What does great coffee, hip-hop and Black-owned business have in common? Dope Coffee, the result of this intersection, is an e-commerce platform based in Atlanta, Georgia. They are a Black, woman and veteran-owned brand seeking to elevate and uplift Black culture with a particular emphasis on economics and entrepreneurship with a unique hip-hop flair.
Dope Coffee exists to bring a voice to many of the issues currently facing the Black community. They understand and recognize the value of the consumer brand in being able to influence ideas and communities. Look at the impact that a company like Nike can have. Coffee can have the same impact. Call it a win-win situation to have a for-profit company to have a social mission.
Recently Mike Loyd, chief executive officer of Dope Coffee Company, launched the Black Sheep Accelerator for Black-owned consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies. I had a chance to catch up with Mike to give you an inside look into what it looks like to build this kind of unique accelerator.
What is the Black Sheep Accelerator (BSA)?
The BSA is a six-week intensive build and launch fundraising program for founders of color who need growth capital in order to see their ideas come to life. We don’t just teach a class on how to raise capital, we walk founders through each step and incubate them throughout the process by sharing our corporate and support resources in order to quickly move them through the fundraising process. We have also paired with Crowdfund Mainstreet, which is a Title III fundraising platform that will help grow and launch these brands, products and businesses.
Why are you focused on the consumer-packaged goods industry?
Consumer packaged goods because the Black community excels at producing items and adding value to raw ingredients. We also excel at creating an excellent brand around those products, which creates interesting distinction and product-market fit in an ever expanding consumer retail environment seeking diverse product offerings but also great stories to go along with those products.
If I wanted to launch my own accelerator, what's the first thing I need to know?
If you want to launch your own accelerator, you need to understand your target audience. If you don’t address the problems of your target audience, you’re simply throwing hot air into the wind.
Also you need to make sure that you’re actually solving your target audience is problems by directly addressing their needs. Too often, accelerators simply become soap boxes for the founders to espouse their knowledge which is ultimately not very helpful to the individual going through the accelerator.
What is the most difficult thing about building an accelerator?
The most difficult thing about building an accelerator is the same thing that’s difficult about building a business—all the work has to be done before there will ever be any success. You also have to be willing to put in long working hours because it’s not glamorous to help people in America.
How are you funding BSA?
The BSA is currently being funded by me as a hip-hop artist along with contributions from Dope Coffee. We also need to raise $1 million in start up funding for our investment fund through donations and strategic partnerships.
After the idea of BSA came to mind, what were the first steps they took to get it launched?
The steps to get going were very simple—codify and document all the steps that were necessary for us to be successful and transform those into a curriculum that could be not only followed but applied in a very short time.
What does the founder acquisition strategy look like? How are you guys getting (or plan on getting) founders to apply?
We understand this is not a short-term venture for us. We plan on acquiring founders through word-of-mouth initially but as we bring in additional funding, we will launch a full-scale public relations plan in order to bring awareness to the issue.
The BSA is a program offered by Break The Wealth Gap Inc., which is our non profit in closing the wealth gap for communities of color in America. We simply look at BSA as being a catalyst for closing the gap but it is not the entire solution.
Feature image credit: Afros + Knives