Jairon Francisco started a coffee processing business in the Dominican Republic before winning a Chevening Scholarship that brought me to Kingston University. Now studying MSc Engineering Projects and Systems Management here at KU, Jairon entered Bright Ideas and won £1000 for the best idea in the ‘STEM’ category!
Jairon, please tell us about your idea.
In the Dominican Republic, I was working with a new idea of modifying the flavour of the coffee using fermentation. As soon as I arrived in Kingston I decided to continue with my experiments and ordered some crops and fresh cherries from a greenhouse project in the UK. I found the coffee fermentation really complex and started researching more about the process. Places like Kingston University Library and The British Library suited me well: by having the opportunity to access to hundreds of articles about coffee and fermentation, I felt it was even easier to achieve my desired results.
What inspired you to enter Bright Ideas?
Since I came to the UK I have been meeting new people and growing my network. People often ask me what I was doing before coming to UK and also what is next for me. When I tell them I was opening my business their faces exhibit this expression of amazement, because the most of the people understand how laborious and challenging is that first step taken into the life as an entrepreneur. They know. So they ask. And I answer. I tell them that I have to make the best of my journey in UK and relate it all to my business. I could not say no to the Scholarship, I knew this would be aligned to what I wanted to do. So getting into the Bright Ideas competition was part of giving meaning to this UK experience. I was not expecting to win, I wanted the experience. I achieved more than I wished for.
Jairon, how do you feel about the judging process and the feedback you received from our judges?
I feel honoured and I feel great because my first judges were young entrepreneurs and businessmen and they looked thrilled by my idea. At first, I think they were a little worried because I wanted to modify the flavour of their coffee. They wanted to debate with me and then I could explain freely the complex terms of the biochemistry of the coffee. They listened to me and provided good insights about the viability of my product in the market. The second group of judges were older and more experienced in different fields. I was shocked when they asked me more about the science behind my experiment with key questions. They looked to me like they had some background experience in Science and Management. Their insights were more straightforward to the product and the patenting. I think the contest was very transparent, smart; I would not change anything regarding the judging process. It was perfect!
What are you most proud of?
Personal milestones like presenting my idea, getting out of the comfort zone, I was even sick with the flu the day of my training and during my final pitching, but I decided to overcome that and continue to the end to get the best out of myself and the most out of the experience. The feedback I received, especially coming from people with the reputation of those judges, is like gold for me.
What do you aim to do with your winning from bright ideas?
Let’s say I won some really important contacts: people. I was approached by two potential investors. I also found three participants who are coffee lovers, one of them owns a farm in India, the other one owns a coffee shop in Turkey, and the other wants to study biotechnology and wanted to meet me. Those are more important winnings. The money would help me to order some sensors I could not afford before. I will continue adjusting the software that controls the fermentation tank prototype.
Looking back, what would you have done differently with your idea?
I think I still lack some important knowledge in some fields of biochemistry. I wish I can do more because I am just approaching what I know until know, and sometimes I feel limited by my own knowledge. There are more problems in the coffee industry, a lot more. I wish my idea was capable of solving them all.
How do you feel about the overall experience of Bright Ideas?
It was amazing. It was so amazing that I keep telling everybody that I will open every door I can open from now on and if those doors are not to be open, once in a while, I will knock them up.
How did Enterprise and Kingston University support you in developing and growing your ideas?
Enterprise gave me training for free, an opportunity to meet amazing, successful entrepreneurs and experienced investors. They gave me the opportunity to pitch my idea to the public and gave me a voice. I was put in contact with investors. I don’t think I could ask for more.
“There is this moment in life when you finally understand why going through it was the best choice ever” – Jairon Francisco