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HomebusinessCatherine Mahugu: Software Engineer Revolutionising the Coffee Industry With Tech-enabled Coffee Brand

Catherine Mahugu: Software Engineer Revolutionising the Coffee Industry With Tech-enabled Coffee Brand

Catherine Mahugu, a software engineer by profession, is the founder of Chiswara, a tech-enabled specialty coffee company launched in 2018.

The company offers an equitable coffee experience for both local farmers and global consumers, and has worked with big corporations including Alibaba and UNCTAD.

In an interview with Lionesses of Africa, Mahugu noted that the idea to start the company was birthed in 2017 when she was selected among 24 African entrepreneurs to visit Alibaba’s HQ and learn about the digital economy.

She stated that the establishment of the company was fuelled by financial and digital inclusion that Alibaba has created in rural parts of China.

“Chiswara works in favour of the rural coffee farmer by selling specialty Kenyan coffee to the world. Chiswara aims to bring inclusive economic development to coffee farmers in Kenya through our online platform

“By drinking Chiswara speciality coffee, you participate in an industry-wide movement towards fair compensation, gender equity and a democratic voice. A transformation crucial to the sustainability of coffee & the welfare of the farmers who produce it,” she said.

Mahugu also disclosed that women are the force behind the company, and their consistent contribution has led to the company’s growth.

“They strongly believe that Chiswara can bring social and economic change to the coffee producers who act as the stewards of both quality and productivity,” she sared.

Adding, “In order to achieve Chiswara’s goal, we are looking to hire people who want to rewrite the African narrative. We want the continent to be synonymous with premium and luxury products such as Specialty Kenyan coffee roasted at Origin.”

With a background in software engineering, Mahugu also noted that she has been passionate about technology and gadgets since she was a kid.

“My fascination with technology led to my pursuit of studying computer science as my main degree. I was introduced into the world of Entrepreneurship while pursuing my studies,” she said.

As an entrepreneur, Mahugu also noted that her journey has not been easy, especially because it is a male dominant space.

“Being young, female and in a male-dominated industry did not make it any easier. Raw endurance, perseverance and passion kept me going despite obstacles. Fast forward to my world of today. I’m reaping the fruits of the seeds that I planted several years ago,” she said.

Other than Chiswara, Mahugu is also the brains behind Soko which has contributed over Ksh 128 million in the artisanal network within East Africa.

Iconic women such as Michelle Obama, Lupita Nyong’o, Nicole Kidman, Oprah Winfrey and Emma Watson have been styled with Soko’s jewellery.

“As fate would have it, I’m going back to my roots, I may not be a farmer but I come from a generation of coffee farmers and I believe that change– social and technological change is needed to ensure the sustainability of agriculture,” she said.

Moving forward, Mahugu is hoping to revolutionise the coffee industry.

“My vision is to champion new ideas that transform society’s systems, provide benefits for everyone and improve the lives of millions of people. As a change-maker, I believe in disrupting the status quo in order to achieve social justice,” she said.