Entrepreneur, author and activist Phyllis Johnson founded green coffee trader BD Imports in 1999 with the aim of empowering women in coffee growing communities. In 2020 she founded the Coffee Coalition for Racial Equity against the backdrop of significant racial injustice and unrest in the US. She speaks to 5THWAVE about her remarkable journey in coffee and why diversity is the industry’s greatest untapped resource

Article for 5th Wave



Tell us about your vision for founding BD imports in 1999

Our vision at BD Imports was to build a company that held to a social mission of ensuring relationships of fairness and opportunity. Our goal was to provide opportunities to those who were often overlooked or discounted. I saw myself in those individuals who we were engaged with in our supply chain. When provided with an opportunity, those who are often overlooked rise to the occasion in more meaningful ways – offering great value. We were out to prove what we knew to be true from our own personal life experiences and we were successful.

What have been some of BD Imports’ key achievements in this time?

I’m proud of the success of BD Imports. It’s a company that has served as a pathway for new discoveries and enlightenments, not just for myself and my family but for many others. BD Imports is often the first company to engage with women coffee entrepreneurs and producers in various countries or to inspire entrepreneurs in our own country.

Sometimes the best thing that one can be is a good representation or inspiration for others. As a Black woman in the green coffee trade, I’ve stood out and been noticed by others who also stood out in their own way.

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