Our BlackHer Shero of the Week is Chel Loyd, co-founder and chief product officer at Dope Coffee, a new coffee company that creates innovative products inspired by Black culture for the culture.
Why did you start Dope Coffee?
We started Dope Coffee as a spin-off of Solar Cafe, which my husband and I launched in North Carolina a few years back. We are a military family and were living in a military town. We started the company out of necessity–there was no great coffee in our town! But for us, being entrepreneurs has always been about more than making money.
While we were building Solar Cafe, Trump was elected president and that brought a lot of things into context for us. We were living in a community that was 96% white and I’m pretty sure that 99% of those folks voted for Trump. As a mother, that was too much for me and I said, “peace-out” and we moved to Atlanta. Unfortunately, Hurricane Florence then took out all of our shops and here we are.
The good news is that Dope Coffee is thriving and Dope is who we are and what we want for our kids. My sense is that a lot of us have dreams about building a business but don’t capitalize on them and what is good because it won’t make money. For us, Dope Coffee is a strong business and a reflection of our desire to share decency and goodness. We’re going to thrive.
That’s a beautiful story. On your website, you talk about combining capitalism, commodities, and culture to uplift Black communities. I really love that but I have to ask, why do we need another coffee company?
I’m a dietitian by trade. All of our innovation at Dope comes from a focus on nutrition and well-being for people. Where do you see Black entrepreneurs next to a coffee roaster? We pride ourselves on giving you good coffee and teaching you how to make it at home. through our series called ‘Drip Tips’. We also use coffee to create other products that are good for you. For example, we’re upcycling our coffee grounds to make a line of skin scrubs for melanated skin.
You are the chief product officer for Dope. How do you come up with your product offerings?
My family is my customer. When I’m developing products, I’m thinking about what they need to be healthier and live well. For example, we developed the skin scrub because dry skin is an issue in my family and I’m not a big fan of using products with chemicals. I looked at this as a health issue and tried to determine if I could use coffee to solve this problem. Coffee has good health properties. It is high in antioxidants, a great medium for exfoliation, and when paired with a blend of oils, the scrub leaves the skin conditioned and soft.
Your company is focused on serving and uplifting the culture and you are a Black woman entrepreneur. How do you think about that?
In my heart and mind, I think I’ve always been an entrepreneur because I’ve had to learn to thrive and innovate in a variety of circumstances. But a year ago, if you had asked me if I was an entrepreneur, I would have said “no”.
I’ve learned that being a successful entrepreneur means having to deal with all of your insecurities. It unveils all your weaknesses.. I had to do a lot of soul searching to get back to that fiery girl who was always inside and had been silenced because of her skin color, or the fact that her hair texture wasn’t “right.” Being a young mother also changed me. When my kids ask me questions about the world, I have to arm them with the right attitude and emotional intelligence so they can make sound decisions in their own lives.
On another note, we are currently in the phase of raising capital at Dope Coffee. You can’t be a good fundraiser unless you believe in yourself and your company, because if you don’t believe in it, no one else will.
Amen! What’s your vision for Dope?
I want Dope Coffee to be a voice/platform for Black culture and a catalyst for change in the Black community. For example, we’re going to put Black and Brown faces out front in our messaging versus relegating us to being the poor farmers, who aren’t getting paid.
In addition to our coffee company, we’ve sponsored a podcast, called Confessions of A Native Son, which is hosted by the CEO of Ironbound Boxing, another Black, veteran-owned company that is helping youth channel their challenges and gifts through boxing. We are also starting a foundation called 1G, which aims to bridge the wealth gap in one generation.
How can BlackHer subscribers help you?
Support Black business. Engage with us. Go to our website and sign up for our email list, and peep the new products we have coming. We can bring the Dope Coffee experience to your establishment through office coffee or catering. We like to call them Dope Coffee Breaks. You can also follow us on Instagram for Dope content to fuel your creativity.
Is there anything else you want to share?
In addition to being Women’s History Month, March is also National Nutrition Month and I’ve been reflecting on this quote by Coretta Scott King. She said,
“It doesn’t matter how strong your opinions are. If you don’t use your power for positive change, you are, indeed, part of the problem.”
This month, I want to encourage Black women to change how we think about ourselves and how we are using our voices. I am a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and we as women are divas. But there is more to us and all women than that. We have the ability to be emotionally strong and driven and still come together to act as one. We have to DO, ladies. No excuses.
Let me ask you the miracle question. You go to sleep tonight and wake up tomorrow and it’s March 2021 and a miracle has occurred for Black women. What happened?
With the mantra of “Yes we can!” and fueled by Dope, we are allowing our dopeness to exude and our energy is flowing to fill the soul of society. We are capitalizing on our talents and using them in a way that lifts our culture all the way up!