Student-run business CO4 bring coffee with message

By David Dunlop

Meet CO4, a small student-run coffee business at Pakuranga College, who, alongside all Kiwis, have felt the impacts of Covid-19.

Year 13 students Helen Lam, Hubert Lai, Sheenu Ragunathan, and Jackshen Lee felt immense pressure during these challenging times as they struggled to find a direction to pivot their business in.  It is a Lion Foundation Young Enterprise Scheme (YES) business.

Their initiative is to provide a convenient, barista-quality instant coffee, while also shedding light on the environmental and cultural issues in modern society.

Their product is a simplistic, biodegradable coffee bag with unique flavours inspired by the diverse cultures around the world.

Single-use instant coffee packaging uses plastics, taking thousands of years to decompose and simultaneously contaminates the earth’s soil and waters.

As Sheenu, marketing and sales manager, states: “Pollution has been a big issue around the world and issues like the overconsumption of plastic continue to increase. But our generation is switching towards sustainable alternatives for household items to minimize the environmental risks. So I am really happy with how our business is progressing in an eco-friendly manner and can’t wait to release our product.”

Their product aims to feature culturally-inspired flavours from New Zealand before showcasing other foreign cultural flavours. As CO4 values these foreign cultures, they aim to donate a percentage of proceeds to various local charities where the flavour is inspired from. This is extremely important for the business members, as Helen, the CEO, states: “With the current xenophobia we are facing right now, I feel like there is no better time to raise awareness towards the cultural beauty of different countries”

CO4 is excited to announce their first flavour launch in mid-July 2020, inspired by Kiwi culture.

Roma Coffee’s master roaster Aaron Wyatt has kindly agreed to help them along their journey and supplied CO4 with the expertise to develop their coffee flavour and the beans themselves.

As Helen states: “Aaron was nothing but passionate and kind to us as he shared insight into the coffee, but also helped us elevate the quality of our product.”

Waking up and smelling the coffee, from left, Hubert Lai, Sheenu Ragunathan, Helen Lam and Jackshen Lee.

Covid-19 made it near impossible for CO4 to bring their dreams to life. But the Lion Foundation’s Young Enterprise Scheme saw the potential for them to grow and awarded their business $500 seed funding from the University of Waikato.

The excitement they all felt was “unreal” to receive $500 which relieved the heavy financial stress brought upon them during such a precarious time.

They were determined to not let the funding go to waste as CO4’s finance manager, Hubert Lai, said: “This amazing start-up capital will allow us to purchase the necessary materials needed to create our first batch, our advertising and the ability to pursue the innovations of our coffee.”

So how did CO4 manage to receive $500 from YES? Operations manager, Jackshen, produced a video and submitted it to YES’ equity seed funding competition. There were two rounds of seed funding that YES provided, and CO4 managed to win the second round as one of 18 teams out of 140 applicants.

“I wanted to produce a video that was not only informative for the viewers but also entertaining to watch. “When we were awarded the $500 I was thrilled to hear the judges enjoyed my creative work,” Lee said.

“As the only YES team in east Auckland to be awarded, I felt extremely proud of our team who put in the hard work to produce it with me.”

CO4 is appealing to the local ‘coffee culturalists’ for their support.

You can support this aspiring group of adolescent entrepreneurs by contacting them through their social media outlets (provided) and help them to educate NZ society on coffee cultures around the world whilst enjoying a cup of barista-quality instant coffee. They will be posting updates on their social media and website blog, recording their journey along the way.

Website: www.co4.co.nz

Instagram: @CO4Coffee

Facebook: @CO4Coffee

David Dunlop is HOD Business at Pakuranga College