Innovation

Taking it to go: A coffee entrepreneur’s pandemic lessons

March 22, 2021 | By Rebecca Abraham

"Apagar el fuego" says Andrea Salgado. To put out the fire. Salgado owns Sailor Coffee, a pair of coffee shops in coastal Guayquil, Ecuador, specializing in sustainably-grown local beans. And, like most small business owners, she wears many hats – supply chain guru, social media maven, even plumber. Every day looked different, until the day last year it all stopped.

Salgado splits her time between her native Ecuador and her adopted New York City home, and she was in the U.S. when the pandemic shuttered most businesses, including in hard-hit Guayaquil, Ecuador’s second-largest city. But even long distance, Salgado never stopped. She beefed up her digital presence, adding a delivery service and expanding her food offerings for those stuck at home, often working one-on-one with her customers to help them adapt to online ordering and digital payments. Trust grew, she says, and online sales followed.

The pandemic brought financial struggles, to be sure, but it also forced her to look at her business in a new light and to think about different ways she could serve her customers, which, she says, sets her up for success in the long term. Una catapulta, Salgado says. The challenges of the last year become a catapult. 

Rebecca Abraham