Startup Lessons: LA MILLA


The path for startups can be treacherous. In the series “Startup Lessons,” we examine new MBA startups at the ground level to understand how they succeed.

The sustainability adage, often enough, can feel like empty marketing. Consumers want environmentally conscious products, but tracking a company’s real to commitment to that goal can often be difficult. There are, however, a handful of company’s that fulfill that ambition well, like LA MILLA.

Milan-based company LA MILLA, founded by Poland-born Natalia Kalali, is a highly environmentally-conscious fashion retailer, with products made exclusively from Global Organic Textile Standard certified cotton and is completely absent of plastic. In addition, the company has partnered with Eden Reforestation Projects, a California-based NGO, which helps plant five trees for every LA MILLA item sold.

Kalali’s vision, along with the litany of jobs she’s helped cultivate in Italy, partially stems from her MBA education at MIP Politecnico di Milano. “[The] MBA at MIP Politecnico di Milano gave me a very good base and understanding of business in general,” she tells MetroMBA. “Moreover, during my studies, as part of the coursework, I had an opportunity to work on a start-up. It was the Project Work assignment and my first start-up experience.”

For every LA MILLA item sold, the company helps plant five trees.

“MIP Politecnico di Milano has a very good reputation and is well classified in the diverse rankings,” she continues. “What convinced me towards MIP the most was their diverse academic program and an opportunity to work directly with some companies already during the MBA program.”

The Milan school is currently 96th overall in the most recent Financial Times Global MBA ranking, but enjoys top 10 individual rankings by the publication both in “international experience” (10th) and “international faculty” (3rd). That wealth of internationality helped cultivate Kalali’s company.

“I met many people from the business world, which made a great impact on my career, by giving me the opportunity to learn from them, and get more exposure to the actual inside of the world of business,” she says. “Not only academic staff, but also MBA colleagues—everybody with different backgrounds and origin. It was truly a very international and multicultural environment.”

LA MILLA would not exist today if not my international experience and what I have learned by working with people from different cultures and backgrounds. I strive to make LA MILLA an  internationally recognized ECO brand for all ECO conscious women.

However, LA MILLA was not simply born out of Kalali’s academic inspiration; it was also fear. According to the official company website, Kalali says “I was worried about my children’s future.”

Kalali, a mother of two, founded LA MILLA after a particularly difficult transition. After years of maternity leave, she found companies weren’t too eager to hire a young mother. Taking matters into her own hands and with climate degradation in mind, Kalali continued her education with the pursuit of several online courses based out of the U.S. and Canada. “The objective of one of those courses was to develop an app,” she writes. “Once enrolled I learned that I needed to develop my own business idea too. This was truly a groundbreaking moment for my career (…) It became clear to me, that my goal was to open my very own, eco-friendly company!”

As for the future of her company, Kalali believes the future of even more environmentally-conscious consumers will gravitate to LA MILLA, as ECO efforts become more important.

“In the world of internet and easy access to information, consumers are becoming smarter, more informed and aware of what is happening to our climate,” she says. “They are increasingly moving towards sustainable brands. I believe that LA MILLA is on the right path to deliver them the product and the brand that they are searching for.”

For more information, and to shop, head over to the official LA MILLA website.

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About the Author

Matthew Korman

Matthew Korman is a writer on MetroMBA. Since graduating from Rowan University with a degree in journalism and political science, Matthew has worked as a music industry writer and promoter, a data analyst, and with numerous academic institutions. His works have appeared in publications such as NPR and Sports Illustrated.

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