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After a year of fast growth, here’s what’s challenging Kahwa now

Margie Manning

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The past year has been a whirlwind for Kahwa Coffee Roasting Co.

In January, Kahwa moved into a 20,000-square-foot production facility in St. Petersburg, more than three times the size of the company’s previous space. It’s grown both its consumer and business-to-business operations.  The 13-year-old Kahwa has 15 retail locations and 750 wholesale accounts, as well as a growing grocery store presence.

Sarah and Raphael Perrier at 1 Million Cups St. Petersburg

Now, the biggest challenge is finding workers to staff its retail stores, work in production and fill corporate jobs, said Raphael Perrier, who co-owns Kahwa with his wife, Sarah Perrier.

“We’re growing so fast we need people to work for us,” Perrier said at 1 Million Cups St. Petersburg, where the company provides free coffee every week. “It’s a great economy right now, I guess everyone is saying, but it’s also a terrible economy to hire people.”

One key area of growth has been in grocery stores. Local coffee companies increasingly are moving into supermarkets, as the public becomes more educated on specialty coffee, Forbes reported.

Kahwa coffee is served in 15 Publix Super Markets in-store cafes, and the company has a presence in 25 Publix stores, Perrier said, through the in-store cafes or on the shelves, where bags of Kahwa coffee are sold. It’s also in nine Whole Foods Markets in the Tampa-St. Pete area, and will be going to all of the 23 Whole Foods statewide. The company recently introduced its products in all 27 Lucky’s Markets in Florida, and is talking to The Fresh Market, Perrier said.

“It’s a business that we keep on pushing,” Perrier said. “It’s not new in the coffee business, but it is for us. We wanted to make sure before we did that, that our name was big enough to be able to sell coffee. It’s one thing to be on the shelves and sit there. It’s another thing to get on the shelves and actually sell the coffee.”

Kahwa launched a $6.5 million capital raise a year ago. It’s almost completed, Perrier said on Wednesday.

“We’re not in a rush. It’s not something we need. A lot of companies, when they do a capital raise, they need it. We don’t need it, we just want to do it to get to the next level. It’s almost done,” Perrier said.

As the company grows, it’s putting increased focus on philanthropy, Sarah Perrier said. Instead of giving away free coffee on National Coffee Day on Sept. 29, Kahwa donated $10,000, the proceeds from that day’s sales, to three local nonprofit organizations, she said.

The nonprofits were Where Love Grows, Blessings in a Backpack Pinellas County and All Faiths Food Bank, according to Kahwa’s Facebook page.

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