Meet The Latina Founders Of A Specialty Coffee Company Dedicated To Celebrating Latin American Heritage

Casa Dos Chicas Café Founders Ana Ocansey-Jimenez and Oneida Franco

For all of us coffee drinkers, we’re used to getting up in the morning, reaching for our favorite mug, and pouring ourselves a cup of joe without giving a second thought to where our grinds originated from. We need the caffeine to kickstart our day, and then we’re on our way!

But what if we told you there was a brand of coffee that takes great care to share with its customers where the coffee is sourced from and how it is made, making it part of their brand identity? That brand is Casa Dos Chicas Café, founded by accountants and mothers Ana Ocansey-Jimenez and Oneida Franco.

These two finance experts turned coffee connoisseurs have added “Entrepreneur” to their list of powerful titles as the founders of Casa Dos Chicas Café, a brand of The Whole Kitchen, which was also founded by the Latina duo.

Casa Dos Chicas Café offers organic, single-origin, specialty coffees sourced mainly from small, family-owned farms or multi-family cooperatives across Latin America and the Caribbean including the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Colombia, and Peru. Through Casa Dos Chicas Café, they are dedicated to celebrating Latin American heritage while promoting equitable, sustainable practices along the entire coffee supply chain.

We loved the sound of this company (and it made us immediately want to drink a good cup of coffee!) so we had the chance to speak with both Oneida and Ana about the origins of the business, how they are working to lift other Latinas in the business world, and why representation is important to them.

How did you two first meet and decide to go on this entrepreneurship journey together? 

We met in New York City while working together in corporate accounting. We hit it off and quickly became friends! Soon enough we began a tradition of drinking Cuban cafecito in the breakroom during the afternoons which continued for the next 4.5 years. 

We decided to embark on this entrepreneurship journey when we saw how we could impact people’s lives while fulfilling our own. Ana put our first financial model together and we said “Let’s do this!”

Can you tell us where the idea for Casa Dos Chicas Café came from, and where your love of coffee originated?

The idea of Casa Dos Chicas Café was nurtured through the building of our friendship, sharing our cultures through foods, and drinking cafecito during our time at work. We even purchased an electric greca/moka pot to make the afternoon brews, which we still have and will soon be framed. 

We went our separate ways as we continued to develop our careers but stayed in touch. We would continue to see each other often for lunch and would of course enjoy our coffee and dream of the future. The love of coffee came from our families tradition, we have countless stories that our Dominican and Mexican parents shared with us and we now share with each other. 

Ana had been taking different coffee courses and learning as much about specialty coffee as possible. Through that we made great connections with people throughout the supply chain. We saw the inequalities throughout it and decided we wanted to influence and do our part. This along with showing people how the third wave of coffee is changing the coffee scene, we saw a gap where we could educate on what specialty coffee is, why it is special, and how they too can have it and enjoy it.

This new venture is part of The Whole Kitchen brand. Why is expansion important to your business, and why should all entrepreneurs keep expansion in mind as they climb the ladder of success? 

The Whole Kitchen is the mother company and it was a concept that Oneida had been developing since her daughter was 2. We loved it! 

Change is good and growth is natural. It is not easy, but it is important to always strive to grow and expand because if not the business will begin to fizzle and can die. Growth does not necessarily mean just the revenue line, it comes in various places, from impact, knowledge, the service getting better towards the customer, using technology better. There is always room to grow.

We were only able to host one The Whole Kitchen event because COVID hit. We had to hold and that is when our focus shifted in launching Casa Dos Chicas Café as a brand of TWK. Expansion is important, but knowing when to pivot if something is not quite going as planned with what you are doing is vital. Planning ahead and having a vision is imperative.

What are some of the cultural traditions you are both bringing to CDCC and excited to share with customers? 

We have many things brewing (pun intended)! One of them is bringing back traditional Latin American ways to prepare coffee – of course you will see Mexico and Dominican Republic first. We partnered with Colamo Café, an artist from DR that makes the most beautiful traditional cafeteras. We will have our collaboration for sale soon on our site.

Through our work and offerings, we are highlighting at-home coffee preparation methods and the attentive cultural traditions that our mothers, tias (aunts), and grandmothers taught us when it comes to serving our guests. We are bringing back the moment of simply pausing during the afternoon while having a cup of coffee. The western culture often leaves us tired after a long day with no opportunity to simply sit down and have a conversation along with a cup of coffee. 

Where is the coffee sourced from? 

All of our coffee is sourced from specialty coffee farms that are situated high in mountainous regions throughout Latin America. Cafenyolli is sourced from the Soconusco region in Chiapas Mexico. This area is the southernmost part of both the state and country and is known for its rich soil and lush vegetation. Cibao is sourced from Jarabacoa, which is located in the center of the Dominican Republic.

Most of the coffee that comes from DR comes from that area. Kojee is produced in the Sierra Nevada in the Santa Marta region in northern Colombia. The farms here are very remote and high up that it is often difficult to call due to lack of signal. Kaphiy comes from Jeun and San Ignacio, which are provinces in Cajamarca Peru. 

Latinas are one of the fastest growing demographics of business owners in the United States, yet there is still a lot of work to be done in terms of closing the wage gap, pushing back on discrimination, and creating more visibility. How do you hope to change the status quo with your businesses? 

While offering delicious single origin coffee, we are on a mission to empower women in the coffee supply chain. We want to work on closing all the gaps. 70% of the labor in specialty coffee is done by women. We are working to purchase directly from women farmers as much as we can. We successfully made our first purchase from Denis Goyes in Colombia.

We, as Latinas in accounting, also experienced this same discrimination and wage gaps, and are now dedicated to changing that for other women like us. We lift each other up and do our part. We are purchasing women-made coffee and roasts, and hiring Latinas and women of color – working elbow to elbow with awesome professionals in various fields, such as our PR, Business Development, and even our retail and wholesale clients.

Can you each describe your perfect cup of coffee, where you like to drink, and how it frames your day as an experience? 

Ana O: My perfect cup right now is a french press in the morning. I like to drink it on my terrace after I have watered my plants. It gets me ready to start my day.

Oneida F: My perfect cup right now is making it in the cafetera that I got from DR with the painted jarrito. It is the old school way of making a pour over.

What have been the biggest lessons you’ve learned as entrepreneurs since starting CDCC and The Whole Kitchen? 

We feel like we’re learning something new every day! One lesson for sure is that things will most likely not go as fast as you plan. You might think you will break even in 3 months, but it may take 6 months. We’ve also learned that every person you meet is vital to your business in some way, be it small or big. A lot can come from a simple conversation or a phone call.

For any aspiring entrepreneurs reading this, especially Young Latinx entrepreneurs, what is the best advice you an give them when starting out? 

Find what you love; not a business to open. If you love it, the funding will come, the clients will find you. It is unclear whether passion drives business or if business drives passion. Regardless, passion is needed.

Where do you see yourselves in 5 and 10 years time? 

In 5 years we will see Casa Dos Chicas Café in every major city. In 10 years we will have a global reach with cafes and a flagship in Miami.

Learn more about Casa Dos Chicas Café and purchase your favorite roast via the website. You can also follow the company on Instagram.