Ever felt like leaving everything behind to open your own business or start new projects? That’s what Nooran Al Bannay, the founder of Coffee Architecture did! Nooran left a senior architectural engineering position in a major company to open her own coffee shop in Abu Dhabi and become a successful Coffee Entrepreneur
Despite Nooran’s salary being decent and her corporate career path being clear, her personal and spiritual journey led her to a different path. A path that saw her opening Coffee Architecture, a place that serves artisan Arabic coffee to both local and international coffee fans. She has since then taken barista training in the USA and is certified by the Coffee Quality Institute. Nooran now serves her quite unique coffee at the El Reem district of Abu Dhabi.
In this episode, Nooran shares more about her entrepreneurial journey, the challenges she’s faced and how she’s managed to keep Coffee Architecture afloat despite the pandemic.
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03:42 – The start of Nooran’s journey to entrepreneurship
07:42 – Why Nooran chose coffee and not anything else
08:45 – How Nooran learnt about the coffee business
13:22 – Quitting her full time job to get into the coffee business
14:50 – Nooran’s experience with running her own business
15:39 – How to know the perfect addition to your team
17:11 – Challenges faced by Coffee Architecture as a startup business
25:22 – How the Covid -19 pandemic has affected Nooran’s business
29:13 – Nooran’s source of inspiration
32:45 – The various adjustments made by Coffee Architecture to stay afloat
34:59 – How Coffee Architecture responded to customer feedback on their location
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Dhiren: [00:01] This episode of The Elevated Entrepreneur podcast is brought to you by the Cloudscape Care Package. This care package is designed specifically for retail and restaurant business owners. If you’ve got a retail or restaurant business or are considering opening one, then talk to us at cloudscape.ae or drop us a line at email@example.com, and we’ll show you how the care package and all of its features including training, implementation and support can help you set up for success.
Nooran: [00:28] I changed my entire philosophy in life within this COVID-19 pandemic. When I quit my job, I imagined that suddenly I would go to Coffee Architecture and do work, work, work but within COVID-19, they gave the whole world pause. This pause gives me a lot of change, for example, what exactly I want, especially within myself, within Coffee Architecture. You have this [bonding] moment between your family, your team, within yourself, within your God that everything is changing within seconds. I’m thinking [about] what is the opportunity that I will do now to scale my business even if we are shutting down, even if people are at home? So, I did a lot of awareness, events, training for the community, promoting Nooran Al Bannay and also Coffee Architecture.
Dhiren: [01:35] Hello, and a very big welcome to The Elevated Entrepreneur podcast and a brand new episode in our Coffee Roasters Series. If this is your first time here, then I’m so grateful that you’ve chosen to spend some time with me and the elevated entrepreneurs that we have on this podcast. If you haven’t already, check out the Elevated Entrepreneur website at elevatedentrepreneur.fm where you can get access to a lot of other amazing episodes together with show notes and transcriptions that make your listening experience much, much more pleasurable. Today’s episode of The Elevated Entrepreneur podcast is the third and final installment in the special Coffee Roasters Series here at The Elevated Entrepreneur podcast, and it’s not with a coffee roaster, but with an amazing Emirati businesswoman named Nooran Al Bannay.
[02:21] Nooran founded the coffee brand and shop called Coffee Architecture, where she serves amazing cups of coffee together with her team. Nooran and her team are so passionate that they don’t call it coffee, but instead “cups of happiness”. Nooran tells me how she was inspired by her grandmother and Tony Robbins to quit her full-time corporate job and follow her true calling. Nooran also tells me about the tradition of coffee in her culture and how that’s paved the way for her to deal with her stress and all of the challenges that she’s come across while she’s founded Coffee Architecture. Join me and listen to this amazing episode with Nooran and let’s cue the music.
Intro: [03:08] You’re listening to The Elevated Entrepreneur podcast. A podcast designed to help retailers, restauranteurs and entrepreneurs simplify business operations and use modern technology to elevate their business. Here’s your host, Dhiren Bhatia.
Dhiren: [03:26] Nooran, welcome to The Elevated Entrepreneur podcast. It is so nice to have you here.
Nooran: [03:32] Welcome Dhiren, and I’m so happy to be with you guys.
Dhiren: [03:36] Thank you, Nooran. It’s a phenomenal pleasure to have you on the show and talk to you about your business. I know you run a very nice coffee shop in Abu Dhabi called Coffee Architecture, but before we go there, I want to get to know you a little bit and I want you to tell the audience a little bit about your background. So why don’t you introduce yourself to the audience?
Nooran: [03:55] Yeah, my name is Nooran Al Bannay. I’m from UAE, actually born from Ras Al Khaimah. My profession before going to entrepreneur and this kind of new field, I was an architect working in government in ADNOC, and also in Abu Dhabi Police. And then in 2018, I opened Coffee Architecture in Al Reem Island in Abu Dhabi. Within this journey, I learned about coffee, and I go deep with the coffee, and actually, coffee came from previous things. A long time ago from my childhood with my grandmother, the story began with my grandmother when we have this Arabic coffee within our home, so I taste the coffee with her. When she passed away in 2016, I said to myself, “I want to do something different to her. So why not have this Arabic coffee, and even go deep with the coffee knowledge and explore our culture and behavior and hospitality?” Then I [went] deeply with the coffee and I got certification as a Q Grader, like tasting the coffee the proper way, and also a barista, doing the coffee within myself with the machine. And then I opened Coffee Architecture in 2018. It was a dream come true when I opened this shop.
Dhiren: [05:27] I want to stop here for a few minutes because I want to ask you so many questions. So firstly, you said as a profession, you’re an architectural engineer, correct?
Nooran: [05:34] Yes.
Dhiren: [05:35] You also have your master’s degree in this and you worked in ADNOC, in the Abu Dhabi Police. So what made you say to yourself, “This is it. I don’t want to work anymore”? Because these are comfortable jobs. You must be making good money. I know you said you wanted to do something different.
Nooran: [05:52] Yeah, as I said, when I opened 2018, I quit my job in 2019 like one year after operation Coffee Architecture. I see myself I have more fun and I was happy, enjoying my day when I was in Coffee Architecture, not going to my job. It is a comfortable job. It’s my profession and it’s safe but life is short, you know? So I felt, this is the time. When I go to Coffee Architecture, I feel so happy. I feel so much joy. So that’s why I decided to go for it and pursued my dream. There is a calling to me that “Go to this thing and stop doing the routine work that you have.” This is the inner voice coming to [me]. And actually, Dhiren, [it happened] when I went to training with Tony Robbins in Dubai in 2019. Tony Robbins asked us a question “If there [are] some difficulties coming within you.” He gave us all – the audience – an exercise to listen to our hearts. So calm down and he [gave] us an exercise, “…And then ask yourself this most difficult question. I want to go with my dream, but I don’t have time to go with it. What can I do?” My heart answered like, “Quit your job.” So I [followed my heart].
Dhiren: [07:26] So, this is in 2019. This is 2019. You’re at the Tony Robbins event. And you have already started Coffee Architecture. It’s already running, but you’re also working full-time. And you’re sitting in the audience and you’re thinking about how to move forward, and you said that your answer to yourself was quit your job.
Nooran: [07:41] Yeah.
Dhiren: [07:43] And you got this because you believed in it so much that, like you said, it makes you happy. So I know you mentioned you learn a lot about coffee with your grandmother. It was a very social experience. But why coffee?
Nooran: [07:56] Actually coffee in our culture as a UAE hospitality, each home that you go to any place in UAE, you will find the Arabic coffee and the dates. This is the kind of hospitality. So when you come, Dhiren, to my home, you will find the Arabic coffee vase and that date. From childhood, my grandmother, she’s always doing this Arabic coffee and let me taste [it]. It has this social connection between each other and also, I like coffee. I like to drink coffee. When I grew up, even in university, I’m the one doing the coffee for my colleague in university. So it’s coming within me but I don’t know exactly the time that I noticed that I loved coffee this much. It’s natural.
Dhiren: [08:44] So, it’s 2018. You’ve decided to start your business. You call it Coffee Architecture. You’ve decided now in 2019 that you want to quit but you did not know anything about coffee. So when did you start learning about coffee, is it in 2018, 2019 or before this?
Nooran: [08:59] I started the journey [at the] beginning of 2016. There is a coffee shop in Dubai, it’s called The Espresso Lab. He’s an Emirati guy. His name is Ibrahim Al Mallouhi. I went to his shop in 2015. When I went there, I really tasted amazing coffee, different than the coffee that we have on the market. And then I said this is different really because when I taste the coffee in the UAE market, it’s really different. I didn’t even [unintelligible 09:29] within my cup of coffee each day. I have a lot of time with the barista saying to him, “Please add little milk. Add this shot.” I’m having this kind of calibration with them. So when I went to this shop, The Espresso Lab, and I tasted a properly balanced cup of coffee, it was [unintelligible [09:51] coffee. I said, “Yeah, this is different. This is amazing coffee. This is the coffee that I want to really drink it and enjoy in the morning and make my life so happy. Then I started the journey because I loved to do the coffee to the customer. I’m not just managing the coffee shop, I really love to serve the coffee to the customer.
[10:15] So I traveled to America, in Portland, American School of Barista, and I learned how to do coffee in an espresso machine. I got this knowledge and I started my career in coffee and also, I got this big certification. I remember saying, “Okay, I know now how to do the coffee, but how can I taste the coffee? So the answer is there is a certification called the Q Grader but it’s a really high-grade certification. It’s a top-level of the certification people. Taste a lot of coffees and there is an exam to get the certification. Only 5000 people around the world have the certification to taste the Arabic coffee and [unintelligible 11:01] it, special coffee or commercial or community coffee. So I got this exam and Alhamdulillah, I passed 20 exams and I got the certification. That’s the time that people in the coffee industry even in UAE they know who is Nooran because this is a big certification, and it’s very worth it in the coffee industry market.
Dhiren: [11:24] So just to go back in time, so this is 2016. You started to learn about coffee. You went to the US. You went to Portland. You’ve certified yourself in being a barista. And then in 2017, you got this Q Grader certification. And you said this is a set of 20 exams?
Nooran: [11:40] Yes.
Dhiren: [11:41] Wow. Amazing. So in 2017, you completed your barista course, you’ve become a Q Grader and you started Coffee Architecture in 2018. So now after you’ve done this course, what are you thinking? Are you thinking “It’s ready. I’m ready to go open my shop”? What was going through your mind at that point in time?
Nooran: [12:01] Actually, I was okay in my home doing the same thing, going to [my] job. Everything was fine. But the turning point [was] when my grandmother passed away. That’s the point that I said, “I should do something.” So [at the] end of 2016, I started to change my vision or mission in life to do something meaningful for her. So that’s why I said, “I should do something.” And if I’m at all doing the coffee for the people that I love only, I cannot expand. People will not drink this amazing coffee and also, I cannot grow. So I decided to open Coffee Architecture in 2018. That’s the time that I said, “Yeah, I should really spread this “cup of happiness” to all over the UAE, not only in my home.
Dhiren: [12:52] And I remember that you and I met in 2018 and I remember the excitement. You still are as excited as you were then about coffee and it is really inspiring to see this excitement on your face in the way you serve. And I’ve had the pleasure of being at your store, which we will talk about in a few minutes. So it’s 2018, you’ve decided to change your mission and vision. You want to spread this “cup of happiness”. You’ve opened up Coffee Architecture but you still haven’t quit your job. And then in 2019, you went to the Tony Robbins event, and you said, “Okay, now this is it. I’m ready.” Was there something in your mind after the event, before the event because it takes a lot of courage to quit your full-time job, like you say, it’s your safe place? Was there something else that happened? Or was it Tony Robbins himself who said, you know what? You found the answer in that event?
Nooran: [13:36] I found the answer, but I didn’t immediately take action actually. But the most important thing as an entrepreneur, you should take an immediate action. As you said, it has a lot of courage to step over and move forward. But Tony Robbins event, it was in September, and I quit my job on December eighth – eighth of December 2019. And the thing is, this is the turning point when I decided to quit my job and this is the last day in my job, the most funny thing is really I don’t believe in some numbers, but this is the number, eighth of December 2019. And even when I go back, my grandmother passed away on the eighth of December 2016. So it’s clicking like, this is the date that I changed my mission. I didn’t know even if it was the last day I would be in ADNOC. This is a hint from God that, “Yeah, go for it. Your direction life will be changed, so go for it, even if it’s hard.
Dhiren: [14:36] There is absolutely a science in numbers. I know a lot of people think of it as being funny or some of you really believe in it. But like you said, there is always a sign. There are a lot of people that study numerology. And like you said, there are key dates in your life where things happen and it’s so amazing to see that you remember all of these key dates. So in 2019, you’ve decided to quit ADNOC and the store is already running, so who’s been running the business for you since it started in 2018?
Nooran: [15:04] Me and my team. I’m managing my team. I’m with them [every day], even if I’m working by phone, and after working, I go to them every day.
Dhiren: [15:15] And who was the first person you hired? Because obviously, you’re doing a full-time time job and you need a team.
Nooran: [15:21] Jeff. He’s a barista. He worked [with] specialty coffee in Abu Dhabi also and he decided to quit his job because he wanted to go deep with the coffee and he knows my story and my mission in Coffee Architecture so he said, “Okay, I want to go with you.”
Dhiren: [15:37] Amazing because it must have taken a lot of thinking to have the right person on board. How did you make that decision to say, “This is the person I need”? Because you’re already doing a full-time job, and you’re going to leave the store in his hands. How did you have the courage to make that decision?
Nooran: [15:53] You should trust your people first. And the thing is, I met him and I know his values. When I interview anyone for my team, I’m not interviewing only a technical [inaudible 16:06]. He knows coffee and that’s it. He should have something valuable to do with it for the community serving his best. I interviewed him and his mission in life [came] through some of the questions that I had for him. That’s the time that you know this guy is [worthy] to be in the Coffee Architecture family. This guy is not about he would be in a coffee shop and he will work with me or something. No, we are family. And this person is worth it to be with us and living farther and farther, a long time with each other. So if it’s yes, I would go for it. If it’s no, bye-bye. Sorry about that.
Dhiren: [16:50] But I love that. I think you said that is so important. Oftentimes, we don’t remember this, but when you are hiring people, like you said, you have to trust them, number one. And number two, you have to consider them as your family members and get that feeling if they will be a good member of this family, that is so important. Sometimes we forget all of this because we just think about technical skills. So thank you for sharing that. Now, it all sounds so happy that you had a job, you quit the job, you started the store, you found the right person, but I’m sure you must have had lots of challenges. Can you give me an example of a challenge that you had when you were opening the store?
Nooran: [17:24] Well, opening it was– Oh my God, I don’t have any experience [with] F and B and operation. You know, I’m an engineer – technical. A lot of problems coming with the contractor, the landlord, these kinds of things. So it’s really affecting the business and the delays coming for opening. So the most important thing is the contract between you and the landlord. It should be exactly what you want. It [should] mention every single detail no matter what. You mention it and sign, both of you. And then also within the contract, everything should be written, nothing verbal. So I had a lot of troubles because we have this approved [by] the word of mouth like, “Yeah, do this and do this.” And next time nothing happened because nothing was in the contract.
Dhiren: [18:18] It was not written. I remember this from when I met you in 2018 because you were looking for a point of sale system and inventory management system. That’s how you and I met. But I remember that you had lots of issues with these contractors. You were saying to me then that store is not getting ready in time and there were a lot of delays. Did you ever say to yourself, “This is not worth it. I’m going to quit and I’m going to go and stay with my job”?
Nooran: [18:38] Yeah, it’s happened. A lot of problems, a lot of issues coming. But when you step back, and then you say to yourself, “Nooran, why are you doing that?” and you refer your why to what exactly you want as an outcome, you push yourself to move forward. So this is the key that I do. I had a lot of struggles, a lot of issues coming to my life so I connect with my why. Why I’m doing that actually.
Dhiren: [19:08] That’s amazing. There’s a very good book on this called– I don’t know if you’ve read it, but what you said there is pretty much what the book talks about – Start With Why.
Nooran: [19:15] Yeah.
Dhiren: [19:16] Why you want to do this. This book is by Simon Sinek. He talks about why your why is so important. And it’s times like these when you are facing insurmountable challenges, you can’t get through these challenges. Like you said, your why will really guide your way. And your why really is to serve that “cup of happiness” and bring the hospitality forward, which is amazing. So you’ve had lots of challenges with your contractor. Everything is still going through. You’ve opened. How did you feel when you open the store? Because I know it was your dream.
Nooran: [19:45] Yeah. It was a really amazing day. I feel like I’m flying. I’m so happy actually. I feel like I achieved my dream to open Coffee Architecture. It’s really so hard when I open it with the team. And I saw the happiness coming through people and the service that we give, the coffee – speechless. I cannot even express my feelings. Still, now I have goosebumps.
Dhiren: [20:15] Yeah, if anybody could see you now, I mean this is not a video podcast, but if they could see you, they would see the excitement on your face, which is amazing. So, you opened, you’ve hired Jeff as your first person. You’re doing a full-time job. Was there anybody else on your team when you opened the store, other than Jeff?
Dhiren: [20:32] [name], one of my favorite members of my team actually. [He] actually worked in ADNOC with me doing the coffee for us in the office. And then he left and he told me, “Nooran, if you want to open any business, anything, let me know.” I took his number and then he left. He is a really nice guy. As I said, the value and mission in life are the most important and then you go with technical. He can learn after. But he’s a good person. And then he left and he went to the Philippines. After that, when I started to open Coffee Architecture, I called him. I said, “Are you ready to come?” I remember this voice. He said, “Nooran, I’m so tired in the Philippines. There is a lot of troubles” and this kind of thing, you know? And even “I cannot leave my family. They have troubles.” He gave us a lot of excuses that he cannot come. I sent him a long voice message. I said to him, “It’s fine. I accept whatever you have. But if you want to really change your life, you shouldn’t accept what you are doing now. You should step forward and I will help you to come from the Philippines to here and you will really change. I don’t know what’s happening in the Philippines. There are a lot of problems maybe, but really, you should step up and come and change your life.” Suddenly, he sent me a voice message, different voice, and he said, “Okay, I will come.” I inspired him and I pushed him. Sometimes you should be aggressive a little bit. Tell them the truth. Maybe they cannot see the truth within the environment that they have. If you care about people, especially, he’s a good guy, yeah, you should at least guide him, advise him and then he has the choice if he will go. And he came and he didn’t know anything about coffee. Now he’s one of the best baristas I have.
Dhiren: [22:31] Wow. Because you invested time in him, you invested money in him because you believed that he was part of the same value system. He has the same value system that you have. And it takes a lot of foresight to see that in someone. It’s not very easy to see it so early on, which is amazing. So testament to how you see people, right? It’s very important. So you’ve got your team now. You’ve got these two people coming on board. You’ve got the store open. You’ve had some challenges with your contractors, but you’ve gotten over them. You talked about the system that you started using. Now you’ve opened, you’re feeling very proud. You feeling very happy, and everything is happy, right? Everything is good and then you decide in 2019 that you want to quit your job on the eighth of December, and you’re now becoming part of Coffee Architecture full-time. In your mind, what was that not having to go to work every day? How did that feel?
Nooran: [23:21] I had a feeling of blessing. I was so happy. But actually, until now, I had this argument with my family. “No, Nooran, come to [your] job.” And then my boss calling me, “Are you sure you want to quit your job and stay here with Coffee Architecture?” I said, “Yeah.” So until this day, I have this pressure within my family and my colleague and previous job. I don’t know but I think they have this belief that secure job, stay safe, a lot of money, while you are doing this thing that they didn’t know that this is my happiness. I told them but they don’t believe in this kind of thing, you know? They said, “No, stop, go finish, routine, come back. This is life.” But now I feel more powerful, more peaceful. And actually, I feel I’m controlling my life than before with the decisions I make.
Dhiren: [24:22] This episode of The Elevated Entrepreneur podcast is brought to you by Cloudscape and Cloudscape’s many different products designed specifically for retail and restaurant business owners. If you’re considering opening a retail or restaurant business, or maybe have one already, and are looking to solve technology problems, then let’s speak because we can give you a helping hand and make sure that you’re set up for success. For more information, check out cloudscape.ae or get in touch by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[24:55] Despite all this pressure, do you feel that you made the right choice in moving forward?
Nooran: [25:00] Yeah, I think I have this right. Actually, when I quit my job, COVID-19 started. But the thing is, it’s fine. I feel within myself, I’m so happy. I’m so grateful with what I’m doing. So trust your feeling.
Dhiren: [25:17] Yeah, that is very important. Again, know your why and trust your heart, trust your gut, trust your instinct. That is so important, no matter what the challenges are. Now, you.ve mentioned COVID because you quit your job in December 2019. I think after three months, we had COVID that hit all of us. How has it been for you since then?
Nooran: [25:36] Life-changing. I changed my entire philosophy in life within this COVID-19 pandemic. I was a hard worker and also no time to think even – going, moving fast. When I quit my job, I imagined that suddenly I would go to Coffee Architecture and work, work, work but within COVID-19, they gave the whole world pause. This pause gave me a lot of change, for example, what exactly I want, especially within myself, within Coffee Architecture. It’s coming up now new opportunities with Coffee Architecture to move to Mamsha Al Saadiyat. How can I change the system I do, how I built the team? More trust, more collaboration between each other, not only doing work, you know? You have this [bonding] moment between your family, your team, within yourself, within your God that everything is changing within seconds living within this present moment. So a lot of things happening with this COVID-19 thing.
Dhiren: [26:51] And so what you’re saying is you took a lot of time to rethink what you were going to do and how you were going to. Did you ever feel that you would shut Coffee Architecture and move back to your job? Was that ever a thought?
Nooran: [27:02] No, not ever.
Dhiren: [27:05] Because your passion is coffee and you wanted to continue with it despite the challenge.
Nooran: [27:09] Yeah.
Dhiren: [27:11] That’s amazing.
Nooran: [27:12] I’m thinking [about] what is the opportunity that I will do now to scale my business, even if we are shutting down, even if people are at home. So I did a lot of awareness, events, training for the community, promoting Nooran Al Bannay and also Coffee Architecture through these lives and podcasts.
Dhiren: [27:37] These were all online?
Nooran: [27:38] Yeah, online.
Dhiren: [27:40] I saw these actually. I saw them on LinkedIn. Like you were saying, right, it doesn’t matter the challenge, you have to come up with ideas, you have to keep trying new things. And again, it takes effort. It takes courage, but you have to start. And you said at the beginning of this episode, you have to [make] decisions, and that’s what you do, right?
Nooran: [27:56] Yes.
Dhiren: [27:58] So you started to do these online web trainings, these webinars to increase the brand awareness for Coffee Architecture and for you. And now having done that, how do you feel?
Nooran: [28:08] I feel so happy because now we had a community in the UAE, especially when the pandemic closed out, they appreciate more coffee. Also, they bought a lot of machines to home. But since they bought it, and they don’t know what they can do with it, so they want to live, they want to invest and they want to really have this cup of coffee for [their] family and the people around them. So that’s the time that I did this webinar and online training. Even [though] it’s online, at least they know how to have this cup of coffee within their family. And here in the UAE people are starting to listen and explore and train and educate themselves, even in coffee.
Dhiren: [28:57] Yes, I know there’s a big movement in coffee in the UAE. It’s happening now over the last few years, which is why we’re doing this special series on the podcast as well because there’s a huge fan following for specialty coffee. I want to ask you a couple questions. So look COVID-19, as you said, changed everything, not only for you, for the whole world, and you took a lot of steps back to reimagine what the future looks like. That’s a very challenging thing to do. Where do you get your inspiration to do this kind of thinking?
Nooran: [29:27] The time that we all slowed down, and we are stuck at home, no travel, no movement, we have this moment of silence, the moment of calmness, God gives you this intuition to do something. I started to read. Before COVID, maybe I finished one book [in] six months. Six months to finish one book, imagine. But with COVID-19, I started to read. I started to listen to [my] inner voice, to listen to even some of the webinars, some training, online courses. So when you start to grow yourself, to listen, it shows you the direction. You should take an action and God will give you a hand. He will give you something maybe with that and you will send me some voice message, I don’t know. I remember you called me and you told me about if we will shift to online or something. So God will give you a lot of sense through life and you should take it and do an action. And this is my inspiration, from listening to [the voice] within myself and listening to the intuition that God gives you. My grandmother, she had this quote actually, “You are creating God that’s creating you. He will not ever let you down.”
Dhiren: [30:55] He will never let you go. Yes.
Nooran: [30:57] He will give you a hand. He will give you direction. Just believe in yourself and step forward.
Dhiren: [31:03] Amazing. And now with COVID, you mentioned everything shut down. What was your team doing? How were you managing business? I guess what I want to ask is, this webinar that you were running, was this bringing in money for Coffee Architecture?
Nooran: [31:15] Actually, first when we were shutting down, the most important thing really I was concerned about my team. Are they healthy? Are they good? This is the biggest fear I had. So imagine all of them, they will be sick or something happened. This is the moment that I start to do an online meeting with them. Every two days we do a meeting because we shut down for two weeks actually. Even the government didn’t allow block time from eight and 10. But I decided to shut down for two weeks to get everything cleaned. With my team, we are sanitized and even within my team and everything. So this is the moment that I connect more with my team. As an entrepreneur or a business owner, when you have this chaos or something happened, this is the time that you should show up. This is the time that there is a connection between me and the team that we need to trust each other to [move] forward from this pandemic. And when they see that the owner or the leader of the coffee shop or any business, that we care about them, and we give them the best solution, they feel close and they can do more and even innovate. They innovate a drink. I never ever imagined it would be the best seller in Coffee Architecture. And we call it Anti Corona.
Dhiren: [32:53] That’s a very creative name. And so they launched this new menu item during COVID or after COVID?
Nooran: [32:59] Within the COVID situation. It’s a cold drink, and we can send it to the customer at their home [by] delivery. So people love it and we survived with this COVID-19 pandemic actually. We engage together to change the mission, vision and value of Coffee Architecture, and we start to do the operation system. We standardized everything because we know business is slow but we have a lot of time and they are sitting at home. So this is the time that we create and innovate and systemize everything.
Dhiren: [33:37] I want to go back two steps there. You said something so powerful, that despite the hardship, despite the challenge, the entrepreneur, the leader needs to show up. No matter how tough the situation is, if you show up and you do things, even if they are right or wrong, doesn’t matter. But if your team sees that you’re here and you’re running, and you’re managing and you’re working, moving forward, they will follow. And I think that is very important. And that’s a great way to handle no matter what challenge comes up, whether it’s COVID, whether it’s something else in the future, that showing up– And maybe you don’t know the answer. Maybe you don’t know the right way forward but as you are together, things will always get sorted. That’s a very powerful thing. Thank you for sharing that. Obviously, COVID-19 has become a challenging time for everybody. I want to hear from you, what is going to happen for Coffee Architecture in the future? You’ve tried now doing online courses, you’ve tried your e-commerce. Where are you heading now in the future? What is your plan for Coffee Architecture?
Nooran: [34:36] With this COVID-19, I don’t have any plans. Everything has changed actually, you know? Every day when you [wake] up, there is something new coming up. Before, I had like one year plan, two year, with this situation, I really don’t have any plans. But my plan is at least this year we are safe, together, and also inshallah, we open up Coffee Architecture and Mamsha end of this year, a new location.
Dhiren: [35:10] Why did you decide to move?
Nooran: [35:12] The move is because of our current location, it’s a little bit difficult to reach and a lot of customers complain about that. They want easy access, at least there is a proper parking area and then they can come and enjoy the coffee. All of them have this hard time to reach. With the Al Reem Island location, it’s fine for me, and even [though] it’s fine for Coffee Architecture, sometime you should exceed yourself and raise your bar, even if it’s higher price premier location now in Abu Dhabi. But when you feel that your customer deserves to have this better place, you can go for it. Even if it’s hard to you with capital costs and everything, I believe that really the customer deserves to have this premium location with a great cup of coffee with everything together so they can deliver their best to the community and deliver more to the world after they come and enjoy this cup of coffee, especially this location, it’s really nice.
Dhiren: [36:18] And I think you saw something that a lot of people maybe miss. Even so, what I want to highlight here is number one it’s COVID. Businesses are down and you’re taking a big risk here by moving to a new location. But I feel the reason you’re doing that is not because you want to move into a fancier place. I think you said it in your answer there. You want to create a place where your customers can come do what they do best and then create a better community. And so you said this at the beginning of the episode that coffee in the Emirati culture is all about community. Do you feel that Coffee Architecture is your answer to this?
Nooran: [36:43] Yes, definitely. You got my why now for Coffee Architecture, why we opened Coffee Architecture.
Dhiren: [36:59] That’s amazing. And I think a lot of businesses may not realize that, how they are creating and improving the community at large by doing something so simple. But like you said, serving great coffee means the people that will come will do better, and then, in turn, they will create a better community. It’s amazing. So now that you’ve decided, I asked you about your plans, you said look, you have no plans, but this is a big move to make. What do you think will happen after this move for Coffee Architecture?
Nooran: [37:26] I think we will have a better location, people will come and they will enjoy their life in Mamsha Al Saadiyat. So we will have this efficient operation with my team and within Nooran now, I will start to have a lot of training for the customer. Training in coffee, some online, some actual training in the coffee shop. I would like to let people know how to taste the coffee in a proper way, do the coffee in a proper way, even if they are at home. You have this new tool, you can do good coffee with it.
Dhiren: [38:05] Basically, even though they’re at home, you’re enabling them to learn how to make better coffee with whatever they have at home, whatever tools that they have at home.
Nooran: [38:12] Yes.
Dhiren: [38:13] And this can be a mix of online courses. This can be a mix of in-store classes. Did this idea come to you during COVID? Is that where you came up with this idea?
Nooran: [38:21] Yes. I had the idea of training people before COVID but having a lot of it coming within COVID actually,
Dhiren: [38:30] Yeah, every opportunity is a learning opportunity. Everything teaches you something new. So you talked about scaling Coffee Architecture. What are your plans to scale Coffee Architecture after this year is over, after your new location is setup?
Nooran: [38:42] Really, I don’t have an answer but the thing is why I want to scale actually.
Dhiren: [38:47] Sure. Why do you want to scale?
Nooran: [38:49] For me, I’m happy if I had one location in Abu Dhabi and really I want to have another location maybe in Ras Al Khaimah because it’s my city. Ras Al Khaimah and Abu Dhabi and I would be so good with it. Because actually, I want more connection with the customer as me, Nooran within Coffee Architecture. I don’t imagine myself to have a lot of branches of Coffee Architecture in UAE because I want it to be unique and also a neighborhood café that people are coming and enjoying and having these peaceful moments and move. This is why actually. So, maybe going to the farm because I never went to any [coffee farm], and explore about coffee and do some innovation with coffee and the coffee industry worldwide. So this is my scale. I want to scale myself and do something different.
Dhiren: [39:47] Amazing. Thank you for sharing. I know sometimes we don’t have all the answers. It’s about thinking sometimes, right? Just about knowing what you want and why you want it and the answers will come to you at the right time.
Nooran: [39:59] Yes.
Dhiren: [40:00] Nooran, I want to start wrapping up, so I have a couple more questions for you. Number one, you’re on The Elevated Entrepreneur podcast so I want to ask you, what does it mean to you to be an elevated entrepreneur?
Nooran: [40:13] For me, it’s doing the thing that they love and accept the failure – whatever happens in life – and to pursue their dream.
Dhiren: [40:25] I love that answer. Even though it was very simple, I think you’ve said quite a bit. Number one, do what you love, and have the passion and the courage to follow what you love. And then second, take that passion and dream big because you’ve said in the episode already that things will happen at the right time. God will help you get there but you have to dream for it to happen.
Nooran: [40:46] Yes, and also accept the failure. There are a lot of failures happening in our lives, to accept whatever failure comes into my life and move forward. Life is so short, especially with COVID-19 happening, with this pandemic. It’s really short. We don’t know what will happen tomorrow even.
Dhiren: [41:06] And again, there’s one more important lesson here, right? It’s not only doing what you want or doing what you dream about or dream big, but it’s also giving yourself permission to fail. Giving yourself the ability to say, “It happens. Everybody makes mistakes.” A lot of times, me included, I feel like, “Oh, I should not have done that. That was a big mistake.” But sometimes it’s okay. You give yourself permission to say, “Yeah, that’s fine. I made a mistake, so big deal.” Okay, I want to ask you two more questions. You’ve mentioned you read a lot, and on this podcast, I always believe that reading books is the best thing that we can do as people because the more we read, the better we get. So I want to ask you, do you have any recommendations for other entrepreneurs listening to this show?
Nooran: [41:46] This is the first book I read and it changed my life actually. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. It was [such a] powerful book. And also The 7 Habits, Stephen Covey, and High Performance Habits by Brendon Burchard. It gives you the techniques to be a high performer and stay within your A-game.
Dhiren: [42:11] That’s amazing. Nooran, last question. Where can people find you? If they want to connect with you how can they come to you and how can they come to Coffee Architecture?
Nooran: [42:20] By social media, I have @coffee_architecture on Instagram and also then my Instagram @arch83, that’s my personal. And also my LinkedIn, Nooran Al Bannay. Facebook, Coffee Architecture, or also Nooran Al Bannay. They are welcome and I will be happy to answer any questions. And we are Coffee Architecture in Al Reem Island, Mangrove Place in basement one. So there is parking within the building but you should go and tell the guard, “We are coming to Coffee Architecture” and he’ll give you a parking area there and you will go to the basement, we are opposite to the [inaudible 42:58].
Dhiren: [43:00] It’s a beautiful location and I invite everybody who’s listening to go take a visit, and come see you and obviously have some amazing coffee.
[43:11] If you haven’t already, please consider subscribing to The Elevated Entrepreneur show at elevated entrepreneur.fm or wherever you’ve been listening to this episode. And finally, if you would, please do leave The Elevated Entrepreneur podcast a review so that you can make it easier for other entrepreneurs to find this show. Thank you, much love and I’ll see you in the next one.