In our commitment to support women entrepreneurs in each of the steps of this arduous journey (even before they finish encouraging them to do it), we bring you one more day the experience of an entrepreneur who decided to take the plunge and serve as an inspiration to many other women.
Yla Zapater Sanz is the CEO of UMAMI Ethical Food, a vegetable cheese project from Alcorisa, Teruel. The product is made from organic cashew nuts and almonds from Bajo Aragón. It is presented as an alternative for people who, for various health or ethical reasons or simply for pleasure, decide to eat a quality, tasty, sustainable, healthy and responsible plant-based food.
When she decided to start her own business, she knew that it would be a big challenge, that she would encounter obstacles and difficulties. But she believed in her project. Her idea has always been to be able to find a professional path that would have a positive impact on the world we live in, which can often be hostile. However, with projects like this, life looks more pleasant.
UMAMI Ethical Food is a project that is being mentored by Lola Bordás, CMO of Finnova and head of “Womenfortech”, and will also be supported by Fundadoras, which is part of the EWA mentoring team. UMAMI was selected to be part of the programme, which has been running for several months and is part of the European initiative Climate KIC of EIT Food.
What is EWA, you may ask? EWA is a programme that selects 130 women entrepreneurs in the agrifood sector from 13 different countries with low innovation rates. The Spanish final will be held on 9 and 10 November in Barcelona, and UMAMI will be there. The selected projects will be part of a six-month programme designed to create business solutions to specific challenges in the agrifood sector. The aim is that, after this time, the entrepreneurs will have the knowledge, confidence and support to achieve and exceed their aspirations to successfully develop their sustainable businesses, as we know will be the case with UMAMI Ethical Food.
The programme is part of EIT Food’s Climate KIC initiative. EIT Food is a European organisation that aims to accelerate innovation to build a future healthy food system that produces sustainable and nutritious food that is accessible to all people. Its programmes are focused on reducing the differences between countries and regions with a low innovation capacity by putting consumers at the centre of the different initiatives and programmes, and with collaboration between entities as one of its hallmarks.
And here is UMAMI Ethical Food, selected by this prestigious programme to continue developing its business. But we know that the road to get here has not been easy. That is why we want to know more about the history of Yla and UMAMI.
– Tell us why you decided to take the big step of becoming an entrepreneur.
– A: Work is something very important to which we dedicate many hours. You have to be completely in harmony with the work you do every day in order to feel that you are part of something.
That’s why, for me, at this point in my life, I needed to develop myself on a personal level and to be able to manage my work myself.
To be the owner of my time, my effort, my money and, above all, to have a sense of why I want to do this.
– Has it been very complicated to get here, and what kind of difficulties have you encountered?
– A: A little bit yes. In my case I have been aware of two types of difficulties: external and internal.
As an external one, one of the most important for me has been the lack of economic resources. This led me to feel insecurity, fear, helplessness and frustration.
At the same time, I believe that many regulations, decrees, laws, aid, etc. offered by public administrations are not in line with reality and on many occasions do not allow me to advance at the desired pace.
The search for premises was also costly.
These last few years, when everything is so dense, I think we could be more understanding and try to help each other more.
Services and resources should be offered to help encourage the initiatives that are being generated, promoted both at the municipal level and among individuals.
We must offer solutions, not generate more problems.
Have you felt at any point along the way any kind of problem or obstacle due to the fact that you are a woman entrepreneur in a historically male sector such as the agri-food sector?
– A: I have only been an entrepreneur for a very short time.
I know about the difficulties that women have at all levels, and unfortunately in rural areas these difficulties are accentuated.
You have to fight doubly, one because you are a woman and the other because you are a mother, as in my case.
– Is institutional support for entrepreneurs important, and how can a programme like EWA make a difference to an enterprise like yours?
– A: It is very important that the institutions form part of this and above all that they value and get involved in each project, that they don’t stick to the typical and tiresome “this is the way it is” and “this has always been like this”.
Each project should be reviewed, as far as possible, and solutions and support should be sought and offered according to the needs and stage of the project.
EWA is a very powerful incubation programme that offers great support to be able to develop each of the phases of your project through very specific and personalised training.
- It helps a lot to lay the foundations of your project.
- It provides you with many tools as well as personalised mentoring.
- It offers a platform and a network with an infinite number of resources.
- The existence of a programme focused on promoting female entrepreneurship in the agri-food sector is very necessary, thus visualising the presence of women.
– Finally, could you give advice to women who have not yet decided to become entrepreneurs, but have an idea that they are passionate about and believe in?
– A: I am very happy to have taken this step. Personally, it has helped me a lot to surround myself with people who have gone through the same thing as me, so I have felt a lot of empathy and understanding, as there are many moments of depression.
Participating in entrepreneurship programmes also helps a lot to develop each of the phases of the project well, it offers you advice, resources, contacts?
You have to be realistic about the viability of the project, which is why participating in this type of programme helps you to see whether the project is viable, whether it should be modified or abandoned.
Fears sometimes block us, but everything passes, emotions come and go.
If you want to develop a work that really comes from within and you flow with it, everything will be fine, even if it is difficult.