just last year. For 37 years, Barry owned and ran the three-dealership company, and now Dia’s following her dad’s footsteps. “I’ve learned so much from him. He’s a great businessman,” she says.
She didn’t jump into this title overnight, though. Dia’s earliest childhood memories are filled with the roars and rumbles of Harleys. She remembers sitting on the tank of her dad’s Harley-Davidson always asking and eager to go for a ride.
Most of her childhood was spent playing at the House of Harley on Spenard, watching her dad work behind the counter and interact with customers. “We had a bed and breakfast called Hog Heaven on the third floor, and we lived in an apartment there,” she recalls. “Eventually, the business grew and expanded, and the upstairs was renovated for the motorclothes department.”
Life at the dealership wasn’t all fun and games for young Dia. “Before I was old enough to work, I was old enough to clean,” she laughs.
At age 14, she was anxious to work. She started selling clothes and working the register. ”I always took pride in my work and did the best I could to make my father proud.” By 16, she got her motorcycle license and bought her first bike—a Buell Blast.
She continued to work during summers and on weekends, traveling from department to department. Dia worked in sales, sarts and eventually made it to service. “I loved the challenge of the fast-paced and always demanding service world. I liked learning about the bikes, the mechanical aspects and how to sell parts and accessories at the counter.”
It didn’t take long for Dia to realize the Harley business is where she wanted to be. But her passion for bikes and riding wasn’t enough; Dia wanted to take her interest in the business to the next level. “I knew I wanted to be in business, even if Harley-Davidson was out of the picture,” she said. As early as high school, Dia participated in two-week programs to learn more about business and management.
Dia started studying business at Anderson University in South Carolina, but eventually moved back to Alaska and finished at UAA. “The tuition was cheaper and UAA had an accredited business school and a much better program,” Dia says.
She earned her B.B.A. in 2008 while serving as interim service manager at the dealership. Soon after, she was promoted to general manager.
Needing a break from academia, Dia rode to Milwaukee from Alaska for Harley-Davidson’s 105th anniversary. She rode a 2007 Street Glide in the harshest weather conditions with inadequate gear. “It was challenging, but it was epic. There has never been a day I didn’t enjoy a ride.” Dia’s looking forward to doing it again at the 110th anniversary next year.
After a semester off and a trip across the country, Dia enrolled in UAA’s M.B.A. program and journeyed to become the first in her family with a master’s degree. She continued to work full time, attending UAA only part time. “It was important to me to learn as much as I could. A master’s degree gives me more credibility,” she says. Dia graduated from the M.B.A. program at UAA last spring.
The motorcycle business is a very seasonal business in Alaska. Dia admits they have to work a bit harder year-round. “Our seasons are pretty extreme. We get 80 percent of our business in three months. Our strategies are different than those in the Lower 48.”
It’s during the summer months that Dia hires seasonal staff and often looks for fellow UAA alums and students. “My marketing director graduated from UAA and my accountant in Anchorage is working on her bachelor’s at UAA,” she says. “It’s always great to see UAA applicants.”
Dia says it’s also really important to stay involved and give back to the community. The company also supports numerous community projects and charities, including work with the Muscular Dystrophy Association, Dare to Care and Boys and Girls Clubs. There are special military-appreciation days, special military purchase plans, and programs that teach women to ride, such as Beauty and the Bike and the Miss Harley-Davidson competition.
When Dia took command, she knew there were some processes that could use improvement. “I think an organization is only as strong as the people working in it and that the work environment starts at the top.”
Her favorite part about running a franchise like Harley-Davidson is selling something that’s exhilarating. “There’s nothing like selling a Harley. When you ride, it’s freeing and liberating. You don’t need a Harley like you need a car. You want it. That makes it an exciting brand to be a part of.”
To learn more about Dia and the Alaska Harley dealerships, visit http://www.harleyalaska.com.