"I just felt at home at Chicago Booth." Meenakshi Dash (evening '08), owner of Balderdash, (a young brand, focused on working directly with artisans and craftsmen, creating exquisite, one of a kind pieces, that play with the traditional concepts of textile and technique) has a fascinating story; one that has been profiled by the likes of CNN, Marie Claire, Grazia, Elle and Wallpaper. She grew up in India, and England, and made her way to the U.S. to study first at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and later at Chicago Booth. She is currently based in New York. Prior to attending Booth Dash worked as a Design & Image Consultant for Cintas and had clients ranging from Virgin America to Petco Park in San Diego. She had the experience to develop brand images & work directly with CMO's & their teams. She credits this opportunity to making her realize that she wanted to go back to school for an MBA. Creative by nature, Dash wanted to balance her creative side & felt that Booth would help her do just that. We recently had the opportunity to talk with Meenakshi about her Booth experience.
What were your relationships like with professors/students?
Excellent! I enjoyed every single one of my classes. The professors were remarkable and incredibly understanding too. I had a pure fine arts background and taking corporate finance, accounting and stats classes were hard but ultimately rewarding. Professor Theo Vermaelen made what might have been a dry Corporate Finance course accessible and infused with a sense of humour and enthusiasm that I will never forget. Professor Nicholas Epley was infinitely wise and approachable and I loved his Behavioral Science influenced course. Professor Erik Hurst's Macroeconomics class was ridiculously addictive and it is because of him that Economics was one of my concentrations. Professor Matthew Bothner's Strategy & Structure class was literally spellbinding from start to finish. This is what I mean though, each and every professor made an impact on me, and my way of thinking; I could happily list them all. I have made solid friends through Booth and will always keep in touch with them - thanks to Booth my network keeps expanding.
How did your experience at Booth help shape you & your path that you're currently on?
After graduating from Booth, I decided to head back to Asia where my family lived. I lived in Hong Kong and also spent a great deal of time in India and Singapore for the next 2 years. Whilst there I fell back on what I knew best which was creating things with my hands. However, this time I noticed that I was very conscious of the way I was targeting stores to carry my work as well as how I wanted to grow my 'brand'. It was a direct result of my education at Booth. Suddenly, what came naturally to me in terms of creativity was being paired with a very deliberate and logical plan.
Booth introduced me to my fellow students whom I might never have met - from all industries and careers. I am grateful for that. I thrive on new ways of thinking and studying at Booth, certainly introduced and challenged me to that. I was very aware during my time at Booth that it truly encouraged one to challenge tried and tested ways & question the status qua so to speak. There was never a "right answer" but there were many paths to get to one.
I met my husband at Booth - it was unintentional but it happened. He grew up on a farm in Central Illinois and was once upon a time a high school Mathematics teacher and football coach, whilst I grew up in an apartment in a city of 10+ million people on the western coast of India and was once an artist and a performer. How wonderful is it that? Chicago Booth is truly egalitarian in its choices of students. We come from anywhere and everywhere but we all have one focus and that is to study at Booth particularly for what it has to offer.
Booth allowed me to avail of the exchange abroad program - I spent mine at LBS in London and immersed myself in the art (museum, gallery and street art) scene. I came back having made great friends from all over the world and with a growing love for graffiti and street art which has greatly influenced my work.
Were you active within any organizations while at Booth?
What was then the CCC (Chicago Consulting Club) - I was a co-chair along with Dale Cook, Trevor Whiston, Alpesh Shah and Natarajan Krishnan. I met them my very first quarter at Booth and it was wonderful to work with four very generous guys who gave me the space and therefore confidence to lead by being exactly who I was.
I was also the V.P of Membership of the Marketing Club - yet another group of wonderfully enthusiastic and hardworking students.
I was one of the participants on our team in the Kellogg/Motorola Marketing case competition - we won that year and it was an incredibly rewarding experience. My teammates (all of them Chicago Booth of course) were thoughtful, open-minded, intelligent and quick thinkers. I will never forget our collaboration.
To learn more about Meenakshi & Balderdash visit: www.balder-dash.com.
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