#SWAAYthenarrative

Interview With Beverly Malbranche: A Haitian Native And Founder of Carribrew Fair Trade Coffee

4 Min Read
People

As part of my series about strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Beverly Malbranche, A Haitian native and founder of Carribrew, a fair trade company that sells Haitian/Caribbean coffee, and more. Caribbrew is a fair-trade coffee company that operates across multiple markets. Caribbrew makes a difference in the life of Haitian coffee growers and provides the freshest coffee and top-notch coffee-inspired products to our customers. Beverly embarked on a journey to revive the Haitian coffee production and now shares her story.

Thank you so much for participating, Beverly! Tell us about yourself.

I am originally from Haiti and came to the U.S. for college in 2009 and pursued my studies in Business Administration. After working in the financial industry for three years, I decided to start my own company. My number one interest was to share a taste of my home country with the world, so I embarked on a journey to revive the Haitian coffee production.

How do you believe your venture and/or organizations benefit others? Please give us an example.

I always like to say, we are the coffee that keeps on giving! We work with over 200 farmers to source our coffee and pay them upfront and above the fair-trade minimum price, which is way above the market price in Haiti. Moreover, we work with young adults in Haiti to monitor production, roasting, and shipping to the U.S. Secondly, we also sell coffee-based skincare products, which are made here in Newark, NJ. Our workforce consists of people from the local community and immigrants. As we grow, our goal is to continuously provide equal opportunities throughout our supply chain.

What was the skill you had that you found the most useful when starting your venture?

I would say my ability to motivate and work in groups (teamwork). To get started, it first took a vision, but that is not enough. Good leaders are the ones who are able to rally others around a specific goal. Especially in the early stages and until today, where I am not able to fully compensate our core team, getting them excited about the vision, convinced them to join our team and definitely motivates them to make it happen.

Can you give us an example of the hardships you faced during the earlier stages of your venture? How did you overcome it?

We have had multiple challenges. One of them was figuring out the supply chain for coffee, and specifically for Haitian coffee. We had to first educate ourselves, then reach out to people who know more than us, from small business advisors to friends and family who started similar enterprises.

Another hardship is fundraising. We have been in situations where there are opportunities, but no funds to capitalize on them. Once I realized we were not yet attractive to institutional investors, we looked into low-interest and equity-free fundings, such as grants and small business competition.. For these types of competitions, practice makes perfect! We won 3rd place last summer in the Columbia Small Business Pitch competition and this year we also won 3rd place at Rutgers Business School Competition, providing us with some seed capital.

We met at Columbia University's Startup Accelerator, Almaworks. How was your experience?

My experience was really good actually. The energy in the room was always uplifting, and it was motivating to meet with other entrepreneurs, also working on their ventures. Besides the motivation, the weekly check-ins kept me accountable. I would say in the end, I wish we could pitch for seed funding. That would have had a great impact on the business, but overall the advice we received and the wisdom that we gain was priceless!

What were your main takeaways?

There were many! One of them was from an advisor and also an entrepreneur. He told me - You have multiple streams of revenues with this coffee business. Now you need to figure out which channel is the most profitable and focus on that!

We have been applying this advice since then by focusing on a niche market, and we have definitely seen growth in sales and expertise (for that niche market)!

Kindly share with us your experience with meeting investors and what that journey has looked like for you.

Quite frankly, we have not reached out to institutional investors. We were surprisingly approached by the Wharton Social Investment Fund, and they wanted to see more stability (such as a large wholesale account on board with recurring revenue) before considering us.

In the meantime, I have approached a family member who is an entrepreneur and investor himself, and he wanted too much equity. Since then, I have changed my focus to grant and pitch competition to raise seed funding and invest in marketing.

What advice would you give women who would like to follow in your footsteps of becoming founders in the consumer space?

I would tell them to have a clear vision, and continuously learn their industry. Also, they should set the standard high when it comes to quality, and customer satisfaction as the consumer space is highly competitive. Last but not least, work hard and play hard. Don't get too emotionally involved in the business as there will be difficult days and don't be too hard on yourself.

To connect with Beverly and learn more about her journey to entrepreneurship, connect with her!

IG: @Caribbrew

Website: https://caribbrew.com/

5 Min Read
Career

How Fitness Saved My Life and Became My Career

Sometimes it takes falling to rock bottom in order to be built back up again. I learned this many years ago when the life I'd carefully built for myself and my family suddenly changed. But in those times, you learn to lean on those who love you – a friend, family member or someone who can relate to what you've been through. I was lucky enough to have two incredible women help me through one of my lowest moments. They taught me to love myself and inspired me to pass on their lessons each da

If it weren't for the empowering women who stepped up and brought fitness back into my life, I wouldn't be standing – in the door of my own business – today.

In 2010, I was a wife, a mother of three, and had filtered in and out of jobs depending on what my family needed from me. At different points in my career, I've worked in the corporate world, been a stay-at-home mom, and even started my own daycare center. Fitness has always been a part of my life, but at that point being a mom was my main priority. Then, life threw a curveball. My husband and I separated, leading to a very difficult divorce.

These were difficult times. I lost myself in the uncertainty of my future and the stress that comes with a divorce and found myself battling anorexia. Over a matter of months, I lost 40 lbs. and felt surrounded by darkness. I was no longer participating in my health and all efforts to stay active came to a halt. I didn't want to leave my home, I didn't' want to talk to people, and I really did not want to see men. Seeing my struggles, first my sister and then a friend, approached me and invited me to visit the gym.

After months of avoiding it, my sister started taking me to the gym right before closing when it wasn't too busy. We started slow, on the elliptical or the treadmill. This routine got me out of the house and slowly we worked to regain my strength and my self-esteem. When my sister moved away, my good friend and personal trainer started working out with me one-on-one early in the morning, taking time out of her busy schedule to keep me on track toward living a healthy life once again. Even when I didn't want to leave the house, she would encourage me to push myself and I knew I didn't want to let her down. She helped me every step of the way. My sister and my friend brought fitness back into my everyday routine. They saved my life.

I began to rely on fitness, as well as faith, to help me feel like myself again. My friend has since moved away, but, these two women made me feel loved, confident and strong with their empowerment and commitment to me. They made such an incredible impact on me; I knew I needed to pay it forward. I wanted to have the same impact on women in my community. I started by doing little things, like running with a woman who just had a baby to keep her inspired and let her know she's not alone. I made sure not to skip my regular runs, just in case there was a woman watching who needed the inspiration to keep going. These small steps of paying it forward helped me find purpose and belonging. This gave me a new mentality that put me on a path to the opportunity of a lifetime – opening a women's only kickboxing gym, 30 Minute Hit.

About four years ago, I was officially an empty nester. It was time to get myself out of the house too and find what I was truly passionate about, which is easier said than done. Sitting behind a desk, in a cubicle, simply didn't cut it. It was hard to go from an active and chaotic schedule to a very slow paced, uneventful work week. I felt sluggish. Even when I moved to another company where I got to plan events and travel, it was enjoyable, but not fulfilling. I wanted to be a source of comfort to those struggling, as my sister and dear friend had been to me. I wanted to impact others in a way that couldn't be done from behind a desk.

I began to rely on fitness, as well as faith, to help me feel like myself again.

When I heard about 30 Minute Hit, I was nervous to take the leap. But the more I learned about the concept, the more I knew it was the perfect fit for me. Opening my own gym where women can come to let go of their struggles, rely on one another and meet new people is the best way for me to pass on the lessons I learned during my darkest times.

Kickboxing is empowering in itself. Add to it a high energy, female-only environment, and you have yourself a powerhouse! The 30 Minute Hit concept is franchised all over North America, acting as a source of release for women who are just trying to get through their day. I see women of all ages come into my gym, kick the heck out of a punching bag and leave with a smile on their face, often times alongside a new friend. 30 Minute Hit offers a convenient schedule for all women, from busy moms to working women, to students and senior citizens. A schedule-free model allows members to come in whenever they have a free half hour to dedicate to themselves. Offering certified training in kickboxing and a safe environment to let go, 30 Minute Hit is the place for women empowerment and personal growth.

Through my journey, I have learned that everyone is going through something – everyone is on their own path. My motivating factor is knowing that I can touch people's lives everyday just by creating the space for encouragement and community. It's so easy to show people you care. That's the type of environment my team, clients and myself have worked hard to create at our 30 Minute Hit location.

Fitness saved my life. If it weren't for the empowering women who stepped up and brought fitness back into my life, I wouldn't be standing – in the door of my own business – today. The perfect example of women empowering women – the foundation to invincibility.

This article was originally published September 12, 2019.