Buying a bag of coffee can be tricky. Whether you’re deciding based on the flavor profile and tasting notes on the bag, the design and aesthetics of the bag itself, or just looking for the cheapest option, there are plenty of factors to consider when walking down the coffee aisle (remember when that was a thing?). But Rod Johnson and Pernell Cezar, the founders of BLK & Bold, want to make your life a little easier.
Not only do they make delicious coffee (the Rise & GRND blend and the Limu, Ethiopia single origin are two of my favorites), but better yet, the coffee you’re buying is instilled with a purpose. Five percent of all profits are donated to initiatives across the U.S. to assist disadvantaged youths. On top of that, all coffee is fair trade certified and BLK & Bold is a B certified corporation. You can buy the coffee on Amazon, as well as in Whole Foods and Targets across the country.
I spoke with the founders about their journey into the coffee business, and the social impact that is at the core aspect of their business model.
Chowhound: What’s the origin story of BLK and Bold?
BLK & Bold: BLK and Bold started two years ago and since then we’ve hit the ground running. We started this endeavor with the intent to support our community. It was very important to us to do this by way of products we love. We were looking to branch beyond our corporate careers—and we wanted to do it with a product we’re passionate about and have a social impact model at the core of it all.
CH: Can you tell me more about the social impact piece?
BB: Five percent of our profits are contributed back to initiatives that support domestic issues. We do that by partnering with nonprofits that are keenly focused on enhancing workforce development, eradicating food insecurity and homelessness, and trying to sustain general after school programming for at risk youths.
CH: You’re both from Gary, Indiana, and you roast in Des Moines, Iowa. Is that where you’re funding these programs?
BB: We selected a combination of both local and national organizations. Our national partnerships are synonymous with where we have retail distribution via our partnership with Target.
CH: Why coffee, besides that you really like it?
BB: There’s a loyalty of consumers to coffee products, and we wanted to create something that conscious consumers could feel good about purchasing, no matter where they are. Being from Indiana and having a low socioeconomic environment our whole lives, the more we succeeded the more we wanted to focus on not losing touch with our community. And so the product side of it stemmed from wanting to build something that had an economic engine to sustain itself long term.
Everyone has their own journey with coffee, and the more I drank it, the more questions I started to ask: how is this crop harvested, how is it actually made? And then of course you actually get into the economic environment of the coffee industry as a whole and a lot more questions come up.
We know the coffee industry isn’t perfect and so we had to ask ourselves: how do we play a role in this? We source our coffee traders as much as possible. We also have a direct relationship with importers.
CH: Besides all of the amazing social justice work associated with the coffee, what makes your coffee stand out?
BB: We are the only natural processed coffee that’s nationally distributed, especially in big box stores like Target. Naturally processed coffee is you know, how it was discovered. They didn’t have washing stations and all of that stuff, and so part of it was trying out the product we wanted to sell, learning more about it, and we realized wow, naturally processed coffee is so much better. And so we’re allowing people who couldn’t be part of the demand cycle to have access to this coffee and bringing it into the mainstream. We’re also the only Black men in the mainstream coffee business.
CH: Way to bury the lede! And if that wasn’t enough, you’re using your position to do good, something you don’t see a lot of corporations doing.
BB: Yeah. In April, we sent care packages to individuals that were impacted by COVID and $5 of those care packages went back to No Kid Hungry, which has local boots on the ground across the U.S. prioritizing feeding lunch to kids who, you know, don’t have access to schools anymore and were on free and reduced lunch. Guess who that impacted more severely? Black children. And so we decided to build this campaign around them to support them through this time. And that’s really the focus of all of our initiatives, helping support the over-indexed and most vulnerable communities, which oftentimes in this country happens to be Black children and their families.
CH: How essential do you think it is for corporations to be overtly political?
BB: It’s essential. There weren’t coffee shops, or coffee brands, or brands really that represented us. The reality is there’s this urgency of people wanting to do something, especially right now, which is excellent, but it’s important to not stop there. You need to keep building on it and not slow down because we are so behind as a society on how we better represent our people, and so we need to learn how to do that.
Black lives matter. Text DEMANDS to 55156 to sign Color of Change’s petition to reform policing, and visit blacklivesmatters.carrd.co for more ways to donate, sign petitions, and protest safely.
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Header image courtesy of BLK & Bold