Profile: Meredith Lincoln '00 and Leslie Sagalowicz '00
Kellogg peers feed their entrepreneurial urge by launching
a venture that delivers a nutritious snack for pregnant women
'00 and Leslie Sagalowicz
connected immediately at a 1999 happy hour for aspiring entrepreneurs.
The two Kellogg School Class of 2000 graduates had some important
things in common.
predilection for business went back two generations in Lincoln's
family: Her mother owns a travel agency and her grandfather
owned a butcher shop. Sagalowicz (pictured, left, with Lincoln),
meanwhile, had decided to leverage her experience as a political
campaign veteran to make a difference in the commercial world.
began planning their own business, along with friend and fellow
Kellogg alum Laura Hollister '00. The trio quickly realized that their idea
for a men's spa, complete with stock tickers, mahogany wood
and a special skin-care line, required too much capital to
ended up being a very good exercise in defining a business
that hadn't been created before," says Sagalowicz.
34, and Sagalowicz, 33, stayed in their upwardly mobile careers
but remained vigilant for a viable entrepreneurial path.
to enrolling at the Kellogg School, Sagalowicz worked in politics
and government, and in 1996 the democratic foundation she
led helped elect Loretta Sanchez, a Latina from Orange County,
to Congress. After Sagalowicz earned her MBA, she joined Siebel
Systems and later a software startup.
banking had attracted Lincoln before her Kellogg career, and
she had lived in Argentina. After graduating from Kellogg,
she also joined Siebel Systems, where she worked in the financial
services product management group. She later did a stint in
commercial real estate and for a virtual call-center startup.
again, the two women were inspired in their entrepreneurial
dreams by friends, several of whom were pregnant and lamenting
the lack of great-tasting nutritious snacks. Many of
the women also had trouble swallowing the standard "horse
pills" containing the required vitamins.
and Lincoln spent five months developing a business plan and
analyzing whether a venture serving this niche market was
feasible. They credit lessons learned at Kellogg with helping
them arrive at their conclusions.
duo had saved money for years and, with financial help from
friends and families, started building their business with
a six-figure sum. Sagalowicz also risked making a cold call
to renowned prenatal nutritionist Judith Brown.
told her what we were doing. She loved the idea and put herself
behind it," Sagalowicz says.
Brown became a consultant to NutraBella and lent her expertise.
The result was Bellybar, a soft granola-like treat filled
with nutrition for women before, during and after pregnancy.
founders, who are single and have no children, produced a
"beta" version of Bellybar within six months of
the company's launch and it proved a success. Bellybar is
now sold in more than 1,000 stores, including baby, maternity,
grocery and natural-food stores.
start-up experience hasn't been without a few tough lessons.
Several rivals launched pregnancy nutrition bars just four
months after NutraBella was born.
think, 'Oh my gosh. What should we do?'" says Sagalowicz.
two forged ahead and have differentiated their product from
rivals' through shrewd packaging and marketing. The Bellybar's
wrapping has a window so shoppers can see the fresh ingredients,
and the wrapper's pink and light-blue colors are meant to
evoke soothing feelings while touting the fact that a panel
of obstetricians and gynecologists have given their seal of
and Sagalowicz operate NutraBella from a former Siebel Systems
office in San Mateo, Calif., and expect to hire their first
employees soon. They have formed a partnership with another
30 to 40 people, agencies and companies to conduct sales,
marketing, legal work and research and development.
Kellogg alums intend to make NutraBella profitable within
the next year, and they don't rule out seeking angel or institutional
financing to handle the company's growth.
advice to would-be entrepreneurs? Be prepared, because a new
venture costs twice as much as initially expected and takes
twice as long to gain traction and deliver results. But the
rewards, not unlike those of parenthood, can be rich and sustained.