CRANFORD — Dulce Tanelli, a certified body ecologist and owner of Younique Probiotics, a line of cultured vegetable products intended to aid digestion and build immunity, took first place in the recent Quick Pitch Business Competition, sponsored by UCEDC, a statewide nonprofit economic development corporation and Capital One Bank.
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 the Bank. The competition is open to anyone who has graduated from UCEDC’s “Entrepreneurship 101” training program. First and second place winners receive cash prizes from Capital One.
Tanelli’s business began unexpectedly when she embarked on a diet and wellness regime in 2007; 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 that she soon found herself running the equivalent of a side business featuring her home-made organic fermented foods and “body ecology” wellness coaching.
Tanelli enrolled in UCEDC’s entrepreneurship training program last December, after legally incorporating her venture, Younique Probiotics, LLC, in May 2012. Tanelli 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. UCEDC’s workshop gave her the boost she needed to take her business to the next level.
As a finalist in the Quick Pitch Business Competition, Tanelli was paired with a mentor from Capital One who helped her prepare her pitch for the final competition. “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.”
Tanelli competed against other UCEDC training program graduates and the independent judging panel gave her first place thanks to her “very well thought out” business identity and “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.”
Tanelli 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.