Journey with us into the history of coffee and the realities of social enterprise with our guide Mokhtar Alkanshali, founder of Port of Mokha. A Yemeni-American, Mokhtar shares the extraordinary path that led him to build a vertically integrated coffee company in Yemen in the midst of political turmoil and civil war. Mokhtar takes on the skeptics asking why we should care about specialty coffee: by shortening the distance between consumers and producers they are improving the quality of coffee and the lives of farmers.
We’re digging into the rapid growth of speciality coffee—22% a year growth compared to 5% a year for regular coffee— and why farming in Yemen matters globally. Mokhtar argues shifting from treating coffee simply as a commodity, to coffee as an accessible luxury like cheese and wine, brings consumers pleasure and helps farmers live with dignity. Mokhtar shares how he developed buy-in from Yemeni farmers to build a business based on social impact right alongside superior taste. This is a candid dialogue about the benefits and challenges of a vertically integrated company, and the expansion of Port of Mohka’s direct trade model into Ethiopia and Colombia.
Mokhtar talks about the journey of entrepreneurship: the “adventure” and “passion” phases, how to navigate mistakes, and personal investment. Mokhtar dives into the critical issue of how to find the right investors. We are talking supply chain difficulties, the challenges in fundraising, and innovating into new product lines to diversify the business, and the bright opportunity Mokhtar sees for e-commerce.
Mokhtar’s story is the subject of Dave Eggers’ book The Monk of Mohka, and he more than lives up to the interest in his blended vision for business and social impact.
** This article has been sourced from the FS6 community for the purpose of educating readers on the topic of food system change. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Food System 6.
FS6 is a nonprofit based in the San Francisco Bay Area whose mission is to support impact-driven entrepreneurs as they transform how we grow, produce, and distribute food. The organization runs a comprehensive accelerator program that mentors entrepreneurs by coaching them through a wide range of business and organizational needs. FS6 also works to educate stakeholders on the unique capital needs as it relates to redefining the food system.