VOL.1 Roastlab Wants To Transform Kuwait's Coffee Industry With Its Specialty Coffee Bar
Nora Al Roumi saw how third wave specialty coffee bars and roasters were nonexistent in Kuwait and GCC as the coffee market was dependent on commercial or franchise coffee brands.
This article is part of a series on pioneering entrepreneurs in Kuwait that Entrepreneur Middle East has built in collaboration with Kuwait Finance House. Kuwait Finance House is considered a pioneer in Islamic finance or Sharia’a compliant banking, with it being the first Islamic bank established in 1977 in the State of Kuwait, and is today one of the foremost Islamic financial institutions in the world.
Founded by Nora Al Roumi in 2013, VOL.1 Roast Lab is an independent specialty coffee bar and micro roastery in Kuwait. After moving back to Kuwait from US with a penchant for coffee roasting (and a number of certifications in the art of making coffee), Al Roumi felt invigorated to transform Kuwait’s coffee industry. The co-founder and Head Roaster saw how third wave specialty coffee bars and roasters -which focuses on increasing coffee quality, emphasizing on sustainability and unconventional brew methods- were nonexistent in Kuwait and the GCC, as the coffee market was dependent on commercial or franchise coffee brands.
Being one of the first to introduce specialty coffee to the GCC market, Al Roumi recalls how new brewing techniques and roasting weren’t understood by the general market. They started with interactive and informative posts on social media, hosted discussion panels, lectures and cupping sessions to communicate the differences and details in the coffee market supply chain, right from the farm to your coffee cup. “I was a barista at the time in the bar, and I would have conversations on end about what our coffee is, and [what it] represents,” says Al Roumi.
Source: VOL.1 Roastlab
Initially, the company didn’t offer wholesale to other companies and businesses out of their concern in preserving the quality parameters of their coffee beans. The team partnered with the Food Science Depart of the University of Copenhagen and CoffeeMind to preserve the brand’s commitment to quality by offering a custom-made quality control that is easily adapted by VOL.1 Roastlab’s clients. “At the end of the day, we wanted to product a that represents our brand commitment to quality, and allow the client to be self-reliant in preserving that quality to their customers.”
Gradually, with content available, customers’ understanding of specialty coffee skyrocketed, with products such as cold brew amongst the highest consumed. With two current branches in Kuwait, the company’s business model includes B2B clients and e-commerce platforms. With more plans for expansion, Al Roumi says, “Invest[ing] heavily on food science and sensory science, and developing products that represent our mission to innovate is the foundation of our growth plan.”
Source: VOL.1 Roastlab
Nora Al Roumi, founder, VOL.1 Roastlab
What are some of the main considerations that entrepreneurs should keep when starting up a business in Kuwait and why?
"Know what you want. That is the first step you need to consider when starting a business. Your goals for the business are evolving, knowing what you want is the hardest question to ask and answer. Asking yourself what exactly you want to achieve will make the how aspect more impactful. Secondly, don’t compare yourself or your businesses to anyone or anything but yourself. "
Can your share your top 3-4 tips for fellow entrepreneurs on tactics on surviving the impact of the COVID-19 crisis?
"Don’t resist. Changes are hard especially if a plan has been set, so develop an adaptive and proactive mindset- respond, do not react. Be accountable and take incremental steps to control the situation, instead of having the situation take control of you- develop a plan, and if that doesn’t work, be accountable. Assess and reintroduce another one.
Source: VOL.1 Roastlab
I strongly believe that entrepreneurs need to invest in studying consciousness and the power of the human mind, as thoroughly as they do [in] business modules/business seminars. Your mind is your single most competitive advantage -only you have your mind- and knowing how to use your competitive edge will make you an impactful leader, as both an entrepreneur and a human being experiencing this life."
Lastly, what are some of the opportunities that you see available in the Kuwaiti market today, and what would be your advice to aspiring entrepreneurs?
"My advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is to stay connected to your 'why’- in other words, find the purpose of why you’re doing what you are doing or want to do. Understanding what it is that keeps you going gives you fuel to endure every step of your journey as an entrepreneur."
Pamella de Leon is the Startup Section Editor at Entrepreneur Middle East. She is keen on the MENA region’s entrepreneurship potential, with a specific interest to support enterprises and individuals creating an impact.