Featured Alumni Entrepreneur: Alyza Bohbot ’08


City Girl Coffee is a brand of the Alakef Coffee Roasters corporation owned and operated by Martin J. Whitman School of Management alumna Alyza Bohbot James ’08. City Girl is a socially-conscious coffee company, which uses as much women-sourced coffee as possible from women-owned or run coffee farms. A portion of sales from each bag sold is donated to organizations supporting and empowering women in the coffee industry in their countries of origin.

Roasted in Alakef’s USDA organic certified facility in Duluth, Minnesota, City Girl offers small-batch blends, a number of which are fair-trade and have earned the USDA Organic Certification that verifies the beans have been produced without the use of pesticides or herbicides. City Girl Coffee beans are carefully selected to ensure they come from farms owned or managed by women and ensures the money earned from each sale supports these women and their surrounding communities. Bohbot thoroughly researches all importers and exporters so that she knows the origins of the beans.

Bohbot previously served as vice president of marketing on the board of the International Women’s Coffee Alliance (IWCA). Founded in 2003, the IWCA is a global peer-to-peer network of women volunteers working in all aspects of the coffee industry who advocate for women – from seed to cup. Members help provide access to information, support and resources along the entire coffee supply chain.

Through her IWCA involvement, Bohbot learned some startling facts. Seventy percent of the world’s one billion poor are women and women own less than one percent of the world’s titled land (source: IWCA). The World Bank estimates more than 500 million people worldwide are dependent on coffee for their livelihood. Of that number, 25 million are coffee farmers, with women representing a significant percentage of those growers.

Bohbot also realized that women growers face gender inequality issues, which are compounded by their effort to maintain a respectable standard of living. She believes that, as a woman business owner in a predominately male-driven industry, she is in a position to make a difference — and that is exactly what she is doing. For example, she recently co-founded an organization that will raise funds for scholarships to help other women looking to gain knowledge and enter the coffee industry. Additionally, Bohbot works with the Café Femenino Foundation, a nonprofit with a mission to enhance women and families’ lives in the coffee-producing communities throughout the world.

Bohbot continues to benefit from what she learned while enrolled in the retail management program at Syracuse University and applies that knowledge to her current role as CEO of Alakef Coffee Roasters and City Girl Coffee. A well-rounded education in sales, market research, accounting — and even an introduction to legal issues — has been extremely applicable to her daily tasks of running a company.

Alyza Bohbot
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