Meet the former oncology nurse who created one of the most successful coffee roasters in the UAE, RAW

“To be a market leader, you need to be prepared to try to cope with disappointment when things don’t work out, think outside the box and be brave,” UAE-based expat Kim Thompson, 59, from New Zealand, recalled the values ​​and beliefs she developed after being inspired by her father’s advice to work hard.

“My father disagreed with my mother working, as he considered his main job to be family and home. He also didn’t believe in credit cards or loans, worked hard and privately handled his financial responsibilities, stress and disappointments, but he was very cautious and safe. “

Thompson is not risk averse, but he loves challenges.

She did not grow up in a privileged or wealthy family or an entrepreneurial family. “I felt lucky to have had my education where my parents took care of basic needs. We lived in a small town of Nelson on the South Island of New Zealand with 30,000 inhabitants (population), on the coast, with beautiful beaches , mountains and national parks. “

“We had a lot of freedoms and there was lots of fresh food, clean air and water – an excellent place to raise a family. We didn’t have international parties, but I went horseback riding, played many other sports and had a happy medium – class education “.

She loved horses and her family bought her a horse. “We rented land and competed in 3 days of events. This is no small sport, and I was so grateful to be able to pursue this passion because I knew how much it cost my parents both in money and on time.”

She didn’t get pocket money, but occasionally babysat to earn pocket money.

I would live on a daily basis, spending all my salary in the first half of the month. I didn’t know anything about budgeting, interest rates, or savings.

– Kim Thompson

Thompson was a cancer nurse, a specialist nurse who cares for cancer patients, before becoming an entrepreneur.

She left home at age 15, desperate to escape and explore, and spent nearly four years in the old system, starting hands-on training in the lock to become a registered nurse. “I was completely unprepared for the adult world.

“I would live every day, spending all my salary in the first half of the month. I knew nothing about budget, interest rates or savings. I shudder when I think back to how cheap I could have bought a house, for example, but happily paid rent.” , Thompson shared.

“I learned about money the hard way, living from paycheck to check, but from an early age I was aware that I wanted a different life to explore and travel.”

Thompson’s founding in her youth gave her tips on how she shouldn’t have lived.

“Only after completing my nursing profession and backpacking Southeast Asia through India, Nepal, Tibet, Mongolia and Indonesia, did I wake up to recognize that I had opportunities to where I was born that many other women did not have. It would be criminal to waste these opportunities. “

Thompson moved to Dubai in 1997 with her husband, then a full-time mother of three girls, and hasn’t worked for several years.

His first experience was managing a bar inside the old Jebel Ali Sailing Club in 2005.

“It was a lively bar and I had no previous experience in the food and beverage (F&B) industry, so I learned on the job, orienting suppliers, finding the right team, retaining them, managing the customer experience and, always, the flow of checkout. The bar was financially sustainable, but the hardest job I’ve ever done. “

With the development of the Dubai Marina and the JBR, the sailing club was closed and suddenly I had time to think and decide what I wanted to do. During the operation of the sailing club, I had not been able to procure good quality roasted and locally roasted coffee or find support for our bartenders or equipment. So I had identified a market gap and had the confidence to start my own business, RAW Coffee Company, in June 2007.

Thompson was a cancer nurse, a specialist nurse who cares for cancer patients, before becoming the owner of a specialty coffee roaster.

What were the different expenses involved in starting this business?

To start a limited liability company and get a business license in 2007, he said he needed Dh300,000 and a lease. He self-financed the business using his savings.

What is an LLC in the United Arab Emirates?

Limited Liability Company (LLC) is the most common form of business in the UAE. A limited liability company can be formed from a minimum of 2 to a maximum of 50 shareholders whose liability is limited to their shares in the company capital.

“I registered the name, found a company to design a logo, devised a business plan and equipped the warehouse with an office, green bean storage, roasting and packaging facility and meeting space. I purchased the production equipment. , espresso equipment and small supplies, hired the first team to join me and hired a consultant.

“The initial Dh300,000 required to open the company became our working capital to start the business. I took another Dh300,000 through a bank loan, took no salary for the first five years and reinvested. the money we earned the company. “

Matt Toogood joined Thompson as a business partner in early third year and is now a 50% partner in the business.

He too worked without pay for three years and focused on knowledge, organic growth and building a solid ethical supply chain and foundation for the company.

Thompson’s business, from the very beginning, has had a constant stream of errors and oversights.

“We made several mistakes like choosing the wrong location for the first manufacturing facility (DIP or Dubai Investment Park), employing the wrong consultant who was repeating operating procedures, recipes and processes from a previous employer and had no local knowledge or knowledge. deep knowledge of roasting or coffee, ”Thompson said.

They faced multiple delays, which meant early employees had very little to do. “We had no way to roast our green beans, so we bought cheap coffee from supermarkets and set up a commercial espresso machine in our kitchen so that we could at least do barista training.

“Then another new, better-funded coffee business sabotaged our first operation, discrediting us on the market in our early years as we tried to establish our reputation,” he added.

“He had a lot of investment and no background knowledge; I was actually ahead of them as I had the warehouse, the roasting equipment and a consultant. However, they counter-offered the consultant more money, which meant I had to learn myself how to to do everything.

We made several mistakes like choosing the wrong location for the first manufacturing plant, hiring the wrong consultant etc.

– Kim Thompson

“I would never choose to repeat our early years, trying to run a business without enough cash and constantly holding my hand to my mouth. But it allowed us to learn every detail of the industry as we had to do the job ourselves. This gave us a solid foundation to build the company, as we had a thorough understanding of every aspect of our specialty industry. “

Lessons Thompson has learned throughout his career, his entrepreneurial journey

Lesson: love what you do but not the budget and be prepared to have a higher cost than originally expected.

Thompson began his career in old age, at 40; once, her three daughters had grown up. Before that, she had worked part-time jobs, then worked in the bar, but never a business.

Her friends, who owned their own companies, often told her to expect things to take a lot longer than expected and cost more.

He admitted that during the first 18 months he constantly put out fires. “The installation costs were three times what I had budgeted and no money came.”

It was a very difficult start for her, but she said some things that she understood well. “I had chosen to play in the right market niche with high quality premium Arabica coffee and my timing was perfect.

“I like to ignore what happened to me in the past. Whenever something harmful has happened, I have learned from it and not to repeat those mistakes or those wrong judgments. As an entrepreneur, I would not advise anyone to start a business without thrice. the planned initial investment, ”added Thompson.

Once Thompson’s business started selling products and making a profit, she and her business partner reinvested in hiring key people with better skills in some senior positions.

Lesson: Put profits back into your business for organic expansion.

Once Thompson’s business started selling products and making a profit, she and her business partner reinvested in buying better, greener green bean stock, while also hiring key people with better skills in some senior positions. .

“In the beginning we had no investments because we were a risk and nobody wanted to lend us money. Access to commercial financing was not possible at reasonable interest rates, so we have grown organically, having complete control over our destiny,” he explained. Thompson.

“I don’t think, especially with the challenges of the last two years with COVID-19, that many small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have had the luxury of worrying about investments. It was more fundamental than that, to worry about financial sustainability, our team’s obligations and responsibilities, and business continuity.

In the beginning we didn’t have any investments because we were a risk and nobody wanted to lend us money.

– Kim Thompson

“We expected to be affected by the health crisis, and we are starting to see it now with cost increases and we have moved into another gear, knowing that we will have to be very dynamic and resourceful in the next year. We have also started two new companies. during COVID-19 which were self-financed with other supporting products in the coffee and beverage space. “

An outdated strategy for making a real estate investment follows. “I built a beautiful house in Bali as a real estate investment, but I don’t have the right understanding of cryptocurrencies, NFTs (non-fungible tokens) or Metaverse.”

“I plan to buy a house here in a new development next year, but honestly, we are still reinvesting in downsizing our business and have ambitious plans for its future,” he further revealed.