native of Rwanda Mike Mwenedata founded Rwanda Bean Co. in 2013 as a mission-driven company that returns half of its profits to coffee farmers in its native country. Mwenedata, who earned an MBA from the University of Southern Maine and speaks five languages, has since made a strong impact in Portland and recently expanded a roasting and brewing facility to Thompsons Point to support Rwanda’s growing retail and wholesale presence Bean complement.
Mainebiz: What made you decide to expand to Thompsons Point?
Mike Mwenedata: Thompsons Point is emerging as Portland’s great new neighborhood for arts, culture, food and drink and entertainment for people of all ages and backgrounds. It’s the perfect place for Rwanda Bean to continue growing and we’re really excited to be part of the great corporate community at Point.
MB: How did you get into supplying the new Canopy by Hilton Portland Waterfront hotel and how is your wholesale business doing today?
MM: I was not involved in the process of delivering the new Canopy by Hilton Hotel as I was in Rwanda during the entire process. Our wholesale activities are growing, especially since we moved our roasters to Thompson’s Point, which gives us more flexibility in our operations.
MB: What can you say about the farmers in Rwanda that you support financially and how they use the money?
MM: Despite the challenges, we were fortunate to be able to pay for health care for 1,200 coffee farmers and their families. We also completed construction of a preschool that will support 200 children for one of the coffee communities we work with. Now let’s focus on the school setup and basic needs like books and other school supplies.
MB: What sparked the idea of selling Rwanda bean coffee subscriptions?
MM: The Rwanda Bean Coffee subscription sales were sparked by the love I have for my communities and customers. The pandemic brought many changes, including shop and store closures. At Rwanda Bean, we started thinking about how we could provide caffeine to our community while keeping our business running as well as possible. We had to be creative and that’s how subscription sales came about. It’s going well and slowly growing, but we’re happy and grateful for the support from our community from near and far.
MB: What’s next for Rwanda Bean and longer term for other locations?
MM: Next, Rwanda Bean will continue to strengthen our relationships with our coffee source [farmers] and the communities of our customers by creating a company that delivers an authentic cup of coffee full of hope and love. I don’t think we’ll be opening another location anytime soon. Right now our focus is on making sure that what we have here in the United States and in Rwanda can be made self-sustaining.
MB: To what extent is Portland “home” for you now, or at least your second home?
MM: This city gave me what I have today, so Portland will always be my home. I love this city and its communities and look forward to growing with it.