We love to see a Black-owned business thrive, especially one that is bridging the gap for an industry that lacks Black representation. But as if that wasn’t enough, this business is led by not one, but two HBCU alumni that are bridging the gap for communities of color! Enter Crowns & Hops Brewing Co., a socially-conscious business taking the craft beer industry by storm. In 2020, Crowns & Hops Brewery Co. will stand as the first black-owned brewery in Inglewood, CA.
Beny Ashburn and Teo Hunter actually began their journey on social media as influencers and community leaders first. And in just a few years, the co-founders have disrupted the craft beer industry and created a movement. “For 4+ years, we promoted and pushed other people’s products, to help curate safe spaces for people of color in craft,” they said. We tirelessly, pushed the narrative for change in craft beer daily, and it was not always received with open arms.” By prioritizing diversity and inclusion, they are now at the head of what will be lasting change within the industry. In fact, in 2018 TIME Magazine said they were “Changing The Face of Beer.” Imbibe Magazine also named them “Beer People of the Year!” Craft beer culture has proven to create connections within the community it’s made in by promoting values, ownership and philanthropy. Crowns & Hops is dedicated to not only preserving culture, but using quality beer to build communities and expand palates.
When separated, Beny and Teo are forces to be reckoned with. But together, they’re ready to take over the world. Spelman College alumna Beny Ashburn serves Crowns & Hops as CEO. Before the plunge into beer, Beny served as a Creative Strategist and Executive Producer for brands and ad agencies like Beats by Dre and SONOS. She has built the framework for Crowns & Hops by putting her branding and strategy skills to good use. She works to ensure that the brand visuals and messaging work together in a way that is both consistent and effective.
As one of few Black female CEOs in the industry, she focuses hard on the business aspect beer. “There is very little conversation or resources around foundational support, brand development, strategy and growth for Black-owned business,” she said. “Financial support is only step one. Those additional pillars are key to creating a sustainable business along with building and maintaining racially equitable society.”
As COO & Head of Brewing Operations for Crowns & Hops, Howard University alumnus Teo Hunter does well as Beny’s right hand man. He has many talents, serving as craft beer recipe designer, social influencer and activist for social equity in the craft beer industry. Teo’s well-rounded palate and experience in the cellar allows him to lead beer production, distribution, and taproom operations. The hard-working 14-year Army veteran also frequent forges collaborations throughout the brewing industry through global brand partnerships.
Recently, Crowns & Hops launched “The 8 Trill Pils Grant,” which is a $100,000 fund targeted to help other Black-owned craft beer businesses achieve their dreams! Craft beer is unique in that it often represents the community it is made in. Their hope is that other industry leaders will see their measurable steps and make similar efforts towards racial equity. “Out of 8000 breweries in the US, less than 1% are black-owned. It’s time for things to change, and we are excited to be a part of that change,” said the co-founders. We can’t wait to see the impact their work will have on future generations of entrepreneurs.