“He had carpet in the kitchen and it was green.”
With his eyes closed tight, Co-Founder of Blk & Bold, Rod Johnson, recalls the worst job he says he ever had, an Insurance Adjuster. As he walked down memory lane of the many houses of damage; no roof climbed, dust bunnies or holes would top the state of one kitchen he vividly remembered with terrible conditions, and worst of all, green carpet. That memory (or stain) in the bigger picture, painted the line in the sand that Johnson knew he was destined for more.
Johnson recalled that moment with as much passion as he does anything he’s thoroughly interested in. The list includes; Beyonce (an avid member of the Bey-hive), random dancing, Thai food and above anything else, helping people. His care, charisma, and confidence is infectious and he attributes it all, to his mother.
“I had a good time as a kid despite living in an unfortunate situation. My mother did a great job of trying to shift us away from the things that were happening,” said Johnson.
Johnson and his family moved around a lot, with grace. He described anecdotes of his mother in admiration; from protecting him from an overbearing teacher in class, to teaching him to be empowered in any situation. She is the reason for the principals he follows, the positive outlook he attempts to carry and for his understanding of what it means to be Black in America.
“My mother was very conscious of that and wanted to make sure that we knew that especially because even though we knew (we were) in a Black neighborhood in the middle of Gary all of our teachers were White,” said Johnson.
Johnson seemed to be one of those renaissance kids that mastered everything from academics to sports. Being outside with friends was his favorite activity and a favorite space, was on the basketball court with Co-Founder Pernell Cezar. This chance friendship that started with a neighborly knock - would later be the foundation for Blk & Bold and core memories in between. Memories that would shape Johnson’s scope of who he wanted to be. As a good friend, Cezar would also become a liaison to connect Johnson with serious life questions like; Do you want to start a business? Or, What is your dream job?
As Johnson reminisced on their friendship and those life questions, he smiled wide and said, “P and I went to the Dominican Republic for my 30th birthday and there was this tour guide that took us around everywhere and I was really fascinated about how he gave that tour and I thought I want to do that for people.”
Johnson, now 35, has made his idealized dream job come to life in one, or a few, of the many roles he takes on as Chief Values Officer for Blk & Bold. Tours of the roastery with Johnson are one of a kind, and imagined to be, sprinkled with the same zest as the tour guide from DR, his muse, “he was engaging, he was funny, he was informative, he was approachable but he knew his stuff.”
And Johnson also seems to know his stuff. On the other side of the witty tours, consistent Dad jokes, and all around approachable environment he aims to create in the Blk & Bold building, he plans to keep connecting with people, and the community, outside of it too.
Johnson entered the Non-profit space after college with the idea of making a difference in neighborhoods, like the ones he grew up in. Now as CVO, it’s full circle. For him, it’s more than just making sure values are instilled in the ecosystem of product, workers and supporters. He says, he wants to make sure Blk & Bold leaves a mark and creates a legacy of building connections that will lead to change, socio-economic support and a positive outlook.
“The fact that we have social impact embedded at the core of what we do I hope serves as an example for my friends, family and loved ones that you don’t have to do one over the other, that you can walk both paths of purpose and profit,” said Johnson.
That continued legacy and accountability for Johnson, looks like setting up building blocks for what he knows will soon be the Blk and Bold Foundation. The foundation, will be a resource to reinforce the ideas of social impact, community connection and providing. He said, "Blk & Bold is just a vehicle to do dope things down the line... Its still gonna be the same mission in mind and that's to give back to people who are in similar circumstances that I was able to overcome by being a good person, being a good daddy that’s what I think about when I think about legacy."