A guest blog post by Marvina Thomas, Founder and CEO of Fourtwenty Collections
Breaking into an industry you’re passionate about and finding success is a hard journey, especially if statistics are already stacked up against you.
For example, Black entrepreneurs account for less than two percent of the nation’s cannabis businesses. Add that to the fact that, in the cannabis industry, women only maintain 22 percent of executive roles, and minorities, 13 percent, and it’s a daunting task to even consider. As a Black woman who has opened multiple cannabis-related businesses in both Arizona and New Mexico, I am happy to share some tips that can help other BIPOC, women and minority entrepreneurs to triumph against the odds, no matter what industry you’re in.
Have a passion for the business and industry. You must have passion in what you do in life, period. You need to find what you love to do any make it part of your day-to-day. For example, through my businesses and nonprofit, my mission is to educate people on the benefits of medical cannabis and to help them transition away from opioids. This passion drives me to success at work or play and helps to guide me through the hard times.
Create quality products. If your business is product-oriented, create quality offerings that you would want to use as a customer. For example, when I started creating my CBD line of skin care products, I used myself as a guinea pig, because in this case if I broke out, that’s on me. I felt like a mad scientist at the time, and I fell in love, which lead to an amazing product line I use daily, and my clients do too.
A strong work ethic. If you don’t want to work for it, don’t bother. As a minority you’ll often find yourself needing to work ten times harder; but that’s how ceilings are shattered, and change is made.
Speak up. Ask for what you want—and work to achieve it. I grew up being taught the power of hard work and the motto, “A closed mouth doesn’t get fed.” There is power in asking for what you want. You must put it out there and continue to work toward that goal to achieve it.
A cause to give back to. On your way to the top, don’t forget to give back to the community that helps you along the way. Use your business and income from it for the greater good. It’s all about community and helping others. As a tangible example, I do this by giving back a portion of all our proceeds to help those struggling with addiction to opioids. We also train them and employ them with quality positions—not just minimum wage—so they can start over and build on their own hard work and success.
Find your village. No one climbs the ladder to success alone. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for my inner circle who have been a part of my journey. These people can include everyone from close colleagues to those help with childcare and education. Essentially, know that working with others is the key to success.
That said… make (and keep!) connections. In addition to your inside circle (your village that helps you day to day), it’s important to network in your industry. While it might seem tedious or even scary to attend networking events, it’s an invaluable way to build your contact list, gain referrals, meet potential collaborators, and make sales. Plus, many networking events and professional organizations offer ongoing education classes or presentations to help you grow as your industry evolves.
Find a mentor, then be one. Going along with the connections theme, I believe there is power in passing down knowledge and learning from your colleagues. So, if you’re new to the industry, consider seeking out a mentor. If you’re farther along in your career, consider mentoring an industry newbie. Both can help each other navigate an always changing industry.
Make space for other minority leaders in your industry. While you have likely had other minority business leaders break barriers for you, as you go about your entrepreneurial journey, be sure to keep in mind other BIPOC, women and minority aspiring leaders. How can you do this in a tangible way? Some examples include making sure your business keeps diversity in mind when hiring, supporting minority employees who wish to advance, and joining professional organizations who work to make change in your industry.
Marvina Thomas is an eternal optimist, compassionate leader and one of the most powerful women of color in the cannabis industry. Thomas is the inspirational founder and CEO of Fourtwenty Collections, which encompasses THC infused edibles, CBD gummies, CBD skin care, and a fashion line for men and women. A nurse by trade, Thomas began her journey in the cannabis space with a single bar of CBD infused soap, combining her healthcare knowledge with her passion for plant medicine. To learn more, visit fourtwenty-collections.com and follow @fourtwenty_collections on social media.