Talking Shop: How Red Bay Coffee founder Keba Konte and musician Maxwell are giving back
Keba Konte and Maxwell have distinctly different career paths. One serves up a cup of joy to customers every day via his popular Bay Area coffee business. And the other provides fans with songs for every occasion. But in conversation, they learned they have more in common than expected. Among them is a commitment to community involvement. For Konte, that effort plays out through his hiring practices and sustainability standards, while Maxwell does his part through a partnership with State Optical Co., where a portion of the proceeds of his new eyewear line supports the Vision Council’s Open Your Eyes Scholarship Program. Check out their discussion to learn about the inspirations behind their business moves and how tech is helping them create more meaningful connections with consumers.
Keba Konte: My name is Keba Konte.
I’m the founder of Red Bay Coffee Company.
I’m an artist, an entrepreneur based here in beautiful Oakland, California.
Maxwell: Hey, my name is Maxwell.
I’m from Brooklyn.
I love making music, and I’m grateful to just keep making music.
Konte: You know, one of your songs, “Lifetime,” man, that song was just like ringing the truth,
and it was like an ode to the entrepreneur.
Maxwell: I made a promise to myself, like, if I was gonna get this opportunity, I promise
to write songs that can be added to everyone’s experience in different ways.
Maxwell: Keba, can you tell me, like, what started Red Bay Coffee?
Konte: After I ran a couple cafes for a while, I decided to start Red Bay Coffee.
I wanted to create a platform that just made beautiful coffee more inclusive.
So how could we actually have a positive impact on our community?
Maxwell: I heard that your business spiked during the pandemic 350%?
Konte: Our business had bottomed out through the floor in the first weeks of the pandemic,
like losing 90% of our revenue.
We basically brought the company down to, you know, maybe about eight people?
Konte: Luckily, we had invested in the infrastructure for an e-commerce platform.
We’re shaping our business to have more of an online presence and to just create richer
and more interesting content that brings people value.
Konte: I know that you recently are starting a collaboration with State to do some shades,
Can you tell me about that and what brought that about?
Maxwell: The greatest part about working with State was the partnership with the Vision
Council and the Open Your Eyes Foundation, which offers 20 scholarships to a diverse
group of optometrists.
Maxwell: In school, I couldn’t see the board.
And I know that a lot of children go through that.
Maxwell: To be able to partner up with a company that was going to extend a diverse opportunity.
It was just like “Wow,” you know.
If you can do that for someone, then there’s this hope that they’re gonna remember that.
Konte: I know you got engaged in voter awareness and supporting the voter movement.
Like how did that turn out for you and why did you do that?
Maxwell: Last year for a person of color was an amplified version of what we always experience.
It was just a call to action.
Maxwell: And it’s our inalienable right as American citizens to be about to go out
there and affect the change that we want in our communities.
Konte: Hopefully in 25 years from now, somebody’s gonna be listening to one of your songs that
you’re writing today, right?
And drawing inspiration to take care of their family or to grow their business or to contribute
to their community.
Maxwell: Just happy that you found a way to pivot and that you found a way to create the
inspiration that small businesses need right now to become not only thriving small businesses,
but to become empires!
I thank you for that blessing.