So, it happened about a month ago that we broke ground on our 1st coffeehouse in China. A year and a half of planning, a year after putting together start-up management team, ten months after the business plan was finished, and eight months after the final Traveler’s Coffee Board of Directors decision, we are now officially under construction.
There are such interesting responses to this news from our fans and friends when they find out, “That’s cool!” or “Wow, China, that amazing!” But even more surprising to me has been the response I get from my business colleagues, which is something like, “Smart, we have a factory there,” or “Yeah we are opening there in 2014.” It’s like everyone is going to China. It is as that great Persian mind ‘Abdu’l-Baha put it a century years ago when He said, “China is the country of the future,” and I think we can all truly now embrace that sentiment as we see the huge role that China has played from our vantage point well into the 21st Century.
Now one of the two most often asked questions that I’ve got from people after they learn of this new strategic move concerning China are the following, “Why have you decide to go into China?” and “Do the Chinese drink that much coffee?” In answering the first question on the surface it is, very simple, diversification in this ever changing global economy (so all of our proverbial eggs are not just in the Russian/CIS basket). But even more so, when I wrote this spring “Vision and Strategy” and “The 5 Year Plan (2013-2017), two of our more important documents in the Traveler’s Coffee Guidance Series, outlying where we are going and how we are going to get there over the next 5-10 years for reading and training with our middle and top management, another stark reality began to unfold and that is how big is Russia’s specialty coffee and coffeehouse market and when will it hit it’s saturation point. Now for a dynamic company like Traveler’s Coffee that is literally beginning to double the amount of coffeehouse units it opens every year this is a very important point and the number for us is 500 units. That’s right over the next five or so years Traveler’s Coffee can easily open 500 units throughout all of Russia but after that I really don’t know what’s going to happen and how saturated the market will become… henceforth China. Quite simply China is a market that will keep Traveler’s Coffee busy until the end of the first quarter of the century we live in.
Now the second question about Chinese coffee consumption is always so funny to me… it’s almost a glass half empty/glass half full thing. You know the world can be divided into two types of people and that is the glass is half empty and the glass is half full, or looking at the negative or the positive aspects of life. This always reminds me of an old story I heard where two shoe salesmen go to Africa (that’s how the joke was told, so for my friends in Africa think about Africa 500 years ago). The first salesman arrives and sees that nobody is wearing any shoes, he goes to one city, then the next city and it’s the same thing… no one has shoes on, just a bunch of bear footed Africans everywhere. So, he sends a message to the office and says, “Hey guys I’m coming home, there’s nothing to do here, nobody wears shoes.” At the same time the other salesman who came about the same time and has seen all the same cities, and he sends urgent message, saying, “Send as many containers as you can, you won’t believe it! This place is awesome! Nobody is wearing any shoes.” That’s what I feel like when I walk down the streets of Shanghai, Beijing and Ningbo (the small 5.5 million population city where our 1st coffeehouse is opening up), “Send as many containers of coffee as you can, you won’t believe it! This place is awesome! Nobody’s drinking any coffee.”
See you in the end of September at our coffeehouse in Ningbo!