Many people just can’t get enough of coming to Charlottesville and being on Grounds. Being able to enjoy all that Central Virginia and the University of Virginia have to offer keeps drawing alumni and visitors back throughout their lives.
For French native Romain Loeuillet, who originally studied at UVA as part of an exchange program, it turned out that he enjoyed his experience so much that he decided to return to pursue a master’s degree at the Commerce School. After studying Politics and Economics in his home country, he was interested in strengthening his business background with more concrete skills, which led him to McIntire.
And beyond that, he really wanted to come back to the area for a while.
“I loved pretty much everything in Charlottesville: sport facilities, green spaces, bars and restaurants,” Loeuillet says. “I used to spend quite a lot of time hanging out in the Downtown area, which I thought had some ‘European charm.’”
Having further developed his analytical, strategic, and organizational skills in marketing and finance at the Commerce School, Loeuillet worked briefly at a French company in Washington, D.C., as a Sales Operations Manager for a business-to-consumer transportation service company, before returning to Paris for what would eventually be more than five years with French multinational retail outlet Carrefour.
“I must say that my American experience made me stronger at adapting myself to new situations, subjects, cultures, methods. This is the kind of learning that you may not understand immediately, but it is probably the most important and durable,” he says.
And where did those abilities lead? Not back to Charlottesville for a third go-round, but rather, to launch an innovative cat food company in Paris!
Out of the Bag with a New Brand
According to Loeuillet, his company, Caats, is the first French food brand completely focused on felines. It’s propelled by a unique selling proposition that offers personalized menus, which is dictated on the strength of a unique algorithm that determines recipes and serving sizes informed by the physiology, lifestyle, and eating habits of each cat.
The motivation for his business endeavor?
“Having always been a big cat fan, I realized that better food and more convenient service could be provided. In addition, I had been wanting to launch and manage my own business for a while,” he says.
The idea behind his pet food startup seems simple, yet effective: to incorporate high-quality ingredients made locally in France, devoid of synthetic additives, and high in animal protein. Beyond the product itself, Loeuillet says his guiding principles are held company-wide, with everyone driven to improve animals’ wellbeing and to help cats to live longer lives.
He also notes some perks that come with running his own venture: “I enjoy both working every day on a mission that I truly believe in, and doing it in a relatively independent way: at my own pace, with my tone of voice, and with my people.”
The biggest challenges he’s faced with his fledgling business have been around aspects of building a solid foundation to achieve next steps in 2021.
“So far, everything has been about creating strong bases for the launch: good products, an efficient website, fun marketing, and serious customer service,” he says. “The main goal for the first year will be to acquire as many customers as possible and, even more important, to make sure they become dedicated buyers of our products.”
Growth through Commerce
While Loeuillet will admit that his time in the M.S. in Commerce Program did not result in a direct and immediate connection to his career, as it does for so many others, he insists that the foundation it provided in academic areas of business met his expectations.
“In the end, I have absolutely no regrets. Because the return on investment that I got from the M.S. in Commerce—and also more generally from UVA—is much more qualitative. It definitely helped me to know myself better and to be open to others. In short, it made me grow,” he says.
The graduate school experience also brought him back to Grounds for 10 months, which, no matter how you slice it, is always a plus.