Victoria greets with a kind, friendly, and lively smile. Her newest expenditure, a Coffee Roastery in Rekola, Vantaa. The Roastery showcases attractively illustrated portraits of farmers and workers who have dedicated their lives to producing coffee. It is admirable how she transmits passion and interest towards her work to people via her words, the people in Latin America which she cares about, traveling there, seeing them, inviting them here to Finland, and painting their faces on the packages of coffee.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Owning a restaurant was my dream when I was 14 years old, so I went to study as a chef, but I saw it was not my thing. I left Finland, and I went to Spain when I was 17 years old and spent six months there. I started to work in different places and restaurants. Finally, I found my passion for coffee. Soon afterward, I moved to Norway.
How did you become a coffee entrepreneur?
There was a big coffee chain in Norway, where I wanted to work. They didn't want to take me in the beginning, because I didn't speak Norwegian or Swedish. So, it was complicated to get in, but I decided that I wanted to stay there, and I knew I am good, and I have a full drive to learn. I went every day to different stores and cafes for a month. I dropped my CV everywhere every day. Finally, I got to one interview, which the lady told me that they have never seen anyone wanting this job so much. So, they gave me the chance to get one shift. Then I started, I became shift manager, store manager, four years I lived in Norway. But the important thing is that when I got 18, I started to write business plans because I observe what they do. Every place I went, I learned, I collected information and made experience.
Describe a typical workday for us as an entrepreneur, mom.
I work seven days of the week, no day off. My kids are 2 and 4 years old, on weekdays, and during the evenings, we stay together. My mind is always busy, and we have so many things going on. Luckily, we have family close who help us a lot with kids.
Tell us about the brand that you have established? Why is it called Charlotta?
Our brand started with the name of Charlotta. It started a long time ago when we went to Paris with our family. We went to a lovely cafe', we ate Charlotte russe cake, and we drank coffee. The atmosphere was so beautiful in my mind; I still feel it. I thought immediately that one day I'm going to open a cafe of my own, and it is going to be called Charlotta.
We want to combine coffee, which is the most important for us with homemade and local pastries. We try to support locally produced and small enterprises instead of buying from big brands. That goes in the same way with the coffee which we buy; we buy directly from farmers. I also travel a lot, I have been to Colombia a few times, and I went to Ecuador last summer, now we got the chocolate, and the coffee from there.
What are the stories behind your coffee, and why do you think it's important to tell the stories?
It is essential to know the story behind our coffees. We treat the farmers well, we pay them well, and we care about them. We are friends with them, we support the small farmers, and help them to get the job. We also bring the person who is behind this coffee in our package. We make it even more personal. You see their real faces illustrated on the coffee packages, and also on the frames attached on the wall of our Roastery.
What is the difference between organic coffee and Fair Trade Coffee? Why should we buy your coffee?
Well, the thing is that certified fairtrade and organic coffees, they don't guarantee you anything about the taste of the coffee. If you buy organic coffee, it does not ensure it is good, that is just certification about non-use of certain harsh chemicals. Also organic does not guarantee fair trade, that the farmers are paid well, their health care is taken into consideration, etc. I think fairtrade would be a better choice to go for, and to buy, rather than organic because our coffees in practice are organically produced as well.
However, at the moment, we don't have an organic label certifications. In Ecuadorian coffees, they are in the process of getting organic certifications. So, we will have at least three organic certified coffees in the future. However, in practice, most of our coffees are organically produced; only a few of them need to use fertilizers twice at the beginning of the year, but never in the harvesting time. Otherwise, the whole plantation will die if they don't use fertilizers when it is necessary. But because we choose small farmers to work with, we don't know if, in the future, we will get the fair trade label. Because they are small farms, they can't afford to pay the fairtrade certification. If we want to change and get all our products fairtrade certified, we would need to work with larger corporations, but we don't want it. We focus on working with small, tiny farms that are not able to afford to get a certification, which I understand.
Who is your typical customer and what are their favorite coffees?
Our customer base is extensive and varies a lot. I can not say exactly, it is so different, mainly because we have various cafes.
What are the most favorite coffees?
Now the dark roast is getting more asked, like strong and dark roast, I don't know why people are asking me a lot nowadays. However, mostly what people are looking for is very soft coffee, with less acidity, or with some chocolate notes, or nuts' flavors, that is what people love the most.
Would you like to share any successful experience, information, or any inspiring story with our readers?
You can be a young entrepreneur and still be able to do the work. You love what you are doing, and you stand behind it. This is very important.