The Entrepreneur Forum | Startups | Entrepreneurship | Starting a Business | Motivation | Success

Coffee and Cacao Import Business

Accelerate wealth. Build a business that pays freedom. Join more than 70,000 entrepreneurs and register for the Fastlane Entrepreneur forum. Remove ads? Join the INSIDERS.

Kelvin Fernandez

Some Profound Quote Goes Here
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Speedway Pass
Jan 26, 2016
719
1,424
441
29
Rice, Texas
I need your advice, ideas, and knowledge in the import/export business.


Long story short I have family in Central America. My parents are starting a coffee and cacao plantation over there. And I have an uncle that already has a coffee plantation. He has 2 tons of coffee sitting in his warehouse because he does not know how to distribute the coffee. He also has all the machinery to process the coffee and pack it.


So I was thinking that I can start a coffee and cacao import/export business to the USA.


First I'll go trough CENTS and see how many boxes I can check off to see if this is a viable business to pursue.


1. Control


I will have control over the entire operation. From dealing with the farmers to selling the product. I'll be buying the coffee from many different farmers and I'll sale the coffee through my website and Amazon. If one farmer is not willing to sell me coffee I'll just go to another. If Amazon cancels my account I'll still have my website.


2. Entry


This one is a bit tricky so I won't check it. As we all know coffee and cacao are commodities. There are large corporations importing coffee into the USA. But it also has a high entry point because the countries that I'll be buying the coffee from talk Spanish. Someone who's not fluent in Spanish will have a hard time dealing with the farmers and laws of the country. But companies like Bodhi leaf coffee based in California import coffee from around the world. They have no problem not been fluent in all those different languages. So it might not be a high barrier to entry.


3. Need


Is there a need for another coffee/cacao exporter? After all these two products are commodities. But there is a need for high-quality coffee/cacao. The coffee most people are used to buying at the gas station tastes nothing like fresh coffee. Also, the cacao we are used to is low quality coffee from Africa. I'll have access to high-quality cacao native to Central America. I can sell the coffee to high-end cafes and restaurants. I can sell the cacao to gourmet chefs that need high-quality cacao beans. I was researching on cacao and came across a forum of chefs that have to order the cacao beans from Central America sometimes paying up to $500 just for ten pounds of high-quality whole cacao beans.


Skew Value


My skew value would be selling from farm to table. Dealing directly with the farmers and making sure they have high standards of growing organic beans.


4. Time


This might be hard to accomplish because I'll be dealing with a physical product.


5. Scale


Scaling should be easy because I'll be selling high-quality beans. So the profit margin should be high even if I'm not selling a lot of coffee.


The work I'll focus on is in digital marketing. I'll create the webpage myself and copywriting. Also, I'll do the marketing through google ads, Facebook ads, and social media management.


Once I get the ball rolling and see the profits coming in I'll start a cafe. Here in the USA and in Central America. That's where the profits will be higher because you'll be selling the coffee by the cup.


Let me know what's your opinion about this idea. I don't know anything about the import/export business so if you could link me to a good course on that I would appreciate it.


Thank you for your time.
 

Einfamilienhaus

Bronze Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Speedway Pass
Feb 8, 2019
202
369
182
I like your idea very much! Take my money now.

But only if you sell it this way.

I prefer buy a product from a private grower than from a big company. That is the reason why you can sell your product more expensive because for me as a consumer I can see the face behind the product. I can see how your uncle and his family are growing coffee and cacao. How he is packing the product for me. I would definitely have more trust in this product than in Starbucks or other huge companies.

You should definitely hire a camera guy and an good editor. Put your uncle in front of a field. Let introduce himself in his native language. Make some shots how he and his family are working and the field. And put some English Subtitles. Keep the video short. Maybe less than 2 minutes. So you can advertise it better on social media.

Design the package. Choose your colours wisely. Maybe in green or earth brown. Put a white certificate cachet. Write on it 100% Bio.
Tell at the back of the package a short story about your uncle. How many generations of your uncle's family have worked on this field. Put a picture of him.

Search for all the Bio Grocery stores you have in the US. Contact them. Prepare a sell mail. Work with html. Put some pictures of your uncle and his farm into it and explain why they should offer your product in their store.
Work with scarcity. Your uncle is a small farmer. Not every customer can get his product. The is exactly what their customers are always looking for! Something seasonal, unique, real. A product with a face behind it.

Stimulate the sensory level of the reader. Let him taste the cacao and coffee without even seen or tasted your product before.

That is how I would do it.

If you sell your product like this. All the yuppies in the big cities are going wild.

My advice would be focusing on yuppies, hipsters, hippies and all the kind of fancy and edgy people.
 

pawon

Contributor
Dec 4, 2018
21
28
19
I think it's a great idea!

About entry, I think you have a huge advantage over most people - everybody can start a Amazon fba these days, but who has family in Central America who is growing coffee?

Einfamilienhause gave a fantastic answer and it's exactly what I was thinking as well. You need to focus on the STORY. The FEELING that your customers will feel when they drink that good-for-the-world, family-grown coffee of yours.

Look here for example: Single Origin Coffee Beans
(prices are for 250 grams). They also have pictures of themselves visiting the farms, etc.

Can't find it now for some reason, but this week I was tempted to buy organic coffee beans that costs 16 euro for 250 gr (I didn't, not yuppie hipster enough after all ;) ) - because it has a great story about this family, working hard to grow organic coffee, how the grandfather of the family takes of the trees on this land so the coffee plants have shade, how they get a fair price for their coffee, so they can continue to look after the rain forest, and so on.

When I lived in Malaysia, I used to buy this coffee: Doi Chaang Coffee - Official website - DOI CHAANG Caffè Franchise

Great coffee, but also a great story and marketing.
 

Tiago

Silver Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Speedway Pass
Mar 22, 2014
667
898
343
28
Hey @kelvinfernandezm,

Great to have you here.

After reading your post, I'm a bit confused as to what direction you want to go.

1. Do you want to open an export business and sell coffee produced in your country?
2. Do you want to sell high-end coffee to high-end restaurants? Create an ultra-premium product?
3. Do you want to open your own cafe?

And lastly, how would digital marketing help these?

Maybe I'm confused and didn't understand exactly the path you're going in this business, and pardon me if I'm wrong, but it feels that there is not a clear direction here.

Let me know what you think and I'll see what I can help based on your reply.
 

Kelvin Fernandez

Some Profound Quote Goes Here
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Speedway Pass
Jan 26, 2016
719
1,424
441
29
Rice, Texas
I like your idea very much! Take my money now.

But only if you sell it this way.

I prefer buy a product from a private grower than from a big company. That is the reason why you can sell your product more expensive because for me as a consumer I can see the face behind the product. I can see how your uncle and his family are growing coffee and cacao. How he is packing the product for me. I would definitely have more trust in this product than in Starbucks or other huge companies.

You should definitely hire a camera guy and an good editor. Put your uncle in front of a field. Let introduce himself in his native language. Make some shots how he and his family are working and the field. And put some English Subtitles. Keep the video short. Maybe less than 2 minutes. So you can advertise it better on social media.

Design the package. Choose your colours wisely. Maybe in green or earth brown. Put a white certificate cachet. Write on it 100% Bio.
Tell at the back of the package a short story about your uncle. How many generations of your uncle's family have worked on this field. Put a picture of him.

Search for all the Bio Grocery stores you have in the US. Contact them. Prepare a sell mail. Work with html. Put some pictures of your uncle and his farm into it and explain why they should offer your product in their store.
Work with scarcity. Your uncle is a small farmer. Not every customer can get his product. The is exactly what their customers are always looking for! Something seasonal, unique, real. A product with a face behind it.

Stimulate the sensory level of the reader. Let him taste the cacao and coffee without even seen or tasted your product before.

That is how I would do it.

If you sell your product like this. All the yuppies in the big cities are going wild.

My advice would be focusing on yuppies, hipsters, hippies and all the kind of fancy and edgy people.


Yes, I was definitely thinking of doing that. Load up on go pros, and document the whole thing. Maybe give the growers a go pro to wear for a day and turn it into a video.
 

Kelvin Fernandez

Some Profound Quote Goes Here
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Speedway Pass
Jan 26, 2016
719
1,424
441
29
Rice, Texas
I think it's a great idea!

About entry, I think you have a huge advantage over most people - everybody can start a Amazon fba these days, but who has family in Central America who is growing coffee?

Einfamilienhause gave a fantastic answer and it's exactly what I was thinking as well. You need to focus on the STORY. The FEELING that your customers will feel when they drink that good-for-the-world, family-grown coffee of yours.

Look here for example: Single Origin Coffee Beans
(prices are for 250 grams). They also have pictures of themselves visiting the farms, etc.

Can't find it now for some reason, but this week I was tempted to buy organic coffee beans that costs 16 euro for 250 gr (I didn't, not yuppie hipster enough after all ;) ) - because it has a great story about this family, working hard to grow organic coffee, how the grandfather of the family takes of the trees on this land so the coffee plants have shade, how they get a fair price for their coffee, so they can continue to look after the rain forest, and so on.

When I lived in Malaysia, I used to buy this coffee: Doi Chaang Coffee - Official website - DOI CHAANG Caffè Franchise

Great coffee, but also a great story and marketing.


Yeah I will definitely follow that marketing strategy. What I just learned is that coffee has so much marketing strategies that companies use. I guess when something is commoditized you have to come up with better angles to sell your product.
 

Kelvin Fernandez

Some Profound Quote Goes Here
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Speedway Pass
Jan 26, 2016
719
1,424
441
29
Rice, Texas
Hey @kelvinfernandezm,

Great to have you here.

After reading your post, I'm a bit confused as to what direction you want to go.

1. Do you want to open an export business and sell coffee produced in your country?
2. Do you want to sell high-end coffee to high-end restaurants? Create an ultra-premium product?
3. Do you want to open your own cafe?

And lastly, how would digital marketing help these?

Maybe I'm confused and didn't understand exactly the path you're going in this business, and pardon me if I'm wrong, but it feels that there is not a clear direction here.

Let me know what you think and I'll see what I can help based on your reply.


Yes I want to do all that here are the steps.

1. Bring coffee from central America to the USA.
2. Since coffee is a commodity meaning its cheaply available everywhere there would be more profits if I sold premium coffee to high end restaurants or cafe's.
3. Yes, later down the line once I get the import/export business stable I would like to open my own cafe because the profits are higher selling coffee by the cup.
4. Digital Marketing would help to expand the awareness of my brand thus more buyers of the coffee and cacao beans.
 

0dysseus

Contributor
May 23, 2018
34
41
110
Berlin, Germany
I like your idea very much! Take my money now.

But only if you sell it this way.

I prefer buy a product from a private grower than from a big company. That is the reason why you can sell your product more expensive because for me as a consumer I can see the face behind the product. I can see how your uncle and his family are growing coffee and cacao. How he is packing the product for me. I would definitely have more trust in this product than in Starbucks or other huge companies.

You should definitely hire a camera guy and an good editor. Put your uncle in front of a field. Let introduce himself in his native language. Make some shots how he and his family are working and the field. And put some English Subtitles. Keep the video short. Maybe less than 2 minutes. So you can advertise it better on social media.

Design the package. Choose your colours wisely. Maybe in green or earth brown. Put a white certificate cachet. Write on it 100% Bio.
Tell at the back of the package a short story about your uncle. How many generations of your uncle's family have worked on this field. Put a picture of him.

Search for all the Bio Grocery stores you have in the US. Contact them. Prepare a sell mail. Work with html. Put some pictures of your uncle and his farm into it and explain why they should offer your product in their store.
Work with scarcity. Your uncle is a small farmer. Not every customer can get his product. The is exactly what their customers are always looking for! Something seasonal, unique, real. A product with a face behind it.

Stimulate the sensory level of the reader. Let him taste the cacao and coffee without even seen or tasted your product before.

That is how I would do it.

If you sell your product like this. All the yuppies in the big cities are going wild.

My advice would be focusing on yuppies, hipsters, hippies and all the kind of fancy and edgy people.

What this guy said. No point in writing an answer, he has covered everything I would suggest.
 

Einfamilienhaus

Bronze Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Speedway Pass
Feb 8, 2019
202
369
182
Yes, I was definitely thinking of doing that. Load up on go pros, and document the whole thing. Maybe give the growers a go pro to wear for a day and turn it into a video.

It could also work. Depending on your script. You should always work with a script. Learn which camera angles and techniques existing and use them for your purpose.

But I thought more about a common marketing video. You will have more advantages.

1. You have more control over the picture.

You can decide what is important to show and what not.

If you just give your uncle and his workers a GoPro even with good intentions of the users showing something. Can be boring for the viewer.

2. You have more control over the whole scene.

The user can see your uncle as a whole person. His clothes, his face, his hands and his shoes.
Put him in front of the cacao field and you will create for the viewer a bigger impact than just a GoPro Angle where you can see his hands and a voice without a face.

You also can decide where the protagonist should stay, what he should say and even how.

3. You have more control over the story.

Take your script.

Everybody loves good Stories right? And the best Story is one where the viewer can identify himself with it.

That is also a reason why Game of Thrones was a big success before. Many different personalities who have a huge impact of different types of viewers.

When people around me told: Oh, The Mother of the Dragons is so cool because she did this and that. They meant on a deeper level of the communication: I want to be like her. And on a much deeper level: She is like me.

Or look at the marvel movies.

Iron Man by himself in a movie. Cool why not? But Iron Man, Hulk, Captain America and Thor in one Movie? I want to see it!

Many people want to see their favourite hero. Because every interested viewer wants to see his favourite hero and we have many of them on one place. The movie got hyped and even people like me who thought Batman is also part of the Marvel watched this movie.

Think about your customers and what is important for them to see.

When your customers are Hippies, Hipsters and Yuppies for example understand what they need to identify themselves with your product.

You are not just selling coffee or cacao. You sell a new way of living. You sell more quality for life. You sell an idea! Always remember that for your marketing. Steve Jobs sold Ideas not Smartphones.

The Hippie maybe wants the Im-familiar-with-everybody-around-me and I-just-produce-how-much-I-need Lifestyle.

(One Idea could be: Show how your uncle is working with his family together. Show smiling and happy people around him. How they interact together. Maybe you could edit the Interaction in slow motion. So the viewer has more time see the smiling and happy face and he will get into it. The goal should be creating the thought: I want to be there right now. To identify with somebody means also to put the own face on the person you want to be)

The Yuppie is searching for a place where the time goes slow. Having more time for himself.

(One idea: Make wide shots of the environment. Show the natur. Show big trees with big wet leaves. Show places where you can get easily lost but still in harmony and security.)

The other intention of this customer group could be: Finally doing something good for the people around me. Giving something back.

(Like buying the coffee of a small natural farmer from South America and support him. I think your uncle and his plantation is the Best option he could have, right?)

The Hipster needs something unique. Something not everybody knows about it and not everybody can have it.

(One idea: You could show how the coffee get packed in small boxes. How the boxes are stored on an old, rusty truck and how your uncle drives to the next small marketplace.

Or

You could make the influence more aggressive and say how much coffee get produced every year and how many packages can be sold for this year. )
 

Tiago

Silver Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Speedway Pass
Mar 22, 2014
667
898
343
28
What is your competitive advantage over other import/export business, and other premium brands?
 

Monica Rose

Bronze Contributor
Apr 14, 2019
60
126
123
Maui, Hawaii
Yes I want to do all that here are the steps.

1. Bring coffee from central America to the USA.
2. Since coffee is a commodity meaning its cheaply available everywhere there would be more profits if I sold premium coffee to high end restaurants or cafe's.
3. Yes, later down the line once I get the import/export business stable I would like to open my own cafe because the profits are higher selling coffee by the cup.
4. Digital Marketing would help to expand the awareness of my brand thus more buyers of the coffee and cacao beans.

Hi Kelvin,

I feel like if you're trying to sell the story of the coffee (where and how it's grown) in order to differentiate it from other coffees on the market, then you might have better luck selling it directly to consumers. I know there's a lot of hipster coffee shops that care about fair trade, single origin, etc., but there are also lots of companies already selling coffee with these qualifications, so the more direct your exposure to your end market (the coffee drinker) the more you can sell them on why your coffee is better.

Also, it seems like trying to get into a retailer like whole foods would be amazing. I'm sure the competition is stiff but that doesn't mean it's impossible. Here's a link I found where you can look into the process Information For Potential Suppliers

Good luck with your venture, and make sure to post here once you've got it for sale somewhere, as I would love to try some!
 

Kelvin Fernandez

Some Profound Quote Goes Here
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Speedway Pass
Jan 26, 2016
719
1,424
441
29
Rice, Texas
What is your competitive advantage over other import/export business, and other premium brands?
It might be the direct relationship with the farmer. I mean think about it. Nobody ever thinks about these farmers. They plaster them on the packages but that's about it.

So what if you show them their life story and why they grow coffee.

But even for all my good intentions I don't know if people actually care about them. Do people care about the farmers enough to pay for the coffee over other brands?


So human connection would be my competive advantage. I would create a profile for the farmers online and keep their coffee single origin. I won't mix the coffee beans that way people taste the beans from only one farmer. On the package I would put a link where they can read and see the farmer's story.
 

Kelvin Fernandez

Some Profound Quote Goes Here
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Speedway Pass
Jan 26, 2016
719
1,424
441
29
Rice, Texas
Hi Kelvin,

I feel like if you're trying to sell the story of the coffee (where and how it's grown) in order to differentiate it from other coffees on the market, then you might have better luck selling it directly to consumers. I know there's a lot of hipster coffee shops that care about fair trade, single origin, etc., but there are also lots of companies already selling coffee with these qualifications, so the more direct your exposure to your end market (the coffee drinker) the more you can sell them on why your coffee is better.

Also, it seems like trying to get into a retailer like whole foods would be amazing. I'm sure the competition is stiff but that doesn't mean it's impossible. Here's a link I found where you can look into the process Information For Potential Suppliers

Good luck with your venture, and make sure to post here once you've got it for sale somewhere, as I would love to try some!
Thank you for your feedback. Yes that's basically it. But is the story more important than the product?

Once I get the coffee here I'll send you some.
 

Monica Rose

Bronze Contributor
Apr 14, 2019
60
126
123
Maui, Hawaii
Thank you for your feedback. Yes that's basically it. But is the story more important than the product?

Once I get the coffee here I'll send you some.

Awesome! Would love to try it. I would say that in some cases yes, the story is more important, especially if there are many other coffees that taste just as good as yours. I don't know this to be the case, but taste is highly subjective so might be easier to compete with a compelling story then by having the "best tasting coffee"
 

Kelvin Fernandez

Some Profound Quote Goes Here
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Speedway Pass
Jan 26, 2016
719
1,424
441
29
Rice, Texas
Awesome! Would love to try it. I would say that in some cases yes, the story is more important, especially if there are many other coffees that taste just as good as yours. I don't know this to be the case, but taste is highly subjective so might be easier to compete with a compelling story then by having the "best tasting coffee"

Yes I was thinking about the taste not been so important.

There's only a handful of die hard coffee aficionados. In fact most people are so used to cheap coffee from gas stations that they don't even know how a nicely roasted coffee tastes like.

Of course I'll still put work into the taste but I won't worry too much about it. Thank you for your feedback.
 

Azure

Perpetual Motion
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Speedway Pass
Mar 12, 2016
437
812
321
29
Very interesting!

I assume you're going to be growing Forastero? If it happens to be Criollo, larger chocolatiers are paying hand over fist for use in their boutique, single origin bars and callets.

Depending on your specific location, you may find it worthwhile to speak with other local farmers and intermediate between them and Barry/Callebault, Michel Cuizel, Valhrona etc. All the majors have had huge difficulties accessing supply markets in El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua due to the regions volatile nature. One of them had a sourcing agent killed a few years iirc.

So wholesale is a potential venue as well.
 

Sponsored Offers

MARKETPLACE Fox Web School "Legend" Group Coaching Program 2021
Hi - I sent out some emails with the updates but I'll PM you now also, thanks. The issue is...
  • Sticky
MARKETPLACE NEW: The Best School for Going Fastlane (Now open for summer enrollment)
Read the free book, some excellent insights. I also did the website quiz and I did a visual on a...
MARKETPLACE Not sure how to start? This free book will teach you how to build a successful web design business
Hi Fox. Starting the book and got through the introduction. Had a conversation with Andy Black...
  • Sticky
MARKETPLACE You Are One Call Away From Living Your Dream Life - LightHouse’s Accountability Program ⚡
Chris is super sharp and is aware of many facets of entrepreneurship and can help get your...
Introducing MJ's Personal Unscripted Network, Join Now for FREE!
Any chance to make it available outside of US? It has been available outside of the US on...

Forum Sponsor

Learn Fastlane Business Skills & Get Profitable Within 30 Days...

Get Started Now

New Topics

Fastlane Insiders

View the forum AD FREE.
Private, unindexed content
Detailed process/execution threads
Ideas needing execution, more!

Join Fastlane Insiders.

Top Bottom