Kelli Lemon is a certified badass. She’s also opening a new coffee shop!
We first heard about Kelli when we stumbled upon her web series, “Coffee with Strangers.” Soon after we realized that she is quite possibly the busiest and most connected person in Richmond.
At one of her many places of work, Radio One Richmond, Kelli talked to us about her life and career. Topics ranged from Richmond, VCU, Mayor Stoney, depression, coffee, what 50 Cent smells like and much more.
You can listen to the entire, uncut interview on Soundcloud (above) or read the top 10 things we took away from her interview below:
- Kelli bleeds Black and Gold. At 22, Kelli landed her dream job as the Director of Women’s Basketball Operations at VCU. She spent about four years in athletics when she realized it was time to move on. “I was watching men get promoted around me… and it took a man in the department to tell me I should try something else,” Kelli said. She moved to Student Affairs and because of that become heavily involved in the Richmond community.
- She became the first side-line broadcaster at VCU. Kelli didn’t have any experience in Sports Journalism but was passionate enough about sports that she could get in front of a camera and talk to the coaches and players about the game. You can still see her during VCU basketball games today!
- Mama J’s hired her as a General Manager. In 2012 she went to Mama J’s to work full time with friends. “My whole goal was to make sure that Mama J’s was more than just a restaurant,” she said. Although she no longer works at Mama J’s it’s still her favorite restaurant in Richmond.
- Coffee with Strangers started at Lift Coffee Shop. In 2015, Kelli was approached to start a web series. The creators met at Lift Coffee Shop to brainstorm ideas and the name “Coffee with Strangers” was born. On the show Kelli takes the word “stranger” seriously as she tries her best not to research the person she is interviewing beforehand or talk to them before they start filming.
- She has Levar’s back. Kelli sang Major Levar Stoney’s praises, “He’s young, he’s vibrant, he’s into what we can do to change this city.” When I asked her if she would be interviewing him for Coffee With Strangers, she got a big smile on her face and said “watch out for the 100th episode.”
- Kelli is opening her own coffee shop in 2018. At 304 E Broad St. she is opening what she calls a cafe & “urban hang suite.” She wants a space for people to do whatever they want: be creative, people-watch, or jump into conversations. The location, in Jackson Ward, is special to Kelli. “My side of the street is still the Jackson Ward side and my side of the street is where Blacks could shop… so that puts a chill in me.”
- She’s not afraid to try. Kelli went to UVA with intentions of becoming a dentist. Today she is an entrepreneur that has worked in sports, student affairs, radio, food and more.
- “There is RVA and there is Richmond.” Kelli LOVES Richmond but feels like it’s a “tale of two cities.” The school system, food deserts, poverty, affordable housing, public transportation are all things that Richmond still struggles with. Her advice to make a difference in these areas? Know who your city council is and make your voice heard.
- She wants to talk about mental health. Kelli said, “I suffer from depression. Mental health is just something that’s not discussed as much as it needs to be especially in the Black community.” She wants to speak more publicly about it so others feel more comfortable talking about their own experiences.
- She’s not slowing down any time soon. She has no plans to move to just one gig. After opening her coffee shop she’d like to expand it to Hampton, Charlottesville, and maybe more. She also has dreams of opening a sports bar geared towards women.
Keep up with Kelli: