This is a follow up story for Rwanda Bean Coffee. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published almost 3 years ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
I am Mike Mwenedata a Rwandan who is based in Maine, emigrated from Rwanda to the US in 2010. I am the founder of Rwanda Bean Company, a company based on my desire to provide premium coffee products and help farmers efficiently access global markets. I am committed to returning more value to farms by investing 50% of Rwanda Bean’s net profits to community development projects that enhance farm viability and support Rwanda’s growth.
My goal is for Rwanda Bean to transform the lives of coffee farmers in Rwanda and deepen consumers’ connection to what has been accepted as a standard commodity. Rwanda Bean Company currently provides roasted coffee beans, green beans and a newly launched Canned Cold Nitro brew.
Rwanda Bean currently has two coffee shops situated in South Portland and Portland, both locations offer customers an opportunity to purchase already made coffee beverages using our quality coffee beans roasted by us and the option of purchasing coffee beans for your home or office. We also supply green coffee to other roasters.
Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?
Rwanda Bean Company like any other company has had its ups and downs as per any business expectations. At the start of 2019, we had three café locations and by the end of 2019, we had to close one location. The closure was based on the market not viable for coffee. We now serve our product at the below locations.
- 185 Cottage Road, South Portland
- 463 Stevens Avenue, Portland
Do what you are passionate about because passion leads to success.
Even though we closed one store our efforts in growing the brand and business have been successful. Those efforts included revising our website to make it more brand focused and currently hosting the website on an e-commerce platform in order for our consumers to be able to directly purchase the preferred Rwanda Bean product. In our marketing efforts, we have gone as far as making sure the product is available to all and consumers can now not only purchase the product on our website but also on Amazon and Mable. With the business continuing in strong efforts to grow, the team behind the business has also grown. The sales & marketing has increased, we hired more retail managers for the café stores.
Summer of 2019 we launched our canned Nitro Cold Brew. This product is available in a 300ml can and is served directly from the can. We also collaborated with a beer company called Nonesuch River Brewing on our first beer coffee using the finest coffee beans. Another marketing tactic to draw in a new crowd of consumers looking to try something original.
As a team, we are always looking at new ways of marketing the product, getting it to our consumers who may not be able to visit our café stores. We, therefore, went further and partnered with corporates in supplying their employees with coffee right at their offices. This is also a way in which corporates can get involved in giving back to communities as part of their CSI initiatives. We are currently working with major corporates and will share details once the ink is dry on the contract. Rwanda Bean continues to be available at your nearest supermarket, as we have just finalized our deal with Hannaford Supermarkets where consumers can now purchase our coffee beans at selected Hannaford stores. This is a great achievement for the company as Hannaford is a well-known trusted supermarket brand.
Our consumers are the heart of the business meeting its goal of supporting the coffee farmers, and our appreciation towards them and also just keeping them updated on the business goal is sharing birthday vouchers with them letting them know we care and appreciate their support. We also update them with monthly newsletters informing them about new products, new store locations and any community development done for the farmers such as the ongoing building of a school in one of the farming communities. The school is scheduled to be completed this year. Thanks to our loyal customers Rwanda Bean won the 2019 Business Excellence Award from the governor’s office. This was a true honor for the whole company as our efforts are being seen by all. As part of the cancer awareness campaign, Mike took part in a cancer run where he personally delivered coffee to customers by running to their location and not using any vehicle. Mike ran approximately 500 miles in six weeks and was able to raise around $ 4000 for the Maine Cancer Foundation.
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
Our most recent lesson had been the closure of the third café store. Our lesson was not having done enough research on the location and its possible profitability. As a young and still up and coming entrepreneur I have also learned the importance of cash flow and that it takes time to grow your cash flow and you need patience for the cash flow to increase. I also learned the importance of hiring adequate and professional staff as they are the face of the business and assist in growing it.
On a personal note, I married the love of my life and as mentioned earlier I took part in the cancer run initiative to increase the campaign on cancer and raise funds towards it.
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
My plans are my continued efforts in improving the communities of the coffee farmers. This means I need to continue to further educate the consumer on the importance of the coffee farmer towards the end product that the consumers enjoy. At the same time also educating the farmers about the importance of their role of farming coffee beans.
My exciting plans for the upcoming year is opening a café store and a canning cold brew facility in Rwanda, my home country. It is really important for this plan to be successful as it is because of Rwanda and its resources that our business is doing so well in the USA and would love for the business to also perform well in Rwanda and the people of Rwanda can know of the business and how it is currently supporting the coffee farming communities. Be recognized by Rwandan.
With the continued plan of expanding Rwanda Bean Company, this will lead to more coffee farms producing the beans and therefore improving the lives of other coffee farming communities.
Have you read any good books in the last year?
The only books I’ve read recently have been the bible. The bible is very important to me as it reminds me of our humanity and the purpose of this planet. I have also read Rick Warren's famous book Purpose Driven Life.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
My advice to other aspiring entrepreneurs is to do what you are passionate about because passion leads to success. When things get tough your passion reminds you of why you started and why you need to keep going. Your business has to be your passion because when you are passionate about something you don’t give up on it, you work harder towards growing your passion.
Never go into business just to make money. That is a mistake we see too often. If your business is to make as many profits as you can it will be very easy for you to give up on your business when things get tough, that is why I push on being an entrepreneur on something you are passionate about.
Lastly don’t rush your business success, take time.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
Most of our readers are aspiring entrepreneurs, but some are also just looking for a change of pace in their careers.
Right now with the business growing, I am looking into meeting potential investors, people who will be able to assist me in growing the business and meeting our objective of improving the lives of the coffee farmers.
Where can we go to learn more?
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