Two weeks ago, we issued a statement supporting Black Lives Matter, acknowledging our role in perpetuating racism and white supremacy, and affirming our need to do more. We remain deeply troubled that in our white privilege, we failed to act as proactively or publicly as we should. For that we are sorry, and we maintain our vow to improve. We are now following up on our original statement by announcing actions we are taking, both internally and externally, to be better.
Before diving into our actions, it’s first important to clarify why, and why now. Despite the fact that coffee has its roots in Black communities, Black and Brown colleagues have long been underrepresented in the industry. Not only does this not honor the history and origins of coffee, but it limits the richness of the coffee experience for everyone. Furthermore, a lack of a formalized approach to supporting Black perspective and diversity at Fellow is limiting both our experiences at Fellow as well as what we contribute to the industry. Finally, as a company of predominantly white employees, led by a white male founder, we recognize that we have benefited greatly from the privilege of this reality and feel a great responsibility to do more.
As for why now, as we mentioned on June 1, it shouldn’t have taken another senseless death to get our asses in gear. We should have done this long ago. However, after listening to anti-racist educators, our community, and our internal team, we are hopeful of the impact that acting now can have. We won’t continue to make the same mistakes.
We acknowledge that this statement will have holes, and that our first steps will be wobbly, but we know acting now and starting this process immediately is critical. We will need to evolve the plan as we learn from the community and experts in anti-racism; we can’t be better without you. We commit to updating our community bi-annually, to quantify our progress and iterate on our commitments, with the ultimate goal of supporting lasting change in the coffee industry.
We believe change must start within Fellow. We want to ensure our efforts are not only focused on growing the number of Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) employees on our team, but also that our BIPOC employees are welcomed into an environment where they are set up to thrive. We’re approaching our internal change through three lenses: (1) Education, (2) Policy, and (3) Hiring.
Education. Education must come first in order to support our sustained actions. We must create space for existing employees to explore their own biases, and thus drive the development of culture and policies that lead to success for any employee, especially BIPOC employees. The truth is we are often unaware of the millions of small and large actions we take that influence professional and personal lives. To that end, we’re undertaking both education and resource provision to start to dismantle the biases inherent in ourselves and our operations. These include:
Baked into policy is celebrating the right things. Juneteenth should be honored just as we do other national holidays. With that said, giving a day off to a bunch of privileged, predominantly white people just starting their anti-racist journeys feels like it misses the mark. To that end, we’re opening the day with a team viewing of “13th” and a reading of the HBS Case Study: “African American Inequality in the United States” followed by virtual small group discussions. Employees will be given the afternoon to reflect on the morning session and review additional resources we provide.
Hiring. When it comes to reforming our hiring process, we have a lot of work to do. Given that we currently have five open positions, making immediate change is a top priority. Effective immediately we are implementing a new Hiring Budget of $7,500 for our hiring managers to access when posting jobs on sites that feature primarily BIPOC candidates. These are the other ways we plan to start changing our process and policies, but we are hiring an external consultant to help refine (we have no HR department yet!):
Coffee is about community, and yet, the coffee community is not welcoming or supportive enough of its Black and Brown members. As such, Fellow will focus its external efforts on how to use our product strength, our experience in entrepreneurship, and our reach to support the Black coffee community.
Using this framework, we are going to give $100,000 of in-kind support through two new programs that will be launched immediately to assist cafes, roasters, and baristas.
Support businesses: Donate $80,000 in product to businesses owned or co-owned by a person representing a marginalized or underrepresented group in the industry - not limited to: people of color, people with disabilities, LGBTQIA+, and womxn. Half of donations are reserved for at least 50% Black-owned businesses. Additionally, we are going to use our megaphone to tell the stories of these small business owners to help them promote their cafes and roasteries. More information on the application and the specific selection criteria will be available soon.
Support individuals: $20,000 to get coffee gear into the hands of marginalized baristas through programs like Getchu Some Gear and Glitter Cat. This support will be a mix of product donations and cash support to assist with the operations and execution of the program. We recognize our products can be out of reach to some in our coffee community. Through this initiative we hope we can reach those baristas who want to use and train with our gear.
Guidance and Accountability
Finally, we’re also creating a Diversity and Belonging committee, composed of both Fellow employees and outside experts, to oversee this work. That committee will be responsible for sharing out progress on a bi-annual basis.
We’re going to mess some things up along the way. We trust in our community, our team, and the work put in place by our consultants to create a system that holds us accountable. Thank you to everyone who has offered thoughts and feedback. We are open to it, and encourage it as we move forward. Feel free to send us a note at email@example.com.
The Fellow Team