Pete Owiti is the founding director of Pete’s Café – a restaurant and coffee shop along Chania Avenue in Nairobi that is well known for its breakfast burritos. He co-owns the establishment alongside Frank Molla.
Pete made the decision to start his own business in 2005, resulting in the founding of the coffee shop and restaurant. From a store inside the iHub that used to keep techpreneurs caffeinated, the establishment has grown to have four stores.
He developed a passion for the coffee businesses working for some of the leading companies in the coffee industry locally, Java House and Dormans Coffee. While at the companies, he picked up crucial experience that paved a path for his own success in the industry.
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“I was in charge of opening new café locations hence I gained the experience and courage to start my own café. I resigned from a good position as the Business Development Manager for Dormans Coffee, bought a 2 Group Espresso Machine and started off at one the International Schools in Kenya with a small coffee counter serving the students and teaching community,” he told Coffee Magazine in 2020.
After leaving Dormans, Pete started a coffee counter in 2007 and relocated to Kisumu. However, after three months of operating the business, chaos broke out in the aftermath of the 2007 General Election and he lost everything.
He did not know where to start and so, returned to Nairobi. While he pondered going back into employment, an opportunity to set up a cafe once more arose after tech community, iHub sought to have an eatery operate within their space.
In an interview with How We Made It In Africa in 2014, Owiti credited the success of his business to the start-ups that surround the cafe, and the supportive tech community.
“We have been an integral part of the iHub and the technology community here. We have watched each other grow. Companies like Kopo Kopo (a merchant payment platform) started with a team of four. They drank our coffee and we were one of their first clients. We kept them caffeinated, now they run an established business,” he explained.
Pete describes the early days at iHub as “planting season”, revealing that he and his wife did eight hour shifts to ensure that techies were caffeinated. Though the period had its fair share of challenges, he notes that the business brought them a lot of joy.
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“I have been privileged to serve coffee to big shots from Nokia, Samsung, Google… they have passed through here and one thing they resonate with is coffee, because it is universal. We always strive to give them a good experience,” he said.
The entrepreneur noted that the tech community attracted a number of high profile individuals including chief executive officers of multinationals who visited the cafe while there.
While starting out, he noted that the main challenge he faced was getting malls and landlords to give him space since they only wanted established brands as their tenants.
“But things have turned around and now malls are approaching us to take up space in their facilities. People have begun to recognise Pete’s as a name in the market.”
Pete’s Café serves one of the best coffee in Nairobi. The menu at the establishment is extensive with lots of multi-cuisine options for all types of food lovers. The decor is upscale with attractive colour choices and seating areas indoors or in the garden perfect for a date, family day out or a business meeting.
Those who would love to enjoy quality Kenyan coffee at the comfort of their homes can even buy some roast coffee beans at this establishment.
Pete stated that the coffees used at the Café are sourced from local farmers and hand roasted and delivered to them in small batches to ensure freshness and quality.
“After cupping, we roast them in Medium to Dark to ensure we have a balance of acidity and body. We prefer a Kenyan Coffee any day, but we keep rotation with other east African coffees just to offer variety to our customers,” he explained.
The entrepreneur noted that Kenyan Coffee is unique to other coffees in the world due to its special cup qualities – it’s very aromatic, with a lively, bright acidity and smooth floral undertones.
Pete explains that his day begins at 6 am every day with prayer and devotion before he heads out to work. The businessman visits all the four locations before the end of the day and sometimes stays till late to ensure that everything ends on a high note.
According to the businessman, one of the benefits of his line of work is getting to meet people from different walks of life on a daily basis. It offers a platform to connect and reconnect with people.
Pete further advises that, “Success is a product of diligence and hard work – it doesn’t come easy. Put your heart into it and follow it through.”
To succeed, Owiti states that one has to;
- Dream Big or Think Positively!
- Hire a great team and be a support to your team – they will do you proud
- Love what you do
- Patience is a virtue… As they say, Rome was not built in one day! Be patient with yourself, your staff, and the business
- Have the right partnerships – they will either make you or break you.
“My highlight has been the ability to reach rock bottom in business with patience and determination, and still be able to bounce back again. I also enjoy hearing customers affirm to us that we are doing a great job and are proud of us.”