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16 de November de 2023
Did you know that around 400,000 people in Spain are affected by celiac disease? What’s even more surprising is that approximately 85% of them are still undiagnosed. Celiac disease is a digestive and autoimmune disorder caused by a negative reaction to gluten consumption. It’s interesting to note that the number of diagnosed cases in Spain increases by about 15% each year.
Regina Félix Sancliment and José Manuel Velasco Suárez, both Mexicans, noticed a common issue among people with gluten intolerance in Barcelona: a lack of dining options, limited product variety and concerns about cross-contamination.
That’s why they came up with Glutery, a gluten-free solution aimed at enabling people with celiac disease to savor gastronomy without the constant concern of cross-contamination.
“This all started because Regina, my partner, had both her brother and her mother diagnosed with celiac disease. That’s when we realized there was a problem: a lack of options to meet the high demand. And that’s where we saw an opportunity,” explains José Manuel. Together with Regina, they founded Glutery, a business with a physical store in Barcelona that caters to consumers and offers gluten-free products to other businesses in need.
The project began to take shape during José Manuel’s MBA program at EAE Business School Barcelona. The time he invested allowed him to identify his goals, network with interesting people and, through his final thesis, embark on a project focused on the gluten-free diet. “At the end of the master’s program, we decided to apply to the university’s incubator. They accepted us — and that’s where it all began,” he shares.
“It was within the incubation program at EAE Barcelona where Glutery truly started to take form. At that point, it was just an idea or a problem we wanted to tackle and that’s when it began to develop into something that could truly make an impact,” explains Regina. The incubator played a pivotal role as it helped them gain clarity on the product they wanted to offer and how to ensure compliance with the current gluten regulations.
Glutery’s beginnings coincided with the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, presenting a significant challenge to their entrepreneurial journey. “In 2019, we entered the incubator and were preparing to launch our pilot test in a popular empanada chain. We were set to start selling at eight different locations. However, just as we were getting ready, the pandemic struck and everything came to a standstill. That year (2020) felt like a step backward. We had to reassess our options and figure out what changes we could make,” explains José Manuel.
Despite the setbacks, they persevered. In late 2020, they decided to rent a physical space for their pilot test, working on an hourly basis. They quickly discovered that there was a demand for their gluten-free products and began providing safe gluten-free options to restaurants in Barcelona. Simultaneously, they realized the importance of having a direct point of sale to reach consumers.
Regina enthusiastically shares that they officially opened their own store a year ago. Despite the challenges imposed by the pandemic, they have witnessed remarkably positive results that have fueled their growth over the past year.
When it comes to the reality of entrepreneurship and its challenges, both Regina and José Manuel are unequivocal: “It’s worth it.” They emphasize that the process is not linear and that one must navigate through complex moments. “It has been a journey of highs and lows, with moments of joy and moments of sadness when certain projects didn’t pan out. However, ultimately, with an entrepreneurial spirit, you learn to navigate through this uncertainty.”
When asked what advice she would give to someone who is at the beginning of their entrepreneurial journey, Regina has a clear answer:
It’s crucial to embrace uncertainty and take risks when making decisions for which the outcome is unknown. “That’s the beauty of entrepreneurship. Once you take that leap, it becomes truly rewarding when you see the results of your hard work and dedication.”
José Manuel strongly emphasizes the importance of having a supportive network. Surrounding yourself with people who believe in you and your idea is essential. “It’s incredibly valuable to have individuals who support and encourage you, rather than telling you that you can’t achieve your goals.”
They have chosen Barcelona as the place to establish their business and, more importantly, to build their lives. It’s a city that has captivated them and holds a strong emotional bond, with deep family roots.
Regina enthusiastically shares that Barcelona is a city with a thriving entrepreneurial spirit. To her, the Catalan capital is like a hub of innovation, where brilliant ideas emerge and serve as a great source of motivation. She says, “It’s a city that is increasingly embracing startups and it’s incredibly exciting to witness their growth here.”
They also noticed that there was a significant awareness of celiac disease and gluten intolerance in Spain, making it a strategic location for Glutery.
José Manuel assures us that they have realized “the tourism sector is also a crucial aspect for us. Barcelona is one of the most visited cities, and we welcome people who are intolerant or follow a gluten-free diet, which has been phenomenal for our business.”
The future of Glutery looks promising. The plan is to continue expanding and even establish a second location in the city center, targeting more touristic hotspots. They’re also considering the possibility of opening a new branch in Madrid.
Thank you, Regina and José Manuel, for your efforts with Glutery in ensuring that people with celiac disease can still indulge in the delights of gastronomy!