Part I – Dara Bunjon
AKA – The Dining Dish who “Does It”
Dara Alene Fromm Bunjon, but she insists for the sake of brevity, you can go with Dara Bunjon, has been a fixture on the Maryland, and Greater Baltimore food scene for decades. She was born in a small town in Pennsylvania, but has made Baltimore her home for almost 70 years.
The name of her business, started in April 2005, is Dara Does It – Creative Solutions for the Food Industry. Her services run the gamut from public relations, to food styling (for clients like Steven Raichlen, of Barbecue fame) to Nick Malgieri, the master baker, as well as writing (her blog for The Examiner won top blog nationally for two years in a row. The site no longer exists but you can find posts at www.BaltimorePostExaminer.com .
Using her cumulative knowledge and networking to assist clients achieve their goals she enjoys all of it, from promoting products, reviewing and testing recipes, writing, and restaurant promotions to social media, cookbooks and food styling. Essentially Dara offers the strategic and tactical expertise to get a restaurant, brand and products noticed. She’s also a fun read on her blog, Dining Dish. Her latest restaurant review, at the time of this article speaks of Pen & Quill in Station North. Click here to read it.
We recently spent some time with Dara and got to know her better…and hear a bit about the life of a food industry expert who happens to love a good nosh and catch up.
What made you decide to become an entrepreneur, or start your ventures?
The entrepreneur happened matter of course, it started with my passion for cooking which led to starting my own company
the Epicurean Club of Maryland where I organized cooking classes in restaurant kitchens given by the chefs way before the Food Network came on to the scene. The second coming, Dara Does It, was my leap of faith, leaving corporate jobs to start a business that would take me through my retirement years.
What is the problem your business/endeavor solves, and how?
People buy for pleasure but most often buy from pain. Dara Does it does its best to assist clients, i.e. restaurants, get more people in their seats via social media, marketing strategies, public relations, website reviews etc.
Does your business work specifically with women only?
No, it does not discriminate – whoever needs my help and is willing to pay. Pretty simple and blunt. Now that I said that, I am very involved in a national organization, Women Chefs and Restaurateurs and offer my volunteer services with social media and was on their national public relations committee.
What do you prefer about being self employed vs. working for someone else?
No office politics, the freedom to follow through on my own concepts, no longer commute and to roll into the 2nd bedroom which is my office and work at any hour of the day.
What parts of having a regular job do you miss if any?
Nothing! Many have stayed at a place due to medical insurance. The advantage of being older, I have Medicare and 2ndary insurance so I’m not tied to any corporate or government job.
What was the most intimidating part of going out on your own or working for yourself?
I would have to say rejection, like anyone else – everyone wants to be loved. That is my credo, “Everyone wants to be loved and no one wants to be wrong.”
What resources did you use to get started?
My resources, hmmmm. I would say my extensive list of contacts that knew me and knew what I was capable of accomplishing.
Who were the key players in helping you get your business started (family, friends, advisors – feel free to elaborate…)?
The key player was my husband, letting me go off on my own. Understand, that our family finances were never affected; I would fill in from my personal savings. Other than my husband; friends, contacts…no one person. The business was more sweat equity, me knocking on the doors of people I had interacted with over the years.
What is the best business advice you’ve ever gotten and why?
Best advice came from my mother; “pay your bills”, which has carried me in good stead with an excellent credit rating. It may not have been specific to my business. My best pieces of advice to anyone in business, or considering going into it for themselves are to:
- Network, network and network – it is who you know!
- Volunteer – find an organization or two you are passionate about and volunteer (assist in the networking category #1)
- Mentor – just for the sheer joy.
How do you measure success – in your business and in life?
It is pretty simple, if I’m happy and content with what I’m doing than that is success. I never set out to be rich; I set out to be comfortable. A recent tragedy in my life brought into context the respect others had for me – I was quite moved. I guess I categorize success with respect from my peers.
What are four things you love most about Baltimore?
- The seafood
- The growing restaurant scene
- The changing of the seasons
- It’s home
Hmmm… you want a short bio? how do I wrap up my working life into a paragraph? I am a foodie that has gone awry and turned a passion for food into a business, Dara Does It – creative solutions for the food industry. I guide and assist businesses whether restaurants, manufacturers, food personalities grow their businesses or brand through marketing, public relations, social media, newsletters, website reviews, special events, cookbooks, food styling, television appearances etc. So along with the Dara Does It, we have my freelance writing and reviewer side: Dining Dish Blog, Baltimore Post Examiner, FoodService Monthly, Gayot.com, FoodieHub and others. DB
Find her online and get Social With Dara