I’m fortunate that Juneteenth is my birthday, and have always felt that, as a Black person, my birthday represents freedom. I come from a blue-collar family—my dad is a construction worker and my mom is a firefighter. She was the first of nine women firefighters in St. Louis, and became the first Black woman fire captain. From childhood, the examples set for me have been about breaking through barriers in pursuit of greater access and freedom. As a professional working in cannabis, it’s the same—create a pathway toward financial independence and opportunity for BIPOC entrepreneurs.
I believe Vertosa’s technology creates an economically feasible and viable model to innovate. Take for example two wonderful Black-owned brands: SHOKi, an infused beverage, and Saucy, an infused condiment. Both brands are led by individuals—Tiffany Yarde of SHOKi and Tess Melody Taylor of Saucy—who are high-energy, high-caliber, experienced executives, leaders, and experts in their fields, who are passionate about their products—they just so happen to be Black.
In white-dominated industries, people of color face even more barriers to getting started, and this is no different for cannabis. As a person of color in business, you have to work twice as hard and be twice as smart to get the same opportunity. And that’s the energy that I love about Tiffany and Tess. They are both super focused and refine their craft and pitch to make themselves and their brands stand out, and demonstrate the value they bring to the marketplace.
The barriers that exist for BIPOC entrepreneurs also come with the hurdles that exist for start-ups. Beverage start-up costs are already prohibitively expensive for the majority of small brands that are getting started, which makes it incredibly difficult in the research and development phase to amass the capital for lift-off. For a food start-up, there needs to be shelf-stability and packaging considerations that require solutions.
To me it is a blessing and a responsibility to be the person who helps to connect dots and find solutions for our Vertosa infusion partners. It’s an honor to work with both Tiffany and Tess as entrepreneurs pursuing access and economic opportunity. From connecting Tiffany to distributors that can move her product, to assisting Tess with the right emulsion formulation for shelf-stability, it’s all about unlocking a pathway to financial freedom.
This is where I feel my responsibility is for Juneteenth: to accelerate economic empowerment by providing a technology platform for entrepreneurs that lets their minds run wild on infused cannabis product possibilities and to build a business around compelling concepts. This comes with the additional layer of always improving and ensuring that these brands have the resources needed to evolve their product lines with us.
The more we help brands evolve, the more opportunities we can create with management services organizations and other supply-chain partners, the closer that any one of these BIPOC brands or clients can get toward financial independence. This freedom impacts the industry and helps cannabis evolve in a way that improves access for the BIPOC community.
We’re not yet there, but we’re on the journey. My hope is that everyone who reads this will make a commitment to do what they can to create a pathway toward opportunity for BIPOC entrepreneurs on this Juneteenth and every day.