According to Charles Alexander, Co-Founder and COO of the Black Bread Company, soon after the killing death of George Floyd in 2020, the company’s CEO and Founder, Mark Edmond made it his goal to shop Black-owned products as a form of protest.
“His wife sent him to the grocery store with a list, and the first thing on it was bread,” said Alexander. “So, of course, he goes to the bread isle and he’s like Googling all the different bread options to see if any were Black owned.”
“He [Edmond] quickly realized, one, there were not any that were Black-owned, and two, there were no Black executives for any of the big companies,” he said.
In February 2021, this shocking revelation would lead Edmond, Alexander and a third lifelong friend, Jamel Lewis, to form the Chicago-based premier Black-owned sliced bread company, the Black Bread Company. They chose February to launch the company in observance of Black History month.
“The sliced bread industry started in 1928, and it took us, African Americans almost a hundred years to be a part of it,” said Alexander.
Alexander says the trio did not start the business for the money; they did it because African Americans did not have a “stake in in this [sliced bread industry] space.”
Alexander remembers when the idea was first taking shape, none of them had any experience in the baking industry. “We spent the entire year, so all of 2020,” said Alexander, “figuring out the business… Googling, researching, and we got our legal stuff together. We just kept moving forward until we launched in 2021.”
Alexander says their goal was to create gourmet sliced bread. “There are some, you know, great options out there but we wanted to have all-natural products with no preservatives,” he said. “We want it to be like flavorful and also fluffy.”
Alexander says the way to know good bread is through his “not-yet-patented” peanut butter and jelly sandwich test, especially one made with crunchy peanut butter. “If you put the peanut butter on the bread and it starts tearing, that means it’s likely some cheap-ass bread,” he said.
High-quality is what The Black Bread Company aims to deliver, “fresh high-quality bread on the shelves.”
Edmond, Alexander, and Lewis hoped some retail stores would pick up their product but what happened next was a total surprise. “We wanted to get the name out there, so when we launched, we went live on Facebook and Instagram,” said Alexander. “We ended with ten-thousand people on both platforms. A total of 20,000 people watching, asking questions and most importantly, they wanted the bread.”
Alexander says their product was “in demand all over the world,” in places like the UK, Japan, Africa, Canada, and of course the United States. “It’s like they wanted OUR bread… this is a good problem but it’s a problem because we didn’t know how to ship bread,” Alexander recollects. “Brick and mortar companies don’t have to ship bread because they have their own stores.”
The trio had to activate their “ingenuity’ to come up with a solution to this very key issue. “We had thousands of pre-orders, we had to figure out the dimensions of our bread, the sizes of various boxes, and figure out how to ship to people’s homes,” said Alexander.
They ultimately came up with a monthly subscription model named, “The Private Bread Club.” The subscription would allow the customer to purchase the order online and receive it every month to their home. Alexander said this was “a game changer.”
In addition to the Private Bread Club, the trio teamed up with an experienced chemist to test their products, and a manufacturer to make it to their specifications.
The Black Bread Company’s selection of premium white and honey wheat breads, along with their soft white hamburger and hot dog buns, is available at all Mariano’s grocery stores in Chicago. Mariano’s is owned by supermarket giant Kroger.
Alexander says they have also just closed a deal with Target. “Once we were on The Ellen Show,” he said, “all these different retailers are coming out, you know, knocking down our door.”
Even with their growing success, the three friends have not forgotten their roots. “We are three Black men from the Southside of Chicago, in an area you could call the hood,” he said. “We can’t start a company, and not have a non-profit.”
Alexander says the Black Bread Foundation sent “like thousands of loaves” of bread to Houston during the August 2022 power outage. He says they’ve also worked at homeless shelters, done food plans, or provided food for Chicago public schools, and partner with organizations like Phalanx Family services to train interns.
“They’re working in the same space as the founders of this company… they’re learning how to ship the bread and learning how to box the bread,” said Alexander. “They’re getting like all this experience.”
“We’ve had multiple interns,” he added. “Black men and women from ages of eighteen to twenty-four have been coming in and earning working wages.”
Alexander says all three men are “extremely proud” of the opportunity they’re giving to these young people, and to see people who look like them doing this type of business.
In the future, Alexander says the company plans to launch gourmet pastas in five different flavors and gourmet jams. “We also want, of course, to hire more people, and give opportunities to minorities looking for jobs,” he said.
According to the company’s website, the Black Bread Company is inviting the public to invest in the rapidly growing company by offering the public a 10% equity stake in the company.
For additional information on the Black Bread Company, its founders, bread shop, merchandise, and opportunities, please visit www.blackbreadco.com.