The company is less than 2 years old, and co-founder Pernell Cezar has already achieved national distribution in Target for his company, Blk & Bold Speciality Beverages. I invited him into the studio for a 30-minute conversation, so make sure you listen to the full interview.
What is specialty coffee?
Even as a coffee fanatic, I had to ask what is specialty coffee and how is it different? It turns out, specialty coffee is a “fact-based” term, meaning it’s not marketing fluff. Like wine, it has a fact-based point system.
The system for coffee goes from 0-100, with coffee from 80-100 is considered “specialty.” The folks who ensure this system’s integrity are called Q Graders. Because Blk & Bold coffee sits within that 80-100 point system, they are considered “specialty coffee.” Educating consumers on this category, has been a big asset Blk & Bold’s product rollout.
Who Is Pernell Cezar?
Pernell Cezar is the co-founder and CEO of Blk & Bold specialty beverages. He started his career in Target retail merchandising, helping manage inventory across their supply chain. In that role, he made buying decisions and negotiated with packaged good companies. He knew this industry quite well before starting down his coffee journey.
Cezar has worked on the other side of the table as well, working with a packaged goods company, SheaMoisture, helping them find national distribution. After seeing both sides of the business, that prepared him to launch his own brand. Blk & Bold.
Check out his full interview »
Coffee in a saturated market?
While the coffee market may be saturated, the specialty coffee category is wide open according to Cezar. Because he saw both the retail and product side of the equation, he knew there was an opening for a specialty coffee product.
The road was fast for Cezar (scaling nationally in under 2 years is an amazing accomplishment) but it didn’t just happen. He had to slay plenty of dragons and convince buyers. A key to growth is to master the competitive landscape and the market. If you don’t master them, you very well could be pitching to people who know the market better than you, and know there’s no room.
Cezar is right. Like launching a ship with holes in the bottom, failing to research the market thoroughly will cause your company to sink before it even sets sail. The other major component to growth is to watch for spoken and unspoken clues from interested parties. This could not be more vital.
How To Pitch Buyers
Not every client is the same, you must understand how to do the companies you’re pitching to win against their competition. It’s not about you, it’s about them. Do your research and understand how to be their hero.
Cezar says he would often look for non-verbal clues, and listen carefully to what companies he pitches to are saying. Often you can lose that in the mix, but it’s vital to listen and watch. Not all feedback is solid feedback, there will be good and bad, but it’s important to absorb it.
How Did Blk & Bold Grow So Fast?
A lot of brands come onto the market nationally, but they have billions of dollars to penetrate the market. When you’re a small company, however, what do you do? Know your market and know the business.
For Blk & Bold, Pernell Cezar explains it’s about authenticity in the business model and fitting into an underdeveloped competition landscape. While there is a lot of coffee, there is not a lot of specialty coffee. Cezar believes as they ramp up their educational efforts, that market will develop rapidly with them already on the shelves to capture it.
The other aspect to Blk & Bold’s fast growth is Cezar’s deep industry knowledge of how Target works, how national retail works, and how distribution functions. His leadership combines all these assets to address a market opening.
Blk & Bold Is A Registered B-Corp
Blk & Bold is a registered B-Corp, like Warby Parker, Tom’s Shoes, etc. Receiving this certification is an objective designation that your brand stands for more than just the product they produce.
Cezar confirms the research shows that people will pay more for products that stand for something bigger and value in being a certified B-Corp is the verification Blk & Bold actually does what they say.
Cezar explained the process of becoming a B-Corp is “a pretty arduous assessment that peels back the onion on everything from your environmental impact, equity with your employees, to your local community impact as well as how you score with your own transparency of your impact.” It’s extremely detailed he explains.
B-Corp status is watched by an independent entity, and their entire reputation rides on maintaining great criteria and verifying.
Blk & Bold is also looking to partner with companies like Whole Foods, and here in the midwest Hy-Vee as well. If your company is interested Pernell Cezar has given me permission to connect you with him. So, just email me here.