Business leadership for good
From class president to social entrepreneur, Lori Samuels '86 drives change for the better
During her very first week at Kellogg, Lori
Samuels witnessed the school's legendary
teamwork firsthand. A fellow student was
seriously injured in a cycling accident. Though
the school year had just begun, and friendships
had yet to gel, the entire class rallied so
the injured student didn't miss a beat; they
surrounded him with support so he could stay
current with his school work in hopes of being
able to graduate on time. He did.
This compassionate camaraderie epitomizes
Kellogg leadership for Samuels: "Business
school doesn't immediately call to mind words
like ‘collaborative' and ‘kind,'" she says with a
laugh, "yet, Kellogg attracts this type of student
and fosters this culture."
As class president, Samuels proactively elicited
the best ideas from her peers, and with them,
launched new endeavors such as an annual
student yearbook and student government
campaign finance guidelines.
Kellogg's legacy of spirited teamwork has
shaped Samuels' career at every turn. At her
first job after graduate school, she bristled at a
lone wolf, competitive environment, immediately
left and landed a product management position
at Ralston-Purina where the community more
closely reflected her Kellogg experience. From
there, she went on to Colgate-Palmolive before
taking time to raise her three children and share
her marketing expertise as a volunteer and
consultant to nonprofit organizations.
A vacation in Venice unexpectedly sparked
a new business venture. Samuels discovered
silver jewelry made in the Dolomite region of
northern Italy. "Everyone back home wanted it,"
she recalls. "I searched for someone to sell the
pieces in the States." Ultimately, that "someone"
turned out to be Samuels, herself.
Launching brick and mortar retail was outside
of her wheelhouse, but "I knew from my Kellogg
experience that oftentimes you know enough
to know that you don't know enough, and when
it came to the world of retail, I certainly didn't
know enough." So she sought out people with the
knowledge, experience and expertise who did.
Giving back was a priority for her, and Samuels
chose to donate profits to an organization
dedicated to autism research and education.
As her business grew, she began adding more
accessories, and noticed a dearth of highquality,
vibrantly-colored leather goods. So, she
decided to start One Odd Bird, a leather line
designed to fill that void in the market. As that
business began to grow and take up most of
her time, Samuels decided to close her store
and focus solely on her new label — selling
online and through other retailers.
Though Samuels' career has evolved, the
lessons from that first week at Kellogg remain
constant: "I surround myself with smart,
collaborative people. I work to understand and
meet the needs of my market, and successes
power something positive."