Jerald Sanders started the Midsouth Coffee and Tea Company, his first venture into e-commerce retail sales, in October 2021. He looks back on his first year as an entrepreneur and discusses the lessons learned from the relationships he has made in the Memphis business community.
“There’s a lot of people who have done this before,” Sanders says, “so you tap into them as much as you can.”
Sanders aims to foster long-term relationships between Midsouth Coffee and Tea and its thirteen partner farmers in countries such as Brazil, Colombia, and Ethiopia.
The Midsouth Coffee and Tea Company sells a selection of Fair Trade certified coffees, a variety of designer teas, and gift options at his company’s site, midsouthcoffeeandteaco.com
. His products are Direct Trade certified, so there is no intermediary between the roaster and the farmer.
One aim of this type of arrangement is to foster long-term relationships between Midsouth Coffee and Tea and its thirteen partner farmers in countries such as Brazil, Colombia, and Ethiopia. Customers can learn the origin of their single-source coffee, sometimes down to the particular coffee farm, before purchasing.
The Midsouth Coffee and Tea Company
launched during the pandemic, with all business coming from online sales. Recently, however, Memphians have had the opportunity to meet Sanders and purchase his product at several local events, including this year’s Occupy the Shell concert in Overton Park. That night, he featured his cold brew lattes, selling drinks and coffee by the bag to music goers.
Midsouth Coffee and Tea can be purchased online and at local events and select markets, like Cordelia’s Market in Harbortown.
An art lover, Sanders has also used his business to support local artists. In a collaboration with Bobby and Deravvia Rich at Black Urban Seeds Farm
in North Memphis, he participated in a collaborative Mothers Day event with the Memphis watercolor artist Kris Keys. He featured teas from Midsouth Coffee and Tea Company at the event to accompany Keys’ floral art.
Finding a place in Memphis
Sanders draws inspiration from these relationships he has fostered with other Black entrepreneurs and from the Memphis business community at large. And so he is building his business one relationship at a time. As a result of one of these relationships, customers can now buy bags of his coffee from Midsouth Coffee and Tea at Cordelia’s Market
An accomplished leader with decades of experience in education, Sanders knows the value in people and communities. He stresses the importance of building social capital within the community as a step toward success.
He feels too many business owners lose sight of people with the wrong motivation: “Intuitively, you want to find financial capital. I want to get to the money!
“But that’s not always the case,” he says.
The Midsouth Coffee and Tea Company sells a selection of Fair Trade certified coffees, a variety of designer teas, and gifts.
Sanders has never forgot the lessons he learned from his days as a youth in Phoenix, Arizona, when he experienced acute poverty and periods of homelessness.
“Poverty breeds fear,” he says. “So when you get resources, you hoard them because you’re scared. You’ve never had them.”
But watching his business take shape showed him how resources flow in and out.
“Gradually you get really comfortable with money. You make sales, you get to understand cash flow and what you need to maintain.”
He was branding his own clothes even before he started the company, as it makes him feel more comfortable than representing another company’s values .
“I was looking at my shirt one day and I said ‘I don’t play polo.’” He chose a symbol that meant more to him, an image that reflected his efficiency and job-oriented nature, and that’s how he decided upon a single bee, wings spread in flight. This bee is now the logo of the Midsouth Coffee and Tea Company.
“Every bee has a special job and role.”
They also know how to work together as a community to accomplish their goals.
“Bees are social,” he says, “but they have the understanding that this is still work.”
Visit Midsouth Coffee and Tea Co. online at midsouthcoffeeandtea.com
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