To paraphrase the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, “You don’t need to see the entire staircase, you just need to take the first step.” Taking that first step is exactly what three best friends from Chicago did.
Charles Alexander, Mark Edmond, and Jamel Lewis met in high school at the city’s Kenwood Academy. As the men moved into adulthood, they each branched out into their own respective careers, that would later become the building blocks for starting their latest venture.
Alexander is a communications professional and professor, Lewis and Edmond are both successful serial entrepreneurs.
“Around May 2020, I was angry, upset, and frustrated over everything surrounding George Floyd’s death,” Edmond told Travel Noire. “My wife ended up sending me to the grocery store with a list of items to pick up, and at the top of that list was bread.”
He would spend the next 30-minutes standing on the bread aisle, Googling the owners of each brand on the shelves. In a “not so shocking discovery” he found that none of the brands were Black-owned.
“I left the store frustrated, and immediately hit up my boys to let them know we needed to change this.”
The trio sprang into action to ensure they did their due diligence first. To be extra sure, they also enlisted the help of an attorney to back their finding. Once it was confirmed, they began their quest to launch the first Black-owned gourmet sliced bread company, Black Bread Co.
The men want it to be known that building this brand wasn’t profit driven. It was about shattering a glass ceiling in an industry where Black people aren’t represented as owners.
“We face a double stigma. We are not only Black, but we are Black men,” Alexander shared. “We have had to go into these predominately white rooms, to debunk the myths around Black men and entrepreneurship. We are serious about what we are doing.”
The men also share that creating this brand is about opening the consciousness of the Black consumer.
“There is this ‘positive pressure’ on us to operate in excellence,” Lewis said. “Our motto is “come correct” and you will see that in every facet of the business. From marketing, branding, as well as the taste of our breads. We ultimately want Black people to start looking into where they spend their money, and see how it will benefit our communities. Too often we just spend money without being intentional.”
Black Bread Co. has officially launched online and the support has been overwhelming. In the coming days, we can expect to hear announcements about a few chains carrying the brand in its stores, too.
For now, you can purchase the high-quality honey wheat and premium white bread through the online shop. There will be hot dog and hamburger buns, a sliced multi-grain, as well as brioche coming a little later in the year.
If you want to see Black Bread Co. in your local stores, the men suggest requesting it on the respective store’s social media pages using their tag #requestblackbreadco.
“We want people to know that we are regular people who simply worked our normal jobs until we felt like we saved enough to begin this business,” Edmond said. “We aren’t rich, and we don’t come from money. We’re just very dedicated and very disciplined.”
We asked the men to offer advice to anyone else thinking of kicking down a door in an industry where WE aren’t represented, here’s what they shared:
“Don’t be afraid to compete,” Edmond explained. “We’re capable of building up any product that is on the market, and making it our own.”
“Don’t be afraid of the unknown,” Alexander said. “Be patient and don’t rush your ideas. We took our time over this last year almost, to really make sure we had this together, before we went public with it. Also, be careful who you share your ideas with, and make sure you truly trust the people you go into business with because it is a risk.”
To learn more about the brand and to purchase your loaves, visit: blackbreadco.com.