Coffee bar owner continues to brew despite Covid-19

Enterprising: Neo Mosimane

The heightened uncertainty defining the current pandemic has caused consumers to rethink their spending habits, forcing entrepreneurs to be more creative, and one such is the coffee maker.

Voice Woman speaks to quick-thinking Neo Mosimane – the owner of Romantic Coffee and Home Ground Coffee Bar, whose strategies for 2021 include collaboration and expansion.

Coffee bar owner continues to brew despite Covid-19
Time for Coffee

Briefly tell us about yourself and your business.

I am an entrepreneur, entrepreneurship development activist, and mother.

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After graduating with a degree in Business Enterprise from the University of Derby, I followed my passion for food and went on to study culinary arts at the International Hotel School in South Africa.

I enjoyed my experience in professional kitchens in Johannesburg but I decided to come back home to operate my catering company.

In 2018, I registered Romantic Coffee; a coffee crafting company based in Gaborone.

I’ve been supplying local hotels, restaurants, corporates, and supermarkets with coffee ever since.

In 2020, I expanded my business to include a coffee bar where customers can enjoy our delicious coffee and confectionaries.

Our bar is based at Stanbic Bank’s business incubator – Acceler8 – at Fairgrounds mall, however, we offer mobile bar services as well.

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Businesses – big or small – continue to be gravely affected by costly covid-19 lockdowns and crippling curfews, what setbacks has yours suffered?

One of the first industries to suffer the effects of Covid-19 was the hospitality industry and they are our main customers.

We lost many customers due to extended periods of inactivity in their establishments.

We have also seen a decline in sales due to the shift in priorities of individuals and corporates, our products are luxury goods and people prefer to spend more on essential items, there have been fewer events that require corporate gifting, therefore, there is a decline in customers.

How have you overcome the challenges?

We have had to diversify our product offerings and include indigenous raw materials due to difficulty importing our raw materials.

We have also had to collaborate with like-minded SMMEs to find creative ways to get our products to reach a wider audience.

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This has included finding creative ways to work with each other’s products and services, finding new distribution channels, and relying on peer mentoring to assist each other to navigate challenges.

What initiatives have been of benefit to you?

During these challenging times, the best way to cope with the uncertainty that comes with Covid-19 for me has been to learn new skills that can improve my business.

I am a member of the International Trade Center (ITC)’s Ye!

Initiative and I represent Botswana as an ambassador for the initiative locally.

This has been my go-to learning tool because it has given me access to free online courses on E-business, Export Development, and Sustainability.

These tools as well as many webinars on crisis management, interaction with other entrepreneurs from across the globe, and access to mentors have assisted me to plan for the future of my business despite the challenges I have been faced with.

I have also taken advantage of local initiatives such as the wage subsidy and the patriotism that has encouraged the “buy local” movement.

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Lessons learned, positives?

The most important lesson I’ve learned is that collaboration is a powerful tool for growth.

A lot of the goals that I’ve accomplished in the past year wouldn’t have been possible if I didn’t have assistance from people around me.

I have definitely sharpened my networking skills and I continue to grow because I leverage my network.

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I’ve also learned a lot about the importance of leadership especially through unpredictable times.

I have had to step up and lead my team even when I was unsure of the future.

What plans do you have for 2021 and what advice can you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?

I am cautiously optimistic about the year 2021.

My plan for the year is to continue to grow my business; I plan on expanding our product offering to include indigenous tea fusions in various forms.

I’d also like to see our products on many more shelves and being served in establishments across the country.

Furthermore, I plan on opening a second location for the coffee bar.

This year, I am looking forward to collaborating more with SMMEs to develop each other, as well as with large corporations that can support my business growth.

My personal goals for the year is to upskill myself, learn a new skill that will improve my life, and to expose someone to an opportunity that will change their life.

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