Saturday, April 20, 2024

Durham entrepreneur’s shot pays off with Food Lion

When Food Lion executives asked for Dorian Bolden’s business card during a chance meeting, they also promised to follow up. The Durham entrepreneur didn’t expect too much, but knew he had taken his shot. Now, about a year after that meeting, Bolden’s coffee brand, Beyucaffé, has been on the shelves of about 30 Food Lion stores in the Triangle since June, and he has had talks with them of expanding that number to 50 stores.

“It’s always about opportunity, and that’s one thing I love about being an entrepreneur,” said Bolden. “There’s always that common thread among entrepreneurs. How do you take advantage of your opportunities?”

Bolden found himself in front of Food Lion executives when his bank, Durham-based M&F Bank (Mechanics and Farmers), was giving a tour of Durham to business leaders. One of the tour stops was his Beyu Caffé in Durham. Along with serving coffee, he gave the executives gift baskets with samples. He and Food Lion were in conversations for eight months before the Salisbury-based grocery chain gave him space on their shelves.

“I appreciate their approach of making sure we crawl before we walk,” Bolden said. “They really want to value the partnership, and that we do things the right way.”

Bolden has come a long way in the coffee business considering he didn’t even start drinking coffee until his senior year at Duke University. He was a resident assistant and recalled he would drink “a lot of cream and sugar, with a dab of coffee” to stay awake. When he graduated from Duke in 2002 with a degree in economics, his aim was to conquer Wall Street.

Dorian Bolden

“It really was just that path of wanting to make money. That was kind of my mindset from growing up without it,” he says. He moved to New York City to work in finance after graduation and lived with roommates from college. Things were going well. He said he enjoyed helping others solve problems and move ahead in their financial decisions. He was bringing in his first big account worth millions of dollars, he said.  

About two years into his career, a family emergency changed his perspective of cash being king. His mother called him in 2004 to tell him his father had been in an accident. His father would not survive. Around the same time, the financial company he was working for in New York was acquired by a much bigger company, and some of his close colleagues were losing their jobs.

“Those two things made me realize that tomorrow wasn’t guaranteed, and I kind of wanted to become my own boss,” said Bolden. “That for me was where entrepreneurship was born and how I ended up pivoting away from finance.”

Bolden thought back to growing up in the Atlanta area and a coffee business there that was a community gathering place. He wanted to replicate that vibe – a place where people could be their “authentic selves” with “coffee being the medium.” Beyu stands for “be you.” The name goes back to his time living with his college roommates and how they would cope with the daily struggles of life.

“We’d always just say to each other, ‘It’s going to be OK, just be you,’” he says. “Just be true to who you are and God will work everything else out.”

He would follow his college sweetheart back to North Carolina as she started medical school at UNC Chapel Hill. For a year he worked as a coffee barista. He spent 18 months as an assistant store manager for Panera Bread in the Triangle just trying to learn the business, he says. He opened the first Beyu Caffé in 2009. He now has five locations in the Triangle and a coffee roastery. That was 13 years ago, he said. He believes he has followed through on what he wanted to accomplish with coffee.

“We’ve been able to bring people together here through coffee,” he said. “Without community, it’s just coffee.”   

He and his college sweetheart, now Dr. Taineisha Bolden, have been married for more than 16 years. A primary care physician, she owns AccessiBull Healthcare in Durham. He credits her with holding things together during the lean years.

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