‘Successful people focus on their goals’
By Fati Gorezi
Johanna Frost is originally from San Martin, a Peruvian coffee region and has been living in the UK for 17 years. For the last three years she has developed her love for speciality coffee and her mission is to contribute to promoting Peruvian coffee products in the UK. She now shares with us her passion for coffee and dark chocolates and some tips for small businesses. Her next step is to import speciality green coffee to roast in the UK and Europe as well as to open a coffee roastery to sell speciality roasted Peruvian coffee to the public.
How do you remember your early life?
My early life has been a blessing and an adventure! Growing up in the Peruvian rain forest as a part of a big family was a fabulous experience. There had been always adventurous trips in my grandma’s Ford truck, always initiated by my Grandma, to the forest, to the Huallaga, to the Mayo or Cumbaza rivers – which are part of the Amazon basin – where we would swim. We also had frequent trips to farms where you would go after school or at the weekend, and where you could eat fresh tropical fruits. And, of course, the most important part of the afternoon was to drink fresh coffee made in a saucepan which would always be accompanied by a yucca doughnut.
What can you tell us about your passion for coffee and dark chocolate?
Coffee is, I believe, my nature! I have been surrounded by coffee since my childhood. My grandad always reminds me of the coffee tree we used to have in the middle of our patio from which my great Nan used to pick its cherries, dry and roast them all by herself. I used to get up with the smells of fresh coffee being made by my Grandad. Sometimes, I would ask my Grandma to take me to the market (the local market would open around 5 am in the morning) were I would smell the freshly roasted ground coffee. The smell was delicious and even more noticeable in the early hours of the morning when your senses are just waking up! My trips to ‘Lamas’, a nearby picturesque town, increased my love for this beverage as the one I use to drink there had a distinctive nutty, chocolatey flavour which I still love. During my university years in Madrid, I bought my first mocha machine, which helped me to keep awake during my exam times. As a student, I would drink up to 20 cups per day. Nowadays, I visit coffee farmers up to three times per year and love to keep learning about their daily challenges and the different processes involved in the coffee industry from seed to cup.
As I was raised in the rain forest, I loved eating healthily, which included cocoa pods straight from my neighbour’s garden! Although I am proud of my diet, I have always had a sweet tooth which caused me to look for alternatives that could satisfy my cravings. I discovered dark chocolates when they first started to enter into the mainstream supermarkets. I loved them from my first bite. The good thing about them is that they are good for you – as it is considered to be one of the best sources of antioxidants. The flavours are amazing; a good dark chocolate does not necessarily need to be bitter. Normally bitter flavour in chocolate means that the coca beans have been roasted – like in coffee – to a darker profile which could masquerade the subtle flavour inside the bean. Delicatessen chocolates like the ones I am distributing from the ‘Chocolate Source Company’ will enable people to appreciate the hidden flavours like citrus and honey notes inside a chocolate bar!
You are an inspiration to many out there. How and when did your wisdom begin and what motivated you to become so successful?
I have always loved coffee to the point that it became an obsession. Some of my friends would not even offer me a cup of coffee for they considered me to be extremely fussy. A few years ago, I started to rethink what I wanted in life, but I did not know where to start or what to do! Soon afterwards, I travelled to my hometown and met a Peruvian coffee farmer who was explaining to me his plans for exporting coffee. As I was listening, something clicked inside me and I realised that coffee was the answer to one of my questions. I knew deep inside me that I needed to use my passion to become an entrepreneur and therefore be in control of how much money I can create in order to fulfil the lifestyle I wanted for myself and my loved ones.
As soon as I came back to the UK, I started to write my plan and putting it into action. My plan was to keep improving my knowledge of coffee and to build a portfolio of customers, so I could import green coffees from Peru. I began to further investigate this field and became an expert in selective and good quality coffees. I started delivering coffee workshops which led me to begin my entrepreneurial journey. I am now an intermediate or broker between farmers and coffee roasters. As coffee and chocolates go well together, I am also distributing delicatessen Peruvian and South American chocolates.
As I visit coffee farmers up to three times per year, I have become aware of the challenges regarding the quality of their crops including humidity and other problems (phenol etc.) which has led me towards a project which involves building sixty coffee drying station for farmers for the Cooperative El Diamante. My next step is to import speciality green coffee to roast in the UK and Europe as well as to open a coffee roastery to sell speciality roasted Peruvian coffee to the public.
What advice would you give to someone who is dreaming of opening their own small business?
My mum – an inspiring entrepreneur – used to always tell me to dream big! I would say that this is the starting point. Second, create a plan and start with what you have and thirdly be focused and persistent.
What is special about your lifestyle?
I would say that I am doing the things I love to do, and I am creating the lifestyle that I want. Van Gough said, “I dream my painting and then I paint my dream”. This is my rule now. I am the creator of my life with the things I love with the people I love.
What are some personal hobbies or local activities that you enjoy?
Besides coffee and dark chocolate, I love hiking. I love losing myself in the Derbyshire countryside or on a coffee farm where I reconnect myself with nature and where I let my mind go wild with ideas which later on become a reality! I normally walk between 4 to 6 miles during the week and 10 to 13 during the weekend. I am also looking to realise one of my longest ambitions: to do the Santiago walk in Spain. Hopefully I will do this soon!
In your opinion what are some of the character traits common among successful entrepreneurs?
There are many interesting traits. Some of them I have already mentioned in one of your previous questions. I have noticed that successful entrepreneurs are always doing things that are out of their comfort zone. They recognise fear as something that is always going to be there but do things regardless. Successful people are focused on their goals and objectives and take failure as something to learn from.