Artist turned MBA: Alumna Meenakshi Dash Kick-starts her Dream of Publishing a Children’s Book

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The Adventure Capital Challenge encourages Booth alumni to fulfill lifelong ambitions by funding short-term full or part-time projects exploring personal passions or nascent professional interests. Alumni are offered coaching and financial support for a 3-6 month “adventure” they design. Meenakshi Dash ’08, an Evening MBA alumna, recently returned to Booth to share her project and reflect on the experience.

Original artwork by Booth alumna Meenakshi Dash

Why did you choose Booth?

Before Booth, I got my BFA from the School of the Art Institute and worked as a senior image consultant for Cintas, a large image apparel company, where I headed accounts for high profile hospitality firms. I just felt drawn to Booth, there was something very unique about it. I loved the diversity of the students and felt right at home. I also wanted to prove I could do the heavy lifting in terms of the rigorous academic workload.

What have you been involved in since graduation?

I’ve had quite a varied career. I lived in Hong Kong and started my own boutique jewelry and textiles company. I then moved back into corporate and worked with Samsonite on designing a new luggage product line. For the past decade I’ve worked as a consultant at an MBA Admissions consulting firm. I am also the Deputy Director for the Jersey City Mural Arts Program and the Creative Director of Special Initiatives. I recruit international, national and local artists to beautify our city.

How did you come to apply for the Adventure Capital Challenge?

A friend at Booth thought I should do it because I was working on a documentary at the time. But I realized I wanted to focus on something I was more intimately involved in that would not have any legs if I didn’t apply for the grant and the documentary had a huge team behind it. I wanted to come up with something I’ve always wanted to do but never had the courage or guts to do. The grant is supposed to enable alumni to pursue a passion project that has a high risk factor.

What is your passion project?

Awhile back, I was interested in the women from a tribe that was under threat in Orissa, an eastern state of India. I thought it would be amazing if I could create a series of affordable and accessible prints for my friends, so that they could introduce these women to their children. I made the prints, they were well received but then I didn’t do anything else about it. In the back of my mind though, I always wanted to create a children’s book that told the stories of these tribes, through the eyes of their women and girls.

This project is very close to my heart. My father comes from the same state in India and he was going through chemotherapy when I won this grant. We worked closely together on the project and he would help me with research, which took us both away from the journey that is cancer. Unfortunately, my father passed away soon after I won the grant- but now I know I have to see this through.

I think that it is truly remarkable and heartening that The Harry L Davis Center and the Adventure Capital Challenge offer this opportunity to alumni. I think it forces you to move out of your comfort zone and allows you to focus whole-heartedly on a passion project that might ordinarily have been a pipe dream. The ACC offers the grant with no micro management and no sense of immediate supervision, but with immense faith and trust in the proposal - which in my opinion, leaves the winner even more responsible and focused on the task at hand (their proposal). This grant allowed me to dream - to dream really big - and forced me to create something that could potentially have an impact on a small (or large) group of people. It also gives me the confidence and credibility to pursue my 'passion project'. The ACC team is warm, encouraging, and driven, to help you find a way to give life to your proposal.  

Finally, I am beholden to and give a big thanks to all those involved - from my interviewers Chinmay Jain and Galen Williams, to my Coach Emma Otheguy, to the ACC team: Professor Davis, Nathaniel Grotte, Ramona Boyer, and Chelsea Vail!

View a video of Meenakshi’s project here.

For more of Meenakshi’s work, see here.