Two brothers hope to encourage farmers in Yemen to switch from producing a harmful and addictive local narcotic called Qat/Kat to producing high-grade Yemeni coffee plants and living a healthier, drugfree life
Combine a sense of charity with the knowledge that millions of people in Yemen are suffering under the weight of narcotic addition and civil war and what do you get? You get fresh and original entrepreneurial ideas for helping both the people of Yemen and the country itself. And, at the same time, you get a business plan that launched the Al-Aqeeq Coffee Company.
The genesis of this concept began with the mid-eastern country of Yemen. Located 8500 miles from Houston, it is one of the poorest countries in both the Middle-East and the world. The country has been devastated by both civil war and the widespread use of a narcotic derived from a large shrub called the Khat shrub. The shrub’s narcotic, cathinone, a Schedule 1 psychoactive drug according to the US Controlled Substance Act, is produced by the plant. The plant’s leaves are chewed by users who accumulate and hold a quantity of leaves in their cheeks. This small bunch of leaves gradually deteriorates and releases the drug, which then enters the body. The narcotic’s effect is to produce a mild ‘high’ and render the individuals unable to work or to maintain a normal, healthy lifestyle. Time magazine (August 25, 2009) estimated that as many as 90% of the men and 1 in four women in Yemen use this narcotic. The widespread addiction and the ongoing civil war is so debilitating that the country is held in a perpetual state of poverty.
After visiting the country and seeing, first hand, the devastation brought about by war and narcotics, two Houston teens, brothers Hasan and Hussain Rangwala, wanted to find a way to help the people of Yemen rise from poverty and addiction. They developed the idea of selling high-quality Yemeni coffee in the US. The excellent Yemeni coffee is known as one of the richest and most highly prized coffees in the world. However, because of its scarcity, it is not as well known in America. The goal is to build sales volume which would have the effect of increasing the demand for Yemeni coffee at the source. With increased demand and fair pricing, farmers in Yemen would be motivated to remove the narcotic-bearing Khat shrubs they are currently growing and replace them with Yemeni coffee plants. Selling coffee beans provides more profits for the farmers than the narcotic-producing bush. Marketing the coffee in the US helps close both the distance gap between peoples as well as the poverty gap in Yemen itself.
But, as every entrepreneur knows, turning an idea into a project and then into a working business takes tenacity and persistence. The pair persevered and convinced their father and mother, Amir and Zahra Rangwala, to support their plans. Their father, a petro-physicist with a major Houston oil company, agreed to finance the enterprise. Their mother, Zahra, an entrepreneur in her own right, agreed to build the website and handle the marketing program. Zahra Rangwala owns and operates a boutique digital agency (K Business Solutions Inc.) which provides marketing, e-commerce, and logistical support to businesses in Houston and Nationwide. The brothers selected the name Al-Aqeeq as the brand name for their coffee in honor of their mother. The entire business is a family effort.