Entrepreneur Spotlight

Published on October 5th, 2012 | by thevyne


Entrepreneur Spotlight: Daria Burke

Name: Daria Burke

Twitter handle: @DariaBurke

Hometown: Live in NYC, born and raised in Detroit, MI

Roles you play in life: Sister, Friend, Auntie, Entrepreneur, Puppy Mommy, Brand Strategist, Writer, Girl About Town

Education: BA in English Literature, University of Michigan, MBA in Marketing & Strategy, New York University Stern School of Business

Business venture: Black MBA Women

Tell us about your journey as an entrepreneur. What led you to strike out on your own? My story is definitely one of the accidental entrepreneur.  That said, I’m constantly  asking myself “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” (quote by Mary Oliver).  But I never saw myself striking out on my own when I did and I definitely didn’t think it would be in the form of a for-profit social venture!  But as a 2008 graduate from the New York University Stern School of Business who was only one of nine black women in my class of 411 students, I was inspired by that experience, by my own incredible network of black women with top MBA degrees, and the staggering number of African-American girls and post-collegiate women who don’t know we exist or how to find us.

I felt compelled to create an organization that catered specifically to black women from top-tier business schools, and to put the spotlight on the amazing black MBA women out there who often go unrecognized.  For example, did you know that the CFO of Victoria’s Secret was a black woman?!

Eventually, I decided to stop moonlighting as a social entrepreneur and to leave my corporate position as Director of Makeup Marketing for North America at Estee Lauder, and to invest in building the organization.  I still do marketing and brand strategy work, but it’s all on my own terms now!

Describe your business: Black MBA Women is the premier organization dedicated to creating professional opportunities for black women from top business schools.

The mission of the organization is to create and reinforce a strong network of black women with top MBA degrees, and to empower the under-served post-MBA community by providing professional development content and programming, and access to relevant career opportunities.

What is one of the biggest lessons you have learned from being an entrepreneur? That you have to be truly fearless and believe 200% in what you’re trying to do.  Another constant reminder that I learned many years ago but couldn’t be more true to my life today is “perfect is the enemy of good.”  I’m a textbook perfectionist but sometimes it’s better to get something out there so you can test the idea, gain traction and iterate with real time feedback.  I’ve had to learn to let things go when they’re “good enough” because in my eyes, they’ll never be perfect.

What advice would you give someone thinking about starting her own business? One of the biggest mistakes I see with budding entrepreneurs is that they don’t want to tell people what they’re working on (maybe part of it is the perfectionist tendencies I mention above).  The best thing you can do is tell people and leverage your networks.  You never know who will have a resource to share or contact with whom to connect you.  When I first launched Black MBA Women, I had a website I’d made myself and a LinkedIn Group because I wanted to capture demand.  Certainly, I could have waited to launch an official website with more comprehensive design and features, but I would have missed the opportunity to gain the 400 members I amassed in the few months we were in “beta.”

I’d also encourage you to be very strategic – surgical even – about your brand positioning.  It’s easy to expand but it’s hard to develop a niche focus (like having a target membership of just black women who have MBAs from top-tier business schools) once you’ve cast that wide net.  And you can’t be everything to everyone so build a good brand with a targeted segment so you can best position your product/services to meet their unique needs.

What is the most gratifying thing about being a business owner? Knowing that I’m working harder for myself than I am for anyone else.  Granted, I work hard to create value for the members of Black MBA Women, and for the clients for whom I do strategic and brand consulting.  But at the end of the day, all of that work is rewarding, and fulfilling for me.  I’m working for myself.

What is the most challenging thing about being a business owner? Not sleeping!  I work far more hours in a day now that I’m on my own, but I have the flexibility to work from 7am – 1pm, have the rest of the day to myself, then get back online or have dinner meetings at 7pm.

3 words that describe you: Fearless, Idealistic and Urbane

Favorite travel destination: Tie between Napa and Buenos Aires

Shuffle Your iPod. What’s the first song that comes up?: Adele – Melt My Heart to Stone (live)

Finish this statement, “To feel more centered I…”: Listen to music or play with my dog, Gatsby.

One item you cannot live without: My vintage tweed Chanel skirt

Favorite beauty product: Product category – lip gloss, specific product – Tom Ford Lipstick

Who have been some of your style inspirations? I don’t have many (yet I can readily rattle off my favorite designers) but my grandmother taught me at a very young age to dress with purpose because you never know who you will meet or where you will go.  I’d call my personal style Feminine City Chic.

But my Pinterest boards would tell you Victoria Beckham, Eva Longoria, and Bethenny Frankel.

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