Vol. 127 - NO. 39

Blog Startup CPG

SINCE 2019

Scaling a
Childhood Memory

Rahim Diallo is the Co-Founder of Ginjan Bros, a 100% organic and non-gmo cold pressed juice and made from ginger, pineapple, lemon, vanilla, and anise.

The Start

In Conakry, Guinea, when the kids had a break from classes to buy lunch from nearby street vendors, the food varied, but the drink was always the same. The ginjan, or ginger juice, came in a long, thin, plastic bag. You’d bite off one corner and suck the liquid through the ripped hole. At least that’s how Rahim Diallo remembers it. Together with brother Mohammed Diallo, he helped found Ginjan Bros, Inc in 2014.

Wins Along the Way

The brothers, and the brand have come a long way since then. The novelty of the plastic bag has been replaced by design forward and African-inspired packaging. Launching the drink at a Harlem Street festival in 2015, today, Ginjan is sold in Whole Foods Markets across New York City and Westchester. It is also available online through FreshDirect, Amazon and at drinkginjan.com. The beverage is also proud to be part of the Facebook Campus in New York’s beverage stable. In 2016, Ginjan won the coveted Fedex Grand Prize Winner of the Small Business Grant, held annually, out of more than 2000 entries nationwide. A month later, beat out over 500 entries for the American Entrepreneurship Award. And a few weeks after, Ginjan launched in its first Whole Foods Market in Harlem, the company’s home base. Since then, they have won bronze in the retailer’s Local is Best awards for the entire Northeast region. In the spring of 2018, Ginjan became the first African brand to showcase at the James Beard Awards in Chicago, marking a sea change not only for the brand, but for African flavors in the United States at large.

While Ginjan has been featured in notable outlets such as Bon Appetit, Food & Wine and The New York Times, podcasts are by far Rahim’s favorite platform for sharing the brand’s story. The highlight was being featured on NPR’s “How I built This with Guy Raz”. As an early investor in Ginjan, Wendy Williams featured the drink on her daytime talk show, introducing it to an entirely new audience. This has helped the brand’s direct-to-consumer efforts, propelling them to sell and ship to 48 states, including Canada and Mexico. This has inspired them to expand offerings on the website, and they have since added the Afrique coffee white label blend by La Colombe as well as a second beverage called Ginjan Bissap — a refreshing hibiscus based drink made from African Sorrel.

Hasn’t Always Been Easy

The Ginjan journey hasn’t always been easy. Mohammed and Rahim started Ginjan with just $200, making the first prototype batches in their small New York apartment. Finding investors willing to take a gamble on young immigrant entrepreneurs of color has been a considerable mountain to scale, too. Despite the initial, and on-going challenges the brothers have persisted — with inspiring self-accomplished outcomes. Most recently, with the opening of the first Ginjan Café in Harlem, NYC.

The Ginjan Café has been a dream since the beginning of their journey, opening in August 2019. Now, having a survived a global pandemic, it is still the cornerstone in the historical Corn Exchange Building on 125th Street. It is the flagship of the brand, serving Ginjan organic ginger and together with La Colombe, premium African coffees as well as Harlem-made pastries. In July 2021 they joined forces with a local chef to offer African-forward, modern lunch dishes and ancient grain bowls.

In October 2021, the brothers are opening a second Ginjan Café in BedStuy, Brooklyn, serving the same mix of innovative offerings that made them famous in Harlem.

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