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So much for customer service

The Saddle Creek Apple Store finally struck out with me. Why is it that when I want to make a large purchase in this store, I get ignored or I only get help from people of color? Ooh, maybe I’m invisible. Perhaps I look like I don’t want to spend money. Excuses all.

I’m not about to beg you to take my money & I won’t be shopping there again any time soon.

Moving on.

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Traveling Woman

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I’m OK with the fact that I decided to take four personal days, a floating holiday & nine vacation days all in one month, especially if it means I get to travel and write for long periods of time. That said, Ohio & New Orleans, I’m coming for you. ATL, you’re next. I have a whole bunch of people to see, babies to hug & new houses to visit before the year is through.

Being normal is nice, n’est ce pas?

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NaNoWriMo

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Next month, I’m jumping into National Novel Writing Month. It’s going to be like running a marathon without working my way up to it. I’m scared, but dumb excited at the same time. Plus, I’m pretty sure my writing will suck and I’m OK with that. I’m even going to take the City of New Orleans and go visit my people, and I plan to write the whole way. It’s going to be marvelous!

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Zombie

Zombification starts at home.

I'm a zombie, baby. So why don't you kill me?

I used to be a creative.

Then I got a full-time job as a phone-answering, email-replying, newsletter-designing zombie.

It’s not that the job is bad, but I let the job take over.

I lost connections to people.

I stopped making things.

I didn’t write or design unless it was for work.

In other words, I lost me.

I did not  survive the zombie apocalypse.

What do I do?

How do I come back to life?

If only life gave out instant answers. That would be the shit.

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Adopt a Fur Baby Month

Endymion: he's not a Great Dane, but he could play one on TV.

OK, so there are only six days left in October, the most glorious month of the year, but you still have time to adopt a shelter pet. The little one in the picture above followed me home one day, so I guess he adopted us. Nonetheless, there are hundreds of dogs and cats available for adoption in your local shelter, so do a fur baby a solid, and bring one home today!

There are more than 1,000,001 reasons to adopt an animal, but for time’s sake I’ll only give you a few:

Inspired to adopt a fur ball of your own? Please visit The Humane Society of the United States, the ASPCA or Petfinder to find a local shelter and for more information about adopting a shelter dog or cat.

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Just this…

Minnie, LaToya & Michael at an industry white party.

From her posthumous 1980 release Love Lives Forever, it’s Minnie Riperton & Michael Jackson with “I’m In Love Again”.

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My Latest Black Enterprise Story: Brewing Up Success

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Courtesy of The EverGreen Home

Sonia Marie Bunch has got to be one of the most energetic, passionate entrepreneurs I’ve ever spoken to. I think it’s a mix of her New York upbringing, her natural ability to spot trends (later honed by working as a trading analyst for NASDAQ) and her constant caffeination—the lady loves her coffee! This time last year, I saw her talking about The EverGreen Home, her Silver Spring, Md.-based organic coffee, tea, and housewares company on NBC4 Washington and I just knew I had to interview her for Black Enterprise. Sonia’s story is one of constant hustle, vision and unwavering faith. While The EverGreen Home coffee can be found in hundreds of Giant and Stop N Shop stores on the East Coast, just wait. I have the feeling you’re going to see The EverGreen Home on shelves near you very soon.

By the way, if you want to know anything about home roasting and brewing coffee, Sonia is the person to talk to. In fact, she does roasting and brewing workshops at Whole Foods, Giant Food and food expos all over the Mid-Atlantic. She even taught me how to use a French press, something my bougie self wanted to learn since forever.

Organic Brands in Demand:

The EverGreen Home finds a foothold in the organic coffee market

Silver Spring, Maryland resident Sonia Marie Bunch always knew she’d invest in an organic food and beverage line—the only question was when. In February 2008, Bunch added an organic coffee to her roster of offerings under The EverGreen Home, then an organic bedding and green living consulting company. But the demand for her coffee quickly grew from modest sales of six cans a month to 14,400 cans a month to 181 Mid-Atlantic grocery stores. “I just love coffee and knew going into this that it was a huge, huge market since more than half of adult Americans drink it,” Bunch says.

Born out of the ’90s coffee house scene, organic coffee accounts for $21 billion of all coffee imported to North America, reports Research and Markets. Though larger brands failed to crack the organic coffee market, The EverGreen Home found a niche in unroasted or green coffee beans, says Kelly Keenan, beverage buyer for Stop and Shop/Giant, subsidiary of mass-market grocer Ahold USA, which stocks The EverGreen Home Coffee. “It’s extremely unique and allows us to get in touch with the home coffee roasters in our customer base that we’ve never had a way to talk to before.”

A former NASDAQ market analyst, Bunch impressed the store’s executives by “knowing her product, her competitors her marketplace and her niche,” says James Sturgis, director of supplier diversity for Ahold USA. “I was more blown away by Sonia than I was her product.”

Bunch jumped into the java business right as the economy tanked and wasn’t able to secure a bank loan. The 46-year-old borrowed about $30,000 from friends and family, and nearly lost her house in order to can her first few orders of USDA certified organic, fair trade brews. Fulfilling the Giant Foods account in September 2009 proved an even taller order. “We went into a strategic alignment with the roasting company that we work with and they fronted the cost for us because they believed in the product so much,” Bunch says. The costs of roasting and canning took an $82,000 chunk out of her profits from the delivery. Bunch’s beans are procured through brokers that work directly with farms in Indonesia, Ethiopia and South America.

Bunch runs The EverGreen Home from her home office and spends about $5,000 annually on Website maintenance and trade shows where she promotes her coffee brand through lectures and home roasting demonstrations; her monthly in-store demos are free. The company also pays about $800 a year for memberships in the National Minority Supplier Diversity Council, the Organic Fair Trade Association and Green America.

Having operated in the red for nearly three years, Bunch expects revenues of $300,000 by year’s end, and projects revenues of $1 million in 2010 by expanding into an additional 380 Giant and Stop and Shop stores in New England.

While The EverGreen Home Coffee is also available at three Whole Foods Markets in Southwestern Maryland, the company also sells powdered Japanese-style green tea from it’s Internet storefront and has plans to sell Fair Trade honey, peanut butter, and hot cocoa. “We truly plan to become the brand to buy organics from,” Bunch says.

Perk up: Smart strategies for growing a grocery brand:

Value small steps. Beverage buyer Keenan says it’s a big leap of faith for a grocer to take on a fledgling brand, but building a stronger brand in smaller store makes your brand more solid.

Bite the big guys. Find a niche that puts such a big dent in a larger brand’s business that they want to buy you out just to get you off their back, says veteran diversity supplier manager Sturgis.

Talk to your buyer. Your idea of good sales may not match those of your buyer. Find out what her expectations are and exceed them, Sturgis says.

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