HBS Women Make Art Their Business

Natasha Pearl (MBA ’89) took a typical post-HBS path, serving stints in American Express, Booz-Allen and Mercer Consulting, primarily focused on financial services marketing. However, when she took a sabbatical to work through a systematic career transition program, a very different idea emerged. Her career counselor, Mary Burton (an HBS MBA graduate), had her list her accomplishments starting in her teenage years, all the way to the present. Then, Burton asked her to indicate which ones she actually enjoyed.

“I had tons of accomplishments after HBS, but the ones that I most enjoyed were well before that and were in the arts,” said Pearl, who had produced some shows at college while toying with a fine arts major and also worked as New York Manager on the B-School Show.

She set out in a new direction, approaching a fellow HBS alum at Sotheby’s to pitch her relationship marketing skills in the world of fine arts auctions. She kept pressing for nine months, and eventually a job was created for her.

Soon, Pearl was utilizing techniques that had cross-sold credit lines and IRAs to find valuable clients to buy or sell antiques, art and fine jewelry at Sotheby’s. The office environment, moreover, sure beat consulting.

“It’s like working in a museum, only the exhibit changes every third day,” she said.

After a few years, Pearl moved on to Circline.com, an Internet initiative to build a worldwide database of arts and fine furnishings as a marketplace for collectors and interior designers.

In March 2001, she began developing her own venture, Aston Pearl, for which she’s currently seeking angel investors. She offers a fee-based service advising high net-worth individuals on the purchase, sale and management of non-financial assets, including everything from art and antiques, to real estate, to yachts and jewelry. “We help our clients maximize the value of their non-financial assets – to create a plan analogous to their financial plan, and to deploy a team of professionals to assist in its implementation.”

Despite the shift in focus since business school, Pearl feels her MBA provided a critical foundation for her new arena.

“I would never have been able to develop the functional specialty in marketing strategy and segmentation without HBS,” she said. “The contacts I developed while at HBS, and using the HBS alumni network, have been critical to finding investors, strategic partners, and clients for Aston Pearl.”

This article was gathered by Rebecca Walden (OJ), VP External Relations for the WSA