For Letty Cabrera-Calvo ’14, the LMU EMBA Program was truly a life-changing experience. After taking Dr. David Choi’s “New Venture Startup” course, she discovered a newfound passion for entrepreneurship. The knowledge and skills she gained during her time in the EMBA Program motivated her to start her own business and gave her the confidence to build her company and brand.
Letty is the CEO of Vera Mona LLC, an innovative cosmetics company that she founded in December 2013. In less than a year, the company has taken off thanks to a one-of-a-kind cosmetics tool called Color Switch, which became an overnight sensation within the cosmetics industry. Color Switch is a revolutionary product that allows you to quickly change the color on your eye shadow brush without using a liquid cleanser. Color Switch is already being sold in prestigious cosmetics boutiques worldwide and is especially popular in the Middle East.
Letty says the idea for this product came from the frustration of using multiple brushes when applying eye shadow. She did some online research and discovered there wasn’t a product on the market that addressed this problem. In true entrepreneurial form, she seized the opportunity.
After a successful crowdsourcing campaign to raise initial funds, Letty and her husband launched Vera Mona out of their garage, built a website and found vendors to make the product. To get the word out, she sent product samples to bloggers and posted videos on social media. Response was rapid and positive and it wasn’t long before the business took off. Throughout this entire process, Letty has sought advice and guidance from Dr. Choi as well as entrepreneurship students and alumni who have gone through similar experiences.
“I could tell that Letty had the qualities to become a successful entrepreneur,” said Dr. Choi. “She had the passion, the work ethic, the ability to get things done quickly, expertise in her industry, and she was open to experimenting. I am very proud of what she has accomplished in such a short amount of time. There will be ups and downs and bumps in the road, but she has all the qualities to make it.”
With over 15 years of experience in management, business operations and now entrepreneurship, Letty is fully equipped and determined to pursue her business goals within the cosmetics industry. Prior to starting Vera Mona, Letty worked for McMaster-Carr and Verizon Wireless where she gained finance, sales and operations management experience. She also freelanced as a makeup artist which enhanced her expertise in the cosmetics industry.
“The EMBA Program made me even more business savvy,” said Letty, who has a bachelor’s degree in environmental analysis & design from the University of California, Irvine. “Now when I meet with lawyers, accountants and PR firms, I understand what they’re talking about and can have a conversation about all aspects of a business.”
Born and raised in Los Angeles as the oldest of four children, Letty says her biggest cheerleader growing up was her father, Ramon, who always encouraged his children to work hard and take risks. In a surprising twist, the name Vera Mona – which means “true doll” in Spanish – pays a very special tribute to her father. When Letty and her sister came up with the name, they immediately bought the rights to the website URL. It was then they noticed that their father’s name, Ramon, was spelled out inside the word Vera Mona. Letty still gets emotional when she shares this touching story.
Starting a business is not about making money, she says, it’s about liking what you do every day. At the moment, Letty is focused on transitioning Vera Mona into the big leagues. This means moving business operations out of the garage and into a warehouse with manufacturing and shipping capabilities. She’s also working on expanding her product line to include a new eye shadow palette with Color Switch and an arm band for professional makeup artists.
“I want Vera Mona to be a household name,” said Letty. “I really love this brand and believe it has the potential to do very well. I never really had hopes of being an entrepreneur so this whole thing is a bit surreal. So far, it’s been a success story but we have a long road ahead – I’m excited to see where it takes us.”