The Curator of People, Dionne M. King

Dionne M. King Photo by Corie English

Dionne M. King can walk into just about any room and strike up meaningful conversations that leave others feeling encouraged about themselves. It’s a skill that was pointed out to her as a teenager growing up in Kansas City, Kansas, and she anchored her career around it.

“I’m a curator of people,” says King. “I love being able to gather and engage people from all walks of life. The most fundamental piece that comes from having that skill set is making people feel heard, making them feel engaged, and motivating them enough to change.”

For the past two decades, King has helped companies learn what building an inclusive culture in the workplace looks like. She started out working with law firms, but six years ago King realized she could make a bigger impact by branching out on her own. 

Now she’s the owner and chief executive officer of DMK Consults, a consulting firm that works with companies locally, nationally, and internationally to grow inclusive cultures through DEI strategizing, executive leadership coaching, and mediation assistance.

“I was in a position where a boss was devaluing me,” says King. “I like to excel at everything that I do, so that was a learning lesson for me. I took that lesson, and I chose to say, ‘from now on I won’t allow anyone to define me.’ I took an introspective look at ‘Who is Dionne? What value do I bring to the room? And that really empowered me.”

Ask King what happened from there and she’ll liken it to jumping out of the plane and building the parachute on the way down. King left her corporate job to launch DMK Consults, not really knowing what to expect. She knew she loved her work. She knew she was good at it. And she knew that somehow, the money would come to support her endeavors.

And build that parachute she did. Six years later King is helping companies across 16 industries create better workplaces. A few of her local clients include the Royals, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, Truman Medical Centers, and Commerce Bank. Nationally, she’s worked with organizations like the U.S. Air Force. And most recently, King added a global magazine company based in Stockholm to her list of clients.

These days, King spends most of her time sitting in board rooms advising CEOs and other high-level executives of Fortune 500 companies. But it wasn’t until she had the opportunity to speak at her son’s school that she really felt the gravity of what she’s accomplished.

“My son thinks I am so uncool. But after I finished talking, one of his friends turned to him and said, ‘man, your mama is cool. She’s tough. She owns her own business.’ And I think it hit that day,” says King. “That to me was the biggest reward. The fact that my son was like, ‘okay, a woman, a Black woman, my mom, can be a CEO and make a difference. I guess she’s a little cool.’”

If you ask King what advice she wishes she’d been given when she first started out with DMK Consults, she’ll give plenty of tips.

First, she’ll point out the need to reach out and create your own network. King built an impromptu advisory board filled with people who would be in her corner—people she could turn to when she needed help with the steps of building a business she was unfamiliar with.

Then, she’ll say, scale your life to fit your goals. When King quit her corporate job one of the first things she did was downgrade her brand-new car to a vehicle without a big monthly payment. She learned where she could make temporary cuts to fund her new business venture, knowing she’d get to a point where she could add those extras back in.

Finally, King notes that you must be willing to make mistakes. “If it doesn’t work, we will pivot. It takes away the big sting of failure—pilot and pivot.” 

“As a woman entrepreneur there are a number of hurdles,” says King. “There will be several ‘no’s’ but there will be many ‘yeses,’ and you have to be willing to work toward that. As an entrepreneur, you have to wake up every day and be willing to say yes to opportunities. Even if you’re not fully equipped or feel as though you don’t have a skill set for it, you will figure it out. You never know where it will lead you and that has proven good for me.”