Entrepreneur

How This M’sian Business Has Survived 4 Years Simply By Selling Cups Of Coffee With A Cause

Ah, coffee. Some of us depend on it like the elixir of life to get us through our day, or sometimes even to begin our day.

Like many of us, Faridah Halina always had a passion for coffee, but unlike most of us, she took it one step further by getting barista training in Australia, a country known for its coffee culture.

Once she had the skills to brew a good cup of coffee, she decided that she wanted to build a coffee brand that makes more than coffee.

It had to make a positive impact in society by contributing back to the community too, and that was how Coffee For Good was built from the ground up.

Behind The Barista Counter

Together with Dalia Azis, Faridah launched Coffee For Good in November of 2015. It was both her and Dalia’s first business and social enterprise (SE).

Image Credit: Coffee For Good

Speaking to Vulcan Post, Faridah said, “We started very small and we leverage on partnerships, particularly for operational space. We have deliberately taken this model of setting up our kiosks inside cafes or coworking spaces to keep costs significantly low.”

After all, the biggest challenge for them has been financial in nature, from starting their business to covering their marketing expenses over the years.

One example of their early collaborations was the establishment of their first kiosk in coworking space WORQ at Glo Damansara.

This sustainable and agile business model has helped Coffee For Good stay afloat for the past 4 years, a lifespan that 44% of startups can’t achieve.

An Extra Pair Of Hands

According to Faridah, large corporations can also give a helping hand to smaller businesses.

“Not in terms of cash contribution, but sharing of business knowledge, expertise, and tools,” she said, citing Hong Leong Bank’s CSR programme, HLB Jumpstart, as an example.

Image Credit: Coffee For Good

Earlier this year, Faridah and Dalia decided that they were ready to take Coffee For Good to the next step and ensure a sustainable revenue stream.

So, they joined HLB Jumpstart for:

  • A boost in branding,
  • A marketing campaign to recruit more trainees (especially on social media),
  • Launching more pop-up café locations at some Hong Leong Bank locations and its affiliated companies’ offices,
  • Access to cashless payment facilities,
  • Financial knowledge sessions with the bank’s SME specialists.

Hopefully, this will enable them to reach out to more youth, as Coffee For Good works mainly with school leavers from the B40 income group who might face limited employment opportunities due to the lack of academic qualifications and vocational skills.

“Empowering them with job skills such as that of a barista hopefully provides them with a stepping-stone to being employed with a stable income,” explained Faridah.

But how exactly does being trained as a barista translate into being employed with a stable income further down the road?

Working In Batches For The Best Results

If you compared our coffee scene then and now, you’d notice we have more Western-style cafes popping up all over by the day.

“The food and beverage industry, and especially coffee culture, has become a booming segment in Malaysia but there is a shortage of trained baristas,” Faridah pointed out.

As a local café operator who was facing a shortage of skilled baristas for hire, it became obvious to me that I could bridge my business, my coffee-making skills and empower B40 youths, thereby helping to solve the ongoing skilled labour problem faced by café owners everywhere.

Faridah Halina, Co-Founder of Coffee For Good

At Coffee For Good, it isn’t so much the coffee-making skills that are emphasised; good work culture, attitude and character matter the most.

Image Credit: Coffee For Good

Learning coffee-making skills requires determination, and in return for their willingness to learn, Coffee For Good pays its apprentices an average salary of RM1,100 per month.

Over the past 4 years, the SE has also conducted workshops for youths from low-income housing areas, shelter homes, and NGOs.

“These workshops are for exposure purposes, to let them know such a career option is available for them to consider,” Faridah shared.

Since starting up, they’ve conducted workshops for over 100 youths and have given 10 youths full-course training.

Currently, they’re recruiting the next intake for their employability program.

Start Small And Grow

Image Credit: Coffee For Good

Before we ended the interview, Faridah addressed several misconceptions about SEs.

It’s usually believed that SEs are like NGOs and therefore aren’t profitable, which often turns investors away.

(However, there are actually impact investment firms that look for social impact returns alongside financial returns.)

But Faridah believes that an SE can be financially profitable by keeping in mind that it is still a profit-making business enterprise.

“We don’t rely on grants, funding or donations,” she said. “We try to make money from what we have. Start small and grow.”

In fact, the misunderstanding that SEs are like NGOs or social services organisations is sometimes why Faridah and Dalia do not tell their customers that Coffee For Good is an SE.

“They tend not to take us seriously or assume that we are soliciting donations or funding, which is not the case,” Faridah stated.

“We want people to buy our coffee because it is good.”

Humanity Runs On Coffee

And with the purpose of making good coffee while creating social impact at the forefront of their business, Faridah and Dalia want Coffee For Good to grow in 2 aspects.

Image Credit: Coffee For Good

One is to have a widespread footprint through launching mobile kiosks in prime locations like KLCC, petrol stations and tourist attractions.

“Collaborations and partnerships will help us get there, but we need more of that to happen,” said Faridah.

They hope that corporates or even individuals wishing to expand their CSR activities can provide them with spaces to set up these kiosks on a short-term, intermittent or long-term basis.

Secondly and last but not least:

We would like more Malaysians to know about Coffee For Good and our cause, especially the youth, to come forward, take advantage of this opportunity to learn a skill that is in high demand by the F&B sector, and be empowered and secure gainful employment and step out of the poverty trap.

Faridah Halina, Co-Founder of Coffee For Good
  • You can read more about other social enterprises we’ve written about here.

Featured Image Credit: Faridah and Dalia / Coffee For Good

 

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