Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Vince Nguyen, CEO and Founder of Nam Coffee, located in Los Angeles, CA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Nam Coffee is the first Vietnamese craft coffee importer and roaster based in Los Angeles. Born in the highland city of Pleiku, founder and Vietnamese immigrant Vince Nguyen sources beans directly from coffee farms like those prevalent in his hometown. Newly launched in 2022, Nam Coffee is Nguyen's love letter to all the places he's lived — the Central Highlands, Saigon, and California — and the coffee culture he grew up with from a young age. Nguyen first found his love for coffee at age 12, when he began working at his mother's street-side coffee cart in Saigon. Now, he's created a brand that spotlights the traditional as well as the modern tastes of Vietnamese coffee. The brand's 2022 drop includes: the super-bold Da Lat (100% Robusta) is inspired by Vietnam's beloved coffee-growing highlands, while the balanced District One (50/50 Blend) is named after the bustling central hub of Saigon, and the light and fragrant Orange County (70/30 Arabica-Robusta Blend) is made for the West Coast palate, the newest launch is Catinat - 1st ever Vietnamese Decaf coffee made with 100% Arabica.
Tell us about yourself
I am Vince, and Nam Coffee is the culmination of my decades-worth of experiences in the fashion, food, and coffee industries. Growing up in the agricultural hub of Pleiku, I learned about the instrumental role that coffee plays in Vietnamese culture from a young age. Working alongside my mother at a coffee stand in an alleyway in Saigon, I gained invaluable insight into what it took to run a business that prioritized quality and customer satisfaction.
In 2014, I first visited the United States, and while living in California, I was disappointed by the lack of quality Vietnamese coffee brands. I longed for a quality product and asked my aunt in Saigon to send me coffee from Vietnam. Fueled by a desire to share the uniqueness and sophistication of Vietnam's coffee tradition, I worked tirelessly to build Nam Coffee from the ground up.
My aunt introduced me to Thien, the farmer from Cau Đat Farm who produced the coffee beans she had initially sent me. From forming a friendship with multi-generational farmers in Đà Lạt to fine-tuning the roasting of the beans to designing the colorful, intricate packaging, my background as a creative has allowed me to have a hand in every step of the process. I am proud to have created a product that not only represents the rich cultural heritage of Vietnam but also brings joy to people's daily lives.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
I launched Nam Coffee to honor my culture and show that, yes, Vietnam can make fresh-roasted coffee; that's amazing. Vietnam is the second largest producer of coffee in the world and the number one producer of Robusta beans, which are finally becoming more popular in the US after long being seen as inferior or low quality. Every day I'm learning how to better communicate in my second language and adapting to the specificities of American culture. Despite all those challenges, I've never thought of giving up. Before Nam Coffee, I worked a number of jobs in the fashion and food industries and learned valuable lessons. In 2022, drawing from my savings and loans from my family, I launched Nam Coffee. Though there are challenges, I'm happy to be involved in every step of the process, from meeting business partners and packing orders to drop shipping.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
I started the company entirely on my own, bootstrapping all the expenses. As an immigrant and new founder, I faced many challenges, from finding a roaster to getting my coffee beans to the US in the middle of the pandemic. I wish we have 48 hours a day!
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
Never give up, always remember why you started, and do everything with passion and love and give a hand to other people.
Where can people find you and your business?
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