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IMG_0859.JPGIt’s been a busy few weeks for members of Kellogg’s Women’s Business Association. One of the key parts of programming in our mission to connect, support, and develop Kellogg women involves hosting business leaders for small group dinners. Students recently took advantage of two of these dinners, where they were able to learn from and network with three successful and inspirational women.


Written by Giulia Gargioni

 We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Leila Velez, founder and CEO of Beleza Natural. In partnership with Kellogg’s LAHIMA (Latin American Hispanic & Iberian Management Association), the WBA had dinner with Leila to talk about a range of topics, including leadership, life, and managing a growing business.

I was struck by Leila’s kind personality and her willingness to share so much of her story with us. She answered every single question we had very frankly, and always with a smile on her face.

Her story is truly nothing short of inspiring. From humble beginnings, she and her partner dedicated more than 10 years of spare time and weekends to developing a hair treatment product that loosens and decreases volume of curly hair. Even after they developed a successful product, few people had faith they could reach a middle-class target in Brazil profitably.

Undeterred, they founded Beleza Natural (Portuguese for Natural Beauty), an institute that provides a unique service targeted at a largely overlooked segment of Brazilian customers: afro-Brazilian and mixed-race women.

The success of Beleza Nautral relied heavily on word-of-mouth advertising in the market. Today their reputation has reached far and wide, and clients would travel from neighboring cities to have their hair treated at Beleza Natural salons.

Leila was recognized as one of Brazil’s Most Influential Women in 2007 and her co-founder, Zica Assis, was named in Forbes’ 10 Most Powerful Businesswomen in Brazil in 2013.

Leila’s story really shows that enduring success does not “just happen.” It is cultivated with hard work, intelligence, patience and passion. I walked away from the dinner feeling inspired by the story of this fantastic leader. It’s nights like these that make me realize how valuable the Kellogg experience outside the classroom can be.


Written by Ivy Lee

Kellogg alum Ivy Walker ’98 has a background that includes a wide range of entrepreneurial experiences in both for-profit and not-for-profit/social venture settings. She is currently CEO of Helios Digital Learning, an ethics and anti-fraud training firm.

Monisha Lozier ’01 is a co-founder and partner at Bellwether, where she blends her passion for the education reform community for K-12th grade with 15+ years of executive search and career coaching experience.

The two recently sat down with a group of Kellogg women to help spotlight entrepreneurship opportunities in education and entrepreneurship, as well as share some of the challenges and opportunities that come with starting your own business.

I learned a lot from both Ivy and Monisha but wanted to share my top three takeaways. First, both Ivy and Monisha iterated that education is an area ripe with innovation. While the industry has transformed in many aspects over the past decade or so, it still continues to need bold thinkers to drive the discussions forward. This is a key objective that drives the missions of Helios Digital Learning and Bellwether.

Second, from an entrepreneurship perspective, it is critical to listen and infer from the customer voice in early stage ventures. In addition, an entrepreneur must set goals in each business stage and measure performance before moving into the next stage.

The last point was a more personal one. Discrimination arises in the workplace in all shapes and forms. We must rise above it by allowing our work to speak for itself and refusing to let it define or hinder us.

Giulia Gargioni is Brazilian and a first-year student in Kellogg’s Full-Time Two-Year MBA program. She serves as Director of Internal Relations for the WBA. Prior to Kellogg, she worked as a consultant at Bain & Company and an active member of the Women @ Bain initiative.

Ivy Lee is a first-year student in Kellogg’s Full-Time Two-Year MBA program with a focus on Entrepreneurship. She serves as a Director of Alumni Relations for the WBA. Prior to Kellogg, she worked on customer strategy for Capital One, particularly in the small business space.