CalSavers Helps Oakland Coffee Shop Employees Brew Retirement Funds


Kenitra “Keni” Dominguez was determined to expand Red Bay Coffee’s employee benefits when she became the sustainable coffee company’s Director of People and Culture in early 2018.

“Finding good employee benefits takes time, dedication and resources, and before I came to Red Bay, there was no one serving in a dedicated HR or people operations capacity, so I was essentially starting from scratch,” she said.

Red Bay Coffee in Oakland, Calif., was founded in 2014 by artist Keba Konte with the intent of creating a global community through ethically and sustainably sourced coffee. At Red Bay, the focus is on creating opportunities for the local community by sourcing from a diverse network of farmers and co-ops. Red Bay is also committed to hiring and serving people from all backgrounds, with a focus on those who have been historically left out of the specialty coffee industry like people of color, people with disabilities, women and those who have been formerly incarcerated.

Keni strongly believes in Red Bay’s mission of inclusion and equity and realized that one of the best ways to embody the mission was to help employees access affordable healthcare coverage and a retirement savings program, which they may have otherwise had difficulty obtaining. She also knew that facilitating these benefits would create more loyalty among their employees, and show that we care about them and value their well-being.

“I am currently a team of one, so I have to be really careful about how we utilize our resources,” Keni said. “A lot of typical 401(k) programs can be really expensive for employers and the administrative setup and maintenance is time-consuming.”

Keni was already familiar with Small Business Majority before she worked at Red Bay, so she decided to connect with us to learn more about CalSavers, which is California’s state-sponsored workplace retirement savings program that enables small business employees to make an automatic payroll contribution into a personal retirement account in a secure, easy and reliable way. After reaching out to Small Business Majority about the program, Northern California Outreach Manager Bianca Blomquist introduced Keni to the CalSavers Outreach Team.

CalSavers was a perfect fit for the Red Bay Team, so Keni enrolled Red Bay employees in the initial pilot program, which officially began in November 2018. Over the past few months, Keni has been most impressed with the customer service experience and dedicated support. Keni was particularly inspired by the Outreach Team at CalSavers, including Jonathan Herrera, who traveled from Sacramento to Oakland to meet some of Red Bay’s employees and see where they make their coffee.

“To know someone cared enough to get on a train and come to our roastery shows genuine dedication,” she said. “I am highly impressed with the Outreach Team and their level of commitment and depth of service.”

But even for small businesses that don’t connect directly with the program’s Outreach Team, CalSavers is easy to use and understand.

“Knowing that my team is in safe hands puts my mind at ease,” Keni said. “I would undoubtedly encourage other small businesses to consider CalSavers.”

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