When Iya Joson’s father, Jojo Joson, came home after visiting a T’boli indigenous community in South Cotabato, he wouldn’t have thought he would bring with him more than memories and souvenirs. Instead, he brought green coffee beans, and an urge to share them with others.
Given her background as a magazine editor and a brand manager, Iya felt driven to turn her dad’s pasalubong into a viable business. A business that wasn’t simply concerned with making money, but also created a sustainable means of livelihood for their T’boli farmer-partners.
“Everything, from the name to the elements of our packaging, celebrates… the vibrant, loving T’boli tribe who have a heritage of weaving sacred fabric inspired by dreams,” Iya explains. The name, The Dream Coffee, put the T’boli cultural roots at the forefront.
“We started sharing The Dream Coffee during Christmas 2017 with family and friends, and we were pleasantly surprised by how interested people were,” Iya recalls. “That’s how we ended up here, a year later, sharing the Dream to a wider audience through a retail and resource site.”
From Career Shift to a Calling
Iya’s gift for storytelling enabled her to go beyond publicity, towards putting forth a story worth telling. “The Dream Coffee makes an impact on these farmer-families’ lives by helping them realize the value of what they create and grow,” Iya tells us. “During the last quarter of this year, we’ve had farmers take the initiative to grow more coffee trees—it’s very encouraging because they are seeing the potential of what they have.”
Iya believes that all her previous work experiences have prepared her to become the creator of The Dream Coffee. “Prior to being an entrepreneur, I had worked as an editor and a brand manager,” Iya says. “Both were very fulfilling jobs. But I truly felt called to build The Dream Coffee, and that’s why I am here.”
Running The Dream Coffee was a natural development from her past jobs. “I’m grateful I got to do what I used to do, and grateful for what I get to do now.”
Go Beyond Making Money
Currently, The Dream Coffee sells 100% Single Estate, Single Origin Philippine Arabica, both in bags of ground coffee and coffee beans. The holiday season of 2018 was their busiest one yet, and Iya sees it continuously growing.
For Iya, she sees being an entrepreneur as a privilege—one that doesn’t put money as the end-all and be-all of the business. “I believe that the best entrepreneurs are those who use their businesses to make a positive, felt impact in other people’s lives,” Iya explains.
“The businesses that truly change the world know that making a difference and making a profit do not have to be at odds with each other—they go hand-in-hand,” she says.
Find Your Why
Becoming an entrepreneur—and leaving the stability of a full-time job—can be daunting. Fear is one of the biggest reasons why most people never become self-employed in their life.
While it certainly takes some courage and tolerance for risk, Iya says that entrepreneurship can be managed better by taking baby steps. You can even start before you resign from work. “If you have a full-time job, what can you learn from it, knowing you’ll want to be an entrepreneur someday?” she asks. “Practically, are there things you can do before or after work or during the weekend to slowly, but surely build your business?”
Iya also counsels patience: “Trust that it will happen in the right time,” she says. “And when it’s time—you will know when that is because it feels like everything seems unsure, but you have also never been more certain—you need to take that leap.”
If you don’t make the jump when the time is right, Iya says, “you will do yourself and the world a massive disservice by not fully pursuing what you have been called to do.”
Not sure what business to take on? Iya has this piece of advice: “Before you think about the what’s and how’s of the business you have in mind, think about the why—and when you have a why that, hopefully, seeks to serve others outside of yourself, believe it and be utterly convinced by it,” she explains.
Finally, entrepreneurship can also be a bridge towards becoming a better person. “Devote the time you currently have on-hand to build yourself to be the kind of person who can successfully pursue that why.”