26 year old Roberts Mbabazi faced an uphill task. His love for coffee moved him to introduce coffee to homeland, Uganda – a country of tea-drinkers. How do you sway millions of tea-loving people to start loving coffee instead? The success he has recorded so far has shown that with a strong passion, a lot is possible.
Roberts invested his savings of $7,000 into coffee-related training programs and buying coffee equipment. Now, He is the director of Barista Pro Coffee Company, which trains baristas (people who brew coffee) and has also consulted for major café brands in Uganda. He believes strongly that there is an emerging coffee-drinking culture among Ugandans.
Yesterday evening, he was answering questions live on the BBC Africa Facebook page from all around the Africa, mostly Youths. Konnect Africa now brings to you some of the questions he was asked and the answers he provided. We were really impressed with his answers. We could feel his passion all the way. It was very contagious. Happy reading!!!
What has been your biggest challenge as an Enterpreneur? How were you able to tackle it successfully?
My biggest challenge has and still is bringing coffee drinking to the commonest people in my country, they still associate it with lots of myths. This is slowly changing though. My other biggest challenge has been the cost of fuel, fuel prices are so high and this is increasing on my overhead expenses. I just have to keep pushing on until the oil situation in my country stabilizes.
I want to be a businessman, what can I do to be successful?
Find out what people want the most over there, and start figuring out how to bring their needs to close proximity.
Business and School, how compatible are they?
I have had to put school on hold now…to chase my passion! School will mainly help to feel that void inside of me, for now, i want to build my name, my brand and as well as promote domestic coffee consumption in Uganda
Did you do any strategic planning before you started your business?
I actually first took a course in coffee entrepreneurial skills. I did research and my research showed me that there was a gap that needed to be filled and that’s when i came in. The timing was right as well. People were shifting away from bars, wireless internet had become a huge thing in our country and many people seemed to be enjoying the ambiance that coffee shops were offering.
Have you involved family members in your business activities? If yes, how are they faring? If no, why?
I have not involved any of my family member in the business because they don’t have the required skills and experience needed. However, they are very supportive of me and my work.
How have you improved your chances of success in the business?
I have been blessed with many opportunities to travel abroad and i have always used these moments to check out what other people are doing and along the way, I learn a thing or two. I also just love what I do and that alone inspires me to wake up and go to work
It would all depend on the kind of business you are interested in…In regards to coffee, it is the right place.
What business structure has worked for you?
I believe in honesty and transparency as well as listening to my clients’ suggestions and needs.
How have you been able monitor the progress of your business?
The results are all in the numbers, the figure show me that we are growing by the day and each day that passes, a new client calls to inquire about the services and products offered at Barista Pro Coffee.
How have you been able to handle corruption when getting licenses and dealing with government bureaucrats?
The corruption scandals have not affected my business in any way, shape, or form. My business is still very small and when it grows big, I will still continue to be transparent and honest with all my dealings
How has being a young person benefited your business?
On the contrary, most people get so skeptical about dealing with me
Where do you see yourself and your business 10 years from now?
I wish to see myself running a bigger coffee roasting facility in ten years, I would like to be able to expand and perhaps set up factories in my neighboring countries as well. However, one thing we all have to remember is the versatility of the coffee industry, we are dealing with a commodity that has been with us for many years, along the years, things change, the ways of drinking it, the ways of brewing it, the ways or roasting and farming it and if life is still on my side in the next ten years, then i guess i will still be part of the coffee movement.
My grand parents were coffee farmers in the late 80s and due to the fall in cash crop prices they abandoned the noble profession. So my question is, How can you encourage young people to take up coffee farming across the continent, Cameroon in particular?
All I can say is that with the face of our African economies changing by the day, It is getting very hard for our youth to keep up by just attaining an education. I believe, they need to get involved in jobs that require more practical skills like the coffee industry. One thing we have to remember is that history suggests and shows us that coffee has been a part of us for over 2000 years, what have we been using it for? The answer is that more than 90% of coffee produced across the world is used for human consumption…the remaining 10% is used up in Pharmaceutical companies, energy drinks and so on…i therefore concluded by saying that there will always be a demand for coffee, meaning that they will always be jobs for our youth within the coffee industry. We should just try and sensitize them more about the changing trends within the coffee industry until they realize it’s true potential.
What was the first step you took to begin your business, and how were you able to acquire enough capital needed to bring in your first revenue?
I had to first learn how to save. Most importantly, I used my knowledge and experience about coffee to lobby for some support from some other big coffee exporting companies. These played a big role in providing the necessary finances to bring in huge roasting equipment, packaging material among others, things I couldn’t have afforded on my own..This made me believe that with the right idea, you can’t fail to get a business partner.
Did you encounter any challenges with local and regional authorities who were not as kind to you endeavor, and how should I best navigate these types of discouraging challenges in “less healthy” business climes in other parts of Africa?
I started out on the right side, I got most of my experience and training from the Uganda Coffee Development Authority which has greatly helped me by recommending people to come and use my services. It has also been the main objective to promote domestic consumption of coffee in Uganda. I believe i am helping them realize that objective through my work.
What steps should I take to be a good Barista (people that brew coffee) like you?
My whole coffee adventure started out as just another job, as time passed, I became passionate and obsessed by coffee. Right now, i spend most of my time trying to figure out what i can do to make people best enjoy coffee. I have a huge thirst for more knowledge about coffee, Passion will drive you to know more about what you do, once that is in the equation, you will become the greatest Barista, i believe in you, you have showed me your potential, now its time for you to shoot for the moon brother.
If you need to get further details or would like to ask Roberts Mbabazi any question, you can reach him on his email – firstname.lastname@example.org.
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