The Zell Fellows Program at the Kellogg School of Management was thoughtfully designed to be a unique, applied entrepreneurial experience for a select number of MBA candidates interested in starting a new venture or acquiring an existing one. Fellows accepted into the program receive a wealth of benefits including industry-specific mentorship, financial resources, access to the Zell Global Entrepreneur Network, and the opportunity to visit successful entrepreneurs both domestically and internationally.
Since the launch of the Fellowship during the 2013-2014 academic year, 123 alumni have participated in the New Venture Track and continue to boast impressive stats; 77 ventures launched during the start of the program remain active today with a combined $705M+ in funding.
Historically, The Garage’s student community at Kellogg has also been highly involved with the Zell Fellowship. Congratulations to the six 2023-2024 Zell Fellows who are also active community members at The Garage!
Learn more about the Fellows - and the startups they’re building - below.
Curiosity has always been Akito’s driving force. It led him to live and work in seven countries, always drawn to new technologies. Akito has always been passionate about using technology to create a lasting impact on society. Before joining Kellogg, he spent 10 years in the fintech and payment sector, experiencing both technical and business roles.
After working as a full-stack software engineer in Japan, Akito played a key role in turning around a deficit company in Thailand as its Project Management Officer and Chief of Staff. In Vietnam, Akito introduced the country’s first multi-payment platform, setting new industry standards. Through these experiences in a startup environment, Akito felt a deep connection with both people and business which fueled him to pursue entrepreneurship.
His extensive experience in emerging markets, where technology aims to unlock the potential of small businesses with limited resources, led to his realization. Despite the abundance of small businesses in the United States and the availability of advanced technologies, the financial ecosystem often falls short in providing adequate support. That is when he decided to start Kitchen Kapital.
About Kitchen Kapital
Kitchen Kapital provides tailored and accessible financial options for small food service with alternative credit scoring models using Data/ML. Our mission is to provide superior risk visibility to democratize financial options for small foodservice.
Founder and COO of Boardible, a board game platform, Gabriela Fusco Mendes is a data-driven entrepreneur with a passion for strategy, product management, and user research. From investment banking to marketing performance, Gabriela is a well-rounded generalist player in both gaming and reality - she can understand and act on opportunities fast.
After majoring in Electronics Engineering at the University of Sao Paulo, Gabriela started her career in finance, working at Estater and Evercore as an Investment Banker.
Gabriela’s interest in working with games was born when she answered a call about a position at Wildlife Studios, the largest mobile gaming company in Latin America. She wondered if she was even allowed to have this much fun at work. At Wildlife, Gabriela learned SQL and Python Spark to create the first automated budget in the company. One year and a lot of downloads later, Gabriela became a Product Marketing Manager, leading marketing decisions for three games (tens of millions of dollars in marketing spend).
Boardible was born at the end of 2021 with a dream and an MVP. Small and big publishers followed fast - today Boardible has 11 different partners with 20 games in a queue for production. In 2023, Boardible achieved 30K downloads (mostly organic) and a pre-seed investment from Canary (Brazil) and FJ Labs (US).
Gabriela represented Boardible on many occasions, winning #2 at the at the Kellogg Venture Challenge, the Michael Van Alstine prize at the Rice Business Competition, and semifinalist at VentureCat. Gabriela also worked at Riot Games as an Insights Analyst intern.
Boardible is a digital board game marketplace that offers an immersive experience for players and a no-code game development engine for board game publishers.
Kimberley Charles is the Founder and CEO of Cane Cutter’s Rum, Guyanese-made rum that honors the history and legacy of the rum industry and the people that made it. A first-generation Guyanese-American, Kimberley has spent most of her life trying to understand her own ancestry. Her family’s story never appeared in a history book; instead, Kimberley learned most of her ancestry around a dinner table through her family’s stories. Kimberley is the direct descendant of Indian indentured servants who were tricked by the British into debt bondage with false promises of a new life in South America. These indentured servants—cane cutters— left their homes for grueling labor cutting sugar cane on plantations and became the backbone of the rum industry. Kimberley wants to continue sharing authentic familial stories over drinks and started Cane Cutters to keep the story of her ancestors alive in a liquor industry filled with pirates and plantations.
Kimberley started her career at Deloitte Consulting as a strategy consultant. At Deloitte, she advised federal cabinet-level agencies on innovation and modernization and later supported Deloitte’s Policy & Government Relations office with a focus on federal government outreach. Prior to joining Deloitte, Kimberley pursued a career in diplomacy at the U.S. Department of State Office of Global Criminal Justice and the U.S. Embassy in Bridgetown, Barbados. Kimberley graduated from Brown University with a BA in Political Science. She is currently pursuing a JD/MBA at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law and Kellogg School of Management.
About Cane Cutter’s Rum
Cane Cutter’s Rum celebrates rum’s history through both name and spirit. The name refers to those who toiled in life-threatening conditions to bring us the spirit we continue to enjoy to this day. The spirit is sourced from Demerara Distillers Limited in Guyana, renowned for producing some of the world’s finest rums.
Founder and creative force behind Desperado Denim, Lucy is on a mission to elevate western fashion.
At just 15 years old, Lucy embarked on her first entrepreneurial journey with the launch of her venture, Lulu's. Imagine Spanx for young girls where the undergarment is less about shaping and more about staying fashionable while following school dress code. Dissatisfied with wearing plain spandex shorts under dresses for school dances, Lucy began sewing lace onto the shorts to add a touch of elegance. This early venture laid the foundation for her future in the world of fashion.
During her undergraduate studies at the University of Michigan, Lucy joined the Entrepreneurs Leadership Program (ELP), where she used her competitive and sporty side to create an online platform that provided affordable sports opportunities for underserved youth.
Seeking to expand her knowledge and work across various industries, Lucy became a management consultant at Boston Consulting Group (BCG) in Denver, Colorado. Falling in love with the Western way of life, she decided to stay and put down roots in the community.
Lucy's love for Western fashion led her to explore customization, including hats, belt buckles, and boots. When she realized there was a gap in the market for customized apparel, she tapped into her sewing and craftsmanship skills to launch Desperado Denim.
With a life motto of "look good, feel good, do good," Lucy is committed to offering products that make people not only look good but also feel confident and empowered.
About Desperado Denim
Desperado Denim is a western apparel brand created to inspire those who identify with the American Western way of life to live with authenticity and unity.
Rahul is the co-founder of Borrough, a platform to share household items in large apartment buildings. Growing up in Bangalore, India, during the city's transformation into India's Silicon Valley, Rahul's entrepreneurial spirit was sparked by watching his father start a business when he was just 10 years old.
After graduating from Brown University with a degree in Applied Mathematics and Economics, Rahul began his career as a product manager in Tripadvisor's product rotational program. He eventually joined the Restaurants team where he developed products to help small restaurant owners grow their businesses. He was an integral part of building the Restaurants business from a few hundred customers to 30,000 in just four years. Leading a team responsible for launching new products and services, he discovered his passion for taking ideas from concept to reality.
Rahul came to Kellogg to further develop his 0-1 skills and become a world-class early-stage operator. This led him to co-found Borrough with Elliot Hall (Kellogg 1Y 2024). When they moved into their Evanston apartment building, it struck them as odd that in a time when people rent cars, clothes, and desire to live sustainability, they still had to buy everything for their homes. Borrough was born from this incongruity, aiming to make sharing household items between neighbors effortless and to maximize the collective resources of the community. Notably, Borrough took home first place and $10,000 at The Garage’s Jumpstart Demo Day, in addition to advancing to the finals of VentureCat in the same year.
Rahul's journey exemplifies a commitment to innovation and growth, and with Borrough, he's focused on making daily living easier and more sustainable, one shared item at a time.
Borrough is a marketplace that enables building residents to share household items with their neighbors. We believe that buying everything that you might need at home is expensive, wasteful, and impossible to store. By making sharing between building residents frictionless, Borrough strives to encourage sustainable living while fostering a tighter-knit sense of community among apartment residents.
Scott is driven by a passion for harnessing technology to foster self-improvement and empowerment. Having experienced the transformative impact of strength training in his own life, he founded Olympus to share its remarkable benefits with others.
While he first turned to weightlifting as a means of staying active after years of team sports, Scott soon discovered that the mental and psychological dividends of strength training far exceeded the physical aspects. Setting goals, holding himself accountable, and tracking performance metrics define both his approach to fitness and how he continues to build Olympus.
Olympus represents a culmination of Scott’s personal and professional experiences. While platforms such as Strava and Peloton grew by fostering strong online communities for runners and cyclists, strength training remained an analog and isolated experience. Scott saw this as an opportunity to apply his product expertise to a currently underserved market.
As CEO of Olympus, Scott continues to lead with empathy and consumer centricity. With over 100 hours of user interviews and an unwavering commitment to product improvement, Olympus is truly built by, for, and with its users. This approach has paid off. Just one month after launch, the Olympus community logged over 250 workouts and lifted over 20M pounds of weight.
Olympus is a mobile platform that empowers everyone to find strength in numbers. With a hyper-flexible tracking interface, intuitive data visualizations, and the support of like-minded athletes, Olympus provides the accountability, motivation, and community needed to achieve fitness and wellness goals.
Congratulations to our six Zell Fellows representing The Garage - we can't wait to see where this journey takes you!