small businesses

Black-Owned San Diego Coffee Shop Finds Silver Lining in a Tough 2020 By Pivoting Online

The owners of "Cafe X: By Any Beans Necessary" say there is no time to cry over spilled milk

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Ajani and Khea Pollard are a Black mother-daughter duo coffee entrepreneurs.

“We’re Café X by Any Beans Necessary. That’s the full name,” said co-owner Cynthia Ajani.

Their brand was designed not only for the brew but for the community, serving as a coffee shop, catering service, and events space with a mission of communal wealth building for communities of color in San Diego.

“We were on such an upward trajectory, it was crazy. We had so many wonderful things going on and support from the community,” Ajani said.

Not long after their start in December 2019, they had events booked through June. So, when the pandemic hit, things took a major downturn.

“98%,” Ajani explained. “I’m telling you I could see tumbleweeds rolling down the street while I was there during the day. I’m not even joking about that.”

And to top that off, the owner of the building where the café was located decided to sell, leaving them and the other businesses in the building out of luck.

“And even if we as one, one of the businesses was able to produce and maintain our own business, it still wouldn’t cover the whole thing,” Ajani said.

So that’s when the mother-daughter team decided rethink their approach, turning from coffee shop entrepreneurs to coffee bean entrepreneurs.

“We built our blend, the house factor blend -- ‘Café X: X-Factor House Blend’ --through a lot of trial and error,” said Khea Pollard. “A lot of tasting went into that product.”

“I think it’s a flavor profile that’s popular. Folks are really going to enjoy drinking [it],” Pollard said.

But without a fixed place to sell their new blend, it wasn’t easy to get things off the ground. But that’s when 2020 really turned things around for them.

“The whole Black Lives Matter, and this is with the presidency and the elections and all these different things -- it just came at a time that I think afforded us additional support, or I should say highlighted us a little more,” Ajani said. “And, so in that vein, it’s kind of been a good thing although it’s been a tragedy."

From venues to promotion, the support has come from all over.

“Not just from the Black community, just from all communities I mean,” Ajani explains.

But with the good, everything isn’t exactly easy.

“I think people they enjoy that we are Black women business owners and at the same time we find ourselves having to assert ourselves, our identities, our ideas,” Pollard says.

And that’s why part of Khea and Cynthia’s mission, through coffee, is to propel this momentum of inclusion and equality into the future.

“The events that lead to the strong focus on “Buy Black” is tragic -- people dying in order for us to get some attention is not exactly what we’re looking for ever, right?” Pollard said. “And, we want to make sure it outlasts this trend. This is sustainable change that we’re looking for, so, while the eyes are on Black businesses, that’s great.

"It’s not only about getting our name recognition, it’s about making sure that we leverage that and use that to mobilize into the future, in all facets of life.”

The mother and daughter duo says they are grateful for the community's support and plans to revive their brick-and-mortar coffee shop as soon as possible.

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