Living in Colombia, Carlos Duque knew what a great cup of coffee tasted like. But before he landed on pursuing entrepreneurship and the coffee-crazed city that is Melbourne, Carlos’ story is one of constantly moving and gathering new experience. His roots in rural Colombia give him an appreciation of the producers behind business and the meaning of ethical entrepreneurship.
Planting the Seeds of an Ethical Entreprenuer
Originally from the city of Florencia, “the last largest city before you hit the Amazon forest”, Carlos always had a close relationship with the farmers and producers of his home country.
“When I was 9, I wanted to be a dairy farmer,” he says, describing the surrounding farmland around Florencia.
When his family moved to Bogota, Colombia’s sprawling capital city, Carlos left behind the dream of farming himself, but never forgot the farmer as he wove a new dream around business.
“I studied civil engineering for my undergrad, but then at 22 travelled to Melbourne and studied English at La Trobe for eight months.”
Melbourne had left a lasting impression on him and so he stayed for nearly eight years, getting his MBA from Monash and subsequently working in countless different jobs from waitering, working on ships, sales and advertising, trading, and finance consulting.
“My family worked in business, so it was easy for me [to move from engineering],” he says.
Carlos’ skills in finance gave him the freedom to move around and gather new experiences, make new connections and learn to think on his feet as he moved across different jobs and skillsets.
His experience so far had taught him about variety and seizing opportunities as they came.
But Carlos’ next experience working for his family business in Bogota taught him about the other side of the coin –what it means as an entrepreneur to stay put and build something with persistence and commitment.
Returning to Bogota for what was supposed to be a three-week holiday, Carlos ended up staying after meeting his future wife and deciding to join his family in business.
A Brewing Interest in Entrepreneurship
Carlos built years of experience working with his family company in real estate and other portfolios, but last year decided it was time to bring in some fresh skills from the city he’d grown to love all those years before.
“I took the decision to come back to Melbourne, so I quit my job and said I didn’t want to trade for the family business anymore.”
He applied for the University of Melbourne’s Master of Entrepreneurship [delivered at Wade Institute], searching to revamp his creativity and learn the latest thinking about teamwork, collaboration and the world of entrepreneurship.
Returning to Melbourne, coffee inevitably returned to Carlos’ mind. He and fellow Waders started a small start-up project called Brewya, sourcing coffee from around the world and a unique filter design to make the perfect aromatic brew. Advertising on Instagram, Facebook and a website, they were soon sold out.
Teamwork and creative thinking have been his main take-ways. “I learned a lot about thinking in a different framework,” he says.
Carlos is excited to keep exploring the possibilities of the coffee business.
While completing his degree, he’s has already registered his new coffee business Mesita which has three founders: “Me, our farmer in Colombia, and an Aussie marketing company.”
He says Mesita is about ensuring the value of his business flows equitably across the consumer, his business, and the farmers who ultimately make it all possible.
“Yes, the farmer is a stakeholder. It’s about distributing value to the supply chain and improving the social circumstances [back in Colombia],” says Carlos.
“It’s a business, but making a huge social impact too.”
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