takers, value makers
of 'purpose' drives Mayberry McKissack
online community and marketing research hub serves African-American
women and their families
Mayberry McKissack '89 has a message for would-be entrepreneurs
searching for the inspiration that can create a new venture:
Ideas are important, but don't forget that timing is too.
have to be very clear about your objectives," says the
graduate of the Kellogg
School's Executive MBA Program. "You have to understand
why you are taking on this project at this time."
McKissack knew the timing was right in 2000 when she founded
Nia Enterprises, an online community of African-American women
and their families. Through its national consumer advisory
panel, Nia collects and provides data to companies eager to
avoid a one-size-fits-all mentality when marketing their products.
a database of more than 150,000 African-American members (who
have elected to be part of the panel), Nia Enterprises can
provide companies with rapid feedback on the way a new cosmetic
works, for instance, or a suggested name for a new product
company — whose name means "purpose" in Swahili
— launched a new venture in March. "Nia Pulse"
is a Web site designed to appeal to and solicit opinions from
a broader, multicultural, audience.
she started Nia Enterprises, Mayberry McKissack, the company's
chairman and CEO, was "in a good place" both financially
and spiritually, she says. "This wasn't just about starting
a business; this was a passion. I was set to change an industry
that really needed changing."
her timing was right, Mayberry McKissack could be patient
with the new endeavor, and that patience proved critical as
she spent a couple years building a respected online site
and earning trust from her constituents. The two-year window
also allowed more companies to become comfortable with online
data collection, she notes.
Kellogg alum also drew on her years of corporate experience
earned at companies including IBM, U.S. Robotics and Open
Port Technology. Just as important was her foray into entrepreneurship.
Twelve years earlier she and a partner had opened One Moment
in Time, a chain of three retail stores that rented women's
formal wear. The concept ultimately proved unworkable, but
it provided an invaluable education and sparked a desire for
her eventually starting another business.
despite balancing the demands of a growing company, Mayberry
McKissack still makes time to speak about entrepreneurship
and advise others. She frequently does so at the Kellogg School,
where she is an adjunct assistant professor of entrepreneurship.
These interactions help shape how she views her own company.
"It's a two-way street," she says. "I get so
much back; it's not just about me giving."
Nia Enterprises continues to grow.
doing business with companies that wouldn't even talk with
me five years ago," says Mayberry McKissack.
really is everything.