Coffee and entrepreneurship seem to go hand in hand. I bet you can’t scroll the Instagram accounts of your favorite creators and business owners without a photo of a latte or a caffeine-inspired meme popping up, right?
This guest made coffee the center of her business, and with it, is on a mission to transform the industry through diversity, inclusion, and sustainability. Sahra Nguyen is the founder and CEO of Nguyen Coffee Supply, the first specialty Vietnamese coffee company importing directly from the source.
From features in the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, New York Magazine and even landing the cover of Food & Wine magazine, her success keeps coming, and part of that is the dedicated community of supporters, fans, and coffee drinkers brewing up these specialty beans. That’s what Sahra is here to talk about — community, the power of diversified digital marketing, and the other ways she’s bootstrapped her business.
Sahra Nguyen’s parents escaped Vietnam after the war and came to the United States. “They had this bravery and this courage to enter the ocean in the complete unknown and travel all across the globe to pursue something new,” Sahra shared, “So I think that was kind of the foundation to my spirit.”
Pursuing entrepreneurship was a natural thing for Sahra’s creative side. She’s not one to be constrained by boundaries. Coffee, too, seemed like a natural progression for her passions in life, as it is a key part of Vietnamese culture.
“In Vietnam, coffee is its own moment,” she explained. “It’s really centered around this idea of slowing down with the slow drip feed filter.”
For Sahra, her early career as a freelance creative had her in and out of coffee shops all the time for meetings and remote work sessions. Her admiration for coffee shop culture and the industry itself grew from there.
Launching Her Company
Sahra launched Nguyen Coffee Supply as an independent founder, bootstrapping it from her savings and credit card. She wanted to develop a brand of Vietnamese coffee, importing from Vietnam and roasting in Brooklyn, New York, but more than that, she wanted to bring a new point of view to the industry of coffee — diversity, inclusion, cultural integrity, and sustainability.
Sahra explained that Vietnam was historically excluded from the specialty coffee industry. Vietnam is the number one producer of Robusta coffee beans, but this variety was excluded from the industry. Sahra took this to task.
“Why aren’t we including Vietnam in the conversation around sustainable coffee farming? Why aren’t we including Robusta coffee in the conversation around sustainable coffee farming? Why are we creating these narratives that completely bar this origin and this variety?” Sahra pointed out, “It bars entire communities from elevating their lifestyles.”
The status of Vietnamese coffee in the industry required a lot of education on Sahra’s part. She wanted to break apart the narrative and deconstruct the view of coffee culture to make it more diverse and inclusive.
More from this Episode
Sahra talks about the power of relationships and personal network when it comes to establishing importing channels, how her company lives out their mission statement beyond the coffee industry, and how she fostered a strong community around her brand. This conversation is interesting and eye-opening for anyone in the product based business space, so pour yourself a cup of coffee and hit play!