Des Moines, Iowa-based tea and coffee company BLK & Bold Specialty Beverages was founded by two childhood friends from Gary, Indiana who wanted to give back to their community. Pernell Cezar and Rod Johnson founded BLK & Bold in the summer of 2018 and donate to programs that help economically disadvantaged youth pursue their best lives. “This is a mission-based brand,” said Cezar.
As neighbors on the same street in Gary, Indiana, Cezar and Johnson were familiar with the economic challenges the city underwent after there were massive layoffs in the steel industry.
“Not having much industry in Northwest Indiana, that region has suffered to some degree,” Johnson said. “So we figured that this is an opportunity for us to impact that region with community service and provide resources that are no longer available in the area.” However, he added that the area has a lot of potential, and the will and desire to take advantage of opportunities is abundant within Gary.
Johnson studied Criminal Justice at Indiana University and has a professional background in academic development. Cezar double majored in Finance and Marketing at the University of Northern Iowa and initially worked in the corporate world. Their combined experiences provided the foundation for their entrepreneurial venture.
The Certified B Corp Pending company supplies organic fair-trade tea and freshly roasted coffee to shops, restaurants, lodging, and offices across the United States. Cezar and Johnson contribute 5% of profits to community initiatives that are local to their wholesale clients.
One such initiative BLK & Bold has supported through a partnership with Gary-based restaurant J’s Breakfast Club is the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Northwest Indiana’s Gary location, where Johnson and Cezar spent a great deal of time during their childhood. “It was one of the constants that I could depend on in the community,” said Cezar, who spoke of development programs in the club that provided an antidote to the city’s less healthy distractions.
They have formed similar partnerships in other states and contributed to comparable programs that service at-risk youth, such as the educationally-focused By Degrees Foundation in Des Moines, Iowa and will continue to grow these efforts nationwide.
They plan to expand their tea and coffee sourcing community along with their product portfolio, including offering bottled beverages in the future. A subscription plan with shipping incentives is offered on the company’s website where they offer five teas (Chai Green Tea, Chamomile, Earl Grey, Jasmine, and Peach), and four types of coffee (BLK & Bold blend, Rise & Grind blend, Ethiopia Sidama single origin, and Rwanda Gishamwana Island single origin).
BLK & Bold will be at the Coffee & Donut Festival in Des Moines, Iowa on May 4, 2019.