Brenda Berg is the president & CEO of BEST NC (Business for Educational Success and Transformation NC), a nonpartisan organization of more than 100 business leaders with a focus on making education in North Carolina the best in the nation.
She has more than twenty years experience as a business owner, public policy professional and education advocate. In 2002, she founded Scandinavian Child, a baby-products manufacturing and importing business. Prior to starting her business, she had almost 10 years of public policy experience in both education and transportation.
Berg’s passion for education stems from her own experience as a first-generation college graduate. She has two children in North Carolina public schools, and she serves on various boards and educational organizations, including Habitat for Humanity of Wake County.
What do you like best about your job? The opportunity to put my passions for both education and business to use in a way that will help North Carolina students reach their greatest potential. I love being a bridge between business leaders, policymakers, educators and students. Each has their own lens, but if we all stay laser-focused on the students and their success, it is amazing what we can accomplish together. The work we are doing at BEST NC is groundbreaking, following in the footsteps of North Carolina’s long history of being a leader in innovation.
What inspires you? Anytime someone says, “You can’t do that!” I am inspired by the students and educators in North Carolina who defy the odds and don’t let challenges get in the way of their success. All too often I hear people say, “They can’t do that because [insert reason – poverty, funding, race, family engagement — you name it].” And yet, across North Carolina there are children and educational professionals who prove those assumptions wrong every single day. Those shining stars are lighting my path in this work that I feel so privileged to do.
Who is a role model? My parents are my role models. They left the comforts of their hometowns to find better educational opportunities for my sister and me. I watched my mom work long hours to put my dad through community college and saw the tears of pride in my grandma’s eyes when her son received the first post-high school diploma in the family. My sister and I are both first-generation (4-year) college graduates, and while we worked hard for that achievement, we did it standing on the shoulders of our two heroes.
What was your biggest challenge this week? Ignoring the headlines and staying positive. I am an eternal optimist, but the increasing social and political polarization is stifling. Luckily, I fuel up on a long list of remarkable friends who are Democrats, Republicans, independents, black, white, Hispanic, you name it … all of whom remind me that we are all better when we are surrounded by diversity and critical friends who challenge our ideas to make them better, not just friends who tell you what you want to hear.
What’s your favorite N.C. vacation spot? The mountains, the coast, the cities… I love them all! I wasn’t born in North Carolina, but I got here as fast as I could. Our family loves taking advantage of all the wonderful natural and cultural experiences North Carolina has to offer.