Founded in 2018 by wife and husband team Elle and Wilmer Carcamo, Caribe Coffee Company is a Northumberland-based roastery which direct imports speciality coffee from Honduras.
By cutting out intermediaries, the business is able to work directly with a farming co-operative in Honduras, providing good value, high quality coffee to customers in the UK, and ensuring that the farmers they work with receive fair pay. Sustainability is core to the business, both from a farming perspective and in relation to packaging and working practices in the UK.
Before March 2020, 90% of Caribe’s sales were through farmers’ markets, food markets and other events which allowed for face-to-face contact with customers. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, markets were closed and Elle and Wilmer reduced face-to-face contact with others to protect their son who is clinically vulnerable.
To make up for the loss of in-person sales, they began to concentrate on online sales, using local social media sites to encourage existing customers to order online.
Elle and Wilmer applied for support from the North East Business Support Fund which is part financed by the European Regional Development Fund and supported by the Northern Powerhouse, and the business was awarded a grant of £2,906.67.
The grant was used to buy a laptop, iPad and hard drive, allowing Elle and Wilmer to reach customers online more quickly and effectively, and to expand beyond their existing customer base. The new equipment also meant they could use more video content as part of their marketing, sharing footage of the farmers who grow their coffee beans.
“At the start of 2020 we were hoping to grow the business by between 60% and 100%,” said Elle Carcamo. “We didn’t see that planned growth in 2020, due to the pandemic, but we stayed afloat and are now back on track with our plans to increase sales in 2021.
“Without this support our growth would have come to a complete halt, but by investing in new technology we were able to maximise our online sales. We’re continuing to engage with our customers online and have plans to expand our Northumberland roastery so that, when we can see people face-to-face again, we have a place where people can come to sample our coffee and place orders.”
The North East Business Support Fund is administered by North East Enterprise Agency NBSL.
NBSL is approved by BIS, Customer First, and Investors in People and has a team of experienced accredited business funding advisers, who work with people and businesses across the North East to identify solutions that aid development and growth.
NBSL relaunched The North East Business Support Fund (NEBSF) in 2018. The inaugural round of funding was launched in 2012, since then NBSL has provided funding and support to businesses from an array of sectors spanning all corners of the region with a recent impact report finding that the fund has yielded an impressive £4.40 economic boost for every £1 invested.