The Observer (Kampala)

Uganda: Suur On a Mission for Coffee

She moves from table to table asking customers if they are satisfied with the service at Bean Café, along Ggaba road.

Lydia Suur knows that her business is about taking care of her customers. She even serves them when the waiters and waitresses are busy taking orders.

"I have built my business around a strong sense of customer care because I believe that the customer is the king," Suur says.

It has only been two months since the café opened but it is clear that Suur is a success story.

"I thought it would only be the large white expatriate community who would come and have some coffee, but fortunately Ugandans are coming to order for a cup of coffee and a sandwich too. It's wonderful," she exclaims.

She explains that though coffee is native to Uganda, it has mainly been an export crop since colonial times and that is something she is trying to change.

"I want to see the coffee culture develop among Ugandans rather than us just looking at it as a cash crop for export."

She believes that Ugandans can reap enormous opportunities, like jobs, if they choose to drink their own coffee. Birth of Bean Café Suur had been drinking coffee since her young days but she appreciated it more when she lived in the Netherlands.

"Many times when my husband and I would meet up with friends, it would be over a cup of coffee," she recalls.

Even then, the idea of opening a cafe did not cross her mind until last year when she was pregnant. Doctors always advise pregnant mothers to avoid caffeinated drinks; so, she looked around for a café that served decaffeinated coffee.

"There was no cafe in Bunga at that time; so, I would always drive to Muyenga or town but even the coffee shops that I encountered there did not serve decaffeinated coffee. This is when Bean Café was born."

Challenges

The beginning was trying for Suur because of the local general poor time-keeping tendency.

"You would agree on a delivery date but your goods would be delivered a week or two after the agreed upon date," she says of her frustration.

She feels that Ugandans do not keep time because they choose to see business as a purely money venture.

"You need determination, belief, passion and the creativity for you to start a business. However, if it's a purely money venture, you will easily miss the other important aspects of business such as customer care."

Her likes

Personally, she has a passion for art and design, which can be seen in the paintings of women's faces on the café walls and artistic furniture.

Plans

Suur is hopeful that many Ugandans will take to drinking coffee. "I want Bean Café to be an example of good customer care through its comfort and hospitality."

Though she has a lot more that she wants to do, she first wants to get Bean Café firmly on its feet. Between trousers and skirts which do you prefer?

Trousers because I just feel more comfortable in them.

If you were stranded on an island, who would you rather be with and why?

My husband and child because I just can't live without them. It sounds like a cliché but they keep me going.

What do you fear the most in the world?

Not full filling my life's purpose. I believe each one of us is here on earth for a purpose and it is up to us to find out what it is and make it happen.

What is the craziest thing that you have ever done?

That would be water rafting.

Besides coffee what other drink do you enjoy?

Lemon & mint ice cold juice (a Bean Cafe special).

Do you have a dream car?

Yes that would be the Jeep Wrangler - I love strong, high cars.

When winding down, how do you relax?

I spend time with family and friends over a nice dinner. I also love working, watching fashion and interior design shows.

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