Tag Archives: coffee

Authentic international business experience at the Specialty Coffee Event

Guest post by Cristina Stefan, Foster undergraduate and Certificate of International Studies in Business student

Through the Certificate of International Studies in Business program (CISB), I had the incredible opportunity to attend the 27th edition of the Specialty Coffee Event, which took place April 9–12 at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle. Josef Moreno and I volunteered to work with the honorary consulate of Peru, located in Seattle, to help translate and interpret for the coffee roasters that had come from all over Peru to show their merchandise and enter the international coffee market. For some it was their second or third time attending the event, but for others it was their first time outside of their home country. We did our best to support them and help them in their interactions with the consumers and retailers present at the trade show.

It was an unimaginable experience and a perfect way to put my Spanish language skills to use. While Joe helped with a private meeting among the Peruvian vendors, I interpreted for the coffee roasters–some of whom spoke a very distinct Spanish dialect specific to the region they had come from. I facilitated information exchanges and future travel arrangements between coffee growers, toasters, vendors, and buyers from all over the world who had come to the Peruvian booths to learn about the delicious coffee grown in Peru.

Being so closely involved not only enriched my vocabulary and stretched my thinking, but also opened my eyes to a new industry few people know the details of. Among the coffee types we tried were Geisha, Catuai, Caturra, Colombiana, Arusha, Kona, Java, and Pache. We discovered “cupping,” a very unique coffee tasting technique, using a spoon and very briskly sipping the coffee. Who knew being a coffee taster also requires a specific certification?

We were able to observe how coffee is toasted, bagged, and even roasted and prepared in the different machines and then served. We tried iced coffees, frappes, Italian sodas, and many other delicious coffee based products.

Above all, the cultural experience and the ability to interact and network with professionals in the coffee industry was invaluable. Observing the different negotiation techniques and all the cultural differences based on the country of origin of the attendees reminded me of all that I’ve learned about international business in my classes here at Foster. This was probably the most authentic international business setting I have participated in.

Seattle meets Saudi

Lateefa Alwaalan

Lateefa Alwaalan wants to bring Arabic coffee to a global market

Coffee and start-ups might seem more Seattle than Saudi Arabia, but not to Lateefa Alwaalan (TMMBA 2011). Yatooq, the company founded by Alwaalan, makes it easier and faster to brew Arabic coffee, a blonde, spicy coffee central to all social gatherings in places such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

Alwaalan came to Seattle to get her MBA after studying computer science, and working in IT and then banking in her home country of Saudi Arabia. While in the Technology Management MBA Program, she focused intently on gaining business and entrepreneurial skills. She competed in the Business Plan Competition with her idea for Yatooq. She also enrolled in the Entrepreneurship Certificate, offered by the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship at Foster. She says her experience at the Foster School, “transformed me. I use everything I learned—from change management to supply-chain management to marketing.”

Upon returning home after graduation, her father offered her a job in his pharmaceutical company. Her first job was entering invoices, but that didn’t last long. She quickly moved up the ranks and became the general manager in less than two years. During that time, Alwaalan was also busy launching Yatooq.

The coffee business

Yatooq started by selling ready-made blends of coffee, with good results. The company’s most successful product, however, has been the introduction of its coffee machine last year. When made traditionally, Arabic coffee takes 20-30 minutes to prepare and requires over ten steps. Yatooq’s machine dramatically reduces the time and effort required to make Arabic coffee, and it’s one of the first such machines to be sold in Saudi Arabia. Within two weeks of launching the coffee machine in grocery stores and online, it sold out.

Shortly after that initial success, Alwaalan was able to stop working at the pharmaceutical company and focus on growing her business full-time. She is relentlessly focused on improving the product. The coffee machine has gone through several iterations and improvements, and Alwaalan says, “I’m focusing on acquiring market share and building the brand.”

Recently, competitors have entered the coffee market in Saudi Arabia with machines similar to Yatooq’s, and Nestlé introduced its own version of ready-made blends of Arabic coffee. Alwaalan views this positively; it means the market is growing.

Networking advocate

Not only has Alwaalan managed a pharmaceutical company and launched a successful start-up, she also co-founded the organization CellA, which offers women the opportunity to regularly network with each other—a foreign concept for many women in Saudi Arabia. CellA also provides career management training and a mentorship program for women who are just starting their careers. In 2011, the group had 70 members. Today, membership has ballooned to almost 3,000, and the organization has provided training to 600 women. Alwaalan was nominated to be president of the organization earlier this year.

Onwards

The future looks bright for Alwaalan. Yatooq continues to expand. Last fall, the company started distributing its coffee and coffee machines in Kuwait and opened a store there. In December, she was chosen by Forbes Middle East as one of its “Leaders Inspiring a Kingdom in the Business World.”

Alwaalan said her greatest challenges now are scalability and shifting from a start-up to a more established company. Her goal for the future is to bring Yatooq’s coffee and coffee machines to the world, and her vision is for Arabic coffee to be the next Chai tea. Look for Yatooq in a store near you soon.

Coffee, a start-up and Saudi Arabia

Yatooq Coffee MakerCoffee and start-ups might seem more Seattle than Saudi Arabia, but not to Lateefa Alwaalan (TMMBA 2011). Yatooq, founded by Alwaalan, makes it easier and faster to brew Arabic coffee, a blonde, spicy coffee central to all social gatherings in places like Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

Alwaalan came to Seattle to get her MBA after studying computer science, and working in IT and then banking in her home country of Saudi Arabia. While in the Technology Management MBA Program, she focused intently on gaining business and entrepreneurial skills. She competed in the Business Plan Competition with her idea for Yatooq. She also enrolled in the Entrepreneurship Certificate, offered by the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship at Foster. She said her experience at the Foster School, “Transformed me. I use everything I learned—from change management to supply-chain management to marketing.”

Upon returning home after graduation, her father offered her a job in his pharmaceutical company. Her first job was entering invoices, but that didn’t last long. She quickly moved up the ranks and became the general manager in less than two years.

In addition to working at the pharmaceutical company, Alwaalan has been working hard to launch Yatooq. The company started by selling ready-made blends of coffee, and had good results. The most successful aspect of the company, however, has been the introduction of its coffee machine. When made traditionally, Arabic coffee takes 20-30 minutes to prepare and requires over ten steps. Yatooq’s coffee machine dramatically reduces the time and effort required to make Arabic coffee. Within two weeks of launching the coffee machine in grocery stores and online, it sold out.

The start-up process hasn’t been easy—Alwaalan had to learn everything about how to manufacture and sell a consumer product. The hard work has paid off though. Yatooq currently has seven employees and needs more to keep up with demand. Alwaalan is also in the process of restructuring the pharmaceutical business so she can devote more time to Yatooq. Learn more about Yatooq.

Student Consulting Program – student perspective

Guest post by Rai Huang, Foster undergraduate

BEDC Student Consulting ProgramI initially enrolled in the BEDC Student Consulting Program without really understanding what consulting means; my impression was that consulting is the dream job of many of my peers at the Foster School of Business, yet it wasn’t something I particularly cared for.

I expected to walk away from the class with experience in conducting market research and formulating online marketing/public relations strategies, which is related to my dream career after graduation. And I liked the idea of working with a team; the communication skills learned would prepare me for work in any field. The fact that it would look good on my resume didn’t hurt either.

My team’s assignment is to formulate online marketing and social media strategies for our client, Concourse Concessions, who currently operates a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf franchise in the Seattle-Tacoma Airport. A newcomer in the Seattle market, they wish to grow brand recognition through traditional and non-traditional public relations methods as they expand to locations outside of the airport within the next year. It was an exciting task to take on, as the overall business environment and market for coffee in Seattle is very saturated, and would require creative thinking to accomplish the mission.

The first step for our team was to identify the strategy and comparative advantage of the franchise.  Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf has only been in operations for about three months, and there was lack of substantial data for us to analyze. Challenged by our advisers and mentors, we were able to take a step back and look at the project from a wider perspective. We learned to think in terms of what is most valuable for the client every step of the way. With the support of our mentor and advisors, we came up with a framework in which every question raised had to be answered in a way that would help the business.

During the research phase of the project we gathered survey data and took a close look at local competitors such as Peet’s Coffee and Tea, Uptown Espresso, Espresso Vivace and Café Vita. We examined how they are utilizing social media and promotion strategies to maximize brand equity. Marketing concepts we’ve seen play out in real life include: how social media is being utilized for Customer Relation Management; how Search Engine Optimization is becoming increasingly intertwined with social media; why it’s essential for all business owners and managers to understand the marketing concept; how to really use a business’ competitive advantage; and how to communicate through interaction with the consumers.

As we come near to the end of the project, I now understand what consulting really comes down to is communication. It is important to practice the art of listening to your client and really hearing their needs, and finding resources and formulating recommendations with your team to create value for them. Through the process of tackling the different obstacles, my team and I have bonded together and grown both professionally and personally.

I look forward to applying the skills I’ve learned to a future career in Public Relations. I now understand what it is like to work with a real client, how to identify their wants and needs, and strategically come up with solutions that would benefit the client and heighten awareness of the brand. The Student Consulting experience is not just a line on my resume, but truly a real-world experience I was fortunate to have as an undergraduate student.

Learn more or become involved in the Student Consulting Program as a client or volunteer advisor.