Ms Jackie Arinda stands near a  coffee cart at an event where the  beverage is served to attendees.  PHOTO/JOAN SALMON


Brewing one coffee bean at a time

What you need to know:

 Ms Jackeline Arinda, the founder of Jada Coffee is adding her weight to improve domestic coffee consumption. With Shs8m from her savings, Arinda registered Jada Coffee.  

Ms Jackeline Arinda, a girl from Ibanda, is doing all it takes to take coffee to the world. No, not any other coffee but that from the Pearl of Africa because coffee has a never-ending market.

Why coffee?
“Starting up a business is driven to make money but also to solve problems. In addition, one must consider the available resources and when they will break even. It is simple in coffee because, with the ever-growing market, within two to three months, one breaks even depending on how much they invest,” she says.

However, Ms Arinda noticed that coffee marketing in Uganda is geared toward green beans and nothing fancy. Therefore, not much is said about domestic coffee consumption. However, even in the export arena, the government’s narrative is just sharing the statistics on how many bags of green bean (raw-coffee) volumes have been exported. They should also focus on value addition and markets. Like sharing statistics on how much value added coffee has been exported.

However,  “I wanted to change the coffee narrative, and improve domestic consumption because I realised not many people knew about the various coffee brands and companies. 

This boldness and awareness of what she wants are embedded in making it her business to read about coffee, attend coffee expos and even befriend those in the sector. From these, Ms Arinda was offered free coffee farm and factory visits. 
“Here I learned about the various processes that coffee undergoes such as the heat needed for roasting, how to price, market, roast, and package coffee as well as where to get packaging material,” she says.
Ms Arinda adds that she was open with them that she was putting in the time to help because she wanted to learn and start a coffee business. “Be open lest you leave a bitter taste in their mouths as they feel you only came to rob them of their hard-earned knowledge.”

One of these is Mr Gerald Katabazi whose workplace Ms Arinda frequented almost every evening. “Looking at how much he poured into me, I wondered why that information was not out there, only to hear him say he was still learning. In short, we have to get out and understand how the trade works before jumping into it. From him, I learned the nitty gritty of coffee that no one told me,” she says.
Formally working at Smart 24 TV, Ms Arinda also made the most of every opportunity to travel for business events, especially, coffee exhibitions. One thing that caught her attention was that regardless of whether it was a coffee event or not, Ethiopian coffee was always on display. 

“It was during this time that I learned how to market coffee. For instance, I had to approach the ‘unconverted’ to share about coffee rather than keep talking to those that know and appreciate the beverage,” she says.

Arinda visits one of the coffee farms in Kapchorwa. Ms Arinda gets her Arabica coffee from the Elgon region, specifically Kapchorwa. PHOTO/JOAN SALMON 

Thereafter, Ms Arinda says she was ready to register as she understood the sector and its dynamics. This included negotiations, culture, market, your place in the market, the necessary team, how to manage them and the like.

“My company is seven years old, but only four of these were formal because I appreciated that any business starts as an idea that is nurtured. At the informal stage, going formal is the last thing on your mind as you must taste the waters with an option to pull out. At this time, it is a side hustle hence not receiving a lot of attention. I also believe that these trial years help any business owner to navigate the business waters and get answers to fundamental questions that cannot be found when one is outside that particular business space,” she says.

With Shs8m from her savings, Arinda registered Jada Coffee, bought 350kgs (each kilogramme at Shs15,000) and packaging bags. She also hired a digital person because Jada Coffee began online, first with her personal social media accounts before creating those for the coffee brand. 
“I believe even Shs3m would have been sufficient for start-up capital as many people have failed to start waiting for money to accumulate. But experience is what is most valuable, not money. Additionally, with coffee, it is not reasonable to stock but rather buy what is required, then sell and buy more,” she says.

Selling a 250g pack at Shs12,000, the coffee was consumed swiftly and she wondered why it had taken her so long to take off. “Nonetheless, I can’t trade the education I got in my waiting period,” she says.

Coffee source
Ms Arinda gets her Arabica coffee from the Elgon region, specifically Kapchorwa while the Rwenzori region gives her Robusta. 

“I prefer to work with farmers rather than middlemen because I am passionate about farmers receiving a big share of the pay cheque. I get my farmers by visiting their farms to understand how they plant and handle the harvest. If it meets my standards, I will take you on board.” 

She adds that dealing with middlemen also proved costly as they tramp up logistical costs when one asks for an increase in the supply tonnage although the same distance is covered and there is no increase in the number of trucks used. Farmers are also linked to extension services by the company. With this, coupled with a consistently available market and favourable prices, farmers are willing to keep growing coffee.

“They will not uproot the coffee trees for another enterprise and will not compromise on quality,” Ms Arinda says.

For a consistent market for their farmers, Arinda says they sign contracts with their clients for a given period. “We also work ahead of time to look for more contracts before one expires.  Luckily,  coffee always has a ready market and prices are negotiable.

She values feedback and one has been that Jada coffee is a bit more expensive than, say Nescafe. Digging into the matter revealed that these imported brands have up to 0.5g of packaging while Jada’s smallest package is 250g. 

“We are still growing, we are still working to ensure that by the end of this year, we will have the small sachets,” she says.

The company roasts only a quarter of two tonnes a year, that is roasted beans and ground (powder). They also sell unpackaged and unground coffee to cafes. Some of this is sold to corporate companies, some Ugandan embassies, individual clients abroad. “We want to tap into coffee distribution chains in Europe, and USA, she says. 

The company roasts only a quarter of two tonnes a year, that is roasted beans and ground (powder). They also sell unpackaged and unground coffee to cafes.

However, some (ground and unground) is sold to corporate companies, some Ugandan embassies, individual clients abroad, and people in need of gift hampers such as for Christmas, corporate companies, kukyala, kwanjula. Jada Coffee also supplies green beans (ripe unroasted coffee) to exporters and anyone that wants them. They also cater to events where they bring a coffee cart with a barrister to serve the attendees coffee.

 “We look forward to tapping into coffee distribution chains in Europe, and the USA,” she says. They have also introduced ground coffee and coffee beans for chewing.

Whenever Ms Arinda tried to buy coffee, the prices were high, but not when she sent her chief operations officer. That puzzled her until one speaker, during a women’s conference on coffee asked how they would solve the problem of farmers hiking prices when they see women.

“Knowing that it would be long before that issue was solved, I resolved to always send men to make purchases,” she says.

Adding that it is imperative to join the various groups akin to one’s trade to learn from those that have gone before you. “From such events, I have also learned about building a team, taxes, policies, and record-keeping more so because, at the start, most of the money is from your pocket.”

Ms Arinda has also learned that besides capital to start, you need money to sustain yourself. The budding company will then be liable for all your expenses, resulting in it failing to succeed.

“That is also because once you have broken even, you need to plough back profits to expand. In my case, 60 percent of my salary is insurance should we get to a place where you are between a rock and a hard place,” she says. 
Starting the business as a side hustle while working a full-time job is the better option because money comes in to sustain you.