Takeaways

1

Firaol, who grew up in a family of coffee farmers, started his own coffee roasting company, Moii Cofffe, from his college apartment in 2022.

2

Firaol has achieved incredible success in his first year in business, expanding from local distribution to national sales and racking up numerous accolades.

3

Firaol hopes to build a brand that highlights the history and variety of Ethiopian coffee by connecting customers with the people and stories behind each product.

Firaol Ahmed

Founder, Owner, and Roaster, Moii Coffee

Expertise: roasting, green coffee sales, entrepreneurship, coffee agriculture

Coffee insight: By 2050, climate change is set to profoundly impact the quality of green coffee worldwide.

Fun fact: Firaol is a D1 student-athlete, competing in both cross-country and track and field, at Saint Louis University.

Firaol’s Coffee Origin Story

When Firaol tells people that he grew up in a family of coffee farmers, he knows they might assume he started a roasting business to carry on his family’s legacy. But he admits that it was only in retrospect that he fully connected the dots to his family’s century-long coffee legacy.

Firaol, a student-athlete at Saint Louis University, was recovering from a stress fracture that left him unable to train and felt he needed something to fill his time. “I kind of saw that people like Ethiopian coffee, so I figured I would just launch it,” he recalls. “So within a week, I started working on it.”

Firaol says that it wasn’t until he had his business up and running that he was able to recognize the thread that ran from his coffee roasting company—which he named Moii Coffee—to his family’s long, successful history of coffee farming. (In fact, his family’s farm, Alo Coffee, won the 2021 Ethiopian Cup of Excellence award.) He says it’s a living testament to Steve Jobs’s adage: “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward.”

Click here to find Moii Coffee’s Ethiopian Sidamo in the U3 Coffee Exchange!

Firaol’s Current Role

Firaol launched Moii Coffee just over a year ago, but the company has already achieved impressive growth. Not only is he roasting coffee for customers in the local St. Louis area and shipping coffee nationwide through his online sales platform, he’s expanded into the corporate world, providing coffee to clients through a national food service provider.

In spite of getting great feedback from many local cafés, Firaol realized that many local shops couldn’t carry Moii’s coffees because they had their own in-house labels. Instead of getting discouraged, he recognized a unique opportunity: start importing green coffee from his family’s farm to sell to local roasters.

Firaol’s entrepreneurship has quickly earned him recognition and accolades: He was selected as St. Louis University’s 2023 Student Entrepreneur of the Year and was named to St. Louis Inno Under 25.

What Fuels Firaol’s Work

In thinking about a name for his company, Firaol chose the Oromo word moii, which means conquer, and he says inspires his own personal mantra. “‘Moii the day,’” he explains, “which is ‘conquer the day.’”

He believes that embracing the opportunities that come from learning keeps him focused and moving forward with his business. “If you want until you have all the answers to do it, probably the opportunity is gone already,” he says. “You don’t need to know everything. You actually don’t need to know a lot. … The best way to learn is just by doing it.”

What Firaol Wants Coffee Drinkers to Know

Firaol says that he wishes more consumers knew the stories behind their daily cups and connected to the farmers and people who create their coffee, and he’s heartened to see more companies, especially in the specialty coffee industry, putting greater focus on creating those connections. “I wish most consumers knew a lot about where exactly their coffee comes from,” he says, “because a lot of times there is a very unique story behind [your coffee]—whether it’s the village or the farmer himself or herself.”

How Firaol Cultivates Community through Coffee

Firaol’s long-term goal is to build a business “that highlights what Ethiopia is, that highlights what Ethiopian coffee is.” For him, Moii is about more than just sharing high-quality Ethiopian coffees with coffee drinkers in the States; he wants to create a brand that helps customers connect with Ethiopia’s rich culture and the individual stories of Ethiopian coffee farmers and producers.

He’s inspired by the opportunities for Moii to become “a brand that is known for carrying all kinds of Ethiopian coffee, and therefore not only carrying products, but [taking] our customers on the journey with us to Ethiopia, through the stories we tell and the products we have.”

Where You Can Find Firaol

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