Life as an entrepreneur - Juliana Romero Guzmán

When she was doing her PhD in Wageningen, Juliana came across what would become the basis of her company. She was so enthused and fascinated by the sustainable extraction of final food products from oil-rich seeds that she knew she had to do something with it. Nowadays, she’s helping companies be more sustainable with her own business, Cano-ela. “I’m very happy and excited that people see its potential: it feels empowering.”

Juliana Romero of Cano-ela

Juliana Romero of Cano-ela

8 years ago, Juliana came to the Netherlands to get a master’s degree and a PhD. During her studies, her enthusiasm for food innovation began to grow. “It’s so fascinating that we just use oil-rich seeds for oil when they also contains other useful components like protein. This discovery means that companies don’t have to get their ingredients from other sources when refining their products, but they can actually remove several ingredients by replacing them with ours,” Juliana explains.

A lot of vitamins, fibers and minerals get lost in refining processes. “Cano-Ela wants to keep those important nutrients in the final product. It’s both healthier and more sustainable, making our work a wonderful and much-needed contribution to the ongoing food transition. We want to contribute to the food industry’s transition to a more plant-based diet.”

Feeling at home

Juliana explains she got the idea for her company during her studies: “I started joining business incubators and following classes that focused on entrepreneurship during my PhD. Before I graduated, I was already a part of the EIT-Food and StartHub.” That’s where her adventure started. “Fortunately, I’ve gathered a great team around me. My co-founder Alberto knows a lot about nutrition, and our two shareholders give great advice for our company’s strategy. I’m very grateful and happy that these people see the potential of Cano-ela.”

For Juliana, Wageningen is a great  location to start her company. “It is a fantastic place for food-related innovation, because there are so many similar businesses here. It makes it really easy to collaborate with people. And thanks to StartLife and the EIT-food network we can contact people who review our plans from time to time. Plus, we also follow lectures on topics like how to negotiate with investors. All these things make this region the perfect place for us.”

Additionally, Dutch people are really open for innovation according to Juliana. “I love that mentality. The Netherlands feel more like home than any other country in Europe.” Its closeness of France and Germany is also very convenient. “The production for our food essentials lies mostly in France, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands, making the Netherlands is the perfect logistic location for us.”

Learning a new business mindset

All these benefits of the region keep Juliana excited. “Even though not everything goes well all the time.” For example, she had to learn how to optimally use the knowledge she gained during her studies. “And then there are the legal sides of starting a company: something very foreign to me that requires learning new skills. Especially in a country where I don’t fluently speak the language. I can speak Dutch well, but legal terms are still complicated. I’m trying to learn this new business mindset every day.”

Learning new skills is something Juliana excels at. “Fortunately, I’m a good researcher: if I don’t know something, I either look it up or talk to people who do. As an entrepreneur, you have to create your own plan, since you don’t have a job description or a clear trajectory to follow. That’s why I try to talk to as many people as I can, learn fast, and try to accept that some things aren’t in my control. Sometimes that’s hard, especially in times when you lose a lot of money. I really learned to let go in the past year.”

Prioritizing is also a skill that Juliana developed in the past year. “When you’re just starting out, you want to do everything yourself. However, the fact of the matter is that you cannot do everything – especially when you have a small team around you. That’s why we had to learn to pick the things we think are the most important to do. Otherwise we would be working till 1 am every day because of things that could be useful, but aren’t worth that much effort. And as a company that encourages people to become more healthy, we have to live by that example ourselves too,” she smiles.

Looking back, Juliana sees her entrepreneurship so far as a rewarding journey. “I’ve been more out of my comfort zone than I ever thought I would be. But even after all this, I’m still excited to keep pushing and make a difference in this world, just like I imagined.”

StartLife Wageningen

In this blog series, The Life Net and StartLife Wageningen like to show what an attractive region Wageningen is to start and establish as an entrepreneur. It spotlights various internationals or companies that attract internationals. They like to share their inspiring story about how they started and grew with their business. Check StartLife Wageningen for how they help entrepreneurs.