Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Nell N., Founder of Cuppa City Coffee, located in Mumbai, India.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

CuppaCity Coffee is a direct-to-consumer coffee company founded on one fundamental truth – nothing is as sophisticated as your OWN tastebuds. Keeping this ideology at the forefront, we deliver a world-class suite of carefully-curated Indian-origin coffees. Our coffees and coffee products are curated for coffee enthusiasts who appreciate the nuances of flavours and aromas, yet accessible to novices who have recently graduated from instant coffee.

Tell us about yourself

I am a barista and coffee roaster. That means I can roast freshly harvested green coffee beans and brew them into a delicious beverage. I honed my skills in brewing as a barista at a specialty coffee shop in Seattle, USA, and am an SCA (Speciality Coffee Association) certified coffee roaster. I stumbled into the rabbit hole of coffee by accidentally purchasing whole coffee beans. A friend ignited my curiosity by gifting me a basic espresso machine to brew that bag of coffee. Since then, there has been no turning back. I blogged my learnings, experimented with brewing methods, attended workshops, and met experts and other coffee enthusiasts.

While India grows coffee, it has always been a tea-drinking nation. In the last five years, I detected that Indian consumers were embracing a new wave of coffee and decided to foray into this market. I wanted to bring my skills and knowledge of coffee bean analysis and taste evaluation to the younger generation, who are consuming more coffee than ever.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

Changing people’s perception about coffee. Most consumers in India have grown up consuming commercial-grade coffee and associate it with a sharp acrid taste. I encourage them to try my coffees black (without cream or sugar) and watch their skepticism turn to delightful smiles and nods of – “Your coffee is not bitter! This doesn’t need any sugar.” This oft-quoted statement has inspired the company’s tagline – Drink Better, Not Bitter.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

Juggling between selling and delivering. With my background in media and digital marketing and having helped other business owners launch their passion projects, I felt confident that I could do it all - marketing, logistics, operations, sales, and product development. Sometimes it gets tricky – maintaining product quality, communicating with customers, and marketing products to new coffee enthusiasts.

My solution – take a power nap. Even if I don’t fall asleep, the physical act of lying down, and keeping my eyes closed for 15 minutes, helps me refocus my priorities and not feel overwhelmed.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Identify your Why: Being a solopreneur means spending long hours in solitude. My passion for coffee was an important reason why I chose to start this business. Not only do I enjoy drinking coffee, but I can also talk (not sell) about it endlessly with every person I meet.
  2. Benefit from your Freedom: I left the corporate world, so I have the freedom to shape my day suited to my schedule. I consciously chalk out leisure time during weekdays when others are at work, avoiding rush hour crowds.
  3. Stick to the Plan: There are several paths to success, even in a single niche. Early on, reading success stories of industry leaders or having a dip in profit, I would get distracted by other aspects of the coffee business. Whenever a decision wavers, look up your original business plan. If it doesn’t fit with the plan, it’s not the right move.

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

Besides coffee, I am also very passionate about saving our environment. To reduce the carbon footprint, I source my beans from coffee estates in India. The coffee packaging is always plastic free. From every sale on the CuppaCity website, 5% of the sales are donated to Women on Wings, a grassroots community-based organization empowering women in rural India to escape the cycle of poverty.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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