Kenyan Coffee Entrepreneur Vava Angwenyi
Since starting her certified B-corporation Vava Coffee in 2009, Vava Angwenyi has disrupted the coffee industry to create social justice and equity. Working with farmers from all parts of Kenya, Vava is on a mission to increase awareness about the goodness of Kenyan coffee while empowering communities.
Growing up in Kenya, Vava says she wasn’t really aware of the country’s coffee legacy. Even with family members such as her grandmother being coffee producers, the focus for her would be academics which would l also lead her right back to coffee. During her final years of high school, she left Kenya to live with relatives in Canada and seeing them drink coffee in addition to the availability of coffee at places such as Tim Horton’s or Starbucks started to put the beverage on her radar but soon it began to come into focus.
“What triggered me, what caught my attention was the branding of Kenyan coffee and I was like ‘Wow, this is from Kenya. But then why don’t I see producers featured?’ I just see an elephant, the common logos that you see, an elephant or a coffee cherry or whatever. So for me, that started triggering some questions. The economics and the social justice behind all of this because I was like if the price of a cappachino, if the price of an expresso is this much, how much is really going to the farmers.”
The questions didn’t stop and secretly she decided she wanted to become an entrepreneur during her second year in college but hid this from her parents who had invested so much into her education and therefore expected her to follow the traditional path of getting an education, a job, getting married and the starting a family. “As women, we are taught not to take risks,” she says.
Doing the right thing, she says, she received her master’s and then from there it was time to speak her truth and let her family know she wanted to move forward as an entrepreneur. Recalling the time she announced her plans, she shares, “I want to do research in another way. I was to contribute to agriculture and coffee in a way that I feel adds value. And that way for me it’s economic empowerment, better storytelling, better traceability. Those are the things that spoke to me.”
Fast forward from there and in 2009, Vava Coffee was born and for more than 12 years, Vava has worked with thousands of Kenyan farmers to build and promote equity and sustainable practices while producing a product that makes Kenyan communities proud. The journey has not been easy and the list of lessons is long, but the impact is one to be proud of.
Most recently this year, she opened La Dulce Toro, a coffee training center and cafe on the island of Lamu, also in Kenya, that trains students (especially women) to make coffee, get experience in hospitality and more. She beautifully documents the project in this video.
She drops so many gems and we get into all of them and more in this episode which is available now.
After you listen, be sure to follow Vava on Instagram, as well as Vava Coffee and La Dulce Toro to find out how to order coffee, upcoming events and more. Also, you can support her work in Lamu with a donation that helps to provide scholarships to train students or provide other life-changing skills. You can make a donation here. In-kind donations and services are also welcomed.