I first met Davina and Gulaid Ismail at the grand opening of their coffee shop Ini Sips in January 2020. I learned about their company through their Instagram page and began following along just before the opening of the shop. They were opening in my hometown and within minutes of where I live. I was excited to check out this new small business!
I also learned about Gulaid’s military service at the grand opening. His service became a theme in their business. They shared cards that had descriptions of their coffees on one side and excerpts from a diary he kept while oversees. He was sharing his story and his service in a unique way. I quickly knew this was going to be a special community place. The coffee was also amazing
Over the next few weeks, I would stop in to grab a coffee (I am a fan of the Salted Caramel flavor and the new Irish Cream is amazing as well). During my visits I would often chat with Davina about a range of topics including our goals, my teaching schedule, and how we could support each other. I even held my first book signing for “Progress not perfection: A millennial’s story” at their coffee shop. All of the guests at the book signing quickly became fans of Ini Sips. A week later our lives would change.
Book signing event @ Ini Sips in March 2019
In March 2020 our visits had to stop when stay at home orders were put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With the coffee shop closed indefinitely Davina and Gulaid focused their attention on online sales. They were successful and came up with an idea to support front line workers.
Early in the shutdown they offered a special where if a customer purchased two 12-ounce bags of coffee they donate one to first responders. Through this special they were able to deliver coffee to front line workers throughout central Connecticut. This included hospital employees, police departments, fire departments, and schools. For their support of the community, the community supported Davina and Gulaid through purchasing their coffee and teas.
During the time of the pandemic Ini Sips grew. In addition to their online store, they began selling their coffee through local partnerships and retailers. Their coffee can be found in Big Y, West Hartford Co Working, Avon Prime Meats, Hartford Prints, The Crafty Toolbox, Essential Health, Olive & Henry and Angelo’s Market.
With all of the success they have experienced, Davina & Gulaid never forgot where it all started. In 2021, they plan on doing even more community outreach. This husband-and-wife team continue to inspire me every day. They are an excellent example of team work, community leadership, and dedication to a goal.
My favorite way to start the day :)