At the end of 2017, we decided to create a strong distinction between the two pillars of Bean Voyage: the training program and the market outreach efforts.
We decided to dedicate the first half of the year hosting training programs for smallholder women coffee producers (40 participants this year) on sustainable coffee production, community-based processing, roasting, cupping and business skills. The goal of the training program was to provide the farmers with the necessary skills to be able to consolidate the value chain in their own community.
In the second half, we decided to focus on market outreach efforts to build relationships with offices, restaurants and coffee shops that would be interested in sourcing their coffee directly from one of our graduating producers.
Hence, came the concept for the BV Tour. The first leg of the tour took us to the East Coast: New York, Boston, and Washington D.C. We hosted public coffee tasting events, organized presentations at offices, and hosted a collaborative dinner at a restaurant.
One of our top highlights from the trip was our collaborative dinner withEmma’s TorchandBurlap & Barrel. Emma’s Torch is a social enterprise that empowers refugees through culinary education and job readiness training. Burlap & Barrel works directly with spice farms and cooperatives around the world to bring beautiful, unique spices to professional chefs and home cooks. In collaboration, we were able to host a one-time-only dinner pairing Bean Voyage’s women-powered coffee with Burlap & Barrel’s direct-trade spices. The special dinner was ideated and prepared by the Culinary Director of Emma’s Torch, Chef Alex Harris. The menu included salads with coffee-infused oil dressing as well as the coffee-rubbed brisket that blew all of our minds. The dinner tickets were sold out and were attended by various supporters of the different movements. We were honored to be able to share the coffee and stories of our graduating women coffee producers with all the attendees, including the Attorney General of New York, Barbara Underwood. The following is an image of the menu for the night (more pics coming soon on ourinstagram)!
Another highlight of the trip was our pop-up at Facebook NY on 770 Broadway. We hosted a few pop-ups during the trip, but this was a special moment as we had won the Facebook Social Entrepreneurship Award. Hence, going to the Facebook office to share our progress over the year was such an honor, and the reception was truly phenomenal. Amidst the busyness of work, a huge group of the staff at Facebook stopped by to learn more about our mission, work, and progress. Most importantly, they were extremely keen to put their money (and heart) where their mouth is by purchasing the coffee and making meaningful connections for us to seek more partnerships.
Overall, we presented our ideas to the brightest minds at Firmenich, Little Star, Root Capital, Boston University, Clinton Foundation, Gerson Lehrman Group, NABU.ORG, Global Shapers Community of NYC, Human Rights Watch, Facebook NY, WeWork, Ashoka, Arabella Advisors DC, TechChange, Charles Rivers Associates DC, and Calvert Impact Capital in a little span of 10 days. We met and talked with more than 700 people and are beyond grateful for all those that came out to support our work.
What went well:
Networks: when we decided on the trip itinerary, we nervously reached out to all of our networks to seek their support in making connections with hosts. From the people that we reached out to, every single person was willing to host us and were willing to support the venture. We want to send a special thanks to the communities of the Resolution Project, One Young World, Watson Institute, Global Changemakers, United World Colleges, Earlham College, and the Clinton Global Initiative for supporting our mission and making truly meaningful connections!
Presentation and Coffee tasting:this was the first time that we were hosting coffee tasting events in private (usually we host pop-up events), so we were fairly unsure of the way things should work. We did a bunch of pilot sessions prior to our departure, but every single situation was extremely unique (in terms of spaces and time restrictions). Fortunately, each of our presentations went exactly how we had imagined, and we were showered with a bunch of questions and feedback to help us further improve our work.
The true champs — the coffees: we took five different coffees for this trip, and each of them had a set of distinct flavor notes and story. People loved the coffee so much, that in some instances, they purchased and opened a bag right in front of us, and started using it for their daily consumption.
The materials — thanks to the guidance of mentors who provided us with some ideas on ways to maximize our time in these spaces, we were fully prepared with a bunch of materials that we would hand out to people who might not be able to attend our presentations. See our virtual brochurehere.
What was challenging
The Summer: as our tour was towards the tail end of the summer, a lot of people were on vacation or working from home, so the crowd size was slightly smaller than what we had expected. We still managed to interact with over 700 people in the two-week period, but we had predicted over 1,200 people.
Hot Coffee:although people enjoyed the coffee, many requested for a cold beverage as it was the summer. That was a good reminder for us to plan seasonally for these trips so that we can prepare an iced coffee tasting for future visits during the summer.
Time Constraint:we hosted a few back-to-back events and had planned about 2 hours between two events for takedown and travel, but it was a lot more challenging than we had expected as we ended up interacting with the audiences for longer, and ended up being a little late for a couple of setups.
Ground coffee:a large majority of the people were interested in purchasing ground coffee, which is not something that we offer (yet), but that was a good survey of the customers to see if we can make changes to our supply chain to start introducing an option to purchase ground coffee in the future.
The market is ready for origin roasted coffee — with enough training and quality control, coffee that is being roasted in origin is well received in the markets.
We should prepare customized equipment so that we can represent the Bean Voyage brand everywhere we host events.