Former St. Louis Rams running back, Justin Watson, is selling coffee with a cause. He and Ritchie Tuazon recently created the BLQK Coffee brand, part of their profits will be donated to help combat social justice issues.
The coffee comes in either whole or ground beans. To create the coffee, Watson does business with women-owned farming companies in Africa. Watson wanted to pay homage to the origin of coffee: Ethiopia.
“We wanted to work with women-owned farms and source our coffee from women-owned farms and pay fair wages,” Watson said. “It’s a proper fit for what we’re trying to do and what we’re trying to build as a company and a culture.”
BLQK Coffee will be donating 25 percent of its profits to initiatives that galvanize at-risk youth and social justice initiatives. Watson wants to set an example that companies can be more generous with their philanthropy efforts.
“We really wanted to do something that’s gonna make a difference and an impact and try and change the way that other companies, the way they do business,” Watson said. “It is possible to give so much back and still have a successful company.”
When choosing organizations to donate to, Watson and his team prioritized programs that helped youth make academic choices that would ultimately lead them to attending college and help them get mentorship programs. BLQK Coffee chose to support the Brotherhood Crusade and Thrive Scholars.
“We did a lot of research on companies that were trying to support kids that have dreams without the means to push forward,” Watson said.
Another way they galvanize minorities is by encouraging the businesses they partner with to employ more people of color. The business they worked with took heed and went on to employ people of color for the project.
“We had a requirement that said: Do you mind adding someone of color to this project to help?” Watson said. “It was one of our ways of moving the needle forward and helping our communities.”
BLQK offers two flavors, African Blend and Single Origin. African Blend is a blend of different African farms while Single Origin is from one farm, according to Watson.
“It’s really more of the tasting notes,” he said. “One has tasting notes of caramel, citrus, and cocoa and then the other is the tasting notes of the berries really pop out.”
Watson is also into health and fitness, he wanted to create a coffee that does not need cream and sugar. BLQK Coffee sells whole bean coffee because they want to make their coffee fresh to order.
The company website www.blqk.coffee also has articles and resources to enhance their customers ’ coffee drinking experience. They provide a recipe for rustic bread to eat with coffee.
“I believe that your coffee should be a ritual,” Watson said. “I think that when you wake up in the morning, that’s your time and there should be a process that you welcome your daily routine.”
A native of Bronx, New York, Watson was raised in Pasadena and went to Marshall Fundamental High School and San Diego State. In 1999, he signed with the then St. Louis Rams. During his rookie season, the Rams won Super Bowl XXXIV. Watson noted how he learned about the importance of optimism, dedication, and hard work. He uses these qualities to help BLQK Coffee.
“I’m a true believer that if you put in the work … and dedicate yourself to something that you’re passionate about, good things will happen,” Watson said.