Sangster's Coffee paves the way for more foreign investmentsWednesday, July 28, 2021
BY ANDREW LAIDLEY
“I'VE brought opportunities to Jamaica just because I love our country, and I feel that when people like you and they trust you, you can really move the needle in business a lot faster.” The words of Bindley Sangster, Jamaican coffee farmer, ex-military and entrepreneur. Sangster, the grandson of former prime minister, Sir Donald Sangster has taken on the responsibility of luring foreign investors to Jamaica's shores. But he explains that his journey as an entrepreneur started with an uphill climb, especially after he realised that the coffee farm he grew up on and was hoping to revitalise had been completely destroyed due to years of neglect.
“So much of the topography of the farm had changed over the years, because it had been almost 30 years since we worked the farm. In my head I thought that we still had coffee, that we were just going to cut back and make it come back. There was nothing,” bemoaned Sangster.
That was December 2015, but it wasn't enough to deter the entrepreneur from pursuing his dreams. “I took a loan out of my 401(k) of $21,000 after getting the blessings from my father to go ahead. I did a lot of research — finding the right seedling is important because, as they say, 'Trash in, trash out.' So I reached out to people in Costa Rica, Brazil, Hawaii, and I wanted to learn best practices because I realised that I was given a rare opportunity,” he continued.
By September 2016 Sangster was putting the first seedlings into the ground for what would become a thriving business and the launchpad which catapulted his career. He said he launched his first marketable coffee product in 2019. But when COVID-19 hit, that market disappeared. Additionally, the job he had for 13 years at Panasonic Avionics Corporation came to a screeching halt as international airlines took a beating. At that point, Sangster decided to go full force into coffee.
“We realised that people were starting to buy more coffee online because of COVID [so] e-commerce was really the direction that I needed to go. So, I built an e-commerce platform and increased my product line. I started sending coffee to people all over the world. I was writing to people saying 'Hey, do you like coffee? I'll send you coffee,' “ Sangster added. It was that initiative that led him to an unknown coffee enthusiast in Dubai.
“On November 9, 2020 I came across a post and this guy was at the Versace mansion in Miami, and he was sitting there and he said, 'Sourcing Jamaica's finest Blue Mountain Coffee.' So I reached out to him on Instagram. Three days later I get a message back from him [and] he goes, 'I've done a little research on you. You look like you're vertical — you own your own farm and stuff — yeah, I'd love to try it,' “ reported Sangster.
Sangster would later find out that the unknown coffee enthusiast is Ahmed Bin Sulayem, CEO/executive chairman of the DMCC — the golden Dubai Diamond Exchange. The DMCC has been crowned six times as 'Global Free Zone of the Year' by the Financial Times fDi magazine. It is home to a vibrant community, innovative infrastructure, world-class services and a stunning choice of properties — all minutes from excellent air, sea and road links to the world.
After sampling the coffee from Sangster's farm in Irish Town, St Andrew, the DMCC CEO made a bold demand “We need to get this to Dubai like now!”
That's when Sangster extended an invitation for the DMCC CEO to visit the island and meet with government diplomats and some of the other coffee producers on the ground. Currently, Sangster is sending 10,000 pounds of coffee to Dubai, but he told the Jamaica Observer's Business Observer that the demand is much greater. Since the start of the year, US$46,000 has been invested towards that market. “I ended up opening a company in Dubai; I met all these people and started building relationships,” he noted.
But that's not the only opportunity the entrepreneur brought to Jamaica in recent times. He said there may be promising prospects for the sugar industry on the horizon, all stemming from a personal relationship he built with investors from a global energy company called World Energy. “World Energy is a leader in biomass jet fuel, and one of the things that they need is raw materials and one of the raw materials they use is bagasse or sugarcane trash,” said Sangster. He said Jamaica's sugar industry is the solution to the problem World Energy is facing. “He comes to me and he goes, 'Bindley I want to partner with Jamaica. Logistically they are sound, their sugar industry is hurting, sugar lines aren't being utilised.' So I said 'Yes' so they're coming August 8 with their team and he's coming wearing two hats, chairman and CEO of Dakia Global and chairman of World Energy.” Sangster has since been recognised by the Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Ministry as well as local trade and investment agencies as a crucial individual in securing foreign direct investments for the island. He says he will continue to promote Brand Jamaica wherever he is in the world.
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