Dan Marques: Blank Center Advisory Board Member Profile
Dan Marques ’07, a digital marketer by trade, has impacted the Blank Center significantly through the creation of the Summer Venture Program and by scaling the Blank Center’s existing programs to support all Babson entrepreneurs. Dan has graciously returned to the Blank Center as a member of its Advisory Board. I called Dan to learn more about his background and what excites him about being on the Blank Center’s Advisory Board.
When did you graduate from Babson? What was the entrepreneurship scene like at the time?
I graduated in 2007, which was a time of change. There was a growing excitement around entrepreneurship and an increasing number of students trying to build and develop companies. Babson was figuring out how to be more supportive of entrepreneurs. The college recognized that its approach to entrepreneurship within the classroom was strong but had more opportunities to provide support outside the classroom. The world was starting to change as Y Combinator and other accelerators were emerging. Babson needed to reinvigorate its co-curricular entrepreneurship programs.
What did you do after graduating?
I came back two years after graduating to work at the Blank Center as the Manager of Entrepreneurship Development. I started by conducting a needs assessment by talking with faculty, staff, and alumni, and by looking at what other schools and accelerators were doing. We created a number of new programs that still exist today, including the Summer Venture Program. We also launched a pilot of the Butler Launch Pad, formerly known as the Butler Venture Accelerator. At the time, the Blank Center supported entrepreneurs through events and one-on-one mentorship, which would have been difficult to scale. We flipped the accelerator model on its head to figure out how to support as many student and alumni entrepreneurs as possible. The new model can support hundreds of entrepreneurs rather than only dozens.
I then worked on a venture-backed jewelry customization startup called Gemvara with co-founders I met at Babson. I helped raise over $20 million in venture capital while I was there and launched a high growth e-commerce business. Gemvara was acquired last year by Berkshire Hathaway.
I also gained corporate entrepreneurship experience by leading e-commerce and digital marketing efforts for large brands such as Reebok and Adidas. The last few years I have been at Talbots leading our digital marketing and eCommerce efforts. Additionally, I started a family business (a $1 store) for a few years and have had a number of startup advisory and experimental experiences all along the way.
What is your greatest entrepreneurial achievement?
Going back to Babson and reinvigorating our co-curricular entrepreneurship efforts, including starting the Summer Venture Program. It’s a great feeling to have had an entrepreneurial achievement that impacted the country’s best entrepreneurship school.
What motivates you?
I like to have a positive impact.
What do you do for fun?
Chase my two-year-old daughter around!
Describe yourself in three words.
Entrepreneurial, loyal, pragmatic.
What is your definition of entrepreneurship?
It’s a way of thinking and acting to identify opportunities and creatively gather resources to address those opportunities. This could be in the form of starting a business or working within an existing business or nonprofit.
What does the world need from entrepreneurs today?
As someone who has worked at several large companies, I am a big proponent of expanding the traditional definition of entrepreneurship beyond starting a business. Every company in America needs the skills and mindset of entrepreneurs. They all need the next generation of leaders who don’t look like the leaders of yesteryear, who are entrepreneurial and committed to having an impact. So, continually increasing the companies’ realization of that will create interesting opportunities down the road. People leaving Babson with an entrepreneurial mindset will have endless opportunities.
Do you have any tips for entrepreneurs?
I’m a big believer in cash. At the end of the day, it’s about getting paying customers or raising money in order to get paying customers. Cash management should be a huge focus. Entrepreneurs spend too much time planning instead of thinking about whether someone will pay real money for what they are trying to do. Entrepreneurs can learn a lot based on dollars.
I have also learned over time the importance of having a good financial understanding of margins and profitable business models. Without these, businesses will not get better even with scale. Focus on your margins and how you get paid.
Lastly, try not to take yourself too seriously. Have fun! You’ll have ups and downs, but remember that the opportunity you’re working on today might not be your big personal success. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself.
What excites you about being on the Blank Center’s Advisory Board?
Three things. First, the group that Debi Kleiman has assembled is comprised of amazingly successful, intelligent and passionate entrepreneurs that people can learn quite a great amount from.
Second, I am excited about the energy, newness, and direction that Debi will bring to the Blank Center. What Debi has already done to further the mission of the Blank Center is amazing.
Third, I am humbled by the opportunity to engage with Babson in a meaningful way again. I’m excited to find the next great successful programs for the Blank Center by working with the other board members.