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How Bob Marley's Son Learned From Failure And Started A Multi-Million Dollar Coffee Company

How Bob Marley s Son Learned From Failure And Started A Multi Million Dollar Coffee Company Co Exist ideas impact


Marley Coffee is still a relatively small company, having churned out $6 million in revenue in 2013. But founder Rohan Marley, one of Bob Marley's children, has big plans for his Jamaican-born coffee business.

In 1999, Rohan Marley was 27. He had played linebacker for the University of Miami before moving on to the Canadian Football League. Now he found himself in New York City, wanting to do more with his life--to make a name for himself as a Marley.

Then, in a serendipitous twist, a friend contacted Marley about an opportunity to purchase a property in Jamaica. Though he'd only lived in the country as a child before moving to the U.S. at age 12, Marley had recently received $200,000 in royalties from his father's music. So he made a trip to Jamaica to look at the property, and couldn't believe what he found.

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It took him a decade to figure it out.

It was a long haul from the initial coffee-growing idea to creating a functional business. Marley spent eight years applying for an export license, organic certification, and a coffee-growers license. The learning curve was steep.

"I gave my coffee to a roaster in Jamaica--I gave him 1,000 pounds--and he never returned the bag. He said it was all bad coffee," Marley remembers. "I decided this wasn't working for me. I told the farmers, 'Take all the raw materials, sell it, do what you need to do to keep the farm going.'"

Between 2004 and 2006, Marley helped his sister start a clothing company, which eventually ran out of money and shut down. Marley once again needed to reevaluate his life. He packed two duffel bags and headed to Ethiopia.

When he observed that Starbucks was buying coffee from the country, he had an idea. "I'm like, wait a minute, Starbucks is sourcing coffee from all over the world--why do I have to stick to my country Jamaica when Jamaican coffee is so expensive?" he says. "We're not trying to just appeal to a niche market."

It was there, in Ethiopia, the birthplace of coffee, that Marley decided to rekindle his business. And once the learning curves were overcome, it turned out that Marley's land was able to produce some high-quality Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee.

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