Sukari Brown (Class of ’23) is a second-year Darden MBA student focused on private equity and venture capital. In addition to being a Full-Time MBA, Brown is actively involved in extracurricular life at Darden, where she is president of the Private Equity Club, a Breakthrough Scholar, a Toigo Fellow, a Consortium member, and a portfolio manager for Darden Capital Management. Earlier this year, Brown was featured on the “Experience Darden” podcast. The complete interview can be found here on Spotify. You can also follow her career journey via LinkedIn and Instagram (@sukaribrown_). Sukari Brown recently completed a weeklong Darden Worldwide Course focused on Entrepreneurship, Innovation, and Sustainability in Sweden and offered some reflections on her experience.
Sukari, tell us about yourself. Why did you decide to go to Sweden for your DWC?
I was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. I relocated to the DC Metro area after graduating from NYU in 2014. I always dreamed of increasing my global travel but “dragged my feet” as they say. I did a lot of domestic travel and even went to various places in the Caribbean but hadn’t yet expanded beyond that. I knew once I got into business school that I wanted to prioritize increasing my global experiences, so when we found out we would be able to do our DWCs, I was so excited. I decided to rank my preferences based on places that I would have never thought to go to on my own and based on the course topic. It’s so funny thinking back to that because now, I can’t wait to go back to Sweden; a place I once said I would never travel to if I was planning a trip to somewhere new. Lastly, the topic was perfect given my focus on Private Equity and Venture Capital. I figured it would be a great way to understand an entrepreneurial ecosystem outside of the U.S. I’m just so thankful I got my first choice and had the chance to spend time in Sweden with a great group of amazing humans from Darden.
What, if any, unexpected insight did you gain from these experiences?
I did not expect Sweden to be such a welcoming place. Everyone was so kind and helpful. I arrived a few days before the DWC started and admittedly I was nervous given I was traveling alone and it was my first time in Europe. Before leaving the U.S., I watched tons of Youtube videos about what it was like being Black in Sweden, and although an overwhelming majority of the insights signaled that it was a positive experience, I was still nervous. It was awesome arriving and immediately feeling welcomed, safe, and comfortable. I was pleasantly surprised.
My experience in Sweden also expanded my views on deal flow for venture capital and private equity. Of course, I know that transactions and investments happen outside of the U.S. but I hadn’t had direct contact with the global side of the industry. During this course, we got to visit SUP46, which is a cool Startup hub/incubator in Stockholm. The CEO talked to us about the resources they provide founders in Stockholm and then gave us a chance to hear directly from a company. Swiftly, which makes applying for jobs more efficient for job seekers by integrating AI, gave us an overview of their company and its journey to raise capital from VCs. Before this particular visit in the program, I did not realize how much VC deal activity has grown in the Nordic region. I was shocked to know that over $3B has been raised by VCs in the Nordics in the last 5 years. I would not have assumed that before this experience. Admittedly, once I was in Sweden and saw the innovation and entrepreneurial vibes for myself, it actually was less surprising.
If you had to summarize your program into 6 words or less, which words would you use?
Expanded Horizons and Increased Risk Tolerance
I chose these 6 words because traveling to Sweden by myself was something I was nervous about. I viewed it as risky but did it anyway and it paid off for me. Visiting organizations such as H&M, Scania, and the Swedish institute expanded my view of the possibilities for my career in the business world. It also helped to remind me that nothing worth having comes from sitting on the sidelines. As an investor, you have to be willing to look for great companies in places and industries others may overlook. Again, this can be perceived as a risk but if you never increase your risk tolerance as you grow, then are you ever actually reaping the benefits of the experiences life has offered you?
How will you incorporate what you learned in Sweden into your future career? Is there anything specifically that you will take with you?
I’ve been trying to find a way to have to go back to Sweden since I left! I never thought I would feel so strongly about returning to a country like Sweden – but here I am. There is much that my time in Sweden gave me, but I’ll focus on a few key things that I will continue to hold close as I navigate my career:
- Nothing ever really becomes real until it is experienced.
- Your brand is something that should be continuously monitored and analyzed across three key themes -perception, performance, and publicity.
- Investors have to remember to think globally – in trend analysis, deal sourcing, and portfolio management.
- Everyone on your team won’t be interested in the same topics or investment thesis and that’s okay. Build a diverse team and the variety in skills and interests will take you much further than if you were all excited about all of the same things all of the time.
- Progress is better than perfection.
- Being intrapreneurial is just as important as being entrepreneurial for businesses to scale and for success to be sustainable.
Do you have any advice for first-year students who are considering a DWC in their future? Is it worth it?
DO IT! Don’t put it off. Once the opportunity is available just go for it. I would suggest targeting a location outside of your comfort zone. Go somewhere you would probably not have on your travel list outside of the business school experience so that you can get the most out of it. Once you figure out where you are going, book your travel early and plan to arrive at least 1-2 days in advance. This will give you enough time to get adjusted and explore a little on your own before the formal program starts. Additionally, I would highly suggest traveling with just a carry-on suitcase and personal item (purse/bookbag). I did this and it made such a difference. I didn’t run into any issues with delays or lost luggage. Remember that in the worst case you can go shopping for an extra shirt or clothing item if you need it. You can also opt to buy your toiletries once you arrive. Lastly, consider using your credit card travel points for your flight and book the comfort plus or equivalent – trust me it’s worth it.
If you’re interested in hearing more about my trip to Sweden and how confused my significant other was about how this course was school-related, check out a special podcast episode we recorded just for you! https://soundcloud.com/user-45030186/episode-1-sweden-recap