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How a Mongolian Organic Skincare Entrepreneur Overcame the Odds

July 14, 2017, 7:18 PM UTC

Starting your own business is never easy, but for Khulan Davaadorj the struggle was only amplified by doing it as a woman in Mongolia.

“Because it’s a developing country and because it only has 3 million people, it’s quite difficult to be an entrepreneur especially when you’re young and a female,” she says.

Davaadorj was one of 21 women business leaders who traveled to the U.S. this spring for the Fortune/U.S. State Department Global Women’s Mentoring Partnership. In its 12th year, the program matches women from countries ranging from Argentina to Zimbabwe with some of the top female executives in the U.S. This year’s mentors hailed from companies including Fidelity, Mastercard (MA), IBM (IBM), Accenture, and Johnson & Johnson (JNJ). The non-profit Vital Voices runs the orientation and debriefing piece of the programming and stays connected to alumnae when they return to their home countries.

Davaadorj, who is founder of an organic skin care line called LHAMOUR out of Mongolia, was partnered with reusable water bottle company S’well as part of the program.

“There are countries where women have so many struggles in even getting a business started,” says Kate Lubenesky, S’well’s VP of sales strategy and business development, who was one of Davaadorj’s mentors. “For them to see women who are succeeding and have faced challenges and overcome them, I think it’s incredibly important to spread that—not just internally in the U.S but globally.”

S’well founder Sarah Kauss said the two companies had “really good synergy,” adding: “I think it’s hard to draw the line between who was teaching who and who was learning from each other.”