Boon Boona owner, Efrem Fesaha wins Washington Small Business Person of the Year

The East African-style coffee shop has locations in Renton and Seattle.

Boon Boona owner Efrem Fesaha. (Screenshot from U.S. Small Business Administration website)

Boon Boona owner Efrem Fesaha. (Screenshot from U.S. Small Business Administration website)

The U.S. Small Business Administration 2022 Washington Small Business Person of the Year is Efrem Fesaha, CEO and founder of Boon Boona Coffee in Renton.

Fesaha is also the 2022 Pacific Northwest Small Business Person of the Year, selected among state winners from Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington, making him one of 10 finalists for the SBA National Small Business Person of the Year Award.

Founded in 2012, Boon Boona Coffee began sourcing fresh “green” coffee for distribution among Seattle-area retail stores with the goal of opening a brick-and-mortar location to house their own café and roastery. In 2022, Boon Boona is now roasting more than 100,000 pounds of coffee per year while employing a staff of 20 across two locations.

Fesaha found inspiration for Boon Boona while visiting family in Eritrea in 2011. Frequenting local cafés and immersing himself in East African coffee culture was unlike anything he had experienced while growing up in Seattle.

Eleven years later, Fesaha has remained true to his roots with a dedication to sourcing fresh coffee beans from African producers and exporters, forging long-term relationships with partners in Ethiopia, Rwanda, Burundi and Kenya.

According to the SBA, Fesaha “maintains a commitment to creating positive impact through sourcing from women-owned growers and by positioning his café and roastery as a safe space for building local community.”

The SBA Small Business Person of the Year award – part of National Small Business Week May 1-7 – recognizes small business owners who demonstrate staying power and substantiated history as an established business with at least three years of business operation. Winners must also show growth in net worth and business expansion, increase in jobs and sales, innovativeness of products or services, response to adversity, and contributions to community-oriented projects.

“Winning this award is recognition to all the people that have contributed to our success,” Fesaha said. “This has been a long journey, and I am so grateful to everyone that has worked to get us where we are today.”

Facing initial rejections from many lenders, Fesaha utilized free and low-cost business mentoring through SCORE and the Washington Women’s Business Center to develop his business plan. In 2019, Fesaha was able to secure a $100,000 SBA loan with Craft3 to open his first café and roastery in downtown Renton.

Following a successful first year in business, the COVID-19 pandemic posed many new challenges. Fesaha credits SBA’s COVID-19 recovery programs for the support he needed to stay afloat. The SBA Paycheck Protection Program provided funding to bring his staff back to work and the COVID Economic Injury Disaster Loan program provided the cash flow Fesaha needed to maintain the health and safety of his customers and staff while adapting his business model to ongoing challenges.

“If it wasn’t for the relief we received through these programs, our business may not be here today,” Fesaha said.

Looking forward, Fesaha is focused on the original mission behind Boon Boona Coffee. Fesaha continues to foster economic growth in the regions where he sources, while offering the café as an inclusive space to host local artists, musicians, and non-profit organizations.


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@bellevuereporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.bellevuereporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in News

File photo.
King County Council approves creation of Cannabis Safety Taskforce amid rash of dispensary robberies

The multi-agency task force will cooperate to find ways to improve safety in the cash-only industry.

Screenshot from ORCA website
New ORCA system launches for regional transit across the Puget Sound

Overhaul includes new website, mobile application and digital business account manager.

Judged by XII: A King County Local Dive podcast. The hands shown here belong to Auburn Police Officer Jeffrey Nelson, who has been charged with homicide in the 2019 death of Jesse Sarey.
JUDGED BY XII (Episode 4): Foster mom wants accountability in Auburn cop’s upcoming murder trial

Special podcast series explores Auburn Police Officer Jeffrey Nelson’s role in the death of Jesse Sarey.

The Newport Team launches their rocket. Courtesy of AIA.
Newport High School team crowned National Champions at American Rocketry Challenge

The team will represent the United States at the International Rocketry Challenge this July.

Screenshot from Bellevue School Foundation website
Bellevue Schools Foundation to study affordable housing in the community

Research made possible with $250,000 grant from the Amazon Housing Equity Fund

FILE PHOTO: King County Sheriff’s Office deputies.
Dozens of King County Sheriff’s Office employees left jobs instead of getting vaccinated

This added on to the existing number of vacancies in the department.

Courtesy of Bellevue Downtown Association
Bellevue Downtown Association to host 15th Annual Bellevue Jazz & Blues Music Series

The event will be from June 1st to 5th and will feature over 25 artists.

King County logo
King County audit finds backlog of property tax exemption applications for seniors, people with disabilities, and disabled veterans

The auditors found that program expansions lead to three-times the amount of applications.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson (Screenshot from video press conference)
AG announces $518 million settlement from pharmaceutical companies over their role in opioid crisis

Most of the settlement money will be used to mitigate the opioid crisis in Washington.

Most Read