Interview by Alexis Rai Hernandez | March 2019
Alexis Rai interviews Danielle Berman about her career path which led her to start a full-service sports philanthropy consulting firm that focuses on educating and assisting professional athletes with their philanthropic goals.
Instagram: @danielleeberman @missalexisrai @successwithalexisrai
Danielle Berman has dedicated her career to helping others. She is passionate about giving back to the community and aims to educate others on the best ways to make a social impact. She is an avid consumer of content (books, podcasts, tv) and she strives to learn something new everyday. Her ever expanding network and knowledge helps her stay creative and innovative.
She founded DB Consulting to put her knowledge and experience to good use guiding professional athletes and businesses who want to make an impact in the community.
Danielle has worked with dozens of professional athletes, non-profits and corporations on philanthropic initiatives ranging from international mission trips to local football camps.
She has an extensive background in sports management, digital marketing, sports philanthropy, and strategic partnerships as well as business development and media relations.
She has coordinated various international mission trips to countries such as Haiti, Malawi, China, Egypt and Guatemala with professional athletes and entertainers to raise awareness for their favorite causes. She has coordinated and managed events at high-profile venues such as the United Nations and Super Bowl Week.
Danielle previously worked with The Brewer Group and their CSR arm, The Jack Brewer Foundation, where she served as Managing Director to provide further access and opportunities globally for the firm, its clients and partners. She also served as an SEO Manager for Tandem Interactive, a digital marketing agency in South Florida. She has also had experience in the corporate sports world, including communications and marketing roles with the Syracuse University Athletics Department, the Baltimore Ravens, and the Baltimore Orioles.
Danielle graduated from Syracuse University with a degree in Sports Management and a minor in Public Communications. She earned her Sports Philanthropy Certificate from George Washington University.
We met during your time with the Brewer Group, founded by Jack Brewer, former NFL football player. We've worked together on a few volunteer endeavors and we were planning a philanthropic trip together at one point. Can you tell me more about what you did while working for the Brewer Group and how you've used that experience to create your own company working with athletes and philanthropy?
I used to work for The Brewer Group, founded by Jack Brewer. He played in the NFL for a little over four years but really made his mark off of the field. He created his own financial management firm, sports management firm, and non-profit organization - all still active today. I started there right out of college as an intern and worked my way up to Managing Director, which essentially means that I managed a lot of the ins-and-outs of each of the businesses- from a staffing standpoint all the way to events and philanthropy trips, as you mentioned. My favorite part of that job was working with athletes on the philanthropy side. We did a number of charity events to raise money for our foundation and we also implemented initiatives in countries like Haiti, South Africa, China, Malawi, Guatemala, and more. We did a lot of great work. In 2016, we took over 100 celebrities, athletes, models, and entertainers to Haiti for a mission trip and they got to tour some of the important philanthropy projects in the country, some of the history and culture, and they got to enjoy some of the beaches and vacation spots. We worked with the Haiti Ministry of Tourism and many more partners in the country. Those projects were some of my favorite. In general, I really got a great experience through working for Jack and his company, managing a lot of the day to day of what it takes to run a business and all of the details that go into it. When I left The Brewer Group, I wanted to use those skills and turn it into something that I really wanted to work on which was the sports and philanthropy side. I found a job in marketing that taught me a lot about SEO and digital strategy and was looking for what was next. I also started an executive program for sports philanthropy. My final project for that executive program was putting together a business plan. I really didn't think anything serious about it. It just a program I was putting together to culminate what I learned in the class and my adviser said to me, "You know, I think you should start this business. I think you could do it." That was the first person that ever validated the thought. In the very back of my mind I was like, "I could probably do this", but I'm not known for being a risk taker. This was not something I had in my plan, but that person validated me and that thought. Four months later, I was putting a website together and filing paperwork and getting clients lined up and trying to figure out what I was going to call myself and all those kinds of things. So, NOW I have my own business. I've simplified the name, DB Consulting, which are my initials and I focus on philanthropy consulting and events and marketing. I work with athletes, corporations, and nonprofits, helping them do community work, whether it's small scale, like a football camp or a school drive all the way to major events or programs that are long-term.
That's amazing. I love how serendipitous it is. What is the best lesson you've learned as an entrepreneur?
I feel like I'm still learning and that's going to continue to change and grow, but I’ve learned so far that there's no right way to do it. I'm a semi perfectionist. I won't call myself a perfectionist because I don't think I'm that bad, but I do really like to do things, "the right way" and I like to make sure things are done in the best way possible. I've learned that there is no such thing as the right way to be an entrepreneur or the right way to start a business. I think the lesson I'm still learning is that things are going change, things are going to evolve and there's no perfect road map to how we get this done. It's different for every person and every person has their own life situations that are going to affect how they do it.
That's a beautiful lesson and beautiful for you to learn early on. I've been in the entrepreneurial space for very long time now. Realize that even if you see other people's blueprints, that's not your path, and don't think that it should be this "one plus one equals two" type formula because it won't always be. Trust your own journey.
You hear a lot about different people becoming entrepreneurs and there's tons of podcasts and news articles and tons of things out there about how to be the best entrepreneur. It's great that people are taking the leap and really taking control of their own careers, but you can't compare yourself to everybody else because you're going to feel behind constantly. You can't use their blueprint, you've got to make your own.
What's one of your favorite books?
My mom got it for me when she found out I was starting my own business - How to be a Bawse by Lilly Singh. She's a YouTube celebrity and influencer and she has her own media channel that she created herself. She talks about how she never saw herself doing any of this. She had really bad depression and anxiety and transformed that - through help, support, and learning about herself - into being the confident and successful media personality that she is today. It highlights a lot of the challenges that go along with building a brand, whether you're in media or in business, etc.
What is the greatest advice that you've received from another woman?
When I was starting out as an entrepreneur, a great piece of advice I was given was to create a structure that works for you. It won’t be the same thing every day, but make sure you’ll be able to take advantage of your free time. Don't sit on computer all day because you can. Don't be hard on yourself if you have a bad day, you just have to take a break and dive back in tomorrow. It's not going to happen overnight and you have to put in what you want to get out of it, essentially.
I absolutely love that advice. What was your dream career as a young girl?
When I was really young, I wanted to be a singer. I loved music. As I got older, I thought about being a lawyer and then I wanted to work in sports and that's really what I followed. Once I hit high school, I knew that I wanted to be involved in either entertainment or sports in the background. I didn't want to be an athlete. I didn't want to be on stage. I wanted to be behind the scenes. That's what I followed to get where I am today and that's what I studied in school - sport management .
What are three things that you do everyday to ensure your success?
The first thing I do is actually the night before- I make sure I have a plan of what I need to do the next day. Whether I go to bed really late or really early, I make sure that I at least know what's on my schedule and know the big things that I have to get done. I am a to-do list maniac. I have four or five lists at all times, which sometimes helps me, sometimes hurts me. I make a list of what I need to accomplish that week on Sunday. Sunday nights are usually my planning nights and I try and get planned out for the whole week, personally as well as business wise. It takes a little time. I have to really think about it and of course it changes. I do it on my computer so it's easily flexible. But I also have paper lists. I need to be planned, I need to make sure that I know what's going on and it helps me avoid slacking off and sitting down in the morning and saying, "okay, what do I have to do today?". I need to know the night before so I can get up and be motivated to get going. Number two is definitely carve out my own time. Time for me is working out or even just relaxing in front of the TV. I need time like that for me. The last thing - I always try and learn something new every day. I want to be informed of what's going on all over the world and what some people are saying, whether it's what I agree with or not. And I think that's really important working with other people because you never really know what the points your client's going to have and you need to know what you're comfortable with and what you're not.
I'm also an extreme list person. How do you define success?
Success is setting a goal and accomplishing it the best that I can- showing up and getting it done. Every time you do something, you're going to have measurements and goals that you want to accomplish so you'll be able to rank how successful you are. But success to me is setting it up, thinking of the idea, putting it out there, and then figuring out how you're going to accomplish it. That's the job of an entrepreneur - to think up the idea but also to take the next step and actually put it on paper and put it into action. To me, that is success. I think success is not necessarily a tier but something could be very successful or not very successful, but you tried and to me that makes it success in general.
I love that answer. What advice would you give a young woman looking to grow a career in the sports consulting or philanthropy industry?
I am actually asked this quite a bit because things have been changing a lot in sports, which is really awesome in terms of the business side of it. It's really refreshing to go to a sports conference and see a bunch of women there. That was not the case a while back. It hasn’t changed so much that you're going to dive right in and be trusted necessarily with your knowledge in the area. But I think that's changing which is really good. You still face a lot of barriers in fields like business, sports, etc. because women are still relatively new to leadership roles there. There's still a lot of old mentalities that needs to be replaced and needs to be switched out. Just prepare yourself, it's not going to be the easy road. You're setting yourself up for a challenge but I think most women that are working in sports and working in business enjoy the challenge and that's why they're there, to break the status quo. If women go into sports and go into business and they believe in themselves, they're confident, and they work smarter than anyone else in the room, they're going to be fine. I think guys have it pretty easy. They just have to show up and not screw up, and some of them can't even do that. For women, we have to do all the extra work because we have to show up, then have to work really hard AND not screw up. That “work really hard” part, that's what's going to set you apart from everybody else. Just know that there's other women around now and there's a community of women - whether it's in your industry or in your area - that will help you and will be there for you. What's great is that there's lots of women in sports groups and there's lots of support for women doing things in the industry. I think that's been changing a lot and I love it.
I love that, too. It's so refreshing to hear you speak about the whole community part because that's very important. You feel a bit more confident and a bit more driven when you have a community that is like-minded supporting you. That makes all the difference. We're breaking the barriers and breaking the glass ceiling for so many industries at this point - for our sisters and daughters and everyone to come behind us. It's a real job. It's a new phenomenon, but it won't be a phenomenon based on the work that we're doing because we're opening up for so many other young girls and women. Thank you so much, Danielle. You have been so awesome. I wish you nothing but the best.