Coffee is a $6.2 billion industry in Canada. Canadians consume coffee more than any other beverage – even tap water. In 2020, the Coffee Association of Canada found that Canadians drank an average of 2.7 cups of coffee per day. Simply put, Canadians love coffee.
For many, coffee is an essential part of their daily routine. For one local entrepreneur, it was a chance to create something she envisioned since moving to Ottawa 14 years ago.
Deborah Ntawigiriria is the co-founder and Managing Director of Izere Coffee, a family-run business that sells specialty coffee imported from Burundi.
“I grew up in Canada and Burundi,” she says. “I love these two countries so much and I always wanted to create a business that would link both.”
“That image of always seeing people with a cup of coffee here in Canada is one of the things that inspired me. Everywhere I would go – at work, at school – I would meet at least 10 people outside with a cup of coffee in their hand.”
When she graduated from the University of Quebec in Outaouais, Deborah took a trip back home to Burundi. Her mother, who was in the coffee business at the time, suggested she come and learn about the coffee trade there.
That trip caused Deborah to realize she could provide high-quality coffee from Burundi and the idea for Izere Coffee was conceived. After spending four months working with coffee farmers, she returned to Canada and started the company with her mother in 2014.
To ensure sustainability, Izere Coffee practices direct trade. They purchase the beans directly from coffee co-ops that reinvest into their farmers’ communities. This process allows the farmers to receive a higher premium and the buyer to have more control over the quality of the coffee.
“We wanted to be socially conscious in the way we do business. That’s why we opted for direct trade,” she explains. The main goal is to improve the lives of their farmers.
Deborah said she chose the name Izere because of what it stands for. In the native Kirundi language, it means “believe or have faith.” Now, she is using her faith to get through the pandemic.
To adapt to the new normal, Deborah shifted to e-commerce. She said the DMS program helped her to optimize her website, build an online store, and create a new marketing plan.
Her one piece of advice for small business owners impacted by COVID-19 is “to aim higher no matter the obstacles.” She also emphasized the importance of self-care.
As for the future, Deborah remains optimistic. She recently partnered with two local breweries, Whiprsnapr and Beyond the Pale, to offer beer stouts infused with Izere Coffee.
“There’s a story behind every cup of Izere Coffee, especially the story of the coffee growers. There’s also a very sophisticated process from the coffee tree to the coffee cup.”
“When you try a cup of our coffee, we want to link you with Burundi and the story behind it. You become part of a global community.”
You can buy Izere Coffee directly from their website at www.izerecoffee.com or the following locations: Seed to Sausage, African Soul Food, and Whiprsnapr.
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