Dulcinea Ortiz Merín (1979, El Toboso, Toledo) describes herself as a rural entrepreneur and a creator of sustainable realities. She is the CEO and founder of Biofood Network®, a network that aims to make organic food accessible and sustainable in any rural area of Spain through digitalisation. Chemical engineer by training, after working for 15 years in environmental safety in the petrochemical industry, Dulcinea returned to La Mancha as an organic, sustainable and rural entrepreneur. That was her «ECOmetamorphosis», she explains.

Dulcinea Ortiz

Who is Dulcinea Ortiz?

Restless and highly curious since childhood, after completing my studies as an Environmental Chemical Engineer, I did a postgraduate course in Environmental Management. As part of this program, I undertook a 12-month internship at a prominent energy company, which subsequently opened doors to other temporary contracts. Given the young professionals temporary job situation, I made the decision to leave Spain in 2006 and further my professional career in various engineering multinationals abroad, working in London, Norway, and Milan.

When did you decide to become an entrepreneur?

I started to consider professional alternatives, more aligned with my values. At the end of 2018, I made the decision to leave the corporate world behind and redirect my career towards Rural Sustainable Entrepreneurship. It was when I returned to Spain and founded Biofood, Naturalmente®, the first online local organic food store in La Mancha. Prior to that, orders were primarily handled through Excel or online forms, with no e-commerce platform in place.

Since its inception, more than an e-commerce, Biofood has been a trade-educational StartUp dedicated to raising awareness for a healthier consumption, more respectful with the planet; and to promoting local organic food. Through ecommerce, we connect local, regional and national producers (in this order) with the end consumer. Their needs and concerns within the organic food and sustainability framework are our development engine power.

This is how the second stage of our journey was born: Biofood Network®, the innovative network that makes organic food accessible and sustainable in any rural corner through digitalization.

«Bio-digitization radically transforms traditional business models»

Biofood Network®: Which is the value of bio-digitization?

Bio-digitization radically transforms traditional business models (food markets, grocery stores, herbalist’s shops), making the buying and selling of local and organic produce disruptively more efficient. It is not solely about increasing sales volume but rather about improving the quality of transactions. It also demystifies organic products as luxury items, by achieving fair prices to everyone, thanks to the shortest distribution channel that is feasibly possible.

It also means great savings in sales: a weekly online sale, as opposed to being daily in a store; or going to markets. Moreover, it eliminates the risk of wasting fresh produce (fruit, vegetables, bread, eggs) by preparing online orders on demand.

Why do it in a sustainable, rural and networked way?

The key to achieving sustainable logistics is by limiting it to a radius of 40-50km. Otherwise, it becomes economically and environmentally unsustainable. This approach may seem counterintuitive when compared to the highly polluting nature of global e-commerce deliveries.

Local logistics in rural areas is the key to networked growth. Your local e-commerce covers your region by local, low-impact “EcoRoutes”, while further afield, another Biofood Network member does the same in their area. Beautiful, isn’t it?!

«Biofood Network® makes organic food accessible and sustainable in any rural corner through digitalization»

Is there a lack of female leadership in the rural world and in the organic sector?

Yes, although there has been a recent narrowing of the gap, particularly in terms of women leading organic consumption. There has also been progress in mentoring, with more public and private entities providing support to female entrepreneurs in sustainable and rural sectors through awards, seed capital, and specialized training programs for women. These initiatives play a crucial role in empowering rural female entrepreneurs with eco-friendly projects. I am deeply grateful for the recognition received from Madrid Emprende and CESCE (Presura Repopulation Fair), as well as the training provided by Empowering Women in Agrifood (EIT Food) and Womenpreneurs for Change (EOI).

However, we are far from achieving gender parity in female investors though. More female business angels are needed.

What advice would you give to women who want to start their own business?

Never regret not having tried. Make your dream come true and shape your business idea in entrepreneurship programs. Launch your imperfect project and keep improving it with customer feedback. If an organic food ecommerce can help make your dream come true, join Biofood Network®. We will support you and help you grow as a community.

Author: Montse Mulé, Editor

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