Business Spotlight :: An Interview w/ Mimo Haile - Owner of Mimo's Coffee
Updated: Aug 23, 2021
We sat down with Mimo Haile - a social impact strategist, entrepreneur, and avid community enthusiast about her new venture, Mimo's Coffee. We left the conversation feeling inspired and excited for 2021 !!
Tell us about the history of Mimo's Coffee.
Well, "We Spice" has been around for 12 years. My mom had been working on it for a while until she started the brick and mortar space in San Francisco about six or seven years ago. When she started it, she had this idea of kind of bridging the gap between coffee and having it be more accessible to the community - especially in San Francisco. There's not Ethiopian run shops or grocery stores in San Francisco. They're either things like corner stores or restaurants, but not like an actual spice shop that has very specific goods and products that she imports.
She's had the business for a while, but right now she's getting ready to retire. She's thinking about what the transition is going to look like. One day, she was just like... you know, you should really consider taking over the coffee.
It's a business that is mostly run by males...white males. Not a lot of women or even Black women are in the space at all. And on top of that, if you add another layer, there aren't a lot of Ethiopian woman who actually have their own Ethiopian coffee. So that was our niche. I felt like it was a very good place for me to kind of grow into scale and learn about all those things. I drink coffee, but I'm not like a snob or anything about it. I'm not concerned about it being a certain temperature or any of that, but I also know that my family and everybody really loves the experience - especially the ceremonial experience of coffee and Ethiopian culture; the type of story and history that comes with it.
I also know that my family and everybody really loves the experience - especially the ceremonial experience of coffee and Ethiopian culture; the type of story and history that comes with it.
And that's what I wanted to highlight with Mimo's Coffee. My mother basically empowered me to really take that on and so we started in August , and we both were like... yeah. Let's make this happen.
What motivates you? ...And how is the current vision of Mimo's Coffee living up to your imagination?
What motivated me was two components. I wanted to see if I could put myself in a place of an entrepreneurial mindset. I have my own nonprofit. I do all the social impact work and much of what I do is more service driven. But I've never really got into this space where I need to think about profitability. I think for me, I simply wanted to explore and learn how to be in the space and be comfortable in it.
And then the other part of it is, I wanted to share the culture in a very Ethiopian-American way. I wanted to marry my identities and share my identity to the world. What I'm doing is not only about introducing the Ethiopian community or Ethiopian coffee to everybody else, but exploring how do we make sure that that transcends what it is. What does it feel like to be in America and explore this identity that we might have as an immigrant and sharing our culture, sharing our tradition? And how do I make it more inclusive? How do I make it more story driven, and not necessarily just all about profits. I didn't want it to be that way. I wanted it to have a really beautiful foundation.
In terms of how the company is doing in regards to living up to my imagination - I think it's actually gone beyond it. I'll be very honest. When I first started, I was like, "Oh, it's not going to sell so much or whatever," and it got sold out! It was the first freaking thing that we did. We sold out in two days. I'm like, "What?! How!?"
And then, we had to evolve. Because when we first started, the idea was that we wanted to pay homage to my mom for creating the business itself. When you first got our coffee, it was within its original package. It was the logo my mom had created. And then it was like a little snippet about what's coming. It was nothing fancy or out of the ordinary. And I think introducing it that way also helped me really gather information and data about who is our client is. Who are people who are supporting us? And how do we make sure that this continues.
I think that our initial reception exceeded my expectation. That allowed me to then create really beautiful imagery and a story and all of those things. The website is different, the packaging is different, and we've even expanded [our coffee options] to included one more region. We started out with two regions of coffee style types, and then we added one. But for us to grow so quickly, I didn't expect it. You know, I was expecting like, really just a third coffee after like six or seven months, and we did it within three months. We literally just completed one of the biggest orders I've ever imagined. Like 500 plus, of coffee orders. I don't think I ever thought I could do it. Not at this stage.... you know. I think it is so good.. continuing to exceed my imagination.
What impact would you like Mimo's Coffee to have on the community?
The impact is obviously about the sharing of the Ethiopian culture in a more meaningful way. A lot of the times it's monetized and not really given the right acknowledgement. But there's just such a beautiful background to it. It's not just about the coffee. It's also about the farmers who have many years of history around this. There's families behind the scene that are doing amazing work together to get us the coffee that we need. And so I want to really share that.
In addition to that, I've thought about what the social impact looks like. From the type of bag that we use - is it compostable? Is it re-usable? All the way to the point of who is the person I would be hiring? I would love it to be a place where Black women are empowered to come and work with me and, and teach me while I'm getting better at this business. I would love to have my own farm with women farmers one day. There's greater dreams around what impact really looks like. I care about women's empowerment across the board. That's what I value.
What keeps you motivated?
Multiple things. Personally, it's about how can I challenge myself; how can I push myself to the next level. That allows me to be curious and playful with it, and not like I have to abide by any particular rules. Choosing that for myself has helped a lot.
Other things, like coming from Ethiopia, living in the US for 20 something years and seeing my mom come from nothing and get to the point where she is right now. That motivates me. And sharing my culture in a very exciting way, and kind of bridging the gap between the culture of Ethiopians, and the larger Black community, immigrants, multigenerational folks, etc. - bringing those beautiful cultures together is very important for me.
Community, connection, bridging, and my own motivational aspirations for myself keep me inspired and moving forward.
How can future customers get involved or support your business?
Check us out online! We're introducing a new coffee soon, but until then folks can explore the two coffees we currently have. We also love featuring people on our Instagram; so if there are folks who want to send in photos or videos of themselves drinking our coffee, or messages they want to share, I will post them immediately! I love content made by other people. I love folks who send me messages and ask me questions. That also gives me a sense of what's needed for our business.
We had one person reach out to me sharing that they have been exploring drinking coffee as a part of their morning ritual but had several questions. What I took from that is that our community of coffee drinkers could use support around adding this as a practice to their life. For instance, it made me think that we should do a blog piece around what equipment to use, what are the right measurements, what is the coffee to water ratio, and things like that. I'm happy that our coffee is the first one that many people are exploring with. I love that!
Tell us Mimo - you're one of the Co-Founders of CoCo Coalition, The Founder of Great Good Leaders, a Social Impact Strategist, and on the Board for SolSisters. How do you find balance in all of the things that you do?
I have a lot of boundaries around what I can and cannot do. For the past three years I have become very good at being verbal about what I can do. I'm in love with everything that I do. And it's important for me to be able to know that I can take breaks on even the things that I'm working on. You'll see that with Great Good Leaders, I haven't been as active on that for the past few month.
There are also other spiritual things that I do. I meditate a lot. I tend to overthink and I have a lot of things going on in my head. I started bullet journaling, writing down my fears, my goals, my aspirations, etc. The last thing I've been doing is playing video games! Taking time for myself, whatever that means... I'm currently playing Animal Crossing. Trying to make sure that I do as much self care as I can.
If I'm a first time buyer at Mimo's Coffee, what do you recommend I try?
I love the roast coffee! I recommended people to start with Limu. It's a lighter roast, it event taste a bit more lemony. It's really great chilled. You can just brew it and put it on ice. Once you try and you like it, we just started a subscription model so folks can have their coffee on a regular bases.
My goal is the have the "jebena" available for sale on the website and the little cups that we use called "sini". I also want to expand to food soon! We're in the process of working it out now, but that is for sure in the vision.
Any last words that you want to share with the Black Food Tour Community?
Support your local folks! Especially at this time. For people who have been super impacted, it's essential that we rally around them to support them.
Learn More about Mimo's Coffee: