Coffee is the second largest traded commodity in the world, after petroleum. As is known, coffee beans contain several classes of health-related chemicals. However, the waste water coming out of coffee industries has high concentration of organic pollutants and is very harmful for surrounding water bodies, human health and aquatic life if discharged directly into the surface waters. The yearly environmental impact of coffee waste decomposition is equivalent to 10 million car emissions; one ton of coffee waste decomposes into 340 sqm of methane. Hence, the need to treat and manage coffe waste.
To face this problem, our E4Impact entrepreneur from Ethiopia, Almaw Molla, gave rise to Coffee Resurrect, the first Biotech company in Africa to create personal care, nutraceuticals and food ingredients from coffee waste. The company goal is to unlock coffee’s health potential where harmful emissions are minimized and coffee’s by-product usability is maximized.
The entrepreneur joined our Global MBA in Impact Entrepreneurship in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) in 2019, to convert his idea into business, improve his business strategies and explore new ones, in order to be able to impact his community. After the MBA, Almaw won different prizes: in 2021 Coffee Resurrect was among early and growth stage companies named as a top 10 startups of Africa and he was the only Ethiopian finalist at Entrepreneurship World Cup (EWC) 2021. In the same year he was the winner of “Founder of the Year” Eastern Africa Startup Awards 2021.
“The experience of being an entrepreneur changed my life fundamentally; from the way I think, to the way I act, to the way I want to live my life. Most of the time, it’s for the better and occasionally for the worse, but entrepreneurship changed my life by making me passionate about working and making me wonder how I ever held a normal job.” he stated.
Let’s have a look to the interview we made to Almaw.
1. How was your Business Idea born?
Having coffee in cafés and restaurants for years, I became sick and tired of seeing more and more coffee grounds being needlessly sent to landfill. So my team and I, we set out with the simple ambition of finding a use for coffee beyond the usual morning pick-me-up. I wanted to bring new life to what was previously viewed as waste and I kept researching its potential niche market, thus creating an innovative idea, that finally turned into an actual business. And that’s how Coffee Resurrect was initiated.
2. How can your business improve the life of the beneficiaries of your activities?
First of all, impact! So, we save the planet and save on costs… pretty good, right? Besides, we protect the health and well-being of residents in nearby areas where these coffee wastes are sent to landfills: a sustainable innovation through coffee waste, that enables us to be corporate socially responsible to ourselves and to others as well.
3. What has been the main challenge you had to overcome in your entrepreneurial experience?
Facing financial risk: as entrepreneurs trying to get a new business off the ground, what can we do to mitigate the financial risk and improve our odds is to develop a capital strategy and seek diverse funding channels and opportunities. Moreover choosing the right investor, being ambitious and moving fast through the commercialization phase is also important.
4. In your opinion, what are the main qualities an entrepreneur should have?
Curiosity, structured experimentation, adaptability, team building, persistence, and innovation are the major characteristics of successful entrepreneurs.
5. Is there a person you are inspired by, i.e. an entrepreneur or a particular mentor?
To be honest, there’s not just one person: my whole family inspired me and supported me during this path.
6. What would you suggest to a new-born entrepreneur?
To rely on a circular business model and to be passionate about creating local solutions to solve global problems, while never compromising their commitment to creating a positive social and environmental impact that helps strengthen their communities.
7. Could you tell us how the MBA has helped you and your business?
The Business Model Generation showed during the MBA lectures, teached me how to systematically understand, design, and differentiate my business model: I personally believe it’s a bible for every entrepreneur. Also, the financial modeling course tremendously changed my financial ability from nothing to something: before, I didn’t have any financial background at all.