Q&A: A Senegalese Coffee Shop Owner Explains How She Came to be a ‘Momtrepreneur’


March 22, 2024


Business, News




(DAKAR, Senegal) – Kerya Diedhiou, a “momtrepreneur,” explains what it is like to switch careers on a whim, arrive in a new country at just 26 years old, and open Kōtao, one of the most famous coffee shops in a country she knew nothing about. Through her life experiences, moving from France to Senegal with the support of her husband and business partner and her two sons, Diedhiou, now 31 years old, shares a powerful message for anyone who wants to take a risk and start their own business. 

Below is an excerpt from her conversation with The Click edited and condensed for clarity.

The Click: You became the owner of the most popular coffee shops in Senegal at only 26 years old. How would you describe your journey?

Diedhiou: My journey is unconventional. I did not pursue my college education, so most of my experiences are hands-on. I started working at 19, at a [retail] American start-up company in Paris, at the lowest scale: customer service. Pregnant at the start of the job with my first son, I only took two months of maternity leave before I started working again.  At 21, I became the customer service director, and at 25, I became not only the director of the first shop that the company opened in Paris, but also the whole project’s manager.

You had everything you wanted at the age of 25. Why did you end up moving to Senegal and leave that amazing life behind?

Yes, I did. I had the job, an apartment in the center of Paris, my two kids, and my husband. I ended up having it all…but I was miserable. Between my 22nd year and my 25th year, I had no days off, no weekends, and was raising two toddlers. I had a burnout. And one day, I blinked and my eldest was already two and I missed his growth. My relationship also took a hit and it opened my eyes. This career wasn’t worth sacrificing my family for. So I moved. 

You’re Franco-Cambodian and lived in France. So why Senegal?

My husband, Senegalese, born and raised in France, had just come back from a trip to visit his family, and when I was at my lowest, he suggested we should visit the country. We ended up going and it was my first time in April 2018. Something shifted in me. This happiness, warmth that I felt was completely new. We had always wanted to come back to Africa but we knew it was going to be risky, because of the budget, logistics, etc. But as soon as I came back from my trip to Senegal, back in my office in Paris, I shot a text message to my boss and quit. I went home, told my husband that we are moving to Senegal, without a game plan, no business in mind, but that we could do it. On a whim, we moved in September 2018.

How did you come up with the idea of the Kōtao coffee shop? 

Also on a whim! After finding an apartment, way out of budget for us, sleeping on mattresses and under mosquito nets, Bak, my husband found this announcement of a locale. We checked it out and I fell in love. We had less than 24 hours to come up with a business plan to share with the owner. The same night, I remember telling my husband “Let’s just tell him that we will do a salad and juice bar.” That’s how the idea came to be! We opened in August 2019 and named it Kōtao, a mix of our two sons’ names. 

You opened a second Kōtao downtown, and only two years after the first one. Was it already a success as you started? What is next?

We were victims of our own success. I created an Instagram page a few days before the big opening and word goes by fast. We got kicked to the curb at the opening. We were only four and not ready at all, but we learned, and we kept on going. We were also the first to make deliveries during the pandemic. Before we knew it, we had expanded. 

As for what’s next, we only want to hone our skills and keep on developing our concept. Grow more!


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