The untold story of the 'Coffee Lady' of Nagaland
Zakietsono Jamir aka Atsi is the founder and owner of Farmer Square Cafe based out of Medziphima in Dimapur district of rural Nagaland. At Farmer Square Cafe, along with a small team of 4 women employees (helpers and salespeople), Zakietsono serves freshly ground coffee to customers amid an eco-friendly, pristine environment. Additionally, they also offer different blends and other types of locally processed food products like pickles, sauces, mushrooms, canned pineapples, etc. Zakietsono's entrepreneurship journey has had its shares of ups and downs though. Since childhood, she envisioned starting up something of her own. She finished her schooling at the Catholic Institute, Nagaland and then went on to pursue a Bachelor's Degree in Literature. Unfortunately, she had to leave her higher education mid-way due to a financial crunch in the family. This did not deter Zakietsono though, and her resolve, self-confidence and determination helped her sail through challenging times and keep looking for ways to start her own business. "In 2017, Zakietsono attended a local workshop and learned about the process of brewing coffee from the beans. She was fascinated by the idea of how coffee reaches from the farm to the cup and the various factors that enhance the taste of coffee. As she researched more on speciality coffee, a business idea brewed!" "Experimenting with coffee was something that drove me and ignited my passion. With that in mind, I started my business venture Farm Square Cafe. My entrepreneurship journey has been tough but today, I can proudly say that 'coffee' has become my identity and helped me through some of the toughest times in life. The further I move ahead, the deeper I know myself and the more I love my work," says Zakietsono. Atsi had initially launched the enterprise in 2018 but was forced to close it down only after a few months, owing to issues around the capital. However, instead of giving up, she was keen to learn from her experiences and started gathering the necessary resources and capital to launch a comeback. At last, she was able to restart the operations of Farmer Square Cafe in November 2019, and from then, it has only been onwards and upwards. She joined the Her&Now support programme last year, implemented by the German development cooperation agency Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH in cooperation with local partners. It has been instrumental in helping her scale the business to a whole new level. Speaking about it, Zakietsono says, "Initially I was not very clear with my business model and product marketing plans. However, after joining the Her&Now programme, I realized the power of storytelling. Being part of the project support programme, I have been able to hone my business skills and incorporate innovation and resilience into myself and my business activities. Joining the Her&Now platform has been of immense help in terms of furthering my entrepreneurship journey, networking and expanding my business strategies."
Currently, her day-to-day business activities at Farm Square Cafe include coffee brewing, customer service and hospitality, supervising operations of the cafe, conducting workshops and training, and so on. She recently organized a number of workshops for local women on coffee understanding, barista skills, manual brewing, cupping, etc. and plans on conducting more such workshops in the future. Through her enterprise, Zakiestono has not only employed and provided a steady source of income to young women from the nearby localities but is also encouraging the youth to engage in the culture of farming and investing in high-quality agricultural products. Furthermore, she has been a pioneer in introducing the trend of a "quality coffee culture" in and around Medziphima and has been informally called the "Coffee Lady of Nagaland"!
Zakiestono is among the 150 plus women entrepreneurs from the various states in the North-east to have been supported by GIZ's 'Her&Now' - an ongoing project being implemented across different parts of India by German development cooperation agency Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and in partnership with the Government of India's Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship. "In the past two years, the Her&Now project has managed to create a significant positive impact in the lives of women entrepreneurs in Nagaland and other states in the north-east. Success stories of entrepreneurs like Zakiestono are a testimony to that. By laying the foundation for women entrepreneurs to support, encourage and uplift each other through incubation and acceleration support programmes run by our local partner- Dhriiti, the project is nurturing an indomitable entrepreneurial spirit in them," says Ullas Marar, Head of Project Her&Now, GIZ. For implementing the Her&Now project in the North-east region, GIZ has partnered with the incubator - 'Dhriiti-- The Courage Within'. The project not only equips select women entrepreneurs with critical business skills, but also offers customized support through mentorship, access to market opportunities and peer networks, linkages to financial institutions, and so on. As of date, the project has already extended support to over 400 women entrepreneurs from various parts of India, helping them to transform their business ideas into enterprises and setting their existing businesses onto a sustainable growth track. 'Her&Now' brings to the fore the inspirational success stories of women like Zakiestono, who are shattering gender stereotypes and overcoming socio-economic challenges/obstacles every day to fuel their entrepreneurship dreams, and contributing to India's growth story.