Up Close with Our Academy Mentees
We believe there’s room for everyone in the world of weed. For us, it’s more than just puffing and passing a good joint — it’s about sharing knowledge, empowering communities affected by the War on Drugs, and supporting those who have radical visions for the future of cannabis. That’s why we’re so proud to work with Our Academy to help further their mission to make cannabis more equitable for everyone - which you can learn more about on their website and in our interview with Co-Founder Hilary Yu.
Through our special partnership with Our Academy, we’ve been fortunate to work as mentors for a handful of amazing entrepreneurs, and we thought it’s high time to show them some love here in the OP Journal. From a family operation in the Bay Area to cannabis-fueled dinner parties in Chicago, these applicants have us buzzing with inspiration thanks to their big ideas and even bigger hearts. Take a minute to get to know these four ganja-preneurs, and make sure to stock up on Legalize Humanity goods, as 100% of the profits go directly to Our Academy.
Name: Stacie Thompson
Location: Chicago, IL
Business: Table for Twenty
What it is: a dope dinner club serving rad 420-inspired cuisine
Table for Twenty might be the dopest dinner club you’ve never heard of. That is, unless you live in Chicago and you’ve had the opportunity to enjoy this delicious, cannabis-infused food adventure started by our friend Stacie Thompson. It’s a special experience where humans from all walks come to share good vibes while enjoying the buzz of elegant, high-minded cuisine.
“For me, it’s still that electric vibe at the party when everybody is talking and having a good time,” says Thompson. “It just really shows that we’re connected. Like we really do love and need each other, in spite of all the madness happening outside.”
And while Covid has slowed the large party scene, Stacie continues to find ways to share her love for people and food — whether it’s cannabis-infused meal delivery through her Instagram or selling wellness products through her site.
“I’d say my biggest lesson is how important mentorship actually is on a long-term basis,” says Thompson about her experience with Our Academy. “I never would’ve thought about having a business coach or strategist, but having a mentor hold my hand and relate to my experience was really helpful.”
Follow Table for Twenty on Instagram.
Name: Charles Byrd
Location: Oakland, CA
Business: Cannabis on Fire
What it is: A family brand that’s cultivating good vibes and great weed
Family is everything for us here at Old Pal, so you can understand our excitement to work with Charles Byrd and Cannabis on Fire, the Oakland-based equity cannabis brand he literally started while sitting around his kitchen table with his family. Through Our Academy, Charles was able to work closely with our Co-Founder, Rusty Wilenkin, gaining insights about business acumen, networking, and new ways to take Cannabis on Fire to higher places.
“We got the luck of the draw working with Rusty,” adds Charles with a laugh. “He’s always transparent, accessible, and available. He refers to us as a friend, and when he calls us a friend, people have a conversation with us and it really opens up doors.”
While his nephew is the brainchild of Cannabis on Fire, Charles has used his background in reggae music production to help captain the ship and manage the business side of things. “He has the skills to do the growing and I had the ability to put together an organization,” says Charles. “Starting a business in the cannabis field is a challenge — especially when you’ve never done it before. I mean, we had conversations every Friday around the kitchen table talking about how we would get involved in the cannabis business. And between the four of us, we had about $500 combined in our pockets.”
Together with his niece and nephew, Charles continues to push his brand to new heights — all while remaining firmly dedicated to his love for family and the legacy they’ll create together in the cannabis space. “My father is my biggest inspiration — who passed away a couple of years ago. As the older brother of the family, my goal of the business is to create an asset we can pass on to the next generation.”
Follow Cannabis on Fire on Instagram.
Name: Tess Taylor
Location: Santa Monica, CA
Business: Saucy BBQ Sauce
What it is: A dank condiment for higher eating
If you want to give your meal some stoney spice, Saucy BBQ Sauce will be your new go-to condiment. Started by Tess Taylor, this cannabis-fueled sauce is more than just a way to get a buzz with your dinner - it’s also helping to push edible innovation into a delicious new direction.
“I definitely saw there was a gap in the market for savory condiments,” says Tess. “And the sauce makes the meal for me. It’s the concept that you can elevate any meal, whether you prepare it yourself or not.”
Originally from Texas, Tess has bbq running through her veins, as her grandfather was a chef in the Navy — and yes, his favorite thing to cook was ribs. “I learned a lot from my grandfather,” adds Taylor. “I just really want our line to resonate with any type of consumer, with healthy ingredients, versatility, and the ability to microdose.”
Working closely with Our Academy, Tess was given the tools and skills to manage the often scary entry point into the cannabis business world. “I just felt so empowered with everything that was offered through the program. From taxes, to POS, to distribution, to community building.”
For Tess, Saucy BBQ is a higher experience that goes beyond the bottle. It’s one built around family, community, and supporting each other. “Just being able to get people to come together around food - it’s a powerful experience,” says Taylor. “I think a lot can happen around the kitchen table, and 2020 has definitely taught us that - especially as we have these tough conversations around social justice and actionable social equity.”
Follow Saucy on Instagram.
Name: Tre Hobbs
Location: Detroit, MI
Business: Neighborhood Essentials
What it is: A cannabis brand transforming the community.
To say Tre Hobbs is doing great things with Neighborhood Essentials would be a vast understatement. His Detroit-based cannabis brand and clothing line are helping to uplift the community, spread positive vibes, and bring more equity to the cannabis space - in Michigan and beyond. “It’s a cannabis brand, but it’s also a voice. I grew up poor, seeing violence and people getting killed at a young age. I want to try to provide more positivity for my people and my neighborhood.”
Having recently landed on Eaze’s Momentum Class of 2021, Tre continues to inspire everyone with his positivity, drive, and a passion for people. “I’ve learned a lot through Our Academy,” says Tre. “I really learned a lot about my worth - like in my equity and within myself. I come from an environment where I’m not taught that, so it showed me that I’m valuable.”
With his roots running deep in the Motor City, he sees Neighborhood Essentials as the new General Motors - a way to bring jobs, money, and education to the area. “I think the cannabis industry can be what the auto industry was before it crashed,” says Tre. “Cannabis can bring in money and opportunities, it can be the spark that people need for positive change.”
He also has some good advice for future Our Academy mentees: “Just do it. A lot seems impossible until you just do it. And go through the program, because I’ve learned so much in such a short amount of time.”
Follow Neighborhood Essentials on Instagram.
Our Academy and Legalize Humanity
We are currently donating 100% of the profits from the Legalize Humanity Collection to Our Academy, a mentorship and open education resource for communities impacted by the war on drugs. Buy a mug, snag a shirt, and let’s take care of each other.