Have you ever heard of butternut coffee? Yes, that is correct, a coffee made with the pear-shaped, beige skin and bright orange flesh vegetable. Coffee lover Chantelle de Bruyn took on a venture foreign to many by creating butternut coffee and turning it into a business.
Specialising in crop production with a focus on butternut and exotic pumpkins, De Bruyn’s Butter Cup operation is in Bloemfontein, Free State. Her grandfather was the main inspiration to create this amazing healthy, delectable coffee powder three years ago.
“The main inspiration behind the business is my grandfather because he’s the OG of coffee. He will have his coffee from morning until evening, no matter the season,” she explains.
But too much of one thing isn’t always good. Years ago her grandfather fell ill and doctors said that he could no longer drink coffee. “This was due to all the caffeine he was consuming,” she says.
Finding a healthy alternative
This was a big scare for her family and the idea came about to create a healthy substitute for him.
“I wasn’t even thinking of business at the time. I wanted to make him something that he liked. Months went on and the health report came back from the doctors, and they asked him what he ate because of the sudden change in his health report,” she explains.
When De Bruyn heard about this, she knew right away that there is a place for her product in the market.
“Out of the population we have in South Africa, which is 60 million, 60% of people are dying because of health chronic diseases. I am not saying we are going to prevent chronic diseases, but I want to play a role in bringing a healthy product to the market.”
Part of a mother’s love is to always see her children flourish. To help get De Bruyn going, her mother lent her R10 000 to continue experimenting with her coffee powder.
“I broke blenders in the house until I realised I needed money. My mom did not think this would be where it is today. She [lent] me money because she loves her daughter, I believe,” she says.
As the business grew, she paid back her mother with so much love and appreciation for believing in her dreams. What made De Bryun more determined to pay back the money is the fact that her mother is unemployed and gave her the money with no hesitation.
She registered the business in 2019 with the initial thought of making vegetable spice. But when Covid-19 struck in 2020, De Bruyn had no idea what to do. “Getting into the market was slow because the product was pretty foreign,” she says.
The sacrifices that came with finding a market came with a lot of costs. She travelled around the country to speak to buyers and decision-makers in the same space. Recently, De Byrun secured Food Lover’s Market where her coffee powder is sold in Bloemfontein stores.
“People we approached, in the beginning, are still with us and the product and the brand,” she says.
De Bruyn shares four lessons when starting a business:
- Do your research.
- Be a solution when you find a market.
- Use social media to get your brand out there.
- Refrain from being on social media too much and allow for a mystery element in your business.
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