Learning to make the best and most ethical decisions and having a reason to stand by them is the most important thing I’ve learned, regardless of who dislikes such decisions.
Juan Castellanos is one of three co-founders at Alana Athletica, a new start-up that designs and produces yoga-inspired activewear made with love and in partnership with female abuse survivors through Emerge Global, a non-profit organization in Sri Lanka that supports and empowers these women. These abuse survivors are joining Alana’s production team and receiving apparel training, mentoring, and employment.
Prior to Alana Athletica, Juan worked within the Strategy & Operations division of Deloitte Consulting as a Management Consultant, providing professional services and advising multi-billion dollar corporations, primarily in the US. He has experience in financial services prior to consulting, including private equity, inventory-based financing, and investment management. Juan graduated from Stanford University with a degree in Economics, and was a kicker for the Stanford Football team until suffering a career-ending knee injury.
Juan continues to be an avid fitness junkie and sport fanatic – working out six times per week and following his favorite soccer team, FC Barcelona, as much as time permits as an entrepreneur. He was born in Cartagena, Colombia, which is where the majority of his family resides, and has lived all over the US – from Palo Alto in Northern California to the warm beaches of South Florida.
Where did the idea for Alana Athletica come from?
Our team at Alana Athletica comes from different countries and very humble roots. There were several turning points in our lives that made us fortunate enough to have the opportunity to migrate to the United States and live the American dream, some of us temporarily and others permanently. After traveling the world (with jobs in management consulting and fashion design) for many years collecting new friends and experiences, we were convinced that our future efforts (both personal and professional) needed to serve a greater purpose – to give back, support, and empower others. After years of courage and planning (and plenty of market research on yoga apparel), we assembled our core team, full of talent and sharing the same vision, to launch our dream, Alana Athletica. We knew that our experiences in management consulting and fashion design, paired with an existing gap in the yoga apparel market, was an opportunity that we needed to explore. Part of this existing gap was the lack of support that major yoga apparel companies gave back to the local communities that they produced their products in, which is where the Emerge partnership came in. After numerous interviews and due diligence on non-profits, we decided to present this opportunity to Emerge because they share the same core values as Alana Athletica and support our vision – that women deserve to feel confident, supported, and empowered. We believe that by working with Emerge, the sky is the limit with what we can give back to these deserving women and local communities. Our vision is that Alana Athletica’s growth will be driven by the support of our global community – the women who design, cut, stitch, wear, and showcase our product.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I wake up at 5:30am to check my emails and then go to the gym for about 1-2 hours. I then go back home, get a quick bite and am ready for the workday by 8am. As a small start-up with no office (yet!), I head over to Starbucks and order my tall latte, and get right to work. I’ll usually start my workday by generating a prioritized list of the day’s “to do’s”, knowing that half of it will change by midday. From international conference calls with Starbucks music in the background to a quick PB&J sandwich for lunch, being as productive as possible is extremely important with a small team. Setting the right expectations and prioritizing accordingly, even with changing circumstances, is key to having a productive workforce and corporation.
How do you bring ideas to life?
The best ideas come to me when I’m working out – running, biking, lifting weights, boxing. I jot them down on pen and paper, generate a concise proposal, and share them with my team . If we all agree, we build an execution plan to divide and conquer!
What’s one trend that excites you?
I think that it’s how conscious entrepreneurs and start-ups are changing the world – it seems like the focus is no longer to become rich, but to really deliver impact to the audience your product caters to. From smart water bottles that track your hydration to shirts made out of recycled bottles, I love this trend and am really excited to be part of it!
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I’ve said it once above but I think it’s important to reiterate – prioritization! There is always plenty of to do’s, especially in the start-up world with limited time and resources. Picking the items that deliver the highest impact (and not the most fun or easiest) will make you more productive. In addition, clear communication with others is also a key factor in productivity, given that it helps avoid unnecessary disconnect and re-work.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I would encourage myself to ask for help (and favors) when needed and not be shy about it.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on?
I think that Ronaldinho (Brazilian soccer star) is the best soccer player of all time!
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
As an entrepreneur and even in my corporate job prior to becoming an entrepreneur, something that I did and continue to do is giving my full effort (100%) to any tasks that I am presented with, regardless of how small, boring, or mundane they might seem. Anything that carries my name on it should be up-to-par with my best effort and I recommend everyone else to follow the same approach.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
Transparency – being transparent about our mission, pricing, supply chain, and even level of maturity with our Alana community, team members, and investors has been very important in fueling our growth.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I’ve always been someone who tries to please everybody, in both the personal and professional world. I would struggle when I couldn’t, and this often times affected business and my mental state. Learning to make the best and most ethical decisions and having a reason to stand by them is the most important thing I’ve learned, regardless of who dislikes such decisions.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I probably have one new idea every day – today’s idea consists of a virtual wine tasting platform (i.e. instead of traveling to Napa Valley, experience it from the comfort of your couch via wine sampling and a VR headset).
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
The best $100+ I spent recently was to sponsor and participate in an autism-friendly soccer tournament. I met great people, supported a great cause, and had tons of fun!
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
I encourage people to try Microsoft OneNote – it’s my notetaker (where I jot down to do’s, important notes, and priorities) and easy-to-use citation machine, all in one. It also connects well to other software like Outlook (i.e. exporting meeting details from Outlook to OneNote).
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I encourage this community to read “The One Minute Manager” by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson. It’s a quick read, but extremely insightful, especially for those individuals who want to learn about efficient and impactful management techniques.
What is your favorite quote?
From a young age, I’ve always lived by the quote – “The harder you work, the luckier you get.” I don’t believe in pure luck, but more so in hard work, dedication, and persistence.
- Learning to make the best and most ethical decisions and having a reason to stand by them is the most important thing I’ve learned, regardless of who dislikes such decisions.
- Transparency – being transparent about our mission, pricing, supply chain, and even level of maturity with our Alana community, team members, and investors has been very important in fueling our growth.
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Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.