I thought I had all the keys to start a business

Carlos is a social entrepreneur originally from Colombia and created Populaire Café with a couple of friends to promote, fairly traded, farmers coffee from his country of origin. He got support from La Ruche, The Human Safety Net Refugee Start-Up partner in France to improve its social business model, and realized they need to invest more in marketing. When the pandemic hit 90% of their business base made of restaurants and cafès, they started to find new sources of income to survive during lockdown. Now they deliver their fair trade coffee all around Paris by bike, helping other refugees along the way.

Posted 25 Nov 2020

When the lockdown started, we lost close to 90% of our orders, because our business model target professional clients. We had to think about other sources of income, which is why we started to reach out to retail customers.
Along with my two partners, we started delivering just about everywhere by bike, and all of this was during lockdown.

My name is Carlos Arbelaez, I am a social entrepreneur, and along with my two colleagues, I co-founded Populaire. Populaire is a fair trade coffee brand, which is roasted by hand in Paris.
My hope is that we can all learn some important lessons from this lockdown, and that we can all understand that our way of life has an impact on the whole of society.

With our project, we set ourselves three goals: 1) To benefit the producers in Colombia; 2) To benefit refugees in France, as we want to train them as baristas, so they can find work; 3) To inform our customers that their purchase can have an impact on the whole of society.

I’ve been a social entrepreneur for 8 years now, and I thought I had all the keys to start a business or any type of project. The first thing I found out when I started receiving support from the incubator was to question myself, because I quickly realized with my team mates that we were not retailers. I’ve seen a huge number of entrepreneurs, refugees and French people adapt and reinvent themselves in this incredibly difficult situation.
People have also been very keen to give me advice on how to deal with this situation, and make the most out of it.

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