Alumni Spotlight: Meet Jocelyne Kamikazi

When Jocelyne Kamikazi immigrated to the U.S. from Burundi in search of a better life, she didn’t envision going to college or starting a business. Not only has she earned two college degrees, she and her husband have opened a café in Portland.

Jocelyne, her husband, Andre, and their 4-year-old son arrived in Portland as asylum seekers in 2006. They lived in a shelter before moving into an apartment, finding jobs and settling into their new lives.

Jocelyne came to SMCC to brush up on her English skills, and ended up enrolling in the Business program. She graduated in 2013 and continued her education at the University of Southern Maine, where she earned a degree in Business Management with a minor in Accounting.

She and Andre were inspired to open a coffee shop so they could help Jocelyne’s father and other coffee growers in Burundi, who were abandoning the coffee business because prices were so low. Jocelyne figured if she could buy directly from the coffee growers in Burundi, they might be able to make enough money to stay in business.

Jocelyn and Andre opened Burundi Star Coffee on St. John Street in Portland in March of this year. But just days after opening, they had to shut down because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

They were able to reopen in June, and their customer base has slowly grown. In addition to coffee drinks, their menu includes food items such as sambousa, avocado toast and banana soup.

With all of the challenges brought on by the pandemic, Jocelyne hasn’t been able to buy coffee directly from her father and other growers in her homeland. But she’s confident that day will come. For now, she and Andre are trying to grow their business.

“I’m just so thankful to all the professors at SMCC who gave me the foundation that has helped me open a business and feel confident that I can do it. SMCC was really my foundation.”