Nana Dadzie (ST, 2021)
I did Brandcenter a little differently than most. I did it my way.
After graduating with my bachelor’s in fashion merchandising in 2003, I spent 15 years working at VCU. I hit my stride in roles in Student Affairs and New Student Orientation (where I mentored and employed hundreds of undergrads) and as general manager of the on-campus technology store, RamTech. Excelling in this space helped me gain confidence in myself; it helped me discover my passion for collaboration, leadership, and connecting with young people. It also gave me the opportunity to build upon my creative and entrepreneurial pursuits: I took the skills I was learning on the job and applied them to the launch of my culture blog, KickRocs, which eventually evolved into a YouTube channel interviewing celebrities. That pivoted into event planning, hosting events in sneaker culture, throwing concerts, and my most recent endeavor, A Big Ass Cookout.
By the time 2018 rolled around, my career at VCU was booming. I had mentored hundreds of students, won competitive awards for my student store, and had even been invited to be the featured speaker at Apple Campus Store Leadership Summits in Austin and Cupertino. But I was bored.
It felt like I was hitting a wall, and deep down I knew it was time for a more creative challenge. It was time to break some rules.
I scheduled a meeting with Vann Graves in 2018 with zero intention of actually going to the Brandcenter. I just wanted an opportunity to hear his story—here was a successful Black man who had made a living out of being a creative. I knew that was something I wanted for myself. Not long after our meeting, I started my Brandcenter application. When I was accepted, I quit my job of 15 years and enrolled.
I was 37 years old when I entered the Brandcenter for orientation in 2019. And I hit the ground running.
Given my experience, I had this extended realization of what I wanted to do in my career and exactly how the Brandcenter could help me get there. I treated the Brandcenter like a job: I got in early, made connections, did the work, kept my vision clear. Having my professional background made it easy for me to sharpen myself in ways I hadn’t been sharpened.
Two years later, I’ve gained a heightened sense of confidence in my abilities. I know that I am a strategist, but I’m also a creative. The path I took to get to where I am today is different than most. I’d argue I’m better off because of it.
I bet on myself. Bet on yourself.
Nana Dadzie (ST, 2021)