Breaking the Mold with Dagne Dover’s Founding Team
The Dagne Dover team of powerhouse women are no strangers to doing things their own way — Melissa Mash (Chief Executive Officer), Jessy Dover (Chief Creative Officer) and Deepa Gandhi (Chief Operations Officer) — have built Dagne Dover, a handbag company creating the perfect bag for every occasion.
We sat down with the Dagne Dover founding team to learn more about how (and why) they started a company together, tips on how to craft the perfect to-do list, and which one of these founders sang radio jingles for extra money in high school.
What was your “aha moment” with Dagne Dover? How did you know this was something you should devote yourself to?
Melissa Mash: I’ve always loved handbags, but they always seemed to let me down. In college, a leaky water bottle spilled all over the inside of my new handbag that I loved, but that was admittedly a black hole with no interior organization. Then, as a working professional at Coach corporate offices, Coach had gifted me a $1000 bag, supposedly made for professional badass businesswomen — but my laptop couldn’t even fit inside of it without it poking out of the top — making me look a fool! When I got to grad school, I decided to do something about my handbag problems. That something is now called Dagne Dover.
What is the hardest part of running a company?
MM: Always feeling like you could be doing more — there’s an unending amount of potential you could tap if there were just more hours in the day!
Deepa Gandhi: It can be a roller coaster. Some of your biggest wins and losses can come in the same 24-hour period. It is important to remember that running a company is a marathon, so you need to remain positive and patient and celebrate the small wins. It helps you keep things in perspective.
Jessy Dover: Communication. Without super solid communication, your company can quickly become dysfunctional. It’s important to take the time, even when it’s hard to come by, to communicate to your team and partners to make sure the ship is headed in the right direction, and that everyone is onboard and moving towards your intended goals.
What’s your method for work-life balance?
JD: For me, efficiency is king. It’s easy to drown in it all if you get lost in the shuffle of day-to-day tasks. I’ve actually learned a lot from the moms in my office — they have A LOT on their plates, so they are highly effective at prioritizing, in both their personal and professional lives.
My task list each day consists of the 3 MOST important things to help the company move forward and achieve its goals. I do the same thing with my personal life. I don’t go to bed until I’ve done the top 3 items on both lists (or at least taken a step forward with each). There often ends up being overlap between the two and opportunity to kill two birds with one stone (yes!), i.e., a business trip to meet our manufacturing partners doubling as some really solid “me time”!
Besides running your business, what’s another way that you #BreakTheMold and stray away from the conventional?
MM: I am very comfortable with taking calculated risks. When I was 24, I quit my really great job at Coach corporate and packed up my things to move to London. It was the beginning of the global economic recession, and everyone (my friends, my boss, etc.) thought I was crazy — but it was more important for me to try to develop myself through international work experience than to keep doing the same safe thing.
“If I don’t see the value in something, I move on. Life is too short!”
“I always speak my mind, no matter the situation. Change doesn't come from staying quiet.”
“I make it my personal goal to give people the platform and space to be themselves.”
What’s one thing that people would be surprised to know about you?
MM: I am a trained opera singer and I used to sing radio jingles for extra money while I was in high school!
What piece of advice do you have for women just starting out in their career?
“Always find a way to balance what you're passionate about with you career.”
Whether it's the company you work for or the role you take on, make sure it's something you're passionate about. This has been my personal key to maintaining happiness and sanity in my career, even during tough, insane periods when things can feel overwhelming.
What inspires you?
DG: My niece. She approaches each day and experience with excitement and sees the potential in everything. Her positivity, energy, curiosity and creative spirit inspire me to face each day with her level of excitement, creativity, and appreciation for those in her life.
What’s next for Dagne Dover?
MM: We’re hitting the road for #dagneontour, and we’ll be traveling to a lot of cities across the country this year to hang out with the Dagne Dover community! Let us know where we should pop up next!
What is the most-used app on your phone — and why?
MM: Instagram! I’m on it for daily inspiration and also for Dagne! I’m constantly messaging with my own friends and friends of Dagne.
JD: VSCO — editing photos, yo!
What’s the first thing you do every morning?
MM: I run upstairs to hold my sweet baby boy.
DG: Hit snooze — I'm not a morning person.
JD: Meditate (while half sleeping).
What book could you re-read over and over?
MM: Delivering Happiness.
JD: Big Magic.
What is your go-to bra style?
MM: The 24/7 Strapless Bra — because you never know what top you’ll want to wear that day!
DG: The 24/7 T-Shirt Bra — I also love The New Nakeds Collection and how there’s a “skin-color” option for everyone.
JD: The 24/7 Lace T-shirt Bra! It’s just as functional as it is sexy.
Finish the sentence: I #BreakTheMold by __________.
MM: I #BreakTheMold by being unapologetically myself.
DG: I #BreakTheMold by challenging the status quo.
JD: I #BreakTheMold by going ALL IN every day!
This post is part of our #BreakTheMold series, where we celebrate the lives and work of trailblazing women. Check out the rest of the series here.