Catching Up with a Bay Area Inspire Awardee: Kori Chen from Red Bay Coffee
“I hope to provide participants with an opportunity to grow, and I hope that I can offer testimony to other employers about the importance and power of giving marginalized folks a chance to succeed.” -Kori Chen, Red Bay Coffee
In 2014, PVF awarded a $10,000 Bay Area Inspire Award grant to Kori Chen at Red Bay Coffee. Kori’s innovative idea for building a better community was to help Red Bay Coffee employ people from historically marginalized groups. He used his award to conduct a 40-hour employment training program for formerly incarcerated Alameda County residents. “Even though our business is specific to coffee, my hope is that participants gain an understanding of business and organizational skills that they can transfer to other work or life in general,” he said.
PVF Executive Director James Higa and Chief Operating Officer Dawn Hawk went to visit Kori at Red Bay Coffee to catch up on how the business has progressed since launching his idea and using his award. Kori invited a former employee (and formerly incarcerated individual), Harrison Seuga, to join the conversation.
Harrison, who served over 23 years in detention facilities, was employed as a delivery driver at Red Bay Coffee, brought on board through Bay Area Inspire Awards funding. He participated in the training program and was exposed to all aspects of the coffee roasting industry, from customer service, to the bagging and assembly line production work of coffee, to the actual roasting and education about sourcing beans from farms around the world. He was so successful in his role that he was promoted to be a Production Manager at the coffee roasting company. At the beginning of 2017, he transitioned out of his role to pursue more direct work with the formerly incarcerated population.
Now, Harrison is the Re-Entry Director at the Asian Prisoner Support Committee (APSC), working with Asian and Pacific Islander (API) prisoners in California. Harrison runs Roots 2 Re-Entry, a re-entry program that connects formerly incarcerated APIs in Alameda County with services like housing and employment.
Harrison’s story is documented in Life After Life, which follows three formerly incarcerated individuals and describes the “impact of incarceration on urban communities and the opportunity for transformation.”
Kori said, “You all took a chance on me with the Bay Area Inspire Awards, I’m so happy that it sparked even bigger impact in the community.”
Red Bay Coffee continues to place value in being an empathetic employer and provide jobs to people in marginalized groups. (Recently, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors honored Red Bay Coffee’s efforts.) PVF is proud to support their work.