İley Özerlat-Gündüz is a person who is excited, energetic, glutton of punishment and collaborative entrepreneur. She is a member of a family who has made a great effort to Turkish coffee for a century. She is in a position to present Turkish coffee to London-centred Europe thanks to predecessor habit and her knowledge. We talked about improving her family business with İley who works hard to introduce Turkish coffee into the world and see value. Course, we drank a cup of coffee during conversation.
How did you shape your life from Cyprus to London?
I have been in Cyprus until end of high school. I was applying educational grants in the USA at the same time. Then I won and departed when I was 16 years old. I went to Minnesota City in the USA from +20 degree to -20 degree. It was both climate and culture shock for me. I lived in there for 4 years. Priory, I just went to Turkey except Cyprus. I have made friends from each corner of the world.
I went to study international relations; but then, I took biology courses to make something I like. I noticed my attention and switched to biology department. In the last year of collage I went to Virginia where my husband studied at. Then, I was curious Europe and I chose England for my doctorate. My husband also made the job applications in London. So, our road turned to Europe. I took doctorate on breast cancer at Imperial Collage.
It finished in 2008. Then I realized I wouldn’t like to be an academician, but I loved science. My writing motivation started when I was writing up my thesis. I looked for an alternative job. Then I worked at Nature Publishing Group as editor. The term of editorship took 4 years. It was a different experience. I achieved intersecting with my education and a creative discipline. I worked together with masters who are an expert on therapeutic approaches. I felt I benefited the field which I made a great effort, in each article. After some time I began a quest.
How was the transition from corporate job to entrepreneurship?
I was thinking what I can do at leisure when I was working as editor. The first thing coming to my mind was family job. We have a history related with coffee from great grandfather. He was one of the first people making an effort for coffee in Cyprus. You know history of coffee. In 1500’s (in Ottoman period) it entered the country borders from Yemen. In that time, people bought green coffee beans. They roasted in fry-pan at home, grinded coffee mill and cooked. It was certainly challenging. My great grandfather was entrepreneur person. He opened a shop under his house as answer the question of “Why wouldn’t I make prepared green coffee beans?”. Then he grinded coffee beans in mortar which roasted on wood fire. Then he put it into paper cone, fastened with a string and sold.
Pass it down to next generation…
In 1932, next generation took over this job. My grandfather was first person brought coffee roasting machine to Cyprus. Because it speeded up matters, he grew the business as buying coffee grinders. Then he applied for Derviş Özerlat Kurukahve trademark registration and he took. When he was 54 years and my dad was 14 years, my grandfather was dead. My grandmother has taken the job over temporarily until my dad complete his education. My dad went to İstanbul for university. After ending university, he turned back to Cyprus and he laid claims to job. In the same year, my dad and mom married and my mom was supportive to the job.
I guess you did not have a possibility of doing a different job as children who was born into the coffee?
My siblings and I have supported to my dad and mom since our childhood. Directing my career didn’t surprise me at all. My family business was working area which I always want to work in. We needed to wait for the right time. The process has accelerated with the support of my husband.
You have started to sell Turkish Coffee in London…
We realized first importation in end of 2013. We transmitted our original coffee like coming from Cyprus to ethnic markets which is our target market. Firstly, our target was Turkish cafes and restaurants. There are so many people in London coming from Cyprus. Because they knew the brand, communication with them was easy for us. And then, we wanted to expand our target market after we noticed that people’s interest to different kinds of coffee has increased and the coffee sector has expanded. So we built coffee taste points. As a result of the market research we realized that not only Turkish people or people who know taste of Turkish coffee but also the other people who like different coffee like our coffee. On the other hand, there are lots of people who visited İstanbul and drank Turkish coffee, in this city. Their experience is mixed blessing. Because, they didn’t know how it should be drunk. For example, some of them drank Turkish coffee with its grounds. Or if coffee was grinded thickly, they felt coffee particle, that’s not good. They had a bitterish taste in their mouth they don’t want to try again. We see that if we present the quality coffee which is made properly and introduce their properties, people listen us and they want to try it. Someone who we convinced, tries and likes our coffee.
Advising Turkish coffee to people who like Espresso
We have been in this business for a century. We have some habits and methods from my great grandfather. Because I am in the sector, I can compare us and the others. The reasons of being favoured are different… Someone is saying that our coffee is softer taste. We are brave to try different mixtures. So we are creating different flavours. It separates us from the others. For now, we eliminate the other kinds of coffee for England market to focus on Turkish coffee and to show our value. But, we still produce them in Cyprus.
It shouldn’t be easy to change habits of target market…
We have done some work to strengthen communication with European market in 2015. We are working as different company. Our logo, website, coffee mixture and packaging change. We prepare coffee mixture oriented English market. It is softer like Heritage and Mozaik which has taste between espresso and Turkish coffee. We are at the beginning of the road. We are making efforts.
The electrical devices make easier to cook. What do you think about that?
The electrical coffee pots with brand of Arzum help us in the restaurant. Because they provide fast preparation of the coffee, they promote the other restaurants to serve Turkish coffee. We try to use copper coffee pots in our promotion as much as we can. We want to show the main method of preparation of Turkish coffee. But when we made in this way, people thought that it takes forever. We offer an interaction in our promotion. We are working with Soy Turkish Company and we are using their handmade copper pots which are produced with hammered method. If someone is interested, we are inviting to kitchen and we want them to make coffee. We are making Turkish coffee in the table on small cooker. People like both taste and methods. But they are thinking that this method can be used in special day. They haven’t embrace yet they can make Turkish coffee in their daily lives. The good news is the number of people who are interested in different kinds of coffee has increased. Moreover, preparation of Turkish coffee is faster than preparation of Aeropress and Chemex coffee.
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