Phyllis Johnson
Phyllis Johnson

Company: BD Imports
Position: Founder and President
Country: USA

A move from working in Pharmaceuticals and Microbiology with companies such as Pierce Chemical Company and Restek Corporation, to being considered a foremost leader in addressing gender equality and trade may not be the clear path for everyone, but it was the path chosen by Phyllis Johnson, Co-founder and President of BD Imports Inc.

Phyllis chose this path because she knew there were greater opportunities on the other side of fear and inhibition. “My choice in education, in becoming a Microbiologist had more to do with stepping outside of the norms for women,” says Johnson. “I’ve always been a feminist, felt strong and empowered and always felt that I could be a role model.

Phyllis is passionate about making a real difference, experiencing greatness within herself and others and allowing others opportunities to excel and to expect greatness. She understands first-hand that if given an opportunity, girls and women can and will excel. Phyllis also understands that girls and women often operate in silence because they are underestimated and undervalued when in fact they are builders of nations holding families and communities together. She understands they need champions.
BD Imports has helped to propel Phyllis as a champion of women and women in coffee - she approaches her work with a consideration of the people over the product. “This approach has never failed, says Johnson. Ultimately the relationship with the people strongly dictates the service and the products.”

Starting her business in 1999, she has been involved in projects to help promote sustainability and bring about awareness to farmers in various countries. The company imports coffees from African countries and offers roasted coffee to the hospitality and foodservice industries. BD Imports is known for giving a start to African women and small businesses engaged in the production and trade of coffee. Serving on a number of coffee focused boards and advisory committees addressing issues of gender equality and trade, Phyllis is frequently called upon as keynote speaker and provides consulting to organizations including the United Nations, the World Trade Organization and the International Women in Coffee Alliance.

Phyllis graduated from University of Arkansas at Fayetteville with a Bachelor of Science degree in Microbiology. She has been married to Patrick Johnson (Co-founder of BD Imports) for 18 years with a son Matthew 17 and daughter Maya 13. Phyllis’ mother who is 87 lives with the family and her hope is that her children will also strive for the greatness that is within them - whatever they choose to do.