Boun Beans: Robel Iyassu

Taking inspiration from his East-African heritage, the Manchester-based entrepreneur feels it's time everyone enjoyed home roasted coffee

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Name: Robel Iyassu
Company name: Boun Beans
Location: Manchester
Date launched: 25/04/16
No. of employees: 2

Tell us what your business does:

We source high quality coffee beans and roast them for customers using authentic East African traditional coffee roasting methods. We only roast coffee when orders are received and ship them once it has cooled down and can be packaged. Perfected freshness is what we strive for.

Where did the idea for your business come from?

My culture and ethnic background. I am of Eritrean heritage, which is in East Africa – the birthplace of coffee.

Families in our culture have coffee ceremonies in their homes on a daily basis, which are conducted by the lady of the house. The ceremony involves roasting green coffee beans, grinding and brewing them, then pouring three rounds of coffee out. It’s a hallowed event, quite sacred and most people in our culture do not have any instant-mix coffee in their homes for this reason. So, I’ve enjoyed this on a daily basis for the best part of thirty years.

The taste is unparalleled due to the delicacy in roasting and brewing; I just felt that it would be nice to share this produce with everyone else. The taste of coffee is determined by a lot of variables which include: the quality of the beans, the amount of time they are roasted for, the amount of movement of the beans during roasting, how much oxygen they are exposed to once roasted, how they are ground and how hot the water is when poured into the cup. We take extreme care during the procedures that occur before it reaches our customers to guarantee a great taste.

Our next door neighbours have been enjoying our home roasted coffee scent for years, so I felt it’s time to let everyone experience the taste of coffee developed this way.

How did you know there was a market for it?

Coffee is often referred to as the second largest commodity on this planet, behind oil. A lot of media outlets have been reporting a surge in coffee consumption. I’ve also noticed a lot of high street chain coffee shops rapidly expanding and popping up everywhere. Together with the increase in coffee machine sales, I felt that our nation is becoming more attuned to a coffee need beyond instant coffee.

What were you doing before starting up?

I practiced as a psychological therapist in the NHS for nine years.

Have you always wanted to run your own business?

Yes, it’s always been something I saw myself doing eventually.

How did you raise the money?

Sacrificed a lot of holidays to put money aside and used every last penny I could find. Although there are other ways to invest money, I felt I wanted to invest in something I love, believe in and am passionate about.

Describe your business model and how you make money:

We source high quality coffee beans; our mission is to get the best. Our unique coffee roasting methods bring out the best flavour. That way, you ensure the beans taste the best they could ever taste, helping build consumer satisfaction. We are also the cheapest to offer such high quality coffee beans, and do not have a compulsory subscription service like similar businesses do. We do not believe in increasing monthly bills for people! Customers are free to order and not sign up for anything.

At the moment we’re not in profit, but not panicking because we’re happy with the direction the business is going in. Some coffee experts have referred to our coffee as “amazing… wonderful…the best”. We do want to make money, but positive comments about the taste of our coffee is our currency – a bit like that scene in Pulp Fiction with Winston Wolfe and Quentin Tarantino!

What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?

In our first week we had a few unexpected orders come through. This took some manoeuvring and sacrificing a few nights of sleep but we got there in the end. Another problem is shortages of some of the coffee beans we sell, like the Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee beans or the Ethiopian Yirgacheffe Grade 1.

Some UK importers ran out of stock but we managed to call in a few favours with some friends we’ve known over the years. The trick is to be resourceful and detailed in your problem solving. Using paper and pen to brainstorm with spider diagrams etc. can be an incredibly rewarding process.

What was your first big breakthrough?

Our first order coming in 48 hours after launching the website. For me this was a turning moment. That first customer; the moment you see a tangible result of something that was just a mere thought in your mind at one point. It feels like a baby saying their first word, or taking their first step. Wonderful.

What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?

Don’t stop believing. Be open to learning from mistakes and see challenges as opportunities to develop a skill. The experience is priceless. Develop a vision and blueprint of how you are going to achieve what you set out to do, and make sure you keep up to date with your reading. Above all, just do it.

Where do you want to be in five years’ time?

Known for helping people understand the origins of coffee and the difference in taste produced from roasting / grinding / brewing method. We hope people will see coffee not just as a caffeine fix, but rather a delicacy with our product bringing them taste satisfaction.

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