How Two Sisters Are Connecting DC With Ugandan Coffee
When the COVID pandemic began, many businesses were stopped in their tracks. For Mutima Coffee, their story was just beginning.
Two sisters, Sheila and Sharon Kasasa, are on a mission to connect Washington, D.C. with authentic Ugandan coffee. Originally born in Uganda in 1991, the sisters were just seven years old when their parents moved to Maryland. Now, as third-generation female entrepreneurs located in the Washington, DC area, the Kasasa sisters want to give back to their hometown community and shine light on the efforts of female farmers in Uganda.
You might be wondering, what led two Ugandan-American sisters to start selling specialty coffee in the DC area? The answer: a shared passion for coffee. When the sisters went to University, they both developed their own unique love for it. Sheila fell in love with the sensory experience of drinking coffee and loved the energizing buzz it gave her to kickstart her days. On the other hand, Sharon found interest in the science behind roasting. While studying neuroscience at Bowdoin University, Sharon was intrigued by how the flavor in coffee could differ depending on the ingredients and the roasting process used.
After reconnecting with family in Uganda and discovering a personal history in the coffee industry, Sheila and Sharon were inspired to launch their own Ugandan coffee brand to be sold in the United States. Sourcing their beans from the Mount Elgon region, in Eastern Uganda near the border of Kenya, the Kasasa sisters launched their specialty coffee to showcase their shared passion, uplift the community they grew up in, and bring attention to the income disparity between male and female farmers in Uganda.
This is how Mutima Coffee was born. Mutima launched in early 2020 right as the pandemic hit and the world began to lockdown. Regardless of the obstacle, the two sisters successfully launched their brand online and sold over 200 bags of their specialty coffee in the first week. Now, Mutima has found a home with Union Kitchen, where they are focusing on growing and scaling their business. While they source their beans from Ugandan farmers, they roast locally, here in Washington, DC.
The road to launch wasn’t without its challenges. When launching Mutima, the Kasasa sisters faced a logistical nightmare. How could they possibly source, roast, and package the beans during the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic? Sheila recalls the struggle of launching a business virtually, “We were essentially doing that process fully remotely, from the cupping experience all the way to getting our packaging here.” To make matters worse, the sisters were in lockdown half away across the world from each other.
There was no time estimate as to when the sisters would be reunited. With Sheila in Morocco and Sharon in the US, the sisters worked tirelessly to launch their food business. While many coffee companies use brokers to source their beans, the Kasasa sisters wanted to source the beans themselves. Sheila and Sharon were committed to finding a direct source to help elevate the work of female farmers in Uganda. They were able to locate farmers in Uganda, set up a supply chain to DC, and eventually launch Mutima in the DC area, all in the midst of a global pandemic.
When asked for advice in starting a business in a virtual workspace, Sheila and Sharon attribute their success to starting fast and learning to fail forward through their mistakes. Right from the jump, they were motivated to get their business started and they used this motivation to fuel the initial growth of their business. Sheila and Sharon embodied a growth mindset during this time -- they embraced their failures, mistakes, and the unexpected challenges of 2020 as opportunities to develop.
The Kasasa sisters like to joke about the experience. “After figuring it out during COVID, we can essentially launch a business anytime.” Growing Mutima was a learning process with many ups and downs. Sheila and Sharon are excited to celebrate their success with the launch of their new Spiced Chai blend.
The unique Spiced Chai blend is a light-medium roast with a sweet, tea-like flavor that attracts both coffee and tea lovers alike. Many people are used to the typical dark roast with a mix of blends from around the world. Mutima is flipping the script, producing a unique roast with a single source of beans from their home in Uganda.
Come to a Union Kitchen Store today and check out Mutima’s new Spiced Chai Ugandan coffee!