For nearly two centuries, coffee was arguably Haiti’s most important cash crop, thriving despite heavy taxes that the government levied on exports. Today, Haitians in the trade have a popular refrain: “Coffee paid for Haiti’s independence.” Revenues raised by the export tax helped pay the hefty 1825 indemnity that President Jean-Pierre Boyer agreed to pay France in exchange for diplomatic recognition as a free nation. COPO believes that touching on that industry could change the landscape of the economy. It has been five (5) years since Stephane Prophete unofficially started COPO and two (2) years since he launched KOLABO, a non-profit organization that helps aspiring entrepreneurs and young Startups in Haiti. With 16 employees including himself, their goal is to Re-introduce the world to Haitian coffee, trust me; you will never go back once you’ve had a taste of sweet heaven.
For someone who has been drinking coffee since forever, what better way for an interview over a nice cup of coffee.
How did you get started in this business?
I started this business after a market study to launch an agricultural supermarket, a well-structured supermarket targeting the middle class and the bourgeoisie. Everything that was going to be sold on this market would have been fully organic for health safety. Following the market study for this project I noticed that I was not ready to start such project because of lack of resources and expertise. But then I also discovered all the opportunities in the coffee industry, the benefits and impact it had in the Haitian economy in the past, so my team and I took the opportunity to venture into the coffee business, and guess what, the feedback of the public was really heart-warming.
Coffee itself has a strong demand worldwide so since then I invest all my time and money through this business to achieve the goal set.
Where do you see your business in the next year? In the next five years? The next ten years?
In the next year, I want to make our products available worldwide. In five years, I want to Have multiple coffee shops throughout Haiti. And in the next ten years, I want to start selling franchise worldwide.
Do you plan to compete in the global market place? If yes, how?
Yes. Haiti’s crop is organic by default – most of the nation’s 200,000 coffee farmers couldn’t afford to use chemical fertilizers or pesticides even if they wanted to. Since most coffees used abroad are not organic. This is a good strategy to market this particular benefit of consuming our 100% fully organic coffee. We also seek to bring innovations and bring other things that the competitors do not have.
What are the biggest issues for running this business?
Many businesses like ours will tell you the same thing we are telling you, one of our biggest issues is to find a reliable and affordable shipping company to deliver our coffee worldwide and eligible online payment method for Haiti’s banking system.
What service(s) or product(s) do you offer/manufacture?
Coffee in all forms
Does your company help the community where it is located?
Of course, Yes. We prioritize partnerships with farmers across Haiti to acquire the coffee beans that they plant. Then we prioritize them among the employees we have for the production methods. That means COPO Coffee’s products are planted, grown, harvested, cleaned, processed and packaged by people we employ in the communities we evolve in.
If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?
No one should stop themselves from dreaming big no matter your background or where you come from. The world is full of resources and opportunities. All it takes is wisdom and patience, because nothing good comes easy, be creative and most importantly pro-active and I would end by saying do not let obstacles and failures drain you, they are meant to mold you into the successful person you dream of being.
Please follow COPO on their social media page [Facebook], support their work and purchase their fantastic coffee; you will not be disappointed.
Author: Debbie Jean Jacques.
Last modified: March 20, 2019