Marta Piigli: A coffee lover with business sense
Marta Piigli began her career in coffee as a communications manager. She has found her true calling in business management and she encourages all baristas to acquire knowledge about running a business. Love for coffee is important, but it is not enough to keep a business going.
“My suggestion to any barista or café worker is to follow your heart and be inspired by what you do and how you can influence others. Most of all, I enjoy the people and their passion in the world of coffee,” Baltic's Commercial Director of Paulig’s Out of Home business Marta Piigli says. She started in this position about a year ago.
Piigli believes that inspired people also have a greater desire for learning, which in turn provides the motivation to strive for more.
“The key to success is to be open to self-development, learning about coffee but also about how to sustainably run a business. You should focus on understanding how to satisfy your customers’ needs. There are a lot of new cafés popping up and the key to success is to find the right people with the right knowledge to support you. It pays off to do your maths and to take courses in how to run a business, so that the love for coffee does not turn sour with financial struggles.”
There are many career pathways in coffee and many ways to play a role in the beans’ journey from the farmer to the barista.
“Every single professional plays a big role in creating the final moment of enjoyment. Coffee is a great source of energy, but it also has a great story that should be told. I wish everyone who enjoys coffee also gets more knowledgeable about coffee,” Piigli says.
Winning cup tasting championship
Piigli’s coffee career started as a communications manager in 2007 at Vendor Estonia, which is today part of the Paulig Group.
“Organising the 2007 Estonian Barista Championship took me closer to the whole barista business. I need to thank Alf Kramer, the former President of Speciality Coffee Association of Europe, for recognising my talent in coffee and asking me to take part in my first competition, the Estonian Cup Tasting Championship, the same year. To my surprise, I won the competition.”
"The key to success is to be open to self-development, learning about coffee but also about how to sustainably run a business."
“After winning the championship, I was lucky to train with one of the best cuppers, Paulig’s Head of Cupping Marja Touri. I went on as a rookie to represent Estonia in the World Cup Tasting Championship and attended many other championships after that,” Piigli says.
She has always been drawn to people, experiences and challenges.
“I have followed my heart and tried different roles including singing and TV hosting, but coffee and people and the business around it have fascinated me the most and kept me hooked for over a decade already. The food and coffee business has this certain je ne sais quoi that makes you fall deeply in love with it,” Piigli says.
Career led to leadership position
During her years in the coffee business, Piigli has been in many different roles.
“The possibility to experiment and perfect my skills and knowledge has been a key factor in keeping my coffee pulse high. Although my first degree was in communication, it became clear to me that leadership and business management is my true calling. My second degree was already in business management and my lifelong learning continues,” Piigli says.
"Leadership is all about people and the same applies to every barista who leads consumers in search of great experiences."
As a leader of the Out of Home business in Baltics, her work entails tailoring solutions for Paulig’s business customers, including not only high-quality coffee but also everything else required for a wonderful coffee experience: equipment, maintenance services, financing options, sales support and coffee-related personnel training.
“My work day revolves around people. I need to develop the business by keeping the consumers’, customers’ and employees’ needs for experiences in mind and make all stakeholders feel content. This demands an understanding of the overall picture, clarity in communication, and the ability to assess development needs and opportunities to create an enjoyable journey for each individual and the whole organization,” Piigli explains.
She likes to have a clear goal in mind.
“I like to dream of the future. The possibility to visualize a goal, plan and set out to accomplish it, gives me energy.”
Piigli emphasises the meaning of great teams on her career.
“Recording an album with a band, competing in barista championships with the help of the whole national team, achieving business targets with my team – all my happiest moments have been team efforts and I love the feeling of shared happiness and achievements. Leadership is all about people and the same applies to every barista who leads consumers in search of great experiences.”
Know your coffee, know your business skills
Piigli thinks that knowing the substance of your business allows you to make decisions quicker and to draw from a wide range of options and solutions.
“When I say substance, I mean coffee, but also market knowledge, consumer insights, customer needs and other business skills.”
"Like any skill, preparing great coffee needs constant practice."
She feels that barista skills give her an understanding of customers’ everyday struggles.
“Compared to a barista selling coffee to a consumer, the B2B sales process is more complex. The customer’s business needs have to be met first in order for the barista or a barista-machine to be able to hand the final cup over to the consumer.”
Piigli still practices her barista skills.
“Like any skill, preparing great coffee needs constant practice. When I go too long without practice, I can feel tension building up. My passion for coffee is going strong!”