OAKLAND (KPIX 5) At the Coffee Box in Uptown Oakland, change is brewing.. from the “grounds” up.
“Coffee gives an opportunity for people to build community,” explained Jefferson Award winner and Coffee Box owner Keba Konte.
“I like to remind the world that coffee is Africa’s gift to the world!” he said.
But few African Americans work in the industry, so he’s intentionally hired a staff comprised entirely of people of color, plus women, former prisoners, and foster kids who’ve aged out of the system. Of course, Konte says no applicants are turned away from his companies based on race, ethnicity, gender, or any other characteristic protected by law.
Account manager Maria Fernandez is one of his 17 employees.
“There’s so much inclusion and diversity,” she remarked.
What also makes his business model unique – all the employees get a taste of the profits. At the roasting plant, employees share 10% of the profit. And at the Coffee Box, workers evenly divide all of the profit.
That’s possible, because the Coffee Box started with a record-breaking Kickstarter campaign that raised $88,000 from more than 800 donors.
“I think he’s a revolutionary small business owner,” said Red Bay Coffee financial manager Antoine Hicks, applauding Konte’s philosophy. “‘This is equal opportunity. I want everyone here to be as successful as possible.'”
“I know I am making an positive impact on my community, so I feel great,’ added Konte, who says he is hoping to add more Coffee Box Cafes in the future to create even more jobs for the Oakland community.
So for his innovative business model that broadens job opportunities in his community, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Keba Konte.