Meet Daniela Yepes, a Master in Digital Marketing student who turned her at-home hobby of making healthy granola into a full-fledged startup, which now operates in 15 cities across Colombia. We sat down with her to learn the story behind Amande, the ropes of the industry, and how her degree at HST has driven her career.
- Amande originally started with you and your sister playing around with healthy granola recipes at home. How did the idea evolve into a business? Did you ever expect it to become one of the leading granola manufacturers in your home country, Colombia?
The creation of Amande all started with the passion for baking we “inherited” from our mother. I would have never imagined that what actually started out as trying healthy granola recipes for our morning breakfast, would have turned out to be one of the leading health-food businesses in my country—something I’ll always be proud of.
The result my sister and I achieved that day in our kitchen was a granola like no other—full of flavor, chunky, and healthy, all at the same time.
As we began to bake more and more of it, friends and family started it trying out, where we received incredible feedback and were constantly told the granola chunks were borderline “addictive,” which motivated us to start selling it as a side job since we both were working at that time.
Through word of mouth, things escalated and soon we were selling a considerable amount of granola jars per week. We saw a huge potential, so this was when we stepped back and decided to make a life-changing decision, risking it all and launching our own startup: Amande.
We believed that if we truly wanted to make a business out of this passion, we had to fully commit and dedicate all efforts and time to it.
With help of an agency, we founded the brand, started our social media profiles, began contacting small markets to offer our product, and lastly, launched our website. By then, we were still baking from home and making the deliveries on our own. As demand quickly began to increase, the production and delivery at home soon got out of hand, so the next step was to rent a place for our granola production and distribution logistics.
It’s also important to touch upon the healthy lifestyle boom that was taking Colombia by storm, definitely making it a key factor for our rapid growth and positioning in the market.
Social media also played an important role in our journey as we started an online movement, #AmandeLovers, on our IG page (@amande.co). This motivated customers to post and share their granola moments, or “chunks of joy,” with their followers. Along with this, by offering free sampling, participating in fairs, and partnering with Colombian micro-influencers, we started conquering new cities around Colombia and even bigger retailers. Now, we’re operating in 15 major cities between 48 distributors!
- How has the Master in Digital Marketing made an impact on how you market Amande overseas, along with having a busy workload as a student?
Both my classmates and the master’s as a whole have had a huge positive impact on the business and what the future of Amande could entail.
After bringing a batch of healthy granola with me to Madrid and sharing it with classmates for them to try, I was shocked to see friends from different cultures actually enjoy and savor the granola, and desperately ask for more and more! When my sister came to visit in December, she brought a luggage full of granolas and this time around, I began to sell them to fellow IE students. They sold out in two short days.
This gave us the realization that producing and distributing in other markets has great potential, and launching Amande in Madrid specifically could be a great opportunity. Now, expanding into new markets is one of our major mid-term goals.
As for handling the business as a master’s student with a full plate, my sister has stayed in Colombia at the forefront of production and distribution and I have been managing all of our social media strategies and platforms while in Madrid. Here, I’m putting into practice everything I am learning in our digital marketing courses.
- What are some tips you have for fellow HST students who are interested in turning their passions and hobbies into businesses, but don’t know where to start?
Consistency, commitment, and sacrifice are the core pillars that have kept me going through this journey, and it’s the main piece of advice I give to anyone not knowing where to start.
To be frank, it’s not going to be easy. Simply put, the journey resembles more of a rollercoaster than anything else. With the ups, you’ll find yourself having great moments, and with the downs, some not so great. But that’s what the learning experience is all about: consistently adapting the business to offer the best products and services, and committing to turning failures into successes.
Nevertheless, if you find something you are truly passionate about, you will be motivated to do more and make the most out of it. And this is where the hard work will start to pay off.
It’s important to set goals in the short-, mid-, and long-term ranges to achieve them little by little and start paving the way towards the end goal. So don’t be intimidated. As long as you put the same passion and love into the project as you do when doing it for fun, it’ll all be worth it.
- What are two long-term strategic goals you have in mind for Amande that are already in the works?
As I mentioned before, one of our long-term goals is to start producing and distributing our granola in Madrid. We want to target local coffee shops, bakeries, markets, and delivery apps, to eventually end up launching our own e-commerce platform operating in the EU.
As part of our expansion plan, we also intend to export to other South American countries and hopefully to the US, someday.
The main goal in these two instances is to simply spread the joy of our granola chunks around the globe! This also goes hand in hand with adding other healthy products to the Amande family as well, so testing is in the works.
- As you prepare to graduate in the upcoming month, what are the three main takeaways you’ve learned at HST that you plan on continuing in both your personal and professional life?
The main takeaways I will carry with me are: first, enjoying every moment to the fullest. We don’t know where we will be tomorrow, so reminding ourselves to take it one day at a time and focusing on what really matters to you first, will allow everything else to fall into place.
Second, I will cherish everything I learned from meeting new people, new cultures, and the different points of views and perspectives this master’s has entailed. It’s all about enriching our lives with new experiences and new possibilities, and taking those opportunities with you wherever you find yourself next.
And lastly, going through a pandemic while doing my master’s has taught me the importance of adaptation—not solely in academics, but even more so with my business. Especially in this fast-evolving era we are living in, I believe these unprecedented times have had a silver lining. They’ve made me stronger and more agile in both my professional and personal life, like never before.
Daniela Yepes was born and raised in Barranquilla, a small city on the coast of Colombia. She studied Business Administration and is now a student in the Master in Digital Marketing. She is passionate about baking and trying out new recipes, and has taken several cooking classes. She plans to dedicate her career to Amande, her granola brand. Check out the “Chunks of Joy” website: http://www.amande.co/ or IG: @amande.co
This interview was conducted by Dominican-American Kristina Taveras, student in the Master in Digital Marketing at HST. One can describe her as a “right-brain” thinker, with a great passion for all things creative, especially in the cinema industry, where she ultimately wants to put her marketing expertise into practice. Connect with her through LinkedIn if you want to dig deeper into her career or to simply chat movies.