Columbia Team Wins U.S. L'Oréal Brandstorm Competition for Fourth Year in a Row

three students in front of l'oréal  signFrom left to right: Angie Belloso, Breyona Smith, and Brianna Jennes.
As the U.S. winners, students Angie Belloso, Breyona Smith, and Brianna Jennes earn an all-expense paid trip to London for the next stage of the international competition.

Columbia College Chicago has once again brought home a victory following the U.S. portion of L'Oréal Brandstorm, an annual international student competition that gives students the chance to tackle a real business case, gain new skills, and engage with industry experts. 

This year’s winning team included Angie Belloso, a sophomore in Graphic Design; Breyona Smith, a senior in Fashion Studies; and Brianna Jennes, a senior who also studies Graphic Design.  

They were led by two Fashion Studies faculty members: Dana Connell, associate professor and Reyes Witt, assistant professor of instruction. Connell and Witt co-teach the for-credit course that focuses on preparing students for L'Oréal Brandstorm.  

The Challenge 

This year, L'Oréal challenged student teams to do one of the following: 

  • Reinvent the professional beauty experience for consumers across the world, online and offline, to drive engagement, emotion, and a sense of community. 
  • Put augmented technologies at the service of beauty professionals, to help them guide, diagnose, and predict consumers’ needs.  
  • Envision e-commerce models that transform the professional beauty marketplace, perfectly intertwining online and offline interactions for consumers, in thequest to become the most powerful destination for professional beauty.  

Columbia’s team chose the second option and pitched technology for professional hair stylists, leveraging the power of smart phone technology, AI, and augmented reality that would save stylists and their clients valuable time and promote creativity.  

Each member contributed to the final pitch, with Smith researching and developing the feasibility, scalability, and marketability of their product; Jennes lending her graphic design expertise as well as contributing to the ideation and research for the pitched product; and Belloso creating the one-minute pitch video, researching the sustainability of materials for the pitched product and contributing to the the ideation of the final product.

“I’ve learned so much working on this project. I learned how to adapt quickly and efficiently with such a fast-paced course,” Smith says. “And I learned to not take constructive criticism personally.” 

For Belloso, constructive criticism played a vital role in the process. 

“It really helped push our creative process beyond our initial ideas, leading us to innovate a solution the professional hair industry was lacking.” 

She also learned the importance of having a good team.  

“We were all extremely hands on and provided each other with support when we needed it,” Belloso says.  

They practiced their pitch — which included a three-slide deck and a one-minute video — with professionals, faculty, and even former L'Oréal Brandstorm winners prior to going to New York where they met with L'Oréal.  

L'Oréal executives reviewed 200-plus teams comprised of individuals under 30 from the U.S., with five teams advancing to the finals round. Teams were flown to New York City to present their ideas live at L'Oréal Redken Headquarters.   

“The Columbia team earned distinction by incorporating each of the grading criteria in their concept: innovative, tech-driven, scalable, inclusive, sustainable, and feasible,” Connell. “The team also showed their team spirit and diversity meeting with L'Oréal judges.” 

What’s Next 

L’Oréal experts will mentor the Columbia team over the next several weeks to prepare  them for the final pitch. In early June, they will receive an all-expense paid trip to compete internationally in London. All global winning teams will visit the L’Oréal headquarters in London to pitch their ideas to an executive jury and audience.  

The reward will be an intrapreneurship program, with the winning team getting the chance to work in one of L’Oréal head offices. “This award gives the opportunity to live an intrapreneurship experience with L’Oréal experts,” Connell says.  

“Participating in these types of competitions is so valuable to college students because not only does it teach valuable skills such as ideation, teamwork, and drive but also opens your creativity in ways that you would never have imagined,” Jennes says. 

“I have always dreamed of working at a successful beauty company such as L’Oréal,” Jennes adds. “So, getting this far into the competition is such an honor.”