The black-owned coffee firm that became a bestseller
Pernell Cezar and his business partner Rod Johnson who own a coffee and tea business together become the number one bestseller on Amazon in the US.
Pernell and Rod, both 33, are childhood friends who grew up on the same block in the blue-collar city of Gary, Indiana. Two years ago they set up a coffee and tea business together – Blk & Bold. Today it is believed to be the first nationally distributed black-owned coffee brand in the US.
They started the business at Pernell’s home in Des Moines, Iowa, with the aim of not just selling quality coffee and tea, but also of doing good. They would donate some of their profits to charity. “The idea was to take the affinity for this daily ritual of coffee or tea drinking, and make it so that anyone could participate in the social impact model,” says Rod. “That’s at the core of what we do. We give 5% of our profits to organizations that support at-risk youth.”
Pulling together their savings, the two former schoolmates bought a coffee roaster, and started production in Pernell’s garage. “It was a lot of hours in the garage, burning beans, having the neighbours call my wife to let her know that the garage might be on fire,” says Pernell. “It was a lot of trial and error that came with that.” “We are self-funded, bootstrapped and profitable,” says Pernell.
Helped by a growing interest in black-owned businesses as a result of the Black Lives Matter movement, Pernell and Rod have seen sales soar this year at stockists including retailers Target, Whole Foods, and Amazon. “We saw significant amounts of support for us, is the only nationally distributed, black-owned coffee brand. And individuals discovering us through that unfortunate event (the death of Mr. Floyd).”
The firm says that sales from its website in the second quarter of the year were almost 40 times higher than they were in the first quarter and that it was the number one bestseller on Amazon in the US. At the start of September, the business was given a further boost when it won the Social Entrepreneur of the Year award from black-owned business directory Official Black Wall Street in recognition of its charity donations.