The coffee world is way too white. Keba Konte is revolutionizing the industry.

When two black men were arrested in a Philadelphia Starbucks in April 2018, Americans were rightfully outraged.

As the mega-corporation worked to find ways to address the incident — ultimately deciding to hold a national anti-bias training for employees — coffee lovers of color began sharing their go-to caffeine shops and roasters around the nation. One such company was Red Bay Coffee.


Established in 2014, Red Bay Coffee has quickly become one of the most well-known roasters in Oakland, California.

People from all over the country order its beans online, purchase its products at Whole Foods, and stop by the roastery, bar, and garden.

All photos via Red Bay Coffee, used with permission.

So how does a coffee roaster reach this level of adoration? Some pretty incredible leadership is making it happen.

Red Bay Coffee founder Keba Konte has spent years building a company that's as rewarding for its customers as it is for its employees.

A former photojournalist and artist, Konte has made a name for himself as a socially conscious business owner. With more than 10 years in the coffee industry, Konte's dedication to diversity has led him to work on bridging the gap between coffee culture and communities of color.

Konte has worked in the coffee industry for more than 10 years.

"I'm into equity and how we sort of share the wealth, we do profit sharing, and how we really help support other people's [of color] businesses," Konte says. "So there's the creative piece, there's the community piece, and the social justice piece that you need to make this all happen."

In addition to hiring women and people of color, Red Bay is known for hiring formerly incarcerated individuals and foster youth.

Red Bay is known for employing women, people of color, and formerly incarcerated individuals.

"We're a second chance employer," Konte says. "It's a great industry for these individuals because there's a lot of opportunities to advance and learn."

"There are a lot of foster youth that turned 18, and they're emancipated, which really just means now you're just out there on your own," he adds. "Yeah, 18 is sort of a legal number, but most people need support past 18, especially if you've been having challenges growing up anyway."

His work philosophy has left a mark on his staff, including general manager Antoine Hicks. Hicks attributes much of the roaster's success to the mission-driven culture.

"Red Bay has this great way of kind of rallying all of us around one common goal where for the most part I don't ever feel like I'm working for one person or for Keba," Hicks says. "I feel like I'm working towards the mission. It doesn't even feel like a job so much as it's just a responsibility to do good work and an opportunity to serve our community."

Red Bay is also keenly aware of the community it serves. With a black population of 35%, it's especially important that Oakland's food and drink establishments create a welcoming atmosphere.

Red Bay Coffee aims to provide professional development opportunities for its staff.

While marketed toward white, affluent patrons, the coffee industry is largely possible because of underpaid farmers of color in Central America, Africa, and Latin America.

Coffee distributors, including Starbucks, have worked harder to ensure that ethical practices and policies are available for both their American baristas and farmers abroad. But there are still issues. Seeing these injustices and how they predominately have affected communities of color propelled Konte to be an agent of change.

"My goal with Red Bay is to involve more people who are descendants of these coffee-growing regions of the world and giving them a greater role in the industry and, in the end, the economy," he says.

Red Bay's dedication to marginalized groups and equitable business practices makes it a great start. But Consumers can do a lot to be more socially conscious too.

Wendell Pierce, who tweeted his support of Red Bay, expertly explains the consumer's role in the current racial climate:

"Ask 'What is my contribution to that dynamic of inclusion?' By going online [to Red Bay] and ordering its coffee, it supports that mission. Everyday citizens can look in their own communities and see the people around them that reflect and check those boxes off. Support those companies that reflect the inclusive values and show respect for their community."
True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Vanna White appeared on "The Price Is Right" in 1980.

Vanna White has been a household name in the United States for decades, which is kind of hilarious when you consider how she gained her fame and fortune. Since 1982, the former model and actress has made millions walking back and forth turning letters (and later simply touching them—yay technology) on the game show "Wheel of Fortune."

That's it. Walking back and forth in a pretty evening gown, flipping letters and clapping for contestants. More on that job in a minute…

As a member of Gen X, television game shows like "Wheel of Fortune" and "The Price is Right" send me straight back to my childhood. Watching this clip from 1980 of Vanna White competing on "The Price is Right" two years before she started turning letters on "Wheel of Fortune" is like stepping into a time machine. Bob Barker's voice, the theme music, the sound effects—I swear I'm home from school sick, lying on the ugly flowered couch with my mom checking my forehead and bringing me Tang.

This video has it all: the early '80s hairstyles, a fresh-faced Vanna White and Bob Barker's casual sexism that would never in a million years fly today.

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