We had the good fortune of connecting with Margaret Nyamumbo and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Margaret, is there a quote or affirmation that’s meaningful to you?
“I am my ancestors’ wildest dreams”
It’s a reminder of how far we have come and a testament to how much progress can be made in a short amount of time. My ancestors were not allowed to grow coffee or drink it and now I get to own a coffee brand that’s nationally distributed in the USA. Even as we make history with every glass ceiling we shatter and Black people and women, I am grateful that I get to live a freer more fulfilling life because of the sacrifice and fight of my ancestors. It inspires me to do better for future generations.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I founded Kahawa 1893 Coffee while I was working on Wall Street in New York. I had just finished my MBA from Harvard and began my career in Finance at an Investment Bank, a pretty typical post-MBA career trajectory. During the weekends I explored the NYC coffee scene and specialty coffee was experiencing tremendous growth. Paying $5 for a cup of coffee was no longer a flex. But farmers who grew the coffee were not yet getting paid – they worse off than they were in the sixties.
I grew up on a coffee farm in Kenya, before moving to the USA for college. My family has been growing coffee for 3 generations and I was familiar with the outsized role that women played in coffee production, but because they don’t own land, they didn’t get compensated or recognized for their contributions. That was the motivation for founding Kahawa – to share delicious coffee with the world and make sure the women were paid.
Fast forward, I moved to San Francisco to grow the business and we recently launched in Trader Joe’s, a historic feat that was widely celebrated.
Being a black woman in the specialty coffee industry, traditionally white-male dominated, has been a unique experience with it’s share of challenges but also opportunities that have been overlooked for so long due to the lack of diversity.
My goal is to decolonize the industry, even our brand name (Kahawa) means coffee in Swahili and shine a light on the historical contributions of Black people to coffee
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I live in the San Francisco Bay Area and I enjoy exploring all the diverse places that make the Bay Area exciting. There is always something to do in the city or a short drive away. Some of my fave places are:
Sonoma/ Napa for the wines. My fave winery is Cline winery, it has great Zinfandel wines, rich history and beautiful grounds. Grab lunch dinner in Yountville – great food choice concentrated in a small radius.
Santa Cruz for the beaches and boardwalk
Oakland for the culture and food. Asmara Restaurant has delicious Ethiopian food. It takes me back home to East Africa
Berkeley – Our coffee Roastery is located in Berkeley and I love exploring the farm-to-table restaurants that were pioneered in Berkeley. Wander into Berkeley Bowl for the freshest unique grocery finds. My faves are the Kombucha on tap and the lemon Ricotta cheese
Tahoe for skiing and summer hikes. The beautiful views of Lake Tahoe never get old.
Sausalito for brunch. Take the ferry from San Francisco for a picturesque ride to Sausalito. Grab brunch at Bar Bocce.
San Francisco – Spoilt for a choice of Mexican food. For a sweet tooth, visit Dessert story for illustrious dessert. Enjoy a taste of Nigerian food at Eko Kitchen and dance to African tunes at Bissap Baobab in the Mission district.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I am grateful for my family for supporting my aspirations and dreams. Choosing entrepreneurship over a stable, lucrative job was not easy especially when you are supporting generations of family members. But my family was very supportive, sacrificing resources to invest in my growth and I am glad to be in a position to support my community directly. In Africa, there is a saying that a child is raised by the village, and in my case, that statement could’t be more true.