Blurb from the author: I am someone who mainly drinks coffee just because I love the taste of it. I'm not a coffee snob and I can't taste the difference between different roast beans, but I can appreciate the occasionally freshly brewed coffee, especially if it's cheap.
Fauzi shares the same belief. Better known as Pakcik #kopikupi, he sells freshly brewed coffee from his trunk.
Previously, he had been a plantation manager since 1992 and spent the last 5 years as General Manager Plantation in Sorong, Papua Barat, Indonesia.
"On weekends, I like coffee stands on the side of the road and simple cafes to try the variety of Indonesian coffee," he recalls.
Then he started playing with the idea of opening his own café, where he could serve high quality coffee at affordable prices.
When he was working in Indonesia, the time he could spend with his family was limited and it made him rethink his choices.
He asked himself: "What do I crave most for money or quality of life? I don't want to compete with others for the material I have won. I want a decent income to meet basic needs. "
So he decided to take a break and try something new.
“A coffee shop seemed like a good choice. If this end up failing, I think I can always go back and work in the plantation industry. "
This determination gave him enough confidence to leave his five-digit salary job for easier days as an operator of a mobile car boot café.
Starting the café from his trunk was not easy from the start. Being a coffee enthusiast wasn't enough to start a business. He had to learn how to do it first.
"When I got back to Malaysia, I bought a cheap espresso machine as a learning curve and then upgraded to a mid-range espresso machine before I decided to fully venture into this business with the commercial espresso machine that I now run," he said Fauzi with.
It cost him over 20,000 RM to get #kopikupi up and running by January 2020.
"The biggest cost is the espresso machine, then the generator for the power supply, then the coffee grinder and all the internal modifications for my car," he said.
Fauzi's mobile café and espresso machine / Photo credit: Fauzi's Facebook
He had taken many clues from chatting with Indonesian coffee brewers that he had met during his coffee adventures to learn the craft.
To test his skills, he attended a basic barista course.
Instead of waiting while his car was turned into a mobile café, Fauzi started offering his high quality coffee to neighbors and friends. Your support and positive reviews comforted him as he prepared for the facility.
"When the car was ready for use as a mobile café, I tried to find a good location," he said.
"However, due to administrative problems such as approval by the responsible authorities, I decided to start only in my neighborhood."
Slow brew until detection
The business was initially slow due to lack of publicity. For an entire working day, he could only sell 10 to 20 cups a day and 30 cups on the weekend.
But he was patient and said, "I was sure that people would need time to appreciate good coffee."
Although his freshly roasted beans regularly had loyal customers, there were few new ones. At that time, his earnings were just enough to support his electricity bills.
His coffee costs between RM3 for espresso and RM10 for bottled, flavored milk coffee.
Some brewing equipment that Fauzi uses and his coffee in bottles / Photo credit: Fauzis Facebook
Earlier this year, he started promoting # kopikupi products by publishing content of his freshly roasted beans and basic coffee-making equipment that caught the attention of coffee lovers.
Just as business picked up again, #kopikupi had to take breaks, which was a huge struggle for Fauzi, as the mobile café is his full-time job.
“The COVID 19 pandemic hit us and I had to stop selling coffee outside my home. The business was hit hard and I used my savings to get by month after month. "
"I have some medium and long-term business investments with friends here and there, but still no income," he added.
But that would change soon.
Late night latte
Sometimes Fauzi opened his shop at night at the request of neighbors and friends who lived nearby. This commitment to his customers earned him the attention he deserved.
"One nice evening, that one neighbor took a few photos of me while I was preparing his latte and posted it to his WhatsApp group."
This group happened to have a reporter from The Star reporting on Fauzi's story. That completely turned his business around.
Fauzi is now able to sell 20 to 30 cups for a full working day on weekdays and 75 to 125 cups at the weekend, quite a jump from his numbers before the MCO.
Fauzi is interviewed by the press / Image Credit: Fauzis Facebook
Now he is focusing on strengthening the #kopikupi brand as "your village café in the neighborhood selling good quality coffee at an affordable village price".
Eventually, he hopes to market the trunk cafe concept and plans to have at least 3 # kopikupi stores, 2 of which are mobile cafes and a retail store in his hometown in Sungai Limau.
He is currently doing business with his 19-year-old daughter, Nadhirah, who had taken the same barista training course that he had attended during his apprenticeship.
Bottom line: Call me a cheap skate, but I'm convinced that quality things can also be affordable. If I were ever in Johor, I would like to meet Fauzi myself and even try some of his coffees.
- Find out more about #kopikupi here.
- More information about Malaysian startups can be found here.
Selected image source: Fauzis Facebook