Proudly a New Orleans original, Bissap Breeze is a non-alcoholic beverage, with a smooth blend of brewed hibiscus flowers, organic blue agave nectar, natural extracts and spices.
Husband and wife team Esailama and Tyrone were first introduced by Abdoulaye “Papa” Camara, a native from Senegal and one of the founders of the Sengalese National Dance Company. Esailama explains that their mom and pop company is a perfect marriage of her business administration background and her husband’s entrepreneurial skill (he has had a successful line of oils, incense, and shampoos as an herbalist for over a decade). Camara introduced Esailama, a dancer, and Tyrone, a drummer, and was a mainstay in their lives and the New Orleans cultural community for many years. Camara was stranded for many days after Katrina and died from complications caused by cancer not long after being evacuated and returning to his native Senegal. The couple sees their company as part of a cultural and vocational heritage he bequeathed to them. Six years after Katrina, some of Tyrone’s family are still displaced. Esailama explains that the company melds together family traditions and culture, and their product includes spices that have been passed down in the family for many generations.
“Bissap” is a West African word for “hibiscus.” In many cultures globally, the hibiscus is valued for its medicinal properties. High in antioxidants and vitamin C, the Bissap Breeze product can be used as a tea, in cooking, or as a cocktail mix. The company launched its first product sales of Bissap Breeze at the French Market during Jazz Fest weekend earlier this year, and the company has rapidly expanded. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of each bottle are used to support the performing arts and ensure that the cultural legacy of dance and music live on in New Orleans.
This Kiva loan will be used to purchase organic agave, the most expensive ingredient in the product, as well as for marketing expenses and working capital. “We’re not just out to make a product,” says Esailama, “but to us this is about creating something that is life-giving."
About ASI Federal Credit Union
ASI Federal Credit Union has been experiencing an increased rate of defaults. This is possibly related to the experimental nature of the loan products the organization provides. In order to serve asset-poor communities in New Orleans -- including many still recovering from Hurricane Katrina and the BP Oil Spill -- ASI offers loan products designed to help people start and grow businesses even if they don't have extensive collateral, credit histories, or business experience. For these reasons, these loans also carry a higher level of risk than typical loans on Kiva.