Daphne Benzaquen, MBA ’17, was very clear about what she wanted out of business school: An opportunity to be her own boss. And that’s what she’s done with the launch of her personal lifestyle brand daph., conceived at Olin from her personal experience.
Can you tell us a little about daph? What inspired you to found it? Was it conceived at Olin?
daph. was born out of an unmet need. During my MBA studies at Olin, I was in search for a functional, fashionable backpack that not only carried my essentials, but also had a sleek and polished look.
In 2016, I embarked on an adventure that led to a self-taught crash course in designing leather goods, meetings with leather makers across Peru and a website designed from scratch. I wanted to create a brand that bonded my unique style with my Peruvian roots.
After a year of international communication, editing and design, I launched daph., a sustainable fashion brand that empowers its customers to give back.
Why did you decide to get your MBA and how did you land at Olin?
I went to business school with the goal of being my own boss and the ultimate decision-maker. Never did I imagine I would become every single department of a company. No day is the same and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
St. Louis is home to me so Olin was an easy choice. Both St. Louis and Olin have become a hub for innovation and creativity. The connections made through the program are invaluable.
I’ve met lifelong friends, mentors and contacts, which has led to amazing opportunities to grow my business. Attending Olin gave me an all-encompassing view of business while introducing me to new skills and experiences that have sparked new interests and passions, something not found at all schools.
In what ways was your experience at Olin formative in your experience and goals?
I was lucky enough to attend various events held at Olin where I heard from experienced, notable experts in various fields. For example, I participated in a Taylor Community Consulting Project. In that experience, alongside my peers, we positively contributed to the growth strategy of LaunchSTL, a nonprofit organization with the goal of building up nonprofit’s young professional boards.
To conclude my MBA, I studied abroad at various European business schools with students from all over the world. We visited global companies, hearing from top executives at the company and gaining insight on international business strategies and customs—something vital in my business.
Olin taught me how to think about various business issues differently and from diverse perspectives. I learned how to push the boundaries and test out new, unique solutions to everyday company problems.
I always say getting my MBA from Olin was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Were there particular courses or professors who were particularly memorable?
My confidence to start daph. began during my Introduction to Entrepreneurship with David Poldoian. During this course, I was pushed outside my comfort zone when it came to coming up with a business solution.
I was able to use skills gained in other courses to come up with a complete execution plan to an idea that was just in the making. It taught me how to think outside the box, which I do every day now.
Hearing from other entrepreneurs in the St. Louis community, along with conducting feasibility studies, gave me the push I needed to take the risk and start something on my own.
What are the next steps for you in your career?
I will continue to grow daph. into a national lifestyle and fashion brand.