Pernell Cezar and Rod Johnson grew up on the same block in Gary, Indiana. Now in their 30s, their lasting friendship, experience in the corporate world and entrepreneurial wiring has lead them to create BLK & BOLD coffee and teas. Based out of Des Moines, the two have turned their side hustle into a viable business that has become the first nationally distributed, Black-owned coffee brand by Target.
Launched in June 2018, the BLK & BOLD coffee line includes six lines of beans—from steeping bags with Ethiopia Yirgacheffe grounds to whole beans sourced from Finca La Guadalupe. The line's teas include earl grey, jasmine and more.
BLK & BOLD is also built on a domestic social impact model—5 percent of their profits go towards supporting at-risk youth locally and nationally. Nonprofit organizations such as Code Fever Miami, which teaches underprivileged youth the basics of coding and design, and Des Moines-based By Degrees, which helps at-risk youth graduate, have both benefited from BLK & BOLD.
We talked to Cezar and Johnson about their experience starting BLK & BOLD, what being a first-generation college graduate and corporate employee can be like, and what advice they’d give to entrepreneurs looking to start a business in 2020.