Catherine Cuello-Fuente | Founder, GreenHopping

"Trust your instinct, travel as much as you want to, live near nature, know that you’re going in the right direction, and believe everything has a way of working out."

How do you start your day? 

With 11 deep breaths, by looking at my hands and saying thank you, a glass of apple cider vinegar with water, and a 5-min stretch.

Who inspires you?

Gina Rodriguez. Moms. Entrepreneurs.

What would you tell yourself as a teenager? 

Trust your instinct, travel as much as you want to, live near nature, know that you’re going in the right direction, and believe everything has a way of working out.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

To follow my intuition.

Briefly describe your business and inspiration for it.

GreenHopping makes it easier for anyone to buy healthy, plant-based food and green juices by linking them with the best options in cities across the US. My inspiration stems from my health scare where I lost my left ovary in surgery. My struggle to find healthy eateries that cater to my diet needs is what gave me the idea to create this tool. It’s now become my life mission: to help others think about what they eat.

How has your passion fueled your business?

I’d be nothing without my passion. I am an entrepreneur at heart and a leader by nature.

What made you decide to become an entrepreneur?

My ego. When you think you know it all, it’s hard to follow orders. Although I am a good listener and know how to follow orders, I always had a voice inside me that said: you can do this solo, on your own time, travel when you want, and work from home! Traveling is what keeps my mind fresh and my creativity ever-evolving.

What was the tipping point for realizing you had a good business?

The moment I saw no one was doing what I wanted to do and how little information was available on a plant-based diet.

What has been the key to your success?

To never give up… so elemental yet so crucial. As entrepreneurs, you can go from “I can do it” to “damn this is hard” real quick. Passion is motivation; motivation is passion.

What lessons have you learned along the way that you wish you would have known at the beginning of your start-up career?

Get a business degree in your undergrad! Humanitarian and social studies are not that useful… oh, and learn how to code. But also, surround yourself by creative and inspiring people. They will ultimately make you or break you.

What challenges did you face in the early days of being the Founder of your own business?

Not having the right talent in place has always been my struggle. It takes time to build a team and generate trust. It is, I think, one of the most important aspects of a successful business.

What is the biggest mistake you have made in your business to date and how have you moved past it?

I am still learning and growing from my mistakes… but I’d say (1.) being impulsive and (2.) taking things personally.

What would you have done differently?

Take a deep breath, tap into my core, and try to view the situation from a different lens.

When self-doubt hits, what do you do?

I talk to my husband (who can always make me laugh) or I call my friend Cristina. If none are around, I go to a quiet cozy place (like my bathroom which looks like an art gallery in the jungle) and sit on the floor.

What is your biggest fear as an entrepreneur?

To have to go back to a corporate setting!

What aspects of being a start-up entrepreneur do you love and/or dislike?

I love the fact that I can manage my own schedule, and that I can travel whenever I want to. I also love the fact that I can inspire people through my work and my personal narrative. I dislike the fact that I can’t always disconnect from work when I travel.

Which books, articles, blogs have helped to shape your business and/or leadership style?

Kris Carr — Crazy Sexy Cancer

Malcolm Gladwell – Outliers

Are there any go-to resources that you’ve found useful in running your business (service, web site, etc.)?

Piktochart, NYU, Women groups

What has been your best strategy for selling your product or service and what have you learned along the way?

I never thought that a background in communications would be so useful. Strategic partnerships, PR and event activations are our go-to. I’ve also learned not to divulge all my plans for the future, upfront.

How did your experiences in the corporate world prepare you for entrepreneurship, or not?

My experiences in the corporate world made me into who I am today and I, hands down, could not be an entrepreneur without the skills I learned in the corporate setting. This is something I am so grateful for — especially for the many mentors that came along the way who helped shape me into who I am today. This is the millennial curse: we’re too smart to work for someone else but we don’t have the background to lead. I am fortunate I went through the corporate ladder. I wouldn’t have had it any other way. The people, experiences, and exposure to leadership opportunities were essential in my formation.

What do you think the most important attribute a female entrepreneur/ business owner can possess?

Patience, serenity, and poise.

What do you do outside the office to help you stay creative/productive? 

Yoga, traveling, TRX, hiking, and constant vitamin-sea. I like to travel to places I’ve never been to before at least 2-3 times a year.

What would you say to another woman who asked you if they should take the leap and start their own business?

To go for it and never look back. If your gut is telling you there’s something out there with your name on it, by all means, go out and own it.