(November 19, 2019) New York – PRESS RELEASE – Minority Cannabis Business Association (MCBA) and Merida Capital Partners announced the winning recipients of investment through the Inclusive Industry (i2) Accelerator, which will deploy $500K initially to fast-track the development of five minority-owned businesses. MCBA and Merida launched i2 earlier this year to accelerate the development of minority-owned businesses in the cannabis and hemp industry by creating a meaningful executive mentorship program for underserved communities that could increase diversity and inclusiveness in key networks within the cannabis ecosystem and develop an infrastructure for entrepreneurs seeking capital.
“Our i2 Accelerator with Merida is a historic step towards creating a diverse, representative cannabis and hemp industry,” said MCBA President Jason Ortiz. “People of color have suffered from disproportionate enforcement of cannabis laws and have high barriers to entry and success in the hemp and cannabis industries. i2 provides companies with rigorous executive mentorship and critical resources to place them in the best possible position to successfully scale their enterprises and remove those barriers.”
“We are so proud to support these meritorious businesses and begin a sustained effort to close the inclusion gap for aspiring cannabis entrepreneurs in disadvantaged communities. The quality and number of applicants gave us confidence that this program will create incredible value for minority operators, investors and the industry at large, motivating us to significantly increase our target investment amount, so not one, but five minority-owned businesses could participate in the i2 Accelerator in this first round,” said Merida Capital Partners Managing Partner Mitch Baruchowitz.
Vega Holdings; Meriden, CT; $150K Investment: Vega Holdings is the only Latino-owned holder of a Connecticut pilot hemp license, operating in Meriden, Connecticut with indoor and outdoor facilities that produce high-quality CBD and biomass. Luis Vega, a seasoned farmer and grower with an MBA and experience in the hospitality industry, returned to his family's roots in farming to found Vega Holdings and will use his investment to significantly scale his existing hemp farming operation and product manufacturing.
High Road: Washington, D.C.; $100K Investment: High Road is an app-driven delivery platform that provides patients and consumers with access to licensed cannabis products through safe, convenient and compliant delivery services. The integrated, on-demand software company was founded by Jennifer Snowden, a former real estate and interior design executive turned entrepreneur. In addition to advocating for expungement and smart policy reforms, High Road hires and trains those convicted of nonviolent cannabis offenses. i2’s investment, business mentorship, networks and tools will help High Road expand its platform capabilities and propel its first mover advantage in East Coast markets.
Higher Learning Institutions; Pontiac, MI; $100K Investment: Higher Learning Institutions is a state-licensed vocational school with a cultivation and extraction lab and partnership with a major university that offers affordable, hands-on job training, educational certificates, career development, internships, free monthly seminars and job opportunities and placements in the cannabis industry. After researching the medicinal benefits of cannabis for his grandmother and taking a course at Oaksterdam University and consulting for cultivation facilities, Founder Sammie Rogers realized there were no institutions focused on assisting underserved communities with affordable career development, job training and placements in the cannabis industry. With Merida’s presence in the fast-growing Michigan market, the capital investment will help launch the school, broaden its inclusiveness efforts and close important educational and resource gaps in the cannabis sector.
James Henry; Oakland, CA; $100K Investment: In 2017, James Victor and John Alston cofounded James Henry, a minority- and veteran-owned lifestyle, health and wellness cannabis brand with licenses in manufacturing, distribution and retail delivery and a 1,700 sq. ft., green-zone facility in Oakland. With proprietary formulations developed by medical doctors, scientists and extraction experts to manage pain and other conditions, the company is committed to helping the U.S. address its opioids crisis through the promotion of responsible cannabis products for medicinal purposes, therapeutic assistance and lifestyle situations. James and John have incorporated original art and social equity as part of their brand ethos, infusing a balance of wellness and culture for consumers.
Canna Bistro; Atlanta, GA; $50K Investment: Canna Bistro offers CBD-infused foods out of a members café in Atlanta’s Historic West End. The company was founded in 2018 by Chef Swan Simpson, a self-trained vegan/vegetarian chef, who spent more than three decades perfecting plant-based, infused recipes and proprietary formulations. Initially, Chef Swan started selling $5 smoothies at pop-up retail locations across Atlanta, parlaying her loyal customer base into the first-all-CBD-infusion eatery in the southeastern U.S. In addition to incredible food Chef Simpson serves up, Canna Bistro promotes the hiring of individuals with non-violent, criminal records, along with business opportunities for previously incarcerated women and social good efforts in under-served areas.
Along with capital investments from Merida, the three-month i2 program includes access to: MCBA-Merida executives, connections and networking opportunities; consistent, high-level mentorship and training from experts in and outside of the cannabis industry; unmatched visibility into disruptive trends, proprietary research and data; exposure to Merida’s broad team of leaders, portfolio companies and advisors; and advice on managing growth, team development, investor relations, governance and strategic planning.