BLK & Bold, a specialty tea and coffee manufacturer, has been named one of the fastest-growing private businesses in the U.S. by Inc.
As reported by Business Wire, they are ranked number 61 in Inc.’s listing of the 5,000 fastest growing businesses in America.
BLK & Bold is the first and only Black-owned coffee company that is distributed nationally. Rod Johnson, one of the co-founders and the chief values officer of the company, reflected on what this accomplishment meant. “Being recognized on the Inc. 5000 list is a true honor and a reflection of our team’s hard work, our commitment to our community, and the power of purpose-driven business,” Johnson told Business Wire. “It feels good to continue to grow without wavering on who we are; we continue to show up with value to our community and ourselves, and that means everything.”
Johnson and Pernell Cezar founded the company in 2018 with an emphasis on giving back to at-risk kids. According to Inc., Cezar was inspired while he visited a high-end coffee shop. The idea was simple – he wanted to allow everyday people to have access to high-quality coffee at an affordable price point. Cezar also wanted to donate 5% of the proceeds to programs designed to help underserved children. The pair started small, and because Black businesses are not always given the same access to capital as other businesses, they had to get creative.
The pair pooled together $22,000 of what Cezar called “bonus check money” and used that to get roasters and beans. Slowly, they made progress from operating out of Cezar’s garage to subletting space in a brewery to getting capital in the form of a small business loan from a bank in Iowa.
It wasn’t until 2020 that they were able to get featured in Target, a major opportunity to increase the brand’s visibility. This was a direct result of the 2020 George Floyd protests that engulfed the nation. As a result of calls for corporations to support Black businesses, the Minneapolis-based retail chain stepped up to support small Black businesses, pledging to spend $2 billion with Black businesses. In addition to being placed in Target, BLK & Bold participated in Amazon’s Black Business Accelerator program, which allowed their business to spread even faster.
BLK & Bold is now brand partners with the NBA, NFL, Keurig, and Marvel, in addition to being carried in 11,000 retail stores across the country. Cezar is not content for the company to rest on its laurels; he plans for them to eventually open up physical locations to sell their products directly to consumers.
Cezar is also committed to creating social change through the pair’s coffee brand, as he told Yahoo, “It is and will always be important for us to address socio-economic disparities, not only in dialogue but also by creating a funnel to resources. We will continue to act as a leader, not only in spaces we’ve cultivated, but in partnership. We must continue to invest in diverse voices to solve issues within our communities. This is one of many ways to make a difference.”