Meet the Coffeepreneurs® Behind Arwa Yemeni Coffee
Texas Coffee School recently spoke to co-founder of one of DFW’s buzziest new coffeeshops, Yazan Soofi. Yazan is one of our former students in the 3-Day Coffee Business Master Class and the co-founder of Arwa Yemeni Coffee in Richardson, Texas. When he and his wife Susan Shihab, sister Nora Soofi, and her husband Faris Almatrahi opened Arwa in December 2022, they were quickly embraced by local Tik Tokers, bloggers, large publications, students, families, and a diverse group of loyal customers. We asked Yazan to share Arwa’s inspiring coffee shop success story–as well as the years of planning that took place before Arwa opened its doors.
All four of the Arwa co-founders also have full time jobs. With backgrounds in biomedical engineering, marketing, mathematics, and computer science, coffee may not seem like the next logical career choice. For years, however, Yazan experimented with Yemeni roasting and brew methods at home. He made traditional Yemeni drinks with family recipes and served them to friends and family. Over time, this passion for coffee and Yemeni culture turned into Arwa.
Arwa Yemeni Coffee: Coffee Shop Concept
As one of the first countries to make coffee, Yemen has a rich coffee history and culture that’s been little known to American coffee drinkers. As the co-founders worked on their coffee shop’s concept, design, menu, and business plan, they shared a common goal:
“We wanted to teach people and have them embrace Yemeni culture–and transport them to a different country,” Yazan shared.
Customers find this intention in nearly every detail of the coffee shop–from the menu to the furniture to the aroma. Everything in the shop serves a purpose, including the name: Arwa was the first hujjah queen in the Muslim world and a strong female figure in Yemeni history.
The decor includes arches, mosaics, murals, honeycomb-shaped floor tiles (you’ll find Yemen sidr honey on the menu and for sale), and various seating areas, including a traditional “jalsa” communal seating area in the back. The light fixtures feature wicker “madhallas,” hats that Yemeni farmers wear.
Of course, customers often notice the aroma before they even see the decor. Arwa imports beans from Yemen, roasts them in-house, and infuses aromatic spices like cardamom, nutmeg, and cinnamon into many of their drinks. The two most popular menu items include the Yemeni Latte, which is a spin on a traditional latte with house spice, cardamom syrup, honey, and an iconic camel stamp. The other is the Adeni Tea, similar to chai, infused with Yemeni spices.
Planning, Strategy, and Attention to Detail
Before we talk about the line that wraps around Arwa on weekends, the TikToks that sent the soft opening viral, or the fact that they haven’t even had to start marketing, we need to talk about the planning behind Arwa’s success.
It took five years from the time the owners first thought about opening a coffee shop to the time they opened their doors. Much of their success can be credited to the thought they poured into creating a unique and intentional business concept. Here’s how they spent that time:
- Developing the Concept: This included fine-tuning their idea for a Yemeni coffee shop, considering their unique business values, and bringing their ideas to life through the menu, design, and customer experience.
- Focusing on an Audience: Originally, the owners hoped to reach college students at two major local universities as well as the middle eastern population in North Texas. (They succeeded–and also found an audience far beyond these two demographics.)
- Finding a Location: They chose a location in Richardson, TX positioned strategically between the two large universities they hoped to serve. (This also helped with staffing, as most of their 15 employees are college students.)
- Perfecting the Menu: The team spent a year on the menu alone, working in family recipes, traditional Yemeni drinks, coffee shop classics, and hybrids.
- Building Out and Curating the Coffee Shop: With a solid plan in place, now they could put it into execution with the right location, a thoughtful menu, and all the details they knew their customers would appreciate. The build out took about 8 months.
- Hiring and Training: The owners still have full time jobs, but spend a lot of time at Arwa. In addition, they hired a full time manager and 15 (mostly part time) employees. They offer the same hospitality to their employees as they do to their customers–a strategy that’s helped them build a positive culture.
North Texas Embraces Yemeni Coffee
In the few months since Arwa has been opened, they’ve experienced huge success. To launch, they had a soft opening on a Wednesday. Customers were wowed at the experience. They took to TikTok and other social platforms to rave about Arwa. “For the rest of the weekend, we had lines out the door and around the corner,” Yazan shared. And it hasn’t slowed down since.
Local profiles have called Arwa a “hidden gem,” “inviting,” and “a captivating escape.” But in our opinion, there’s no better feedback than from the customers themselves. Most reviewers not only praise the concept, but also the customer service and experience.
“We try to teach Yemeni hospitality. In our country, someone would offer their last piece of food to their guests,” Yazan shares. This theme shows up both in review after review.
Advice for Future Coffee Shop Owners
Despite this early success, the owners of Arwa are always looking for ways to make the coffee shop even better.
“We’re perfectionists!” Yazan laughs, but it seems to be a strategy that works for them. Only a couple of months in, they’re envisioning what expansion looks like. There is already demand for their coffee beans–even talk of the next location in DFW.
What can aspiring coffee shop owners learn from Yazan and his co-founders? This is what they shared:
- Budget More: “Plan for the worst! Run your numbers 10 times. Build out will be more. Time will be more. Equipment will be more.”
- It’s a Huge Commitment: “Be ready to dedicate your whole life to opening your coffee shop.”
- Stick to the Details: “Our goal is to constantly improve and to find everything we can do to improve. Continue to find ways to be more efficient and make things easier for yourself.”
- Enjoy it! “Build an environment where you’d be happy, and your employees and customers will be happy as well. We are naturally very friendly in personality and culture. We try to practice Yemeni hospitality in everything we do.”
Start Your Coffee Shop Journey with Texas Coffee School
Bring your coffee shop concept to life at Texas Coffee School. From barista skills to business plans, we teach you everything you need to know about opening a coffee shop. Join us in our next 3-Day Coffee Business Master Class.