It might not be the way most people operate, but for Audra Dainora, the more complicated the project, the better.
Dainora spearheaded the massive renovation of Junior League of Boston’s headquarters on Newbury Street, a historic building that took over five years to complete. The all-volunteer, nonprofit organization has “vamped-up” this renovated space in 2015; they fill the building every day with 1,000 all-women members and have started renting space at reduced rates to the surrounding community.
“We wanted to create a space that reflected our long history in Boston, and that also showed we are a forward-thinking organization,” Dainora said of the Junior League of Boston’s new headquarters. “It’s a combination of the old and new … where we can develop the potential of the young women through community programs, volunteerism and more.”
Eric Allon, partner at Bernkopf Goodman LLP, nominated Dainora for a Women of FIRE award. He first met her while organizing a show-house fundraiser in Cambridge as co-chairs of the project. Dainora said during that time Allon helped her “think like a lawyer, negotiate and learn how to approach people.”
“Audra is truly a modern-day renaissance woman … with three young children and a full career, she is very, very impressive,” Allon said.
Earning her doctorate in linguistics at University of Chicago and doing research at MIT as a visiting scholar, Dainora could not anticipate being “thrown into” organizational positions at the Junior League of Boston when she first joined. After planning that complicated but successful event, Dainora said she realized linguistics may not be the only thing that brings her joy.
“I was used to spending a lot of time sitting at home doing research,” Dainora said. “I went from a person who studied alone all day to someone who could juggle huge projects all day, every day.”
Dainora didn’t stop with that fundraising event, and she continued to expand her knowledge of entrepreneurship and real estate by running Ardent Design LLC.
“I discovered that I loved the experience of running huge projects … so I started buying properties and renovating them,” Dainora said of her start with Ardent Design LLC. “The more complicated a project or property, the more exciting it is.”
One of her crowning achievements is Atlantic Pizza Co., a property in Rockport that she renovated into an organic pizzeria for families and locals. Allon said she worked the cash register seven days a week when the restaurant first opened. Her “hands-on” approach helped get the business find its feet, even when she had never experienced the ever-difficult restaurant industry beforehand.
Dainora said the Women of FIRE Award is a way of acknowledging the other people that have helped her achieve, a public recognition of the women she looked up to and that have had such a valuable impact on her life.
“I love what I do,” she said.” You have this one life and you have to fill that life with things and people that you love.”