Maine Coffee Company Supports Rwandan Farmers with Help of CDFI Financing
Client: Mike Mwenedata, owner of Rwanda Bean Company (RBC)
Client Location: Portland, ME
CDFI: Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI)
CDFI Service Area: ME
Financing and technical assistance, with support from the Grow with Google Small Business Fund
Rwanda Bean Company (RBC) was founded in Portland, Maine, in 2013 by Mike Mwenedata to support coffee farmers in his home country Rwanda, Africa. A coffee retail and wholesale operation, RBC focuses on small batch, expertly roasted premium coffee directly sourced from Rwandan Coffee Farmers Cooperative. Rwandan farmers cultivate some of the finest, specialty Bourbon Arabica in the world but typically receive less than 1% of what consumers pay for a cappuccino. RBC helps address this gap by providing 50 percent of profits to farmers for healthcare, education, and infrastructure services.
Given that the coffee shipping containers are imported from overseas, and the business has limited collateral, traditional banks were hesitant to provide working capital. Mike and his business partner, Ben Graffius, instead approached Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI) for business advice and financing to help solve their conundrum of not having enough capital to secure inventory in bulk from Rwanda – an issue that has only been exacerbated by COVID-19. In December 2021, RBC secured a loan from CEI, providing necessary working capital and funds for marketing to help RBC grow its subscription business and diversify its revenue stream.
With CEI’s support, seven Whole Foods stores and five Hannaford Stores in New England now offer RBC coffee. Other major accounts include contracts with WEX and Canopy Hotel in Portland. RBC is also exploring distribution opportunities in Singapore and Southeast Asia with Securefood and the business opened a café and distillery in Kigali, Rwanda.
“CEI has been a great partner to understand what our needs and challenges are as a small business and help us come up with a solution to help directly solve it. This funding allowed us to secure our large inventory needed to supply our growing business as well as allow us to continue our mission to buy directly from the farmers cooperatives,” said Mike.