Starting a business is more than just about earning money for Kathy Lim and Jil Torio — it’s about purpose. Their very own Karaf Coffee has helped uplift the local coffee industry, help their customers cope with the pandemic, and bring loved ones closer together.
Karaf Coffee is an online coffee house based in Manila that offers one-tap ready-to-drink (RTD) coffee selections that are also healthier than the usual sugar-packed RTD beverages in the market today. The business is a result of the two driven Chinoys joining forces over their shared passion.
“Though from totally different worlds, both of us share undying love and passion for coffee,” Lim and Torio said. “It’s been like our ‘go-to’ for everything, whether through celebrations or comfort for defeats. We just always find a reason to have coffee together. It’s been like that for 13 years of being together.”
It’s as if by a twist of faith that the two were meant to start a business during the pandemic and offer comfort to many. Lim, who has been in the interior design industry since graduating college, needed to come home from Singapore due to the pandemic, whereas Torio had to resign from his 5-year sales job. Add to that Torio’s past experience working part-time at a well-known coffee shop in Manila back in college and one could call it divine intervention.
With a long history of shared conversations and their love for coffee, they realized that coffee itself can lay the foundation and give others an opportunity to settle down, get to know each other, and strengthen their bond together. With the pandemic taking its toll on people mentally, coffee may help play a small part in bringing some comfort.
“Upon the realization of the depth of how coffee conversations had built our friendship and relationship together, we aspire to pay it forward to our fellow Filipinos. We sure know there are individuals who badly need a [coffee] tap right now as we speak, and this pandemic might have just made our local cafés not the first thing in mind to meet up with friends. Thus, Karaf was born.”
Here are some tips from Lim and Torio on how to do business with divine purpose:
1. Find inspiration in your own life.
Lim and Torio stressed the importance of their personal experience with coffee since that gave them the idea to start their business. They shared a lot of happy conversations in cafés and discovered interesting things about each other over coffee. And they believed that everyone deserves to have that sense of comfort and connection with others, most especially during these trying times.
“Coffee had been in the middle of it all. It has not only allowed us to take time to slow down together, but it has also given us an opportunity to encourage each other as well, especially in times when we both didn’t feel like everything’s going as planned,” they said.
2. Have faith in your purpose.
They emphasized, “Deeper faith in Him,” adding, “That has long been one of the pre-requisites for launching a business. He didn’t get you through all the things that you’ve been through just to get nowhere. Call it cliché, but really, what was the point of all adversities?”
Both Lim and Torio have a solid foundation with God, and this not only strengthens their bond, but reminds them of their purpose that they have to fulfill for their customers. Although faced with multiple challenges, they were able to remain strong, keep their business afloat, and keep customers satisfied by maintaining their faith in the Lord.
“Ask yourself, ‘Was it defeat in itself or Him sharpening your saw for a bigger breakthrough?'” they said. “Know and do everything at the very best you can, and things will fall into place at His time.”
3. Take the time to learn new things.
“We knew nothing on how to build a business from ground up nor any idea how to run one,” they shared.
“It started when I came up with the name, Karaf, and Kathy being an artist,” Torio said. “She started doing everything on the design. We started asking our friends for advice. Aside from that, we took the only gift this pandemic has given us all: time.
“We started taking online short courses so we would have a better understanding on how the business industry and market works. It’s truly difficult to learn things that we are fully unaware of, most especially unlearn the things which we were wrong about for so long. Add knowledge and passion with the right mix of inspiration, will, and courage, then from there, claim that nothing is impossible.”
4. Seize the opportunity to help those in need.
“Opportunity knocks to those who wait,” they said.
“We say, ‘Why wait?'”
Not only were they able to address the needs of the market. but they help sustain their suppliers’ businesses as well.
“Initially we planned on offering a few coffee stand type of shops, where everyone can just walk thru and grab their ready-to-drink coffee,” they shared. “When the pandemic hit, all plans and preparations crumbled to pieces. But we had to avert our attention to what’s ahead of us. It was heavy for everyone to bear, especially during the ECQ days.
“From there, we thought that this wasn’t actually a bad time to give a go for the business. Instead, it would be the perfect time for it, given some changes on the previously planned form. Not only we are helping ourselves grow, but also the people behind it: our local suppliers and other SME owners like us — not to forget our local coffee farmers who had struggled with transporting their crops.”
“This door that opened for us made us even better as individuals and the experience is far more priceless.”
5. Aim high and accept support.
Both of them were able to develop their business based on their background, growing up Chinoy.
“Growing up from a Chinoy family, expectations were quite high,” they shared. “And we have to meet a certain standard so we’d make our family proud.
“It’s mostly the usual dilemma of sons and daughters, but come to think of it, it’s given that every parent wants only the best for their children. We would have not gotten Karaf started without support from our family — not financially though — they were cheering us on to pursue what we have started. We believe that no matter how hard life throws at you, as long as you’re happily pursuing your passion and backed up by strong family support, you’ll go places eventually in God’s time.”
For more information, check out their Facebook.
For more business tips, check out our Modern Tao Ke articles here.