It was February 13. The clock was almost ticking at 10 a.m., E.T.
In a small room, inside the building of George Washington Bridge Bus Station, in Manhattan, an immigrant couple was constantly looking at their laptop. They are making sure they are framed properly.
“I think we should get started,” said Sarina Prabasi, co-founder of Buunni Coffee, “our friend Josefina is helping us running the slides (remotely).”
On that day, Prabasi and her husband Elias Gurmu were running a virtual-guided Ethiopian Coffee Tasting event.
During this event, the couple literally makes coffee with the participants (who sign-up for it) for sharing stories behind the origin of the coffee they are tasting.
“Coffee tasting is about connecting customers and us,” Gurmu said.
As the ongoing coronavirus pandemic affected most of the businesses, this couple of the same age, 48, explored the idea of virtual coffee tasting. As they say, when there is a will, there is a way, Coffee and Tea Festival, partnered with them to run the first virtual tasting on January 31. It became a sold-out event.
“I can’t say it’s a moneymaker, but at least it gives us some hope and some encouragement to continue that we see, okay, well, we can be doing this. It introduces the product to new people,” Prabasi said.
Besides finding new ways to get the business going, like many small business owners, the couple is also going through rough times as the COVID-19 has impacted many industries including the coffee industry. A recent study found that the pandemic has wiped-out nearly a quarter of U.S. coffee shop market value.
The couple also had to permanently shut down one location.
“Obviously, the pandemic has had a huge impact on that. We had four locations. And now we are down to three,” said Prabasi. “We had to recently close our location in Riverdale, in the Bronx.”
“It was something which makes us feel very sad because when you start a new business or you start a new location, you do that with hope and you do that because you have optimism in the future.”
On being asked if they see big coffee-chain giants like Starbucks (SBUX) – Get Report and Dunkin’ (DNKN) – Get Report as their competitors, Gurmu said, “I will say those are not our competitors because they are huge companies.”
“They have the resources, they have the money, they have everything, the power. Our better connection is with the customers,” he added.
Small businesses are the lifeblood of the U.S. economy which generates about 44 percent of the U.S. economic activity creating two-thirds of new hiring. Fortunately for them, they did not have to downsize their workforce. They credit that to the support from their community.
“As a small business, we’ve really seen that individual people have gone above and beyond, beyond our expectations,” Prabasi said, “and I hope that other small businesses are also feeling that support from their communities.”
The video above is part of a month-long video series: Black History, Wall Street & Beyond below. Watch the many historical milestones tied to Black history.
TheStreet’s Anuz Thapa also conducted a series of interviews focusing on the next generation of leaders on and off Wall Street, including Lauren Simmons – Now Is the Time to Create Generational Wealth for African Americans. Plus, TheStreet’s Tony Owusu speaks with CEOs running minority-owned private equity firms to better understand How to Break Diversity Barriers on Wall Street and explores The Hidden History of Wall Street’s Slave Market.
Credit: Source link