Building Demand For A Ugandan Asset

July 29, 2022

Geoffrey Kinaalwa
La'Marc Coffee
Uganda Crisis Crash Course Module and Fast Track Accelerator - 2019

Geoffrey Kinaalwa is no stranger to setbacks. By age 19, he lost both his parents. With eight younger siblings and limited options, he embraced coffee farming on the one-acre coffee plot his parents left behind. He is a natural entrepreneur and grew the business steadily. In 2016, Geoffrey launched La’Marc Coffee with the goal of improving the quality of coffee grown and consumed in Uganda. Though the country is one of Africa’s major exporters of coffee, Ugandans prefer to drink tea. Geoffrey believes that low coffee consumption is caused by the inferior varieties left for sale locally after the best coffee is exported. La’Marc aims to change that by roasting, grinding, and selling premium coffee to supermarkets, wholesalers, and coffee shops throughout Uganda.

As part of La’Marc’s growth strategy, in March 2020 Geoffrey opened his first coffee shop to get closer to the consumer and give Ugandans the opportunity to taste great coffee for themselves. It seemed like ideal timing. But within a few weeks, COVID-19 emerged globally and the Ugandan government initiated one of the world’s most stringent COVID-19 lockdowns. Geoffrey's enthusiasm turned to disappointment and worry. He closed the coffee shop and put his well-laid plans on pause.

“I had invested all of my savings in the coffee shop. We had paid rent for six months, and then Uganda went into total lockdown on March 20. No one was coming to the coffee shops, and consumption habits were affected.”

Geoffrey attended our condensed Crisis Crash Course and Fast Track Accelerator in 2019 and is quick to acknowledge the role Sinapis played in helping him navigate the uncertainty caused by the pandemic. His face lights up as he recalls how he first heard about Sinapis training from a friend. Convinced he did not have the time, Geoffrey enrolled one of his senior managers instead. However, after being intrigued by what the manager said about the training, Geoffrey attended the next Crisis Crash Course cohort. Geoffrey's company steadily improved as he worked through the lessons. “It was a turning point for me. Although I was hesitant initially, I was pleasantly surprised to learn how practical the training was. It’s as if they had been to my office and knew what my business was going through.”

Participation in the six-month Fast Track Accelerator provided Geoffrey with a custom roadmap for growth, and despite COVID-19 lockdowns, La’Marc’s annual revenue doubled in 2021. The Sinapis training helped La’Marc improve marketing, sales, and forecasting and reopen the first coffee shop and open a second in May 2021. At the La’Marc coffee shops, the company showcases a variety of their locally grown coffee varieties and products. To ensure consistency in their supply chain, they employ 15 staff to manage a 69-acre leased farm and source additional beans from farmers they upskill and train.

"I believe business is a calling. I remain focused, determined, and hopeful that my business will achieve its dream of increasing local consumption of premium coffee, exporting processed coffee, and creating employment for teenage mothers through coffee value addition."

A deep passion for coffee and his community drives Geoffrey to continue building a profitable business with a Kingdom impact that transforms Uganda. One vivid example involves the common challenge of teen pregnancy. Young girls who become pregnant typically drop out of school and reinforce cycles of poverty. La’Marc hires young mothers to help with coffee picking, trains them to become baristas, and even encourages them to open coffee kiosks. La’Marc has supported over a dozen teen mothers and plans to expand this form of outreach as they grow.