Female Founder Feature: Gabriela Alban Hidalgo – Capuli Club

Gabriela Alban Hidalgo is the CEO and Co-Founder of Capuli Club

Tell us about your company. What inspired you to start it?

My first passion, architecture, helped me cultivate a longing to make people happy with my work. In learning more about entrepreneurship I became convinced that business can be so much more than an entity for wealth creation—it can become a tool for service, purpose, and meaning. I learned that a good business can make many people happy.
At the same time, I was inspired by having my mom and now co-founder, with complementary skills and talents, by my side. In our relationship, I found the motivation to commit to creating something for the fulfillment of us both.
With a deep-rooted motivation, we looked for a gap in the market. We saw a growing demand for sustainable and no-added-sugar food. With that, we founded Capuli Club and laid out our mission to craft healthful, beautiful and radically transparent dehydrated fruit drinks out of imperfect fruits.

Who are your cofounders and what makes you a great team?

The founding team of Capuli is my mom and me.

I am trained as an architect, with a degree in Honors in Architecture from the University of Washington. When I tell this to people, many often comment that the leap from architecture to entrepreneurship seems wide. However, I would disagree. I am first and foremost a builder. Before I was planning to build houses and buildings, now I am planning to build a thriving and beautiful business. At Capuli I mostly focus on product, brand, strategy and business development. I am adept at integrating and synthesizing different parameters and constraints with a unified direction.

Lourdes, my mom is a professional accountant and registered Enrolled Agent who graduated from the Universidad Cattolica in Ecuador. I am sure that there are very few people who are more organized, process driven and diligent than my mom. She is a leader who keeps our operations streamlined and organized.
I think that having a start-up founded on a family relationship helps create a business with an environment of fellowship/community that encourages justice, respect, and trust.

How is your company making a difference?

Capuli is making a difference in two dimensions. We look to take imperfect fruits or what farmers call “seconds” to craft healthful, delicious and radically transparent no-added-sugar drinks and snacks. We craft beauty out of imperfect fruits.
On another dimension, we are called Capuli Club because we look to build a community that supports and builds an appreciation for beauty, collaboration, and the arts. We look to ally with local artists to co-host events and bring people together. We want our drinks to be a platform for communication with our audience, we want to help build a culture where people slow down, make time to reflect, connect and enjoy life freely, away from a hyper-connected world.

What are some of the challenges you have faced?

Probably my biggest challenge has been the internal strife to build the confidence to know that I am enough. That I am enough to grow into who I need to be. That I am enough to co-develop the company that we dream of. However, to be less abstract, learning to keep a steady and optimistic course for the very long time that I did not pay myself with Capuli was one of the most difficult challenges. With the support of my family and freelance projects I overcame it but enduring through the learning curve was a challenge.

A high apprise for my independence made forging the humility and the field of view to acknowledge where I need help hurtful ,at times, but extremely valuable. Probably, the most important lesson from all of this has been to learn to build my confidence on stable ground. never on how much money I make or don’t make. While I want to build Capuli into the most “good” and profitable it can be I know that with this mindset will allow me to make more temperate decisions.

What is your biggest win?

My biggest win was probably opening our little shop at Pacific Place in Seattle and selling over $40,000 of our Fruit Sips in two months. I felt like everything we have been learning and implementing was coming together. We are confident that we have found the product-market fit and we look forward to looking for more capital for Capuli in the near future.

Who is your role model?

I know that since this is the FFA it might be expected for me to mention a female role model, however, without doubt, I would have to say that my greatest role model is my father. My dad, an engineer MBA, who built his career in Microsoft, is not an entrepreneur but he is the strongest, smartest, most tenacious person I know. My dad taught me how to be strong and resilient, how to thirst for growth and how to seek balance in my life. I think that he is a great witness for how amazing men are allies to empowered women.

What do you wish you had known before starting your company?

I wish I would have understood the now obvious idea that even a great business underfunded, underperforms. I wish that in the same way that we sought to practice the philosophy of “fail fast, fail often” in the iteration of our MVPs, that we would have the same with minimum viable test of our business model. I wish that we would have distilled the lessons and data quicker, to plan for the right business model with the right capital sooner. While this is something I would do differently, I absolutely do not regret our bootstrap journey with Capuli. The path was an opportunity to learn much with little risk for what I am certain will lead to greater success in our next steps as we will look for our first round of external funding in the coming months.

What has been your experience with FFA? 

Having a community of trusted female leaders is not only inspiring but motivating. Many times, I have felt disillusioned by what I sense is lack of support for my venture from friends of my personal life. However, with time I have come to understand that it is not that they mean ill, but that the entrepreneurial path is difficult to empathize with for those who are not in it. Since many times the path is very lonely, having a community of women who are walking in similar shoes is not only refreshing but it fills me with optimism. I very much appreciate people sharing with vulnerability in our online community and I love seeing those same amazing women rock their business in the real world.

Anything else you want people to know?

I want people to know that if someone is interested/sees that they can contribute to the mission of Capuli to know that I would love it if you reached out. We are working on ideating the next steps, building an advisory board, and we need the team that will take Capuli to the next level. Please contact me at gabriela@capuliclub.com.

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