Growing Small Businesses Globally - Augusto Carneiro, owner of Nossa Familia Coffee

Brazilian entrepreneur Augusto Carneiro moved to the U.S. to complete his education at the University of Portland. He stayed to grow a coffee empire. 

“By the early 2000s, more and more customers were curious about where coffee comes from,” he said. “I was like, ‘We have this direct source through our family’s farm. It could work.’”

In 2004, Carneiro and a friend each put $400 into a bank account. They paid $50 to register the business, spent $400 on raw coffee beans and $300 on air freight to deliver those beans to Portland. Nossa Familia Coffee (Our Family Coffee in English) was born.

The firm’s name Nossa Familia is fitting. Carneiro’s business is built on his family’s story. While the family’s Brazilian coffee farms make up the core of the coffee bean import business, Carneiro has cultivated relationships all over the world, and now his company sells coffee from Guatemala, Nicaragua, Peru, Kenya and beyond. 

Despite the competitive coffee market, Nossa Familia has become a Portland staple. At first, Carneiro had his cousin in Brazil roast their beans then ship a finished product to the U.S. Now, the company has its own roasting facilities here. In addition to selling coffee wholesale to grocery stores, restaurants and bars, Nossa Familia operates two Portland retail locations (with another on the way), plus one in downtown Los Angeles. Nossa Familia employs over 35 people and will roast more than 350,000 pounds of coffee this year.

Recently, Carneiro started thinking about growing his business outside the U.S. When it came to exporting, one model that appealed to him was licensing the brand. Nossa Familia would ship green beans out and allow companies to use their roasting recipes.

But Carneiro knew he needed an export plan. That’s where Greater Portland Inc’s Growing Small Businesses Globally export training scholarship came in. With the help of expert advisers, Carneiro was able to get the guidance and advice he needed to grow his business outside the U.S., even while continuing to open retail locations stateside.

Carneiro said his export advisors asked him questions that forced him to think about things he hadn’t considered, like how to promote his product once he enters a new international market. “Meeting with people early in my planning process has helped me realize we need to think through our strategy and we need to do more market research on the ground,” he said.

Through the Growing Small Businesses Globally program, Carneiro realized there were more resources available to him than he had thought. For instance, through the U.S. Commercial Service Golden Key program, the U.S. embassy in a foreign country will perform local market research for a new business for a nominal fee.

He was also impressed to learn that Business Oregon, the state’s economic development department, has a Tokyo office that can help Oregon based firms connect with the Japanese market

The advising sessions helped him realize that he still had more homework to do, but overall it was hugely beneficial.

“I definitely walked out of there knowing much more, and knowing what support programs are available to entrepreneurs preparing to export,” he said.

Lloyd Purdy, Vice President of Competitiveness at Greater Portland Inc, praised Carneiro for thinking ahead. “He invested time to think critically and strategically about how international markets can grow his business,” Purdy said. “That kind of forethought is really crucial to a successful exporting operation.”

Upon completion of each training, counseling and advising session, Growing Small Businesses Globally entrepreneurs like Carnerio also receive a contribution to a travel fund to help cover the cost of their first international sales experience. Success in international sales requires a plan. The goal of this program is to prepare entrepreneurs for international sales in advance of their first international deal.

Greater Portland Inc is working with the region’s export partners — including the U.S. Commercial Service, the Small Business Administration, the Small Business Development Center and Business Oregon — to deliver the essential education business owners need before they embark upon their first international sales experience.

Through an export advising passport, created for this program, each participating entrepreneur advances through a self-guided curriculum using this array of export advising services to prepare for international sales.