Coffee Distributor Finds Success Through Certifications; Seminars

Coffee International of Hernando County

Starting a business is never an easy task, especially as a minority in a new country. When factoring in new laws and regulations, it can almost seem impossible. Martha Bermudez, owner of Coffee International, first got her start in business in Columbia – a country known for its coffee quality.

When Gaviña, a family-owned, coffee-roasting business from California, needed a distributor in central Florida, Bermudez jumped to the opportunity.

“In the beginning I was a little nervous because I didn’t know exactly what it was, but I was very excited because one of the things that I love is coffee and it’s a part of my culture,” Bermudez said. “It was an adventure to do it.”

Although she had the drive, she didn’t know where to begin to start growing Coffee International as a corporation. So Bermudez reached out the Florida SBDC at Hillsborough County for some guidance. There she met consultant Janette Blanco.

“Since the beginning they saw that I had the passion, so with that passion they helped me put together the business plan and the marketing plan. Also in all the seminars they invited me to, I opened my mind and it’s a big, big help,” Bermudez said.

The team at Coffee International took advantage of both the services and classes at the Florida SBDC at Hillsborough County, as well as got advice on minority certifications. “The programs that they have and invited us to, like the Profit Mastery and the business assessment, have been very helpful to the company to become more organized and to be able to grow every year a little bit more,” Margareta, office manager of Coffee International, said.

“I think it was very important for us to have the certification as a minority because it has opened the doors for us to several large corporations that have given us the opportunity to work with them and offer our services, she said. “We have been with corporations like Teco Services, Walt Disney, Response Mail, and I think having that certification is very important to our company as a woman-owned small business.”

Although Bermudez already had obtained the minority and woman-owned small business certifications for Coffee International before she started consulting with the Florida SBDC at Hillsborough County, she said she didn’t know what to do with them.

“Having the opportunity to be a minority-owned business, having certifications is a huge potential regarding business opportunities,” Carlos Garcia, sales manager of Coffee International, said.

“When I had the opportunity to join the organization, I met with Janette and what [captured] me is it’s not just them putting together a marketing plan and business plan, it’s what comes after that.  Something I thought was very important was the follow up the SBDC did with us to make sure we put that business plan into action,” he added.

Coffee International has now grown into a company with four employees. The company started with sales at approximately $65,000 when it first started working with consultant Blanco. The company now has sales of approximately $500,000.

“I think most businesses are not successful because they don’t have a organization one-on-one to help them,” Bermudez said. “I hope they don’t get tired of me because I want to get more success and get us a million, a million and a half, but really what is important for me is not only money-wise for the business, but to grow as a person and growing together with employees.”

Coffee International is continuing to work with consultant Blanco to continue on its path for future growth.

“One of the beauties about working with Coffee International is it is a family-owned business,” Garcia said. “The greatest advantage that we have is we truly care about our customers. Every single customer matters for us, no matter the size of that account. If we have someone who needs our help on a Saturday because they have a special event and ran out of coffee either one of the employees will go directly to deliver the product or myself, Martha, or Margareta will do it,” he added.