Interview with Miraya Berke, Founder of Dessert Goals and Rom Com Fest

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Meet Dessert Goals and Rom Com Fest (this June 20-23 in LA) founder Miraya Berke (full-time freelance since 2014 btw) about how she found serious business niches in the most unexpected places: desserts and rom coms. Interviewed by LAMARKS.

LAM: Miraya, you were full time freelance producing events for private clients and organizations before you started Your Own Thing: how did you make the shift, and what are the differences / similarities between Freelance and the Founder Life? Maybe a single piece of advice for a freelancer looking to found her own thing?

MB: I always wanted to have my own biz. Doing freelance events, survival was all about the biz dev to get clients in the door. When I started Dessert Goals with my co-founder Liang, I saw that was so fun and rewarding. There was no “waiting game” for clients to hire me for their events. I made the timelines and knew what to expect, no ups and downs between busy months and dry months, etc. There are so many stresses that come with having your own business, but at the end of the day, I have more control. I map out my own destiny.
One thing that helped make that shift? Having a partnership helped share the weight of the stress. I had someone else with skin in the game. Stress arises with partnership but the camaraderie and team effort really helps. And of course, continuing to take clients and taper them down over time helped the transition too.

LAM: So, Dessert Goals was you and Liang’s baby for three years. Where did the idea for Rom Com Fest come in? Are you a film junky? How did you find this insane untapped niche?

MB: The exact moment was September 2018. I was in Boise, Idaho planning a conference. I just finished it, completely drained and exhausted, and watched To All The Boys I Loved Before + Sarah Burgess Is A Loser, back to back. They were so joyful, fulfilling, warm… they made me feel like I was getting hugged and could relax. Rom Coms have been a safe space for me, and made me feel loved and protected. Walking around Boise the next day, there was a poster for a niche horror film festival. I thought… why not not a festival for rom coms?? I googled around and found nothing. I thought, I have to make this happen. I love film festivals - I’ve been to Sundance 12 years in a row. But other film festivals didn’t have the experiential and cute component that dessert goals had. I knew I could make something more immersive.

LAM: And now it’s about to happen! Ok so let’s talk rom coms and women. Of course, when I think “rom com” I think Nora Ephron at best, Freddy Prinz Jr circa 1999 at worst. I don’t think “woke” or “feminist” or “inclusive” at all, unfortunately. But I noticed your lineup has lots of classics, but also has fresh new takes that are not “boy meets girl” stereotypical at all. How did you shape the festival for a 2019 audience as opposed to for pure nostalgia?

MB: I had a vision of new and classic. The nostalgia component is so extreme. Very quotable, very rewatchable. But classic rom coms aren’t the best representation of real LOVE and reality, so I knew I needed fresh takes, and I didn’t want them all to be “happily ever afters.” I wanted to show different representations of what love can look like. I chose five older films and five new ones, and my standard was that I only wanted to feature films with strong female leads, and uplifting stories.

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LAM: What is a cringey classic film that just doesn’t work any more?

MB: Philadelphia Story is one - she gets slapped right at the beginning then falls in love with that guy. Bringing Up Baby is another - the leading lady is just a whiny girl the whole time, it’s not relatable. His Girl Friday however, still holds up. The heroine is a career woman super ahead of her time. That screening is actually followed by a panel on the future of rom coms from the LA Women’s Film Collective.

LAM: Have you gotten any pushback? Any naysayers or haters?

MB: For the most part, it’s all been really well-received. Someone on twitter said he wanted to see something with non-heteronormativity. But I replied to him, describing the LGBTQ+ new film Two In the Bush, and he took it back (laughs).


LAM: Your niches are very lighthearted, some would even say “girly”. Many female entrepreneurs suffer because they feel pressured to be more masculine in leadership. Is the world ready, or shall I say can we push the male-dominated world to become ready, for girly, or highly feminine female founders and leaders?

MB: I would definitely say I am a girly girl. I am very easily pleased by rosé and macarons. And I am also so inspired by listening to podcasts, reading stories featuring the founders of Dry Bar, Olive + June, etc. Seeing huge businesses blossom out of female-specific products, women making money and having more and more space - all these things drive me to want to do more. I’m definitely interested in purchasing something if it’s for women, by women. For example, I wanted to find a rosé owned by a woman. So many were just men! Finally I found Lorenza rosé, founded by two women. I would rather support a female owned thing.

LAM: Amazing, can’t wait to try the wiiiiine. Leave us with a bit of advice. Some words of wisdom. How would you recommend a young freelancer start making a transition to a founder role, start growing her own ideas?

MP: Honestly, one major thing to keep in mind is that we all just have to start somewhere. When I started, I made a dream list of all the people I wanted to work with, partner with, get sponsorships from… and then just started knocking on those doors. (via email - I do my biz dev outreach exclusively through email, and send hundreds of emails for every category I am looking for. Eventually the right person gets to it. And I always look for advice and help from people that have more expertise. Be mindful of your timing (aka look at their Instagram and see if they are posting they are on vacation or prepping for some huge event, then wait to send the email till a time you think they’ll have more bandwidth to respond) have a clear ask, reference something specific about why you want to speak to them in particular. Then press send!

As a special treat for the Freelancing Females community, Miraya made us a unique code (FREELANCINGFEMALES) that is good for BOGO tickets on all of the new film screenings. Snag tix quick, the code is only valid during presales, until 6/16!


Meet the Author

LAMARKS is a queer woman lady boss, founder + CEO of experiential poetry agency Ars Poetica, providing entertainment and creative content for events and individuals around the world. She and her 35 artists have written poetry for icons like Queen Latifah, Alyson Stoner, Rufus Wainwright, Hillary Clinton, and Meryl Streep, among many more. They host their own events too, and have a new series of handmade poetic talismans to benefit Planned Parenthood.

Tia Meyers