Today I turn my attention to a woman who has taken the less travelled road of entrepreneurship. She is an independent consultant and founder of Utake Coffee Consulting. She has personified what is popularly known as the 10,000 -hour rule. This principle suggests that 10,000 hours of deliberate practice are needed to make you world class in your skill; and world class she certainly is!
‘I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once... I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 TIMES’ Bruce Lee
She is a certified Q Arabica and Robusta Coffee Grader, the highest coffee qualification she attained in 2009 and 2011 respectively. She is one of the 40 certified Q Arabica instructors in the world, who conduct the esteemed Q Grader course, becoming the first African to attain such a qualification. Her company, Utake Coffee Consulting, is a company that specialises in coffee quality training, marketing, research consultancy and development management.
Meet the phenomenal Mbula Musau.
C: What do you consider as your greatest achievement to date?
M: Setting up and working in my own business, the first Specialty Coffee Association, SCA Premier Teaching Campus and Coffee Lab in Africa that has an in-house international certified instructor, and established throughpure passion and an effective business model.
C: What has your career path been like as you have navigated through your chosen field leading up to your current role/position?
M: My career path was divinely inspired, I believe. I came across specialty coffee in my gap-year as I was waiting to join university and developed interest from the novelty of specialty fine coffee being offered in Kenya. I stayed the path, despite having many options and internship offers from the business world, as we often did having taken an undergraduate B-Com degree at the University of Nairobi. After establishing the wholesale coffee division at Java House Africa and doing Coffee Sales and Marketing for the company in and around Kenya, I came across the regional coffee association(Eastern African Fine Coffees Association, EAFCA), which I convinced my bosses that we join as a company. This led us to participate in several international trainings and national and regional coffee events as members, including cupping competitions such as the Kenya National Taste of Harvest competition.
I was selected to be a judge at this annual competition and while at it, the regional association spotted a skill in coffee quality assessment and marketing and offered me an opportunity for a regional position at the African Fine Coffees Association. I applied for the position, went through the rigorous interview process and thankfully, I went through. I headed the Quality and Marketing department, running national and regional coffee trainings and competitions for the 10 African member countries. I also represented the winners in international marketing events such as the Specialty Coffee Association of America, Europe and Japan every year. While there I took the Q Grader International qualification in coffee, and went ahead to train to be an instructor.
Five years ago I left the association and started up Utake Coffee Consulting, while taking my Masters Degree in Development Management at the Open University, UK. At the same time I worked as a Coffee Corps Volunteer and consultant at the Coffee Quality Institute, CQI. I was combining this with working with the International Trade Centre, ITC, an arm of the UN and WTO. My role here has been setting up International Women in Coffee Chapters in Africa as a vehicle to recognize and empower women in the coffee sectors in Africa. I was also finalizing my Q Instructor qualification and succeeded in 2013. I have since been teaching the Q Course to passionate coffee sector professionals all over the world.
This year I set up Utake Coffee Lab, an internationally certified Specialty Coffee Association, SCA Premier Teaching Campus, and registered it in Kenya, to serve the region and the world. I have plans to expand into the region, funds and logistics allowing. My Masters degree also helped with incorporating emerging real issues like gender equity, climate change mitigation and adaptation in the coffee sector and food security.
Why did I decide to set up Utake Coffee, you may ask? When I took the Q grader professional coffee training, these were funded programs. When the funding ran out, many stakeholders in the sector had no easy way to progress or even maintain their qualifications. The business idea I had was one that I knew would address this problem by ensuring that high quality coffee education is available right here at the coffee origin and accessible to all. Kenyan coffee, and African coffee for that matter is unique, and we should blow this trumpet, LOUDLY.
C: What advice would you offer to young people on figuring out the balance between work, family life and social life?
M: Have a plan to incorporate all three, and then give all of them your best shot. Balance is a moving target, but it will eventually take care of itself.
C: What is your greatest piece of advice to the young upwardly mobile individual?
M: Make a plan; break it down in years, months, days and hours. Follow your heart, and use your mind. If it gives you emotional and financial rewards, it is worth the pursuit.In other words know thyself and find what you love. If willpower fails you have a system (the plan) to guide you until you pick right back up.
C: What is the greatest lesson/ nugget that you have picked up in life?
M: Procrastination is the enemy of progress. The effort used in beating yourself up on unaccomplished tasks is the same it takes to actually do the task. So the sooner it gets done the faster you will grow, and surely blossom.