Forest Bean is a naturally grown coffee produced under the shades of native trees on the Western Ghats' ancestral micro-lot farms, a UNESCO World Heritage landmark. Forest Bean coffee is roasted in Canada. Our farms preserve wildlife and natural environments and contribute to the livelihood of Indigenous farmers and artisans. Forest Bean Inc. strives towards promoting traditional farming solutions to the environmental crisis by connecting beans to biodiversity. Forest Bean Inc.'s vision is to become a global brand that connects people to nature through sustainable and eco-friendly coffee.
In Business Since 2019
Best Immigrant Entrepreneur
Please tell us your personal story and about your business. How you started, and how you have overcome challenges.
In 2013, I moved to Canada to pursue a PhD. in Sustainable Engineering. I was surprised to witness Canada's love for coffee and realized how our addiction affects the environment. For every cup of coffee we consume, it is almost certain that one square inch of rainforest is destroyed. Deforestation not only decreases biodiversity but also displaces Indigenous Peoples. As the environmental crisis deepens, I saw a potential solution in transforming the coffee economy to become sustainable. My forefather, along with other Indigenous Peoples, started cultivating eco-friendly coffee on a UNESCO heritage site. They had an intricate relationship with the land and animals. Their spiritually-rooted practices called "sacred grove farming" ensured no tree was felled nor a creature harmed within the farm's boundaries. Even after six generations, my family continues this traditional farming technique while providing a natural habitat for a multitude of birds and animals to thrive alongside coffee beans. Therefore, in 2019 I incorporated a business known as Forest Bean in BC with the core mission to inspire and foster harmony between people and nature by celebrating rich biodiversity, Indigenous culture, and the taste of our family-owned coffee. When Vancouver is filled with so many coffee brands, it was not easy to penetrate the market. I realized that there is always a market for a product that comes with a good story. I began connecting to many people in the community. A breakthrough happened when the then president of a well-known Canadian chain of coffee shops, Mark West, said, "you have a great story, and I would mentor you to make your coffee's story a great brand." The second breakthrough happened when a famous specialty coffee shop Craft Cafe, agreed to host our coffee on their shelves along with other world-famous brands. The next plan was to introduce our coffee to Vancouver's coffee-crazy downtown locations. An intelligently designed lifestyle restaurant Festal Cafe agreed to serve our coffee at their sites. COVID-19 had a devastating effect on Forest Bean too. Due to lockdowns at the peak of our launch, live launch events & physical retailing were impossible. However, some sectors were thriving, such as e-commerce. So, we adapted by creating an online shop and improving our e-commerce experience to attract new local customers and expand to new markets. We found opportunities with all challenges, and we are committed to making Forest Bean a global brand.
Why do you deserve to win the Best Immigrant Entrepreneur award?
It will be an understatement if I don't mention my adversities as an immigrant in Canada. They made me more determined as I wanted to break social isolation, be included in the community, and be a part of BC's economic journey. The social progression in a new culture was challenging, and networking in communities was daunting as I didn't share anything in common with the people here. I didn't know who the people were or what they felt. I had to work hard to break my social isolation and develop knowledge, skills and acceptance by taking advanced degrees and participating in community programs. Programs such as the Queen Elizabeth Scholarship and the President's PhD Scholarship provided opportunities for community engagements and meeting diverse young global leaders. I have done more than just launching a sustainable coffee business. I connected with the community through my columns, policy articles, and blogs discussing sustainability, climate change and the clean sector. I focussed on addressing the environmental impacts posed by the current coffee industry sectors. In essence, deforestation, single-use plastic packaging and the carbon emissions from roasting also need more attention to be reduced and eventually phased out. In fact, through my company, I promoted a form of social progression around eco-friendly coffee. I had to overcome financial problems as access to funds was challenging. Building a credit history in a new country was a daunting task. It took years to create such a record. I had to keep a full-time job that provided banks collateral for financial support. Nobody offered financial support looking at my ambition, character and determination. After launching the business, it was not easy to penetrate the coffee market where big local players dominated the industry. I created a most compelling brand position, go-to-market strategies and a business plan. It took enormous strides to connect to many people in the community and convince established roasters and specialty and craft cafes to host my products. Moreover, it was a great stride to form a robust women-centric board with diverse talents, backgrounds, instincts and expertise. Today, the board provides me mentorship for personal development and financial management, including help on specific challenges of fundraising. Starting alone in a new country with limited access to funds, facing vast social isolation, and launching a meaningful business was an arduous task.