The following essay was written by Luwam Tesfandrias Gebrehiwot, a finalist for the 2018 SuretyBonds.com Small Business Scholarship.
In Eritrean culture, coffee is an important and common symbol known to build and create relationships between family and friends. My greatest talent is making traditional Eritrean coffee known as Boon, which inspired me to create my very own coffee roasting business. My useful talent enabled me to leverage my interests in the traditional Boon process to build my at-home business that I am proud of and displays my ancestral culture to the rest of the world.
At the age of 11, I started making Boon for my grandfather every day in Eritrea when he came home from work. I would prepare the traditional coffee ceremony while we would exchange stories about how our days went and he would tell me his childhood memories. Making Boon became my favorite thing to do in the day because of the quality time I got to spend with family. The process of making Boon consists of roasting coffee beans, grinding the beans, boiling the beans in a clay pot, and serving it in small coffee cups, often shared with family or guests. An essential step in the process is the roasting which creates a dense smoke for the intense flavor.
When I came back to California, my parents would ask me to roast coffee for them almost every morning. The compelling scent attracted many of my neighbors to come by asking for some and they were fascinated by the taste and our tradition. A few years later, I wanted to turn something I love doing into a part-time hobby, so I decided to obtain a food permit and built my own home business to sell roasted coffee beans named Luwam’s Coffee Roasting. Although acquiring my license, paying for packaging and getting my labels custom designed was absolutely worthwhile, it was not an easy task to accomplish. in order to cover these costs, I saved up money from a summer internship to afford all the expenses necessary to start it. Fortunately, within the first two months, I was able to break even with the amount of revenue I made. Eventually, a lot of my school’s faculty found out about my coffee business, I made even more sales and from there was able to market it to a larger audience. Ever since then, 80% of the consumers I have sold to have come back to me to buy more. many of my customers still continue buying my freshly roasted coffee beans. I currently am aiming to sell to farmers market consumers and sell on my days off from school. I strive to grow my business even more and plan to upgrade to a higher class business license to be able to sell in stores, restaurants and coffee shops.
Throughout the time I have been running this business, I was able to engage in many conversations about our traditions. In addition, it enabled me to educate people about my country to those who did not know of Eritrea. My skill in making Boon not only kept me close to my culture and family but also allowed me to have a successful hobby that I am passionate about.
Luwam will attend the University of California – Davis in the fall.