When Barkha Daily ’11 left her home in Kathmandu, Nepal, in 2003 for the United States, everything she knew about America came from watching movies.
“At the time I thought everywhere in America was like Chicago and New York, and then I moved to Sheboygan,” says Daily, who earned her bachelor’s degree in international business and marketing from Lakeland University. This is where she fell in love with the small private college education.
Although she grew up cooking with her parents and grandmother, Daily never envisioned that 10 years after moving to the United States, she would become owner and executive chef for the cheel, an award-winning Nepalese restaurant in Thiensville, Wis.
To create a thriving business in a tough industry, Daily first spent a number of years building a career in international marketing. She initially worked as the assistant director of market intelligence at the World Trade Center in Wisconsin and then provided creative marketing for an insurance services company.
In 2009, she enrolled in Alverno’s MBA program and began working for the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, where she could immediately put the skills she was learning to work. Two years after graduating from Alverno, Daily founded the Ascent Group, a placement firm for marketing people. It didn’t go as well as she’d hoped.
“I failed miserably,” she admits. “My passion wasn’t there. I came from a business and marketing background, and human resources was a completely different role.”
Her business was on the chopping block, but a new plan was coming to the surface. During her free time, Daily had been providing brand management for the Thiensville farmer’s market, and she used food as one of the marketing tactics.
“I would take the food I made in my childhood to different events,” she says. “People kept asking me where the restaurant was.”
Daily had been cooking since she was a child, and she and her husband, Jesse, often cooked together. Daily knew, however, that making an amazing eggplant dish with her grandma was far different than creating recipes that could be replicated consistently for large crowds.
“Opening a restaurant was a huge learning curve. I had worked as a server and a hostess, but that’s nothing compared to owning and running a restaurant,” says Daily, who adds many people were skeptical that a young female could handle the demands of being a restaurant owner and chef in a traditionally male-dominated field.
Having learned from her previous experience in entrepreneurship, Daily spent nine months researching everything from demographics to the types of cuisine available in the greater Milwaukee area to why restaurants fail. She hired a French-trained chef whom she describes as her right-hand man, as well as a bar manager with 20 years of experience. Many on her staff had previous experience in opening restaurants.
“It’s not about doing everything yourself. At Alverno, we learned how to work with a team and how to support and retain them,” Daily says. “I made sure to surround myself with people who knew what they were doing, and I’ve learned a lot from them.”
On July 18, 2014, she opened the doors to the only Nepalese restaurant in the area. The accolades flooded in: Best of Milwaukee Dining 2016 (OnMilwaukee.com), Best Dish 2016 (Taste of Milwaukee), 7 Best Destination Restaurants in Wisconsin 2016 (Travel Wisconsin) and many more.
Daily says having her MBA from Alverno made a big difference in her ability to manage her business. Lessons in emotional intelligence have helped her retain employees and customers. Courses in management accounting gave her the ability to see the big financial picture. And her capstone project in change management taught her agility and when to make changes.
The result is a thriving business that has increased 25 percent every year, with a strong base of regular customers plus foodies who’ve come from as far as Washington, D.C., Minnesota, Chicago and Iowa.
Daily hasn’t forgotten what Alverno means to her. She remains in touch with members of her MBA cohort, has hosted alumnae events at the cheel and provided food at Homecoming 2016.
“The Alverno education and the network that were provided really helped me get to where I am today,” she says. “We are becoming a destination because there is nothing else like us. I was hoping this would happen, but the success came much faster than I thought it would.”
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