Profile of a WINner: Daniela Afonso
I recently sat down with one of The Women Innovating Now (WIN) Lab’s participants, Daniela Afonso, MBA Candidate Class of 2014. Daniela, a native of Brazil, is a marketing professional with more than 10 years of experience developing local and national marketing campaigns. She started two successful businesses prior to pursuing her MBA at Babson. Her favorite line is: “Fix it, shape it, mold it, make it.”
Tell me about your business idea.
I am currently working on platform that helps students and alumni leverage technology to improve interpersonal communication and achieve career goals through their social network connections. Think of it as a cross between LinkedIn and Match.com. The idea is to create a social community that opens the channel of communication between students and the alumni body, makes it easy for companies to target and segment prospect talent pools and helps the college career services to better manage its resources, and matches talents with market opportunities. The technology works by pairing up the two different groups through personalized matchmaking connections based on common interests. For example, a student might set their preferences to indicate that they’re looking to connect with industry leaders in the technology area who are available for informational interviews and resume critique. On the other side, an alum may set their preferences to indicate that they are a CIO looking to assist students with informational interviews and resume critique. Based on inputted information, the two will match and be connected.
At present, we just finished the prototype showcase and we were able to validate the concept. We are now currently working on developing the online platform and creating a unique name for it.
When was your light bulb moment?
I was trying to get in touch with Babson alums from the consulting industry to gain their perspective on the area and a possible resume critique but after utilizing the current portal to contact alumni within the industry, I sadly heard back from no one. I was extremely frustrated at the lack of communication and the absence of a platform that would connect alumni and students; the current system is hard to navigate, multi layered, not up to date and the search is horizontally limited. Since I couldn’t find anything that did what I was looking for it to do, I decided to create one that would facilitate the communication between these two groups and help them to better leverage each other’s connections.
What drew you to the WIN Lab?
Professor Daniels first introduced me to the WIN Lab and I knew it was the right opportunity for me and my business idea. In fact, if it wasn’t for the WIN Lab, I wasn’t going to pursue this idea at all. In addition, I was interested in having the support and foundation that the WINLab would offer to its selected students. I am extremely grateful for the tools and great mentorship provided. Besides that, the WIN Lab has been working diligently on providing us with legal, patent and copyright info, and leadership embodiment. WIN Lab has exceeded my expectations!
What’s your greatest thing that you’ve gotten out of WIN / how has it helped you the most?
The tools and foundations to launch my business. One of the greatest things that WIN has done for me is that it has given me the time dedicated for me to work on my business which further makes me committed to my business idea. At WIN, I am constantly surrounded by successful female entrepreneurs and innovators across different industries. We provide each other with the confidence and attitude that ‘You can do it.’ It’s not easy, but with right support and connections, you will succeed.
What do you think the future of women entrepreneurship looks like?
The future is brilliant for women. I believe that women do a better job putting businesses together and executing them. Women are executors; we are planners and are great at boot-strapping. We know how to stretch and leverage our resources. In addition, women don’t look for things that we don’t have. For example, we create recipes based on the ingredients we have. Women are conquering the business space and are becoming successful entrepreneurs. We just need the right support system, like WIN.
Who’s your “shero”?
My mother. She is a true entrepreneur. She’s taught me to take advantage of marketable opportunities and how to be a go-getter and a do-er.
What has you jumping out of bed in the morning?
I am addicted to learning. There are so many things that I want to learn, discover and read and do, and there are just not enough hours in the day. Of course my business has me jumping out of bed. Yet, in order for me to better understand how the business and technology works, I feel like I need to constantly be learning more. In addition to WIN, I decided to join business analytics and technology groups at Babson, Technology MeetUps, and am always looking to speak with more people who have specific tech knowledge.
What’s your biggest need / What’s one thing that could help take your business to the next level?
I am looking for additional team members that have expertise in technology. The right team can help me co-develop the technology and the business. I have the drive, motivation, and enthusiasm behind the idea. I’m looking for more members that have the mobile development technology and analytical background.
Advice for other aspiring women entrepreneurs?
Talk to people about your idea and learn how to listen. Listen to common frustrations that others share and find an opportunity to improve upon the problems. Be among your target audience and talk to them.
About the WIN Lab:
Created by Babson’s Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership, WIN Lab provides entrepreneurs with the road map, expertise, inspiration, and community needed to successfully launch ventures. The WIN Lab team is in the business of launching companies. To do this, they choose candidates who are ready to pursue their entrepreneurial destinies.