Enrico Leta, Kellogg 2Y ('11)Enrico Leta, Kellogg 2Y ('11), founder of Yorgus & Vitalatte Dairy in Brazil, provides a glimpse of family business dynamics in Brazil and shares his experience of how to succeed as an entrepreneur in an emerging market.
What is your company and industry focus?
Yorgus & Vitalatte Dairy. We are a manufacturer of all-natural, fresh dairy products with national distribution in 22 states (out of 26) in Brazil and present in all major food retailers throughout the country. We currently employ 90 workers.
Tell us a bit about your company and the current marketplace in Brazil.
Yorgus is the first and only all-natural strained yogurt in Brazil. Having grown up in a family business that owns and operates a large supermarket chain in Rio de Janeiro, Zona Sul, and witnessing my brother, Patrick, succeed as an entrepreneur in the Brazilian dairy industry, I identified a new market segment in Brazil that had yet to be explored: all-natural strained Greek style yogurt. In early 2013, I set out to create Yorgus and focused our positioning effort on a "clean label" strategy, using only fresh and natural ingredients, free of preservatives, thickeners, and artificial additives, all of which were heavily used in the market. The product proved to be huge success within it's first 18 months and we now are a nationwide reference in the premium yogurt space, and the number one yogurt of all nutritionists and athletes (amateur and professional) in Brazil!
Walk us through your path to creating Yorgus. How did your family background and prior career lead you to this stage in your life?
During my eight years in the US (college, MBA, and work in marketing) I witnessed the "Greek yogurt boom" and in 2013 decided to return to Brazil to launch the first authentic Greek yogurt in the country. At the time my brother, Patrick, was already established in the dairy space and manufactured Vitalatte, a fresh Italian-style cheese. I partnered with him to use all the existing infrastructure of production and distribution, which provided a great competitive advantage and a solid head start. It also helped that my family owned and operated one of the biggest supermarket chains in Brazil, Zona Sul, so we could secure distribution upon launch, and used our network in the supermarket space to quickly expand to other markets. One interesting dynamic was that our family business had a rule established that my generation (3rd) could not work in Zona Sul, so I ended up starting a relationship as a supplier to the business, with no preferential treatment.
What aspects of your Kellogg experience prepared you for and helped shape this entrepreneurial endeavour? What growth plans do you have for Yorgus?
My education at Kellogg gave me a strong base and confidence to deal with many different areas of running a business, from logistics, to sourcing, marketing, accounting, and finance. Even though the training wasn't specific, Kellogg provided the knowledge and foundation to identify a niche and build a successful business. My goal for Yorgus is to continue leading the "clean label" movement and eventually transform how Brazilians eat by offering food products that are 100% natural and produced in large scale. We want to help educate consumers how to read labels and make healthier choices.
What advice do you have for people currently working or considering working in a family business versus starting their own company with family members?
Working in a family business is not for everyone. I learned first-hand that it is not easy to wear "the 3 hats" (management, shareholder, and family). Look carefully to your family business, evaluate if it is where you want to be and determine if you are willing to dedicate the better part of your life and career to building the enterprise. Additionally, if you choose to start a business with a family member, learn from the successes and mistakes of your own or other family businesses. Working with family members now at Yorgus, we are all cognizant and diligent to avoid some mistakes we identified in our family business, Zona Sul.
Any other items you'd like to mention or feel would be interesting to share about you, your company or future aspirations.
Leverage the power of Kellogg! The Kellogg network helped me start Yorgus. One of my classmates, Bert Sartori, is 3rd generation member of a traditional cheese manufacturer in Wisconsin, Sartori. Bert helped me get to a Greek yogurt master who we hired to formulate our authentic Greek recipe!