Author: Paul Wood
Bio: Paul has been working with small and medium-sized businesses for nearly 30 years and is a specialist in strategic planning, product development and Go-to-Market strategies. He brings his extensive global experience and cultural understanding to local challenges to deliver results.
When Ousmane Sow got the call from his mother about selling his family’s coffee plantation in Guinea, he knew his life was going to change. There are many reasons for starting a small business, but for Ousmane, it was about Memories.
He could not imagine selling his family and childhood memories so easily and risk the potential exploitation of the area and workers around his family’s village by large corporations with no roots in the area. So he started figuring out how to transition from a good job as an electrician in Halmstad, Sweden into a Coffee Roaster and seller.
This Voice of the Customer interview is different from our others because it focuses less on the digital aspects of starting a business and more on the personal side. Many business owners can relate to Ousmane’s story about the long hours and the sacrifice and the learning that has to take place just to survive.
Ousmane had a lot to learn, and with a lot of help navigating the rules and regulations in Sweden from the entrepreneur program from the City of Halmstad, he managed to open his coffee roasting business.
However, opening a business and getting customers is not the same thing. While he did initially target the general public, it was soon apparent that the volume of customers would not pay the bills, and he needed to break into the business market and the hotel market.
Watch the video here
Ousmane had to go door-to-door selling his exclusive brand of Arabica coffee beans – roasted locally in Halmstad. Finally, he reached a decision-maker in a local hotel and explained that “coffee is not coffee. These are special beans.” Leaving a sample, he headed home, and it was there that he realized the person had called back and agreed “this is a special coffee” and ordered several cases.
This order started Ousmane on his way. Since his first sales, Ousmane has updated his website when the original one crashed due to increased traffic, begun working with a digital agency to improve his email capabilities and looking at various SEO activities. But mainly he has been keeping up personal appearances at markets, events, and tradeshows.
The consumer side of the business has picked up. The website is eCommerce enabled and 500g packages are available in addition to the bulk orders to hotels and business. The increase in consumer-directed sales has helped given the slow-down/cancellation in travel and hotel bookings as well as remote working in offices.
He has also reached out to other growers in Africa to help them survive and thrive by giving them access to his market. With several small-batch producers featured, if you miss them in the store, you will have to wait until next year when the beans have ripened, been harvested, shipped to Sweden before roasting and serving.
But for Ousmane, this is not just a job. It is an obligation to his past. He hasn’t just kept the coffee plantation in his family; he is building school rooms in his village to improve the lives of those around him. For Ousmane, every cup is a journey from his past and his memories into the future.