Author’s Blurb: I appreciate a good cup of coffee, but I’m not super particular about how it’s made or what beans it’s made out of. Most cafes I’ve been to seem to pride themselves on using imported premium beans of all sorts, but recently I learnt about one that specifically brews from locally grown beans.
If you frequent Cyberjaya, you may have come across BosCo Coffee before and maybe even bought a cuppa from them.
It actually started out in Cyberjaya Farmers Market, but after the demand for their coffee grew exponentially, husband and wife co-founders Don and Viviantie were able to open 2 Cyberjaya kiosks in 1 year.
BosCo Coffee is a social enterprise (SE) that works with small Sabahan coffee bean farmers to market and sell their products.
Don and Viviantie themselves hail from Sabah, and they’re quite involved with the B40 community.
Through these visits, he realised that there were highly skilled, passionate people in the community, but weren’t able to properly thrive due to a few challenges, namely regarding access to the market and understanding market demands.
“My dream has always been opening my own café. One day a friend of mine told me that there’s a group of women coffee farmers who produced good quality coffee beans,” Don recalled.
“Coincidentally, my wife had a visit to do around the area in Kundasang and we decided to pay a visit to the farm. They had chopped half of the farm because they didn’t know how to market it outside.”
When Don wondered what he could do to help, Viviantie suggested that they open a small SE, and that was how BosCo Coffee came to be.
Today, Don is happy to share that the farmers they work with have sustainable income through this partnership and are able to provide their children with education.
Championing Other Local Businesses
Before they began BosCo Coffee, they ran a few experiments to gauge the reception of these Sabahan grown beans.
They got their coffee lover friends to try the beans without telling them they were grown in Ranau, and the objective verdict was that they loved it. That gave Don and Viviantie the confidence that this business could go far.
“Whenever customers come, we tell them that this is a Malaysian product, produced by our coffee farmers in Ranau, and the quality is even better than the beans from overseas,” Don shared.
This is the stigma we need to break, that local products are not as good as international products. We have to educate the people to have more trust in homegrown products to help boost the local economy.Don, BosCo Coffee
Aside from the beans being cheaper to source, another advantage of the partnership that BosCo Coffee really values is the knowledge that is exchanged between them and the farmers.
Once every quarter, Don and Viviantie visit the farm for a knowledge sharing session. “They teach us on farming and we teach them on social media, technology, branding, etc.,” Don said.
“We love this kind of interaction and sharing. No one is better than another. The more we know, the more we know we don’t know. The coffee farmers have certainly taught us a lot.”
Continuing To Break Ground
For those of you who are particular about your beans, BosCo Coffee carries 4 types: Arabica, Liberica, Excelsa, and Robusta.
Arabica, Liberica and Excelsa are grown in the high-altitude lands of Ranau, while Robusta is grown in lower altitudes.
On average, they sell about 50 cups daily, but COVID-19 has affected their business as well. Nonetheless, they took it in stride and began exploring other revenue streams like focusing on cold brew coffee for delivery and selling beans online.
They’ve come a ways from when they first started, hauling heavy machines and other equipment from bazaar to bazaar because they didn’t have a fixed station.
Today they have 3 kiosks in total, at RekaScape and Skytech Tower in Cyberjaya, and se|chawan @ se|tempat, TTDI, a coworking space for social enterprises.
Scaling and exploring more markets are definitely in their plans, starting with opening a large-scale café and hiring staff from the B40 community to train them towards entrepreneurship.
Since they’re still rather new, Don said they’re focusing on coffee beans from Sabah first.
“We plan to start working with farmers in Sarawak by the end of 2020 when we have enough capital to scale,” he added.
Bottom Line: My palate probably isn’t refined enough to discern between the notes or flavours (however you refer to them) of different coffee beans, but I must say I’m rather curious if these beans taste any different from internationally grown ones. I’m proud to see a SE like BosCo Coffee championing B40 and their business as well, and I hope to see more cafes potentially following in their lead.
- You can read about other Malaysian startups here.