Subscribing to Italy's Finest Olive Oil
Julia Franchi Scarselli Class of ‘18
Founder of Libellula
Four years ago, when Julia's father moved to a small medieval town twenty miles north of Rome, she thought he might have lost his mind.
It wasn't until she visited him that summer that she moved past her initial reluctance and ended up falling in love: with the region, the people, the landscape, the food... and the olive trees.
Tuscany and Puglia may be the best known regions for harvesting olive oil, but in the ancient Sabina region region of Italy, there is an expanse of olive trees that thrive where few have set foot. That is because the entirety of the landscape is family-owned, meaning that 200 or so olive trees have been passed down from one generation to the next for hundreds of years. This dedication to tradition keeps big industry away.
Julia began to talk to olive-harvesting families, and started to wonder why they would put so much effort into creating a product without getting a single penny in return, as olive oil production was their passion, hobby, and area of utmost expertise.
As Julia had recently moved to the U.S., she realized that Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) of good quality is not only expensive and hard to find, but that few people know about the history and culture tied to its production (not to mention all the health benefits!).
What really shocked her was when she learned that 80% of EVOO sold in the U.S. is actually blended with low-grade oil mixes, such as sesame oil. She soon realized that many people in the U.S. don't know what real EVOO actually tastes like...
Julia and her father founded Libellula to address the needs they had observed:
“We create a platform that acts as the broker between family farmer and customer, providing you not just with the ’gold of Rome ’ in its purest form (non-GMO, organic), but also with a virtual connection to your farmer and a network for like-minded foodies, travel-enthusiasts, and people interested in learning more about a culture and an age-old agricultural practice. Likewise, the farmer is connected to the market without having to go through the legal process of getting certified for exportation/importation etc. Now they can continue doing what they love, but actually get a monetary reward as opposed to just gifting the olive oil to family and friends.”
Julia has won several awards for her venture, including a Grinspoon Spirit Award (Spring ’16), and third place in the 2016 Draper Competition for Intercollegiate Women Entrepreneurs. She has applied to the Valley Venture Mentors Accelerator Program, and was nominated to apply for the 2016 She Demos startup program for woman founders and Project Entrepreneur 2017.
This is an exciting time for Libellula: the official launch is planned for this December 31st!
This Sunday's feature is highly symbolic for Libellula, as today marks the first harvest of their farmer’s trees. The venture has organized a barbecue among the olive trees for everyone who has followed along their journey. The olive oil will be pressed and stored all within one day (as defined by the Sabina DOP guidelines for EVOO). Soon, they will begin ordering the ceramic bottles and tin cans, draft a brochure and begin assembling the adoption package.
The official website should be up by next week, with an option to pre-order! Check it out, as it would be a great New Years gift for friends and family.
During her entrepreneurial journey, Julia found it is important to remember that ideas are ever-changing and constantly developing.
“Your idea will never be perfect, especially in the beginning, so skip perfection and jump to ’best at the moment.’ Feedback is key and the most valuable thing for your venture. Seek as much as you can find. And finally, remember to enjoy the process: if you realized you’re getting hung up by the hectic day-to-day work, stop and remember why you started.”
Here at the CIEC we are so very proud to have had Julia as one of our marketing and social media fellows. We are excited to see the growth and success of Libellula!
Julia Franchi Scarselli
Julia graduated from Smith in 2018 and majored in Environmental Science & Policy and Architecture. She is currently touring the U.S. with Libellula and spreading the word about olive oil fresh from Italy.
Connect with Julia on LinkedIn