FORTUNE -- Beatrice Mwasi was looking for a spark. The founder of Sanabora Design House had founded a leather workshop in Kenya a decade ago and transformed it into a broad accessories and home goods business with more than 3,000 affiliate producers throughout Kenya. But her company's growth had slowed, and Mwasi felt frustrated.
That's just when the U.S. Embassy in Kenya reached out to Mwasi to apply for the 2013 Fortune/U.S. State Department Global Women Leaders Mentoring Partnership. The program, supported by Vital Voices, is an extension of Fortune's annual Most Powerful Women Summit. Mwasi applied, was selected by Fortune from among 109 applicants, and then was stunned when she learned who her mentor would be: Martha Stewart. "I thought, No way. Maybe they're talking about another Martha Stewart," says Mwasi, tearing up as she remembers the moment.
During the past month, Mwasi and 27 other rising-star women from 17 countries were in the U.S. shadowing participants of the Fortune MPW Summit. Of all the mentees--at companies such as Citigroup (C), IBM (IBM), and Google (GOOG)--Mwasi's experience stands out because she's now on a first-name basis with NBC Today host Matt Lauer, met Stewart's famous dogs, and also took home to Kenya lessons from the living brand herself and the crew at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (MSO).
Consistency. "For her, entrepreneurship doesn't end within the office walls," says Mwasi about Stewart. Mwasi spent a weekend at Stewart's home in Bedford, N.Y., and was amazed how the Martha brand syncs with Stewart's personal life. "She runs her home the way she runs her business: well-organized and structured," Mwasi says. "She believes we can make life what we want to see."
The power of no. "In Africa, we're more accommodating," says Mwasi about life at home vs. life in the Martha universe. During a "how-to" shoot for Stewart's home goods that are sold at Home Depot (HD), Stewart stopped the cameras over a particular floor mat that she deemed unacceptable--and the video didn't get done that day. "It's good to be firm," Mwasi concluded. "I realized you don't have to feel pressured to compromise."
Collaboration. "I admire how they translate an idea quickly into products," says Mwasi, who went to MSLO's weekly Ops meetings. "Ops" is short for opportunities. Department heads come together to report on their businesses and brainstorm opportunities. Mwasi also liked the "talking walls" at MSLO headquarters: giant inspiration boards that employees can write on to crowd-source design ideas.
Before she went back to Africa, Mwasi asked Stewart about surviving her five month prison stay in 2005. Stewart told her that she drew inspiration from role models like Hillary Clinton and President Obama--who demonstrate how to "stand tall" when the going gets tough.
Now home in Kenya, Mwasi plans to reorganize her management team and raise the bar on her company's policies and systems. Armed with fresh insights about American consumers, she hopes to sell her products in the U.S. Is a co-designed Martha Stewart/Beatrice Mwasi line in the works? "We haven't discussed that," Mwasi says, laughing. "But Kenya would be honored."
When Martha Stewart appeared in court in downtown Manhattan today--her first time in a courtroom since 2004, when she was convicted of lying about a stock trade to the government--she took a brand new tack, style-wise.
In place of the extravagant Birkin handbag that critics clutched upon to cast Stewart as a diva hardly relatable to her middle-class customers, she carried a bag that ordinary folk can afford: a walnut-colored Avery MOREPatricia Sellers - Mar 5, 2013 3:43 PM ET
Gilt Groupe CEO Susan Lyne has joined the board of AOL--soon to be spun off from Time Warner (TWX).
Does Lyne love trouble, or what? Five years ago, after Martha Stewart began her five-month prison stint in West Virginia, Lyne stepped up from the Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (MSO) board to be CEO of the company--and worked, eventually hand in hand with Martha, to rebuild the crippled company.
That was a slog MOREPatricia Sellers - Nov 6, 2009 11:32 AM ET
"One plus one equals three." That's what Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (MSO) chairman Charles Koppelman said last July after the company appointed Wenda Millard and Robin Marino co-CEOs.
I -- and many investors -- expressed skepticism. Co-CEO set-ups are so unusual that during the past decade, among Fortune 500 companies, only 15 such arrangements have existed. Koppelman literally wagered that the co-CEO set-up at his company would flourish. "I'll bet you MOREPatricia Sellers - Apr 21, 2009 12:21 PM ET
Here's the fourth and final criterion for making the Fortune Most Powerful Women List: social and cultural influence. It's certainly more difficult to measure than revenues or profits, the health of a business, or even the arc of a woman leader's career. But vast social and cultural influence is precisely why Oprah Winfrey ranks No. 8 on our list. Her company, Harpo, is privately held and nowhere near the size MOREPatricia Sellers - Jul 17, 2008 12:03 PM ET
High-placed media-industry sources tell me that Susan Lyne has been in touch with Oprah and her folks about running OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network. Lyne, who quit the CEO post at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (MSO) last week, won't comment. Nor will Oprah. But the cable startup—a joint venture of Oprah's Harpo Inc. and Discovery Communications that's due to launch in September 2009— would be a natural fit for Lyne, MOREPatricia Sellers - Jun 18, 2008 2:59 PM ET
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