Elaine Dickson MBA ’98 says she always wanted to be a journalist. That didn’t happen (yet), but she is putting her investigative skills to work as certified fraud examiner and CEO of her company, Mavenly Consultants.
“Working in the accounting field requires an investigative skill set — asking a lot of questions — and strong organizational and critical thinking skills,” Dickson says. “At Mavenly, we deliver CFO-level insights and business advice to help growth-oriented companies thrive and maintain their competitive edge, particularly with the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic when it’s not business as usual.”
Mavenly is a woman-owned, Black-owned business that provides strategy, finance and accounting services to small and midsize businesses. There’s a lot of thought behind the business’s name: The definition of “maven” is "expert."
“Our name reflects our intention to deliver expert-level know-how and customer service that will enable our clients to achieve their goals, now and in the future,” Dickson says.
Dickson’s expertise includes accounting, risk management, strategy and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) practices. She created a team to provide services that include bookkeeping, financial reporting, tax and pre-audit preparation, strategic planning, budgeting and forecasting, and human resources.
NO MORE WAITING
Much of Dickson’s job at Mavenly — and throughout her career including as president at E2 Global Consulting — has focused on presenting ideas to clients. Feeling confident in the boardroom, she says, stems from her time in the Bentley MBA program.
“I worked as a graduate assistant in the [W. Michael Hoffman] Center for Business Ethics when it was setting up some early protocols, so I had exposure to ethics issues and some big CEOs who were coming through the door,” Dickson recalls. “Today, not only can I stand up and present to clients in a boardroom, but I can also feel confident about what I’m talking about.”
Her work as a DEI consultant speaks to the ethics issues she worked on — and to growing up in an underserved community in Jamaica.
“Nothing informs the work that we do like our own life experiences; we tend to be most passionate about things that have impacted us positively or negatively,” says Dickson, whose family immigrated to the U.S. in 1990. “Life through my 20s was defined by lack of access to resources that a typical American kid would have. Neither of my parents were educated in a way that could help me navigate the college process when we moved to the U.S. That has driven my belief to create access and opportunities for everyone regardless of where they are born or their zip code.”
In 2013, she and her husband Easton co-founded Reading Owls International, a nonprofit organization that partners with schools and community organizations in Jamaica to provide access to books and other learning resources for disadvantaged, school-aged children. She also serves as mentor in the RIHub Venture Mentoring Service, on the Cumberland (R.I.) School Department's Racial Equity Task Force and on the nominating committee for the Rhode Island Center for the Book, which celebrates the art and heritage of reading, writing, making and sharing books.
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“I am no longer shy about being the only one in the room who looks like me,” Dickson says of being a DEI champion. “Power resides in being in rooms, where you can speak out and make sure people hear about what needs to be changed to address issues like unconscious bias. I am fortunate to be in a lot of those rooms and to be a voice for the voiceless.”
Mavenly provides both education and systemic change management tactics to help clients create effective diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. Dickson draws on her experience in developing and implementing data-driven organizational diversity and inclusion and large-scale change management initiatives. The goal: bring diverse voices and perspectives to the forefront of businesses to create greater opportunity and inclusivity in their strategy.
“I want to make sure that I’m helping to prompt structural change, but I tend to be impatient,” Dickson admits.
“I also think we’ve waited a long time, and sometimes ‘wait’ becomes ‘never,’” Dickson continues, referencing the book “Why We Can’t Wait” by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “And we’ve waited a long time.”
VIDEO: Elaine Dickson on how to use partnerships to grow your business