As coffee businesses pivot left and right in attempts to navigate the emerging economic landscape carved out by the COVID-19 pandemic, groups supporting those businesses are also making moves.
With more organizational partners now on board, the group’s goals have grown beyond providing visitors with quick links and information. It’s now also providing direct financial relief to ailing businesses through the ComeTogether Cafe Fund.
Hanna McPhee, brand and marketing director for equipment manufacturer Fellow, told Daily Coffee News that 50% of the ComeTogether Cafe Fund that launched this week is reserved for Black-owned or co-owned businesses. The remaining 50% is reserved for businesses owned by self-identified members of other underrepresented or marginalized groups within the specialty coffee industry, including but not limited to BIPOC, disabled, LGBTQIA+, womxn, and racial and ethnic minorities.
“We are encouraging folks to apply if they meet any of our criteria,” said McPhee, “[although] we wanted to focus on marginalized groups for a couple of reasons.”
McPhee pointed to demographic research published by various major news outlets indicating that an estimated 41% of Black-owned businesses have closed due to COVID-19, compared to about 17% for white-owned businesses. The group has also questioned the efficacy of the PPP small business loans under the federal government’s CARES act in addressing the needs of truly small businesses.
ComeTogether.coffee was originally developed by Fellow in collaboration with San Francisco-based web development firm Mage. The site gives coffee shop owners a platform to update their business status, while sharing ways customers can help to keep them afloat.
“When you visit ComeTogether.coffee, you’ll see two different ways to donate,” said McPhee. “The ComeTogether Cafe Fund, which focuses on supporting small specialty coffee cafes, while GoFundBean non-profit supports, uplifts, and defends the hourly coffee professional.”
Applications for funds are accepted in month-long windows, after which a committee determines recipients within two weeks.
“Applicants have the ability to request the amount they need,” said McPhee. “Although we can’t promise we will always give that amount, we wanted to try and give on a case-by-case basis rather than equally disbursing.”
In order to circumvent any biases or conflicts of interest on the parts of the four organizing partners, ComeTogether has convened a committee of five more neutral and trusted specialty coffee community figures to review the applications.
At launch, the committee includes Umeshiso Coffee Supply & Consultancy Founder Umeko Motoyoshi; The Chocolate Barista Founder Michelle Johnson; Intelligentsia trainer and Boston Intersectional Coffee Collective Founder Kristina Jackson; Slow Pour Supply Founder and head technical judge for the United States Barista Championships Anita Tam; and BD Imports President and Co-Founder Phyllis Johnson.
“Committee members have the options to opt-out after each cohort if needed,” said McPhee. “ComeTogether chose these individuals as we felt their work in supporting the specialty coffee community showcased their abilities to identify needs for coffee businesses, as well as advocate for a variety of underrepresented groups. We’re incredibly excited to work with them and honored they said yes.”
The first application window for the ComeTogether Cafe Fund is open now, running from Aug. 7 to Sept. 7. Anyone interested in applying can learn more at ComeTogether.coffee.