Good Jobs, Beautiful Coffee

Last year, we invested in two Oakland-based companies, the culmination of education and advisory efforts that began years earlier. Now, we can see the impact that our investments in Red Bay Coffee and Firebrand Artisan Breads have had on the creation of good jobs in our community.

You can smell the delicious aroma of coffee blocks away from Red Bay Coffee’s new warehouse and roastery in East Oakland. As you enter, two gleaming Probat roasters take center stage; one of which just recently cleared customs on its way from Germany. Several Red Bay workers busily mill about, while others huddle around Macbooks on reclaimed wood benches.

Having secured funding from ICA Fund Good Jobs, the East Oakland startup is in full growth mode. These jobs are the product of a relationship between founder Keba Konte and ICA Fund Good Jobs, which started more than five years ago. 

Red Bay’s Kelvin Long, Antoine Hicks, Jess Llarinas and founder, Keba Konte with Dianna, Nina, Sean, and Yui of the ICA Fund Good Jobs team. 

Red Bay’s Kelvin Long, Antoine Hicks, Jess Llarinas and founder, Keba Konte with Dianna, Nina, Sean, and Yui of the ICA Fund Good Jobs team. 

As the owner of Guerrilla Café in Berkeley, Konte attended our 10-week Growth Strategies course at Mills College. After finishing the course, Konte opened a second coffee shop, Chasing Lions, on the campus of San Francisco State University. All the while, he continued to grow his vision for a sustainable business that could support his community by transforming traditionally low-wage work through a profit-sharing model. Thus, the idea for Red Bay Coffee was born.

With the pro bono support of strategic advisors like Michael C. Bush, Konte grew his vision and quickly transformed it into concrete plans; the company was officially launched in 2013. As the business grew, Konte engaged with ICA Fund Good Jobs’ strategic advisors and professional service providers. When Konte needed to access growth capital in 2014, the team at ICA Fund Good Jobs was already intimately familiar with Red Bay’s business, growth strategy and potential to create good jobs. 

Over the next year, the team worked to build out Red Bay’s capital readiness, focusing on long-term growth strategy development, capital scenario planning, debt readiness, and financial forecasting. Founder Keba Konte and COO Kori Chen worked with our team to build out their company’s “people readiness” through a job-creation forecasting model, tactical strategic HR support, and leadership development for the Red Bay management team.

Two years, a successful Kickstarter campaign, and a $500,000 investment later, the company has opened its new roasting space and acquired new wholesale contracts, including one with ride-sharing app company Uber. Today, Red Bay employs over 20 people and pays a minimum starting wage of $15 per hour.

Keba Konte and Sean Murphy executing investment documents at Red Bay Coffee’s East Oakland, CA warehouse. 

Keba Konte and Sean Murphy executing investment documents at Red Bay Coffee’s East Oakland, CA warehouse. 

Red Bay has also benefitted from the network effect of engaging with other companies in the ICA Fund Good jobs family. For example, ICA Alumni company Give Something Back Office Supplies has long been a champion of hiring employees through workforce development partners. Red Bay is working with Give Something Back to develop new strategies for recruiting employees from the local community and to build partnerships with organizations that work with the prison reentry population. Red Bay Coffee actively sends out job descriptions and seeks placements for open positions at organizations like Pathways to Resilience and Roots to ReEntry. The company offers professional development and training opportunities for its staff and for new hires.

As for what’s next? Red Bay is “bringing beautiful coffee to the people” by opening a retail location in Oakland’s HIVE complex – a coffee shop in a converted shipping container that will operate as a worker-owned cooperative, allowing current and future employees to directly share in the profitability of business. We’re proud to invest in entrepreneurs like Konte, who is committed to generating wealth in ways that make sense for the community and the bottom line.