How did both of you meet?
We initially met at a NY bar association event then a couple weeks later we crossed paths again, volunteering as mentors for a wonderful organization, iMentor. One of us said this is an interesting coincidence this must mean something, that we are to be friends or something. Almost fifteen years later, we are close friends and business partners.
What are the benefits and challenges of being in business with a friend?
BDM: The benefit of being business partners with a friend is that we know and understand each other's personalities and quirks. We already have a close friendship and becoming business partners is another level commitment of sorts, similar to a marriage. The traits of trust, communication, honesty, respect and the ability to compromise are important values in building a successful business partnership. The times we have volunteered, traveled and socialized together provided great insight and served as an excellent base when we launched MTEN in regards to our work styles, complimenting each other strengths and weakness.
One challenge is maintaining & cultivating the friendship. Just because we talk to each other nearly every day on MTEN related business & ideas, that sometimes we forget to check in on the friend level. Hey, how are you? How's the day job? how's the personal life? In addition, to the business meetings and calls we hold, now we'll add a separate friend hangout afterwards. Sometimes I call Nneka my "work wife" and we are in communication with each other almost every day, to the point where I do finish her sentences. It drives her crazy, but I can't help myself..lol
NAN: The benefit of being in a business with a friend is that we have shared values and understand what's important. We don't have to worry about things like integrity, commitment and transparency because as friends we have already established that foundation and it extends into our growing brand.
The challenge of working with a friend is making sure that we don't compromise the friendship because of decisions or work flow in the business. Blessed and I have to make a concerted effort to have "non-work" conversations and also appreciate that what's happening in our respective personal lives may sometimes impact the work flow because we both work full-time and have a lot to juggle as professional women.
Name a song, book or movie that best describes your co-founder.
BDM: Nneka is a huge Drake fan, so when I hear his songs, I think of her.
NAN: Blessed likes the classics and The Autobiography of Malcolm X is one of her favorite books.
What has been the most rewarding experience of MTEN?
BDM: Meeting & collaborating with wonderful lawyers & legal professionals. The written kind notes, emails and feedback of encouragement received from followers and members who tell us they love the idea & concept of MTEN, highlighting & introducing lawyers who are doing more with their JD degree. Most of all, when a member of MTEN community reaches out with that thank you or update that they learned or was inspired by a post or event we hosted which led them towards another chapter in their career.
NAN: Seeing how we have created something from nothing and hearing the testimonials of people that have been impacted by our company. When you have an idea in your head, you never know whether other people will buy into it and be willing to commit their time, resources and energy to that idea. To see people come to events over and over again, or be excited to be featured or even ask to be in partnership with us has been so rewarding. Also, creating our Advisory Board has been rewarding because we have learned so much about how important it is to have independent voices and feedback as you grow something from nothing.
What has been the most challenging part of MTEN?
BDM: The amount of time spent on growing the MTEN brand and exposure in addition to maintaining full time day job. How we're self teaching and learning about marketing, branding, HR, programming and much more. Also, what's best, how to implement the research we've conducted and advice received from our team, mentors, advisory board members and membership as a whole for the growth and expansion of MTEN as an organization.
NAN: It's challenging to juggle MTEN and life outside of MTEN which is also robust and full. If MTEN was our full time job, there is no telling how far we could take the brand. But for the time being, as a side business, it's challenging to focus on expansion and future growth with limited time and resources.
Looking back on the growth of MTEN in the past 2 years, what has surprised you both?
BDM: The pace that MTEN has grown, we went from a launch panel event in small conference room with two dozen people to a national organization with nearly 1000 members across the nation and abroad. How much the legal community likes and want to be part of MTEN especially as a resource for alternative legal careers. Also, the power of word-of-mouth of MTEN has spread and brand awareness. I had a work colleague once tell me that I should check out this organization and they have events for lawyers who are in non-traditional legal careers and its good for networking. I asked what's the name? He replied "More Than Esquires". I said "I know them— I'm the Co-Founder". We had a good laugh.
NAN: The amount of people, organizations, groups, companies that expressed interest in partnering with us has been a pleasant surprise. We have committed the past two years to growing the brand and increasing brand awareness and that has resulted in some pretty great opportunities that we look forward to exploring further.
Where do you see MTEN in 5 years?
BDM: MTEN as a leading influencer in the legal community especially as voice and platform for lawyers and legal professionals in the alternative legal and emerging careers sector.
NAN: We see MTEN expanding as a brand and providing a platform for a growing segment of lawyers that see themselves as multi-hyphenates and want to embrace the fact that they are more than lawyers.