“In the city of Oakland, CA, alone, almost 80% of marijuana related arrests are of Black folks – almost 90-95% if you consider all people of color. White people are only arrested 4% of the time, [yet] less than 1% of cannabis related venture capital funding or loans goes to Black business owners.”
– Ebele Ifedigbo, co-founder, The Hood Incubator.
These are the cold, hard facts and a common theme for far too many Black and Brown folks. The same method used to benefit one demographic serves to subjugate another. Institutional racism is a chronic sickness in US culture, but when it comes to inequality within the cannabis industry, The Hood Incubator offers an opportunity to balance the scales.
Co-founded by Lanese Martin, Ebele Ifedigbo, and Biseat Horning, The Hood Incubator is the first of its kind to focus on people of color transitioning into the legal cannabis realm.
Their ultimate goal is to increase the level of ownership within the starkly homogenous industry.
It’s common knowledge that legal marijuana is tremendously lucrative, generating 6.7 billion bucks in 2016 alone. According to Business Insider, it’s been projected that sales will grow at a rate of 25% through 2021, when the North American market is expected to top $20.2 billion. “Now is the time for us to act and create the network that will allow people of color to have a real stake in this industry,” Ifedigbo declares.
Their free program provides low-income students with the business savvy aptitude necessary to get in on the ground floor – and prosper.
T.H.I. offers a four month, 100-hour business intensive called a Pre-Seed Accelerator where members benefit from mentorship and training designed to help those with a lack of formal business experience and access to capital.
Their inaugural class represented a wide range of backgrounds. “It was truly inspiring to see such a diversity of people in the program,” says Juell Stewart, Communications Director for The Hood Incubator. “There were people with different degrees of familiarity with the cannabis industry, from people who were transitioning from other fields like myself, to people who had several years in the formal industry, [as well as] those who had been participating in the industry informally.”
Stewart worked in urban planning prior to attending T.H.I “To say the experience in the program was life-changing for me is an understatement.”
“The commitment that people showed to coming twice a week, 6 PM-9 PM, was a testament to the dedication they had in themselves. The best part might have been the mixers and class sessions with people who were already in the industry. We had designers, dispensary owners, edibles manufactures, and a whole host of others, take time to come to class and talk about their work, which really gave us an expansive view of the myriad opportunities that exist in the cannabis space.”
Equipped to take their ganjapreneurial aspirations to the next level, The Hood Incubator celebrated their first graduating class in early May. Stewart reveals, “Some members of the cohort have gone on to start forming their own businesses. Two people partnered up to launch a delivery service that’s still in its early stages. Three people have started edible companies, all of which cater to specific market segments that are traditionally overlooked with infused products.”
In addition to the Pre-Seed Accelerator, the incubator hosts an open house called ‘Third Fridays’. It’s a platform for cannabis advocates and professionals to share their wealth of knowledge with business hopefuls. “Third Fridays are also when we host our Member Meetings– a great chance to collaborate and celebrate with other folks in the cannabis movement. Anyone in the Bay Area is welcome to join,” Stewart explains.
In addition to equity, The Hood Incubator strives to create positive change within the industry and our society as a whole. For more information, or to make a donation, check out their site.