Frank Thomas: Entrepreneur changing Nigeria’s coffee narrative

Despite coffee beverage conquering the world, its consumption is still very low in Nigeria and this has left many growers struggling to plant the seeds in the country.

Frank Thomas, through his Coffee4change initiative, is hoping to change the narrative by stimulating and promoting consumption through consumer education, while committing a percentage of profits to the revitalisation of his school campus, thus making learning more conducive for students.

Frank is currently an undergraduate of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-ife, and a co-founder of the Coffee4change initiative.

He was inspired to kickstart the initiative out of a personal experience as an undergraduate and the need to help struggling coffee farmers stay afloat and change the wrong perception on coffee consumption in the country.

“The concept for Coffee4Change was born out of my frustration with staying productive and learning under harsh conditions as a result of how poorly funded our educational system is,” the undergraduate-turned entrepreneur says.

Read Also: FG boosts coffee production, ratifies Nigerias membership of International Coffee Organisation.

“I decided to start a specialty coffee cart on my campus where freshly brewed coffee would be served to help students stay productive, create a community of people pushing boundaries and actively drive change,” he says.

“To drive the change, we commit a percentage of our profits and donate it to the revitalising of our campus to address issues that make learning not conducive for students,” he notes.

Also, he says the initiative is looking at changing the coffee narrative by stimulating and promoting local consumption through consumer education.

He states that there is a deliberate and misguided conception about coffee in the country, noting that consumer education will help change the myths and misconceptions.

According to him, this will lead to a cultural change and trend just similar to what happened in modern China – a traditional tea-drinking society that is now shifting to increased coffee consumption.

“With improved consumption and demand, we hope more farmers will be encouraged with programmes like fair trade and payment of living wages,” he says.

On his start-up capital, he says the business has started small but will require an estimated seed capital of N3 million which he is currently trying to raise through a Gofundme campaign.

He urges individuals to support the initiative by donating to the crowdfunding platform.

Speaking on how the pandemic has affected his business since campuses have been shut down, the young entrepreneur says that it holds an important lesson for his business as he and other cofounders have had to re-tweak the business model to suit a world after the pandemic.

“We believe would bounce back as a vaccine comes out and our economy recovers,” he says.

He notes that the business is currently placing more emphasis on convenience and rethinking its cart model to improve delivery and distribution to better suit customers as a strategy to survive the COVID-19 outbreak.

“With the support of technology, we’re thinking digital menus, mobile ordering systems, and easy and simplified payments,” he says.

“This will allow us to reduce the overhead cost to better accommodate customers affected by the pandemic,” he adds.

In evaluating Nigeria’s agricultural industry, he says the industry is still growing and very critical to the nation’s economic growth while pointing that it is still marred by a series of challenges.

He urges the government to address these fundamental issues to drive growth and productivity, adding that no country can grow without agro-industrialisation.

He notes that funding has remained the major challenge confronting his business.

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