When Kipenzi Chidinma founded LINĒIJ™ in 2015, she became the first person of Turks and Caicos descent to launch a sustainably sourced, bespoke, luxury fashion brand. The company manufactures luxury apparel, private label items, personal protective equipment, bespoke executive/promotional gifts, and footwear for adults/children, and has offices in New Orleans, Istanbul, and Los Angeles. In 2021, Kipenzi was featured on the Forbes Next 1000 List.
Kipenzi Chidinma was working at Siemens as a research scientist when she had the opportunity to join a management program for employees that had been with the company for under six years. “I signed up to be in the management program,” Kipenzi says, “and you got to shadow people from different departments. And I shadowed someone from the marketing department. I was like ‘this is what I want to do. I want to get out of the lab.’” However, Kipenzi, who had studied criminal justice and biology as an undergraduate at Cal State Los Angeles, knew that trying to get into marketing with her degree would be difficult. Ultimately, Kipenzi chose to return to school to pursue an MBA. “I initially looked at a lot of different programs that were offered,” Kipenzi recalls. However, Woodbury’s flexibility and the fact that its MBA program contained an ethics course caught Kipenzi’s attention, and she decided to attend the School of Business to earn her MBA.
At Woodbury, Kipenzi found that she benefited from the small class sizes. “I loved that the professors were more engaging,” says Kipenzi, “and maybe it would have to do with the class sizes because, you know, when you get to a graduate program, your class sizes shrink so you’re able to get that one-on-one interaction with your professors.” This allowed Kipenzi to build stronger relationships with School of Business faculty members, such as Dr. Joan Marques, Dean of the Woodbury University School of Business. “Dr. Marques is one of my mentors. We established a relationship at school and then after school she’s always been absolutely amazing. I think going to a university that had a smaller class size definitely helped with that,” Kipenzi says. In addition to helping to form strong relationships with faculty, the smaller class sizes also helped Kipenzi and her classmates form lasting friendships. “I feel like you’re more connected with your classmates than you are in a larger setting,” sates Kipenzi, “so a lot of my classmates that I had a Woodbury, we’re all actually still friends now, and I found that to be really important to me.”
Beyond forming lasting mentorships and friendships, the School of Business had an important impact on the trajectory of Kipenzi’s life and career. While a student at Woodbury, Kipenzi took advantage of the opportunity to study abroad in Turkey. “That completely changed the trajectory of just everything,” Kipenzi recalls, “for me, that was a life changing trip.” Kipenzi says, “I live in Turkey, I started a business in Turkey…I spend most of my year in Turkey.” Kipenzi credits Woodbury with providing her the opportunity to discover the country that has had a profound impact on her. “I love it,” Kipenzi states, “and definitely, if it [were not] for that exchange program and going to Woodbury, I definitely don’t think I would have had that opportunity.”
The courses Kipenzi took in her MBA program also influenced how she does business to this day. Kipenzi notes that the value she received from the MBA program was “the ethical standpoint. The looking at business and understanding the holistic approach to doing business and being in business.” Kipenzi acknowledges that the business world is often perceived as “[looking] like it’s really corporate and it’s really black and white.” However, she says, “Woodbury really helped me to see that it’s not always black and white, that there are emotions and feelings and things that you can’t place a dollar amount on.” Kipenzi credits the ethics courses she took while at Woodbury for helping her develop this perspective. “I think I must have taken three or four of the business ethics courses and I loved every last one of them,” Kipenzi recalls, “and so, it really helped to shape how I approach my own business and what I look for when I’m looking to do business with someone.” Kipenzi explains, “[Woodbury] helped me to really develop that empathetic side of me when it comes to business and really look for companies and partnerships where we’re dealing with each other from a more holistic standpoint.”
Since earning her MBA in 2012, Kipenzi has held corporate positions with companies such as JustFab and Yamaha Audio, before starting her own company, LINĒIJ™. She also returned to her other alma mater, Cal State Los Angeles, where she works as a professor. “I teach introductory marketing and international business there, and I love it,” Kipenzi says. Additionally, Kipenzi was featured on the 2021 Forbes Next 1000 list, which Kipenzi considers to be one of her greatest accomplishments. Kipenzi says her journey since graduating has been “amazing,” and credits the path she has been on to her study abroad trip in Turkey. “I would say it definitely all started with that one little trip,” states Kipenzi, “that one trip to Turkey when I did study abroad completely changed how I was going to approach life and where my career was going to go.” Her advice to prospective and current students is “to be open, receptive to people from different cultures… put your best foot forward, and just come with a positive attitude and really ready to work. It’s not going to be easy, but it’s going to be worth it when you finish.”
Last Updated on July 7, 2022.