African, Latin American women set to make US$ 1.25 million in coffee sales in the United States

23 April 2015
ITC News

After participating in business-to-business meetings in Seattle, Washington, African and Latin American women coffee entrepreneurs stand to sell 378 tons of coffee.

Women coffee entrepreneurs from Africa and Latin America are tapping new business opportunities and making sales through connections arranged by the International Trade Centre (ITC) in partnership with the International Women’s Coffee Alliance (IWCA).

After participating in business-to-business meetings with United States-based importers and roasters on the sidelines of the Specialty Coffee Association of America’s (SCAA) annual event from 9-12 April in Seattle, Washington, they made provisional agreements to sell a combined 21 containers – or 378 tons – of coffee beans for about US$ 1.25 million. The sales will be finalized in coming weeks after coffee samples are exchanged and contracts are signed.

‘This is a great experience – it’s not only for learning and for sharing, but for knowing exactly what the buyer wants,’ said Celeste Fumagalli, Marketing Manager of Gold Grains in Guatemala and head of the country’s IWCA chapter. ‘When you come to these events, you can open your eyes and realize there are lots of opportunities available and there are people buying coffee.’

‘I was excited to be back this year,’ said Mary Allen Lindemann, owner of Coffee by Design, a coffee shop and small-scale roaster in Portland, United States, who also participated in last year’s meetings. ‘We had an opportunity to hear the stories about these cooperatives and organizations that are trying to prepare an outstanding product but also to rebuild sustainable communities. We’re looking at long-term relationships where you have a year that’s not a good crop and you can let us know, and know that we’ll come back again the next year.’

Coffee by Design recently received its first order from Isabelle Sinamenye, a biologist-turned-coffee quality controller and president of the Burundi chapter of the IWCA. The finalized order was the result of connecting in a business-to-business meeting last year.

These one-on-one business meetings were organized as part of ITC’s ‘Women in Coffee’ project. More than 30 women from 13 countries – Brazil, Burundi, Cameroon, Costa Rica, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Jamaica, Kenya, Peru, Rwanda, Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania – showcased their coffee and introduced their businesses to buyers.

‘Face-to-face meetings are essential for establishing new business partnerships, even with enhanced communication tools and virtual marketplaces,’ said Rob Skidmore, Chief of ITC’s Sector Competitiveness section, which runs the Women in Coffee project. ‘These customized business-to-business meetings are a platform for building trust and translating conversations into concrete trade opportunities.’

‘I’m very glad the people I’ve been in communication with, I’m able to meet them one-on-one and conclude the process of communication which we’ve done through emails,’ said Anne Chepkoech, Manager of Eastern Africa of the 4C Association, who represented three groups of coffee producers. ‘These buyers are not just looking at price and quality. They’re looking at impact and creating shared value for these women.’

The women entrepreneurs participated in the event’s trade fair alongside more than 10,000 attendees, including 2,500 international participants. The women networked, made new contacts and explored business opportunities. SCAA sponsored the participation of 30 women at the annual coffee event, providing access to the trade fair, lectures, workshops and the World Barista Championship.

ITC also organized a full-day training workshop on 9 April, covering topics such as financing for small and medium-sized enterprises, coffee quality, buyers’ expectations, and self-branding and marketing.

‘I learned so much more about quality and quality management, and about cupping and what I needed to look for,’ said Dorienne Rowan-Campbell, owner of Rowan’s Royale in Jamaica, which sells organic Blue Mountain coffee. ‘So it prepared me to position myself in the market, and I never had that before. It was fantastic.’

Read more about ITC’s work on Women in Coffee.