Lori Castillo

Lori Guzmán-Castillo’s path to earning an MBA from Fisher began more than two decades ago when she first met David Harrison at a National Hispanic Business Association (NHBA) conference in her home state of Texas.

At the time, Lori was attending Texas A&M University and was undergraduate student president of the school’s Hispanic Business Student Association. Harrison was — and still is — leading Fisher’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion Student Services and Corporate and Community Outreach.

“It’s one thing to attend a conference in Texas when you actually live in Texas,” says Lori (MBA ’09). “But Ohio State would really show up — not only was Mr. Harrison traveling to Texas annually but he would bring so many Ohio State students to the conference.”

David Harrison with Lori Castillo and fellow Fisher students in the Officer of Diversity and Inclusion Student Services and Corporate and Community Outreach.
David Harrison with Lori Castillo and fellow Fisher students in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion Student Services and Corporate and Community Outreach.

It made a strong first impression on Lori.

“I remember being impressed that a school would invest so heavily in their Hispanic students,” she says.

A few years after their first meeting Lori was chair of the NHBA Board of Directors and attending a summer leadership chapter conference for NHBA in Columbus, when Harrison walked through the door.

While in Columbus, Lori casually mentioned to David that she was thinking about earning her MBA. He encouraged her to apply to Fisher and was confident that any questions she had about pursuing an MBA at Ohio State could be answered.

“I didn’t really think it would work out,” says Lori. “I applied out of my sense of loyalty to Mr. Harrison more than anything.”

Opening doors

Lori is steadfast in her conviction that education is the catalyst for wealth and change, but she also believes that opportunities open doors to both.

“I’m a first-generation college graduate. There wasn’t a legacy to help me navigate the application process or any other aspect of college or higher education,” says Lori. “Having a connection like Mr. Harrison there to help was everything — he gave me an opportunity.”

Within two weeks of meeting in Columbus, Lori had applied, interviewed and was accepted to Fisher’s Full-Time MBA program. Living in Chicago at the time, she was accepted on a Wednesday and started class in Columbus the following Monday.

“I packed up my little Honda Accord and drove to Columbus,” she says. “I could’ve deferred a year, but I was committed to earning my MBA, and saw no reason to put it off.”

Active at Fisher, Lori was president of the Fisher Latino Graduate Association, the social chair for the 2009 class and coordinator of both the KeyBank Leadership and Creativity Undergraduate Student Symposium and the Key Bank Minority MBA Case Competition. She participated in two study abroad programs in Hong Kong and Germany.

“I applied for scholarships for those opportunities. There’s no way I could have afforded them on my own,” says Lori.

One of the accomplishments she’s most proud of is rebranding the Latino Graduate Association.

“There was a myth that you had to be an international student to join the student group,” says Lori who worked to increase membership and engagement to include American-born students with Latin heritage. “There are opportunities at Fisher. It’s a world-renowned college that advocates and advances international learning, teaching and travel; all students have to do is avail themselves of the opportunities.”

More than a greenhouse

“My motivation to earning my MBA was to help people,” says Lori. “I always thought I’d open up a neighborhood bank that served underrepresented Latinos to help recycle and reuse resources into the community to affect change and prosperity.”

She was all about facts and numbers, which is why she leaned toward the banking industry.

“Then I saw the numbers and facts about consumer psychology, and suddenly, marketing was where I was headed,” she says.

After attending a conference for the National Society of Hispanic MBAs, Lori secured her first post-MBA job with Procter & Gamble (P&G) as an assistant brand manager.

With more than five years in the consumer and product goods beauty industry, Lori now finds herself in another consumer-driven market: produce and agriculture. She is vice president for marketing at NatureSweet.

The industries are different — consumers aren’t as brand-loyal to lettuce as they are to makeup or automobiles. But Lori is taking lessons from the beauty industry and applying them to NatureSweet’s packaged and branded tomatoes. The company’s work is also focused on more than just product quality and packaging — it has a clear vision for its social and sustainability initiatives and is leading the way in transforming the lives of agriculture workers.

Lori Castillo on graduation day.
Lori Castillo with her mom and dad, Lilly and Rudy Guzmán, and her brother, Abraham Guzmán, on graduation day.

“My dad was a migrant worker,” says Lori. “Agriculture workers, especially migrant workers aren’t paid a livable wage, they don’t have health insurance, medical benefits or even year-round jobs. Their economic stability is constantly in jeopardy.”

NatureSweet grows its produce in greenhouses. From a sustainability standpoint, it helps them control the growing environment which cultivates consistent quality in their product and allows them to be good stewards of the environment and the planet.

These greenhouses also help agriculture workers remain connected to a city or community, removing the need to travel in search of work.

“We are investing in communities when we build a greenhouse,” says Lori. “It’s not just about the tomatoes, it’s about the people — paying a living wage, offering health care benefits and year-round employment to our amazing associates.”

“By providing stability, a stationary workplace, we are providing opportunities for economic, professional and academic growth. We are transforming the lives of the people who feed us.”