Founder of Red Bay Coffee
Established: 2014 | Number of employees: 60
Website: redbaycoffee.com | Instagram: @redbaycoffee // Facebook: facebook.com/redbaycoffee // Twitter: @redbaycoffee
“Red Bay Coffee is at the forefront of what we believe is the fourth wave of coffee—a firm commitment to ensure coffee production is not only high quality and sustainable, but a vehicle for diversity, inclusion, social and economic restoration, entrepreneurship, and environmental sustainability. We are foodies, artists, activists, community folk, and innovators who love, love, love what we do. Red Bay seeks to create unity by hiring and serving people of all backgrounds, striving to be diverse and inclusive of those who have traditionally been left out of the specialty coffee industry, especially people of color, the formerly incarcerated, women and people with disabilities.”
Why did you decide to start Red Bay Coffee?
A café is much bigger than the coffee it serves. It’s a public space, and it’s a sober environment where people can gather and exchange ideas and connect with the community. But when coffee shops are not accessible and they’re not accessible by design, they’re missing the mark and not creating the value that they potentially can for a community.
I wanted to create a hub of entrepreneurial, cooperative economics. What I mean by that is, if someone is leveraging their grandma’s church to bake cookies, they can go into a community coffee shop and say, “Hey, I’ve got this product. Is this something you want to carry?” And it’s a place where people have business meetings and job interviews for other companies. It’s a hub of economic activity.
What’s your best piece of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Aim high, but start small. Utilize the resources in your community in creative ways. For example, before we had the capital and time to invest in building out a new café, we leveraged our community partnerships. We went into a co-working space called Impact Hub Oakland and we set up a little pour-over coffee bar. That was how we started getting word out about the company. That’s how we started building relationships. We only did it once a week, but people still talk about it today, and this is seven or eight years later.
What has been your most impactful interaction with ICA and why?
ICA led our seed round investment, and that’s when I really got connected to the team. They also leveraged their support to help us access some debt capital. And throughout the whole process, I was able to learn about the value of flexible investment vehicles that were right for my business at that time.
A common mistake I see now with new entrepreneurs is that they give a percentage to an investor and very often it’s too much, because they don’t really have a value at that moment in time. ICA helped me learn about all that and it really helped me from being overly diluted.