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Charles Asselbaye

Local Joe
I grew up in West Africa, where as a child, I was a refugee in my own country. Resilience is important, it’s something that’s ingrained in me.

About the Entrepreneur

Born in Toulouse, France and raised in West Africa, Charles Asselbaye first made his way to Hawaii 20 years ago. After working as a scientist at a local engineering company for a number of years, Asselbaye decided to follow his passion and opened Local Joe Coffee Roasters in 2015. 
Local Joe is a cozy spot located in Downtown Honolulu. In addition to a variety of freshly brewed coffee drinks, the cafe offers a wide range of organic, vegetarian, and vegan food options, all made in-house with local ingredients. Their Coffee Ripples machine is a fan favorite that allows guests to express their creativity through latte art. The machine prints the guests' design or photo directly on their latte’s foam.

More with Charles

What makes Local Joe unique?

What is unique about my business is that we are owned and operated by a Black African immigrant who’s living the American dream. We make it a point to keep everything we do in-house. Our coffee is freshly roasted, we use local ingredients, and we offer a lot of organic options, vegan options, vegetarian options. We are a place where you can come in and feel like you’re at home. It’s that perennial home away from home, basically.

What tools have you found helpful in promoting your business during this time?

We mainly relied on word of mouth for promoting our business but our main vehicle of promotion is social media. The problem with social media is that it’s difficult to tell if it's working or not because of the randomness of day-to-day flow. But, we get feedback from customers through social media which helps. The other thing is leveraging personal relationships by getting to know our community around the shop a little deeper. For example, if I run out of cups, I can run over next door to the grocery store and borrow some cups and I’ll bring it back to her the next day. We help each other out.

Any important lessons you've learned from this crisis?

One important lesson that I’ve learned going through COVID is that now, more than ever, cash flow is very important. During this time, I took a business course through a local hui and it gave me a lot of insight into how to manage what’s coming down the pipe. We had a group of local business owners who shared their stories, successes, failures, and fears. We leaned on each other, so that was really helpful for me.

What brought you to Hawaii National Bank?

The proximity and my friendship with the people who work at the bank. It just felt natural that I’d bank at a place where I know the people who run it, and where I don’t have to travel far to make my deposits. I do pretty much all my business and personal banking with Hawaii National Bank.
The biggest struggle is the fluidity of the situation. Nobody’s been through this before.
Charles Asselbaye
Local Joe

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