When Dulce Tanelli embarked on a diet and wellness regime in 2007, her intention was simply to lose weight and feel healthier; at 4’ 11” and 150 pounds, the then 40-year-old Union resident was declared obese by her doctor, and just walking around the block with her dog made her tired.
Her subsequent transformation through diet and exercise was so dramatic, and she became so passionate about the impact her lifestyle changes had on her overall health and well-being, that friends, acquaintances, and even people who’d heard of her through someone else—including dietitians and holistic health professionals—took notice.
Before long, Dulce―winner of this year’s Quick Pitch Competition sponsored by UCEDC and Capital One Bank―found herself running the equivalent of a side business featuring her home-made organic fermented foods and “body ecology” wellness coaching. Her “cultured vegetable” line consists of carefully selected organic vegetables that are combined with a celery-juice brine and culture starter (live bacteria) and allowed to ferment (the microflora consumes the vegetables’ natural sugars). The resulting product is rich in probiotics that improve digestion and absorption of nutrients and build immunity throughout the body.
Growing a Healthy Business
The Quick Pitch Competition, launched in 2012, is designed to give fledgling entrepreneurs a chance to hone their business ideas with the help of experts from Capital One. It’s open to anyone who has graduated from UCEDC’s six-week “Entrepreneurship 101” training program. Dulce enrolled in the program in December 2012, after legally incorporating her venture, Younique Probiotics, LLC, in May. (Dulce says she chose the name “because everyone’s body ecology is unique and the power comes from finding what works for you.”)
By that time she had years of personal experience with her product as well as the insights that come with it, and had trained as a certified body ecologist with the international leader in the field. She was working out of a rented commercial kitchen and had launched a website offering online sales that quickly attracted customers from all over the country. However, after reading a newspaper article about UCEDC’s business training she “realized after starting the business I really knew nothing about running it!”
Through the Entrepreneurship 101 workshop, Dulce received encouragement as well as expert guidance from UCEDC’s business specialists. “I realized I had made so many mistakes…and at one point I was at the verge of quitting,” Dulce recalls. “But they do not give up on you. They were amazing. I got all the tools to fix mistakes and be smarter. And it doesn’t end when the class ends. I can still call and email them anytime.
The True Test
When Dulce heard about the Quick Pitch competition, she was up for the challenge. As one of the finalists, she was paired with a mentor from Capital One who helped her prepare her pitch for the final review. “He’s a VP so at first I was intimidated,” Dulce says of her mentor, Ken Shah. “But he’s so down to earth…He stayed after hours to work with me, tweaking over and over and providing constructive criticism. He had so much to offer…He was just amazing.”
By the time she had to make her 5-minute pitch to an independent panel of judges, Dulce “felt great” about her presentation. The judges clearly concurred, deeming her presentation “very well organized with a good level of detail” and calling her business identity “very well thought out,” adding that “she had an extremely compelling personal story.”
“Small business is the backbone of our economy – when small businesses do well, jobs are created and communities are strengthened,” said Lisa Rasp-Chalkan, UCEDC board member and Executive Vice President, Loan Administration, Commercial Banking, Capital One Bank. “At Capital One, we’re committed to helping small businesses of every size grow and thrive – whether it’s directly through our products and services, or through innovative programs and partners like UCEDC.”
Dulce has invested the $1,000 award generously donated by Capital One Bank back into her business as she continues working on getting her product into local health food stores and consulting with holistic health practitioners and their patients. In the longer term, she envisions bringing her products to larger retailers, moving into a more spacious and sophisticated commercial kitchen, and even opening her own wellness center where she can bring her dietary products and coaching under one roof.
Learn more at: http://www.youniqueprobiotics.com