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This coffee shop’s unconventional acquisition of capital worked but its founders have to figure out how to stay afloat without tourists

This coffee shop’s unconventional acquisition of capital worked but its founders have to figure out how to stay afloat without tourists

In October 2017, Prince Kamari and Aidan Miller launched Crema Café in Muhoza Sector, Musanze District. Located at the junction connecting downtown Musanze to the neighboring countries of Uganda and the DRC, the café caught the attention of regional travelers. However, it was mainly tourists from abroad who enabled the start-up to hit the ground running.

It didn’t take long before foreign tourists started flocking Crema Café. There is something about coffee which is irresistible to these people. Through its partnership with Question Coffee, Crema benefits from training and regular maintenance of its brewing machines.

It takes a substantial amount of money to set up a coffee shop. The two broke, aspiring entrepreneurs, fresh from their high school classrooms, had nothing but determination when their idea was conceived. They turned to Indiegogo, an American crowdfunding website for financing. Their unconventional acquisition of capital worked, thanks to their deep connections in North America. Since the platform requires recipients to send gifts to their donors, a lot of work was done to create required items.

Musanze is blessed with a wide range of tourist attractions. Volcanoes National Park, which is home to the famous mountain gorillas, is located there. Apart from gorilla trekking, the park offers a variety of other exciting activities. However, you don’t need to enter the park to discover everything Musanze has in store. There is so much more outside the protected area.

Last time I dropped by, the first case of the novel coronavirus hadn’t been confirmed in Rwanda but the virus was already spreading fast all over the world. I had coffee with Prince who expressed concern over the trajectory of infections globally.

When tourism was suspended and the lockdown was instituted, Crema Café introduced delivery services, mainly serving a small community of expats and foreign volunteers based in Musanze.

Prince is encouraging the new generation of Rwandans to embrace the coffee drinking culture. Alcoholism is rampant among the youth. As we face the biggest health crisis of our lifetime, the need to lead a healthier lifestyle is more pressing than ever. Besides, by consuming locally-grown coffee, we empower farmers and contribute to the socio-economic transformation of rural communities.

Tourism money has dried up but Crema’s door is still wide open. Prince hopes these unusual circumstances won’t ultimately force him to make a painful decision to lay off some of his employees. Obviously, his business is badly affected but taking care of his employees comes before profit.

Prince commends the government’s efforts to mobilize resources and fight tirelessly to contain the virus. He is confident that policy makers will come up with appropriate incentives to help small businesses weather the storm. "It will take a long time before tourism resumes and when that happens, the road to recovery will not be rosy. In the meantime, we have to figure out how to keep our heads above water." He says.

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