Marquette University Alumni Association Alumni National Awards Weekend
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Julie A. Duffy, Comm ’90
Founder of Dinner by Design


Julie Duffy

Just in case Julie Duffy wasn’t busy enough in 2003 as a mother of two toddlers, she began working 16-hour days in a kitchen. That’s just what you do when you start your own meal-making company.

Then just to keep things interesting she had her third son when her company was still in its infancy. “Jack hit the ground running with me when he was born. For the first six months he went to every meeting with me,” she says, adding Jack tagged along on a kitchen site visit six days after the 12-pounder’s birthday.

Those were the early days for Dinner by Design and its franchise arm, DbD Franchising Inc. Since then more than 50 additional outlets opened in the Midwest and Canada before Julie sold both companies last year.

Not bad for an executive who retired from Discover Financial Services so she could stay home with her boys. “Then I was bitten by the meal-assembly bug and the rest is history,” Julie says.

She made history by following this entrepreneurial formula: Work hard, surround yourself with smart people, clarify your goals and share the pursuit of those goals with your team.

Then get real.

“No matter how much time you think running your own business will take or how much money, double it for a more realistic snapshot,” she says.

Entrepreneurs also need to get familiar with the dirty work. “This job made my corporate career look glamorous,” Julie says. “I went from jet setting to New York for lunch meetings to mopping floors, cutting onions, cleaning toilets and taking out the garbage.”

How did she find time to get her family — which includes husband, Pat, Bus Ad ’90 — to the table? Dinner by Design, of course. Since Julie sold the company, she’s returned to her passion for cooking for family and friends. “I like to love people with food,” she says.

What’s next? The Duffys are relocating from Illinois, Pat’s home, to Julie’s native Wisconsin (her birth certificate states she’s a Packer fan), she’s considering writing a book, and may serve other businesses in a consulting role.

“I’ll take the summer off, get the kids into their new schools and probably jump into another project then,” she says.


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