BLK and Bold is Iowa's fastest-growing company
Why it matters: People don't often associate thriving Black-owned businesses with Iowa — especially since the state's population is nearly 90% white, co-founder Rod Johnson tells Axios.
- But by operating and growing out of Des Moines, the business has thrived and been able to dedicate 5% of its gross profits to nonprofits helping at-risk youth around the U.S.
Driving the news: Expanding the company's retail presence, as well as its manufacturing and distribution, helped fuel BLK & Bold's quick growth, Johnson says.
State of play: What started as an online-only business in 2018 has grown to having products in 8,000+ retail stores, including Target, Walgreens, Albertsons, Safeway and Hy-Vee, as well as partnerships with Marvel and the NBA.
- Since its inception, the company says it has generated $250,000 for 14 organizations, including the local By Degrees Foundation.
How it started: Childhood friends and entrepreneurs Pernell Cezar and Johnson started the company from Cezar's garage with a small, tabletop roaster.
- As they experimented with their product and grew, they acquired a larger roaster and worked in the back of Fox Brewing in West Des Moines.
- Then in 2020, in the midst of the pandemic and the national protests following the murder of George Floyd by police, their online business exploded.
Between the lines: They became the first Black-owned nationally distributed coffee company in 2020, as well as a certified B corporation — joining companies like TOMS and Ben & Jerry's to show their commitment to improving social and environmental impact. ,.
By the numbers: After pooling together $22,000 in bonus checks from former jobs to start the company, its revenue grew to $8.5 million in 2020 and is projected to reach $12 million this year, Johnson says.
- The company has 24 employees and operates out of a 33,000-square-foot warehouse in Des Moines' southside.
What they're saying: "(Ben & Jerry's is) a social-impact company that just so happens to sell ice cream, and ultimately, that's what we want to be, but in the coffee space," Johnson says.
What's next: The duo wants to own their own brick-and-mortar cafes within the next three to five years in cities like New York City, Chicago and Des Moines.
- They are also creating a nonprofit foundation next year.
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