A successful Black business owner is helping others thrive
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Meet the man behind this socially conscious coffee company that is dedicated to making an impact in the community.
Now more than ever, shoppers are invested in companies that have sustainable practices or share values similar to their own.
Companies with a mission are finding more success and connecting with a more loyal customer base. BLK Men Coffee in Atlanta is an example of a business built with intention from the ground up that is starting to grow and find great success.
"Coffee is something that unites everyone in America and beyond," said Darrin Cook, the company’s founder, who grew up drinking coffee with his grandparents and family in New Orleans.
Cook took a chance to make a change, and he used his favorite drink to do it. He left his nine-to-five corporate job to start BLK Men Coffee, a company with a product and a purpose.
"The mission is to promote advancements and pay homage to Black males in America," said Cook.
Cook’s company sells fresh beans, coffee grounds, and K-cups in a variety of roasts and flavors, all online.
"We have your turtle, we have your caramel blend, and we have your Cinnabon," explained Cook.
He was struggling to connect with customers at first, but he used online platforms like Shopify to get noticed. He said that once customers tried his product, he saw a high rate of those customers returning to buy more.
Customers can order coffee anywhere in the country, but what’s most important, Cook said, is that proceeds from each purchase directly support groups investing in neighborhoods across the country. Groups like Kevin Brown’s Men’s Coffee Talk and Black Men Heal in Philadelphia. Brown’s group sponsors regular events that help people access resources to get jobs and better their lives, with support from BLK Men Coffee.
"We also include mental health screenings, but I also have something else, an expungement clinic where a group of volunteer lawyers work to clear records for people who shouldn't have had a case in the first place," said Brown of the real change he’s helping create in his community. "They've been holding them back from jobs and housing and things like that. We also had employers there. We're hiring on the spot."
Cook said he is hopeful these partnerships will shine a positive light on the image of Black men in America.
"I just got tired of watching mainstream news and seeing the brutality, the injustice, and not the positive representation of what it means to be a Black male in America. And I thought the best way to invoke change is to be the author of my own story and tell the story about what it means to be a Black man in America: the positive aspects, the resilience, the creativity, the tenacity," said Cook.
"It's not about waiting to be rescued or waiting for a program to happen, but being able to be empowered to see that we can be our own solution," said Brown.
Research now shows that being part of the solution is good for business. According to a 2023 report from consulting group WebinarCare, 85% of consumers think more highly of a company when it supports causes they care about, and 92% of shoppers said they want to buy products from businesses that give back.
"I think in this day and age, just having a product, regardless of how amazing it is, it's not enough. People want to know, What are you doing with their hard-earned dollars?" said Cook.
To accomplish his mission of making his business intentional from the start, Cook has made sure to source his coffee beans from farmers of color across the world. He also made sure the farms he sourced from paid their employees equitable wages.
Cook said he is hoping this resonates with customers enough so he can one day turn BLK Men Coffee’s online store into a brick-and-mortar coffee shop where BLK Men Coffee can host and fuel the conversations that lead to systemic change. Until then, he is content to support his community one cup at a time.
"I hope just as me invoking change through BLK Men Coffee inspires other people to follow their dreams and really pour back. That's all that matters in this world, really just your contribution to society," said Cook.
If you’d like to learn more about BLK Men Coffee and the missions it supports, click HERE.
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