Coumba Ndao, Founder of GOffee – born to two Senegalese parents and was raised in Paris, France. Her childhood was traditional, but she stayed in touch with her parents’ heritage and visited Africa very frequently when she was younger. She studied in France and also attended school in Spain. Coumba lived in Dubai for a few years where she enhanced her appreciation for different countries and cultures. Her multi-cultural upbringing gave her a worldly perspective that she brings every day as the CEO of GOffee.
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Table of Contents
Let’s learn a little about you and really get to experience what makes us tick – starting at our beginnings. Where did your story begin?
Coumba Ndao: For me, going back to my roots in Senegal has always grounded meme. It’s a great reset button. In other places, I sometimes feel the need to “keep up” with others. I occasionally found myself wanting a “lifestyle” that others convinced me I need. Going back to Senegal often makes me realize the importance of staying true to who she is no matter where I am in the world.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Coumba Ndao: Unfortunately, I didn’t have a great mentor, and I had to figure almost everything out by myself. As I immigrated our family to NYC, my husband’s colleagues were very helpful with my administrative tasks upon arrival, but after that, I was mostly on my own. My husband was extremely busy in his new role, and I essentially pulled out a map of the city and found a place to live based on the little I knew about the area.
Like I said, right as I was beginning to develop relationships, the pandemic made me feel even more isolated. I take great pride in my adaptability. This move was extremely difficult, but I learned that I can always depend on myself and my resourcefulness. Instead of leaning on someone specific to help me answer all of my questions, I turned to strangers here and there, the internet, and my own trial and error.
What are the most common mistakes you see entrepreneurs make and what would you suggest they do?
Coumba Ndao: I think a lot of “mistakes” I see from other entrepreneurs or other first times CEOs are to spread themselves too thin. It’s normal to want to protect costs but you do need help and asking for it is not a weakness or a sign you can’t do it Sometimes your time is better spent elsewhere.
Resilience is critical in critical times like the ones we are going through now. How would you define resilience?
Coumba Ndao: Resilience is one of my core virtues and these past months (soon to be years) have tested every fiber of it.
Resilience is a state of mind, allowing you to keep your course while you face opposite winds or adversity. We set a course for GOffee to change the world of coffee forever and introduce waste-free coffee habits. Although COVID pushed our plans and raised very tough walls for us to break, I continued to lead the company in its mission.
What is most important to your organization—mission, vision, or values?
Coumba Ndao: Values, no doubt.
GOffee believes in his people from delivery, barista, marketing, sales, intern. Everyone is treated as an equal member of the company. We care deeply for each other and that allows us to treat our customers even better.
What do you consider are your strengths when dealing with staff workers, colleagues, senior management, and customers?
Coumba Ndao: I have used my success to bring harmony to my team and those around me. I come from a country where everyone lives equally and equitably regardless of what we look like or where we come from. Here, I sense a divide between people due to their differences, and I work tirelessly every day to embrace the diversity around me and unite others. Treating others with respect transcends all languages and borders, and I believe everyone deserves a seat at the table. Although I am able to do this on a small scale (among my co-workers, neighbors, and even strangers), I believe in this sentiment with the utmost sincerity.
What have you learned about personal branding that you wish you had known earlier in your career?
Coumba Ndao: Invest early in Social media and Building a network!
Doing that while scaling your company is very time-consuming and sometimes confusing! So start now
How would you define “leadership”?
Coumba Ndao: Leadership is a combination of internal and external trait of you personality:
- Internal: you need to have clarity in your actions and your words as they will impact people around you. So being able to channel your emotions is key
- External: Express yourself clearly, carry your energy level, and don’t look for external validation.
It takes time to build so start with the internal focus and the external will follow.
What advice would you give to our younger readers that want to become entrepreneurs?
Coumba Ndao: Not to sound like a skeptic, but everything isn’t possible in the US if you are not willing to really, really work for it. If you want to live the American dream, you truly need to have a great idea and/or even greater passion. Making ends meet here can be quite challenging, and you need to provide a compelling value add in order to earn your way.
For example, I started working with GOffee when our business model was strictly B2B, and the pandemic ruined our main source of revenue. Companies that had worked with us for many months began canceling their subscriptions as they sent employees home. I could have given up, called it quits, and abandoned a sinking ship. Instead, I got creative and helped redesign our entire company to focus on B2C relationships in the residential market. I helped turn a seemingly hopeless situation into a year with revenue four times higher than the last.
What’s your favorite “life lesson” quote and how has it affected your life?
Coumba Ndao: I traveled to America thinking that things would be okay for me because I spoke English. I didn’t realize that people would have a hard time understanding my accent or that I would have such a hard time understanding how fast they spoke. The one practical asset that I thought I had quickly become a struggle. Don’t assume anything about America until you arrive, because your perceptions may change instantly.
I had to adjust my easy-going lifestyle to one of speed and urgency. I recognized how different the culture was and how quickly I needed to adapt. One day, I found myself lost on the metro again. I asked people near me for directions, but everyone seemed too busy in their own activities to hear me. I had to do many things on my own, and I am still learning how to keep up. Stay on your toes and always be ready for change.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Coumba Ndao for taking the time to do this interview and share her knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Coumba Ndao or her company, you can do it through her – Linkedin Page
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