Red Mud Coffee boldly invites people with their tagline, “Every revolution starts in a coffee shop, start yours.” From the beginning itself, their aim was to do much more than just serve drinks. Apparently, they wished to provide a socially vibrant space where people could mingle and network. Today Red Mud Coffee is doing all that and a little more. With two popular outlets in town, one even in Manang (open during season), Aashish Adhikari, founder of Red Mud Coffee, talks about his experiences so far.
What prompted you to start your own business as opposed to work for somebody?
I’m a college dropout and without a college degree, you can’t sell yourself in the Nepali job market. It’s a different scenario in the US but it was very difficult here. I had previously worked in a social organization, been a part of startups, even an employee in the waste management sector prior to all of this but that was all temporary. Around 2011, I started researching coffee and thought why not? My grandfather and father are entrepreneurs too so I picked it up naturally. But it wasn’t to be a boss. I just wanted to make a living. Since I wasn’t deemed suitable for a high paying job, I thought I might just as well work for myself.
Did you seek any advices before starting your business?
When I began I didn’t have any mentors. I just had the knowledge that I had gathered over the years working in the US and then here. But two years down the road as I was looking to expand, I became part of Rockstar Impact. I met many Nepali and Dutch mentors there. They had many crucial suggestions to make. From being flexible with my business module, having a clear vision of challenges of the local Nepali market, I got a lot of insight from them.
What was the most difficult part of starting your business?
Finance was the biggest issue. If you don’t have your parents backing you up or a prominent name in your family, the banks don’t trust you. It was difficult to even get a collateral. My father had to help me out with that. It took some convincing for the bank to see that I was capable of doing business and even sustaining it in the long run. I followed the mantra beg, borrow and steal, to a certain extent doing everything except the stealing bit.
What has been the biggest lesson you’ve learned in running a business?
I’d say don’t trust people easily. Initially, I was really open-minded about this matter and there were some repercussions. Over the years, I have learnt important lessons about partnership. This is a very important aspect of business. Don’t bring people into your business because they have the money or you are very good friends with them. This is a very bad idea. With my experiences, I have decided that it’s best to do this alone or with as few people as possible. If I do bring in a partner, he or she has to be a strategic person, one who can help improve the business.
Is there anything about the business that makes you proud?
I’m really proud that I’m able to create and provide jobs to more than 35 young Nepali people. It’s a nice feeling to know that you have been able to help. You also see them transform and improve and that’s immensely satisfying.
I’m also happy that we have created a brand that a lot of young people can associate with. We have become a social place for entrepreneurs, artists, and the new generation to hang out. My vision has come true – Red Mud is regarded as a socially vibrant space where you can mingle and network. There are some businesses that even kicked off from here. I’m proud of that.
So considering the successes so far, how do you feel about your business?
Actually I feel some uncertainty even now. I feel it’s a trait of an entrepreneur. If you are not on the edge, scared to fail, you let your competitors take over or outdo you. So I’m constantly trying to improve things, and keep myself updated. Any business is always a work in progress, no matter how successful it is.
As a leader, there are many decisions to make. People assume it’s glamorous being a boss but it is quite the opposite. You feel the responsibilities and the pressure building up as your business grows. But, of course, the results make it worthwhile.