Reflection: 4 lessons from our first pilot


As we enter the second phase of our venture, I wanted to share some reflections on the lessons we learned from our first pilot. I’m going to make it succinct but if you find any of these helpful for your venture, feel free to reach out and I’d love to share more!

  1. Product Quality: Our first pilot began in September, and we started off great! We gathered a lot of early adopters and had almost half of the customers sign up with pre-orders. When we started shipping, we made enough money to re-invest towards our marketing efforts. However, reflecting on it, we rushed the entire process too much. Instead of making sure that the product that our consumers were getting were of the most competitive quality, we were more focused on sharing the stories of the farmers and raising awareness on the challenges faced by female coffee farmers. We received a few notes from these adopters who reflected on how they would have preferred a better quality product – it was not the quality of the coffee (the coffee is fantastic!) but just making sure the presentation of the product is key. This reminds me of how Toms has really taken the market for shoes – people don’t buy Toms shoes just because it has high social value – but because you can buy gorgeous shoes while supporting social initiatives. As we move into our second pilot, we are really pushing ourselves on the product design side to really make sure that we put forward the most beautiful product that creates a connection with the consumer from the very beginning.
  2. Price: Another lesson we gained from the first pilot was the importance of doing proper due diligence on pricing, especially catered to the target group. Our target group was mostly younger generation of third wave consumers. These are the type of people who are very conscious of their consumption (as part of the LOHAS network). But, the challenge with young people? We’re mostly broke. We were targeting university students and young professions – both groups that are still trying to pay off student debt or struggling to meet bills. We couldn’t afford to charge them a competitive price to our competitors because the competitors aren’t really targeting this specific group – they’re selling to people who can afford specialty coffee. We were charging $20 for a 12-ounce bag of coffee, and although the early adopters were willing to support us with the cost, it was harder for us to convert empathizers into consumers because of the cost. We went back to the drawing board and asked ourselves – how can we make direct trade of specialty coffee more accessible to young people who generally cannot afford it.
  3. Customer support: When we launched our services, we gained a lot of support from our personal networks. People were very patient with us and were supporting us through numerous challenges that we were facing. However, we learned that as we work to scale our work, we need to focus more resources into creating a unique system of customer support, which includes policies that we would follow in the face of different scenarios. This is a difficult task, as it requires us to think through the various challenges that we might face – from customer dissatisfaction to quality control – we learned the importance of customer support. As Maya Angelou famously iterated, “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel,” and unique customer service is really the way in which we can change the way our consumers feel about doing business with us.
  4. Resilience and patience: We’ve faced numerous nights of marketing, of writing grant proposals, and applying to business plan competitions. We had many difficult discussions as a team and regularly debated on ways to move forward. Most of us were still doing part time jobs while working on the venture, so it was difficult for the entire team (of five) to dedicate time towards priority needs of the venture. At some point, we were struggling to keep up with sales targets and we dropped the ball several times. Slowly, we lost members of our team and suddenly, only two of our founding team was remaining. What this taught us was the importance of resilience at times when we don’t always meet our goals. We understood the challenge of our generation being the desire for instant gratification, and not being resilient can be the difference between a strong team that continues through difficulties or gives up after a few attempts. The pilot gave us a good idea of how we could move forward and further improve the organizational capacity and culture. We are also so thankful to our former teammates for their dedication and efforts - from the difficult journeys in Costa Rica to late night skype - the original squad will always be close to our hearts and we hope to continue fighting for the common values that we shared when we initially launched the venture. We wish them all the best as they get into new and exciting adventures in life!

We hope you learned a bit more about our venture from our reflections – part of a culture that we’re developing at Bean Voyage is to make our work transparent to both the farmers and consumers – so we will continue to share our lessons over the coming days and hope to gain more feedback from you so we can continue iterating and providing the best possible service! Also, we’re launching our second pilot in March, and look forward to serving you some freshly harvested and roasted coffee!

Abhinav Khanal



1 Response

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voyage vietnam tout compris

March 08, 2017

Je me souviendrai de ceux de votre part
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