When Hurricane Ida hit New York City, nobody, especially 24-year-old UR student and owner of Don Carvajal Cafe, Hector Castillo Carvajal was prepared.
Carvajal’s company had just moved into their new warehouse location three weeks prior to the hurricane that hit their East Bronx location in late August. The company faced losses of $10,000 to $15,000 and had to stop operations for a week.
“Whether it’s people’s homes who got flooded and they lost everything or people’s warehouse and businesses who were affected by it […] I think it was one of those things where people didn’t really know what was happening and then when it happened, it kind of hit everybody by surprise, just kind of like us,” said Carvajal. “I think people weren’t informed correctly on the magnitude of what it could have been and then it was much bigger than what a lot of people expected it to be.”
Due to the flooding, shipping equipment, machinery, and parts of the warehouse were severely damaged. Carvajal and his team have spent the past few weeks repairing the damage and replacing equipment.
On his first visit back to the warehouse, Carvajal was shocked by the aftermath of the flooding. “It was kind of hard to believe, you know what I mean, because I had just fixed it and set it up,” Carvajal said. “I was just in disbelief and at a loss for words.”
At the time of this publication, the company has resumed supplying orders and is in the process of shifting to another warehouse location.
Carvajal started Don Carvajal, an ethically sourced sustainable coffee company, in 2019 from his second floor dorm room in O’Brien Hall in Jackson Court. The idea of the company germinated from a project he undertook in his MKT 203: Principles of Marketing course. Students had to create marketing and business plans for company ideas they had for the course. Castillo later turned his class project into a full fledged e-commerce coffee business that initially used coffee beans from Costa Rica. Now, they’ve added beans from Brazil, Colombia, and the Dominican Republic.
According to Carvajal, the Ain Center for Entrepreneurship and iZone were crucial resources for him when starting the business. The guidance and support he received from the two departments enabled him to understand the intricacies of running a business.
Carvajal is currently on a leave of absence from the University and is unsure when he will return to complete his two remaining semesters. With the rapid expansion of Don Carvajal Cafe, he plans on focusing on the company for the foreseeable future.
As the company looks forward to moving to a new location later this year, Carvajal reflected on the events of the past month:
“The goal is to kind of look at situations to prevent it from happening again,” Carvajal said. “Typically we don’t get a lot of hurricanes in New York like Ida, but you know, taking into consideration [the whole situation] we’re trying to find ways to avoid damages like that from happening again.”