How a coffee company CEO is getting through the pandemic
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“My Economy” tells the story of the new economic normal through the eyes of people trying to make it, because we know the only numbers that really matter are the ones in your economy.
Keba Konte is the CEO of Red Bay Coffee. The following is his story.
My name is Keba Konte. I’m the founder and CEO of Red Bay Coffee Company here in Oakland, California. I started Red Bay Coffee to bring beautiful coffee to the people, is what I say. It was a way for me to sort of bring to this industry, more flavor, more soul, more equity, more inclusion and diversity that I think was sorely lacking.
Before the pandemic, we had over 60 employees. We had, you know, some of the top tier tech companies as our clients and had six coffee shops. March hit and the coronavirus first started sending people home. First thing happened was our coffee accounts, our office accounts, closed down. And then we closed down all of our coffee shops. All six of them.
A week later, you know, we said, all right, yes, we are an essential business. So we opened up one shop at our roastery, curbside with my wife and my daughter. You know, there was some pent-up demand. So people certainly showed up. And then, you know, we expanded those hours and brought back more baristas and eventually opened up a second location. So we were down to probably like eight employees or something at the nadir. We’re back up to about 35 employees right now. The offices still have not come back. We’ve got two out of, you know, six coffee shops back. So it’s been kind of a rollercoaster. But I would say the sort of a couple bright spots has been e-commerce. So e-commerce has really become our lifeblood. I mean, it’s hard to say we wouldn’t be here because I’d always tried to find some way but we might not be here if it wasn’t for that.
We’ve had to lay off a lot of people, right. And these were people who were, you know, good at their jobs, or on a ladder, on a career path to become equipment technicians, roasters and more. I mean it’s breaking my heart just thinking about it. But, you know, we do see an end to this cycle, and we’ll pick back up.
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