Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Juan Giraldo, CEO of Waku, located in Somerville, MA, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

Waku is a deliciously replenishing herbal tea with prebiotic powers and 0 grams of sugar. Waku puts a modern twist on an ancient tea. Using a centuries-old Ecuadorian recipe, the finest natural ingredients, 0 added sugar, and prebiotic fiber to maximize the gut-healthy benefits. All of our ingredients are ethically sourced from independent farmers in Ecuador. Most of our customers are female, between 35 and 65 years old, who are cutting down sugar and calories and looking for digestive support.

Tell us about yourself

The main driver in starting this company was our desire to have a positive socio-economic impact in Ecuador. Regardless of operating the business elsewhere. In order for us to launch a company, it needed to have three characteristics:

  • It should have a positive economic impact on Ecuador.
  • Would compete in an industry where Ecuador has a comparative advantage.
  • It would be from Ecuador to the world- global market.

We picked agriculture since Ecuador grows the best quality natural ingredients in the world. We then analyzed trends and categories in the US. We found the white space in the tea category where ready-to-drink tea consumers are looking for healthier options – low in sugar and calories. But most leading brands in the $7Bn RTD tea category focus on flavor alone, loading their products with sugar, empty carbs, and artificial ingredients. We thought we could bring a highly differentiated product to a massive category while sourcing all of our ingredients from independent farmers in Ecuador.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

Starting a business as an immigrant is not an easy task. So I'd say starting a company in the US and making it this far is the accomplishment I am the proudest about.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

I think one of the hardest things is to actually be able to find balance in your life while you are running your business. It is really, really hard to actually "turn off" after work. You are constantly thinking about the endless things you need to get done, or even worse, how will you make payroll by the end of the month? That is why nurturing your hobbies and prioritizing your personal time is really important. Remember that a startup/ business is a marathon, not a sprint.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. It takes the same amount of energy to dream big as to dream small. So dream big!
  2. Always move forward - you will face countless challenges, but if you keep moving forward, you will always find a solution.
  3. Prioritize your health (mental, physical, spiritual).

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

Start with a purpose. It may sound cliché, but it is extremely important to have a deeper purpose than just making profits when you start a business. You will be facing some of the most challenging years of your life, so make sure you are committed to a higher purpose that will keep you motivated even in the toughest moments. In addition, your purpose will help you align with other stakeholders more easily and push you to make better decisions.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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