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#EoCatwork, Germany: facts speak

Coffee, straight from the producer ... and more: the Agáta experience

by Simona Ceraulo

Young, motivated and with clear ideas: Elisabetta Epping-Rossi and Johannes Epping were the first entrepreneurs invited to inaugurate the series of webinars promoted by the I.U. Sophia in collaboration with the Economy of Communion (EoC), which is celebrating its thirtieth anniversary.

Stimulated by the students' questions, Elisabetta and Johannes talked about each other. United in life and work by high ideals, in 2016, thanks to a common training experience in Starkmacher (*), they decided to start their business, Agáta, a small roasting company in Mannheim (Germany), the city where they reside.

The business idea is to offer a specialty coffee, a product of excellent quality, highly selected and cared for in the raw material and in the processing, with a unique aroma: the scent of its history. Elisabetta and Joannes know personally the producers of those precious beans: they have visited almost all of them, one by one, travelling from Honduras to Peru, from Mexico to El Salvador, even to Ethiopia. One of the distinctive features of their business consists precisely in the direct relationship with the small local farmer. They focus on personal contact, based on mutual knowledge, on respect for common values, on the guarantee of a cultivation that is attentive to people and the environment, for a coffee full of ideals, as well as quality.

Most of these small farms are family-run and constitute the main, if not only, source of income for the entire family. The market price of coffee, the one normally paid by the big players in the sector, is often not sufficient to cover labor costs and business risks. Elisabetta and Johannes are perfectly aware of this, so they share with the growers the value generated by the shortening of the supply chain (eliminating the intermediate commercial steps), paying for the coffee beans up to six times the base price. And on every package of coffee produced by Agáta the name of the grower appears clearly: because "it's the people who matter", as they strongly claim.

This is true at all levels, of course. The Eppings consider customers as people with whom to share their story, the life enclosed in every cup of coffee, people to whom they can offer an excellent product. Moreover, Team Agata ridthis offers them the opportunity to participate in a wide-ranging project, with a conscious and responsible purchase choice. The quality of relationships is also a fundamental ingredient for the corporate climate. For Elisabetta and Johannes the managerial style is all about trust, involvement and sharing of responsibilities with their collaborators. The solid network of relationships built with employees proved to be fundamental in addressing the pandemic crisis, which hit the company right in the middle of the strategic merger with the company of Agáta's current third partner, Michael Zillekens. Thanks to the climate of trust, availability and dialogue, it was possible to agree upon the most congenial solution for all involved, without compromising the survival of the business. A firm faith in the priority of relationships, in short, which also resists the test of competition: aware of operating in a market niche, Elisabetta and Johannes like to look at their competitors as partners, co-promoters of a sustainable coffee culture, people with whom to collaborate synergistically, in the perspective of a win-win strategy.

The passion of our entrepreneurs pierces the screen and grasps everyone… unfortunately, the coffee does not: that is why Agáta invites us all to Mannheim!

(*) Starkmacher e V. is an association based in Germany with the aim of supporting young people in the discovery and development of their potential, for their benefit and that of society.

Watch Elisabetta and Johannes' webinar again!

 

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