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Interview: Angela White Of Success Centers SF On Getting Jobs In Cannabis For Marginalized Communities

It is time for marginalized communities hit hardest by the war on drugs get jobs in the burgeoning legal cannabis business.
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Angela White

Angela White is an Equity for Industry Program Manager at Success Centers SF. Angela’s focus is developing sustainable career and entrepreneurial paths previously less accessible to communities impacted by inequality and the War on Drugs. She offers community members career assessments and coaching, job placement, access to on-the-job training, and job training for employment in the cannabis industry. She also assists verified equity applicants in obtaining the critical business experience, educational resources and toolsets required to develop sustainable business models and achieve entrepreneurial success.

We chat with Angela White about helping marginalized communities getting involved in the cannabis business and what more can be done to help them. On this 4/20, people considering making the jump into the business may need advice on how to do so and Angela White can help.

Who are you in the cannabis world?

I am the Equity for Industry Program Manager who is in charge of the Cannabis Equity Program at Success Centers in San Francisco. This agency provides employment, education and art services and support to persons who have been involved and affected by the criminal justice and foster care systems in San Francisco, Alameda, and San Mateo counties. Our clientele is primarily male, but increasingly female, African American, Latinx and mixed race. Specifically, I am a job and business developer for our clientele. The purpose is to give real economic opportunity for the societal and economic victims of the War on Drugs. The city of San Francisco wants “equity” for our clientele in the new and growing cannabis industry of California.

At Success Centers, It’s my job to make sure that happens. I have become one of the architects in this space for the Equity community in the San Francisco Bay Area giving concrete tools to Equity Applicants and job seekers so they can put these tools to use in this industry. I arrange training for “equity qualified” persons (i.e. victims of the War on Drugs) at weekly workshops hosted by cannabis business professionals to learn the details of cannabis operations and basic business procedures, and hosting job and business fairs at our San Francisco locations and other events where equity qualified persons can obtain good-paying cannabis jobs or access to business persons who want to invest in start-up cannabis businesses that will be owned and operated by equity qualified persons. I am so thankful to be able to help create a blueprint on the ground for Equity to succeed (The Equity Program in San Francisco is being viewed by the nation and the world right now.)

How did you get here?

All my life, I’ve seen marijuana stigmatized and Black people incarcerated because of it. I have had the opportunity to witness the cannabis industry develop from coast to coast. Unfortunately, people who have been affected by the War On Drugs are being excluded. The Equity Program is the first time that I have seen a real opportunity for Black and Brown people to legitimately succeed in this space. The Equity Program in San Francisco is being viewed by the nation and the world right now because of that. Watching the cannabis industry evolve continues to inspire me to keep fighting for Black and Brown inclusion and provide the tools needed to succeed. This is my job, but it is also the work of inspired, hardworking entrepreneurs and socially responsible consumers to make our market look like our communities (This is not just a job for me).

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?

I consider my greatest accomplishment to be showing corporations the value in hiring the Equity community in positions at their companies. I have been so fortunate to maintain great relationships with employers in order to keep the doors open for Equity. In particular, I am proud of my relationships with tech companies in this space like Confident Cannabis, Eaze, PAX Labs and Brite Labs who are consciously reaching out and offering to hire and train folks who have been overlooked by the non-cannabis tech industry. I have also been able to host companies like Aster Farms, Julia Jacobson and Sam Ludwig who participate in and support our Equity for Industry Workshops, providing insider industry information to our Equity clientele. These companies demonstrate the true values of this industry and I am honored to be connecting them with the next generation of cannabusinesses.

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What are the key attributes that make a successful entrepreneur in this industry?

Like any industry, it requires confidence, drive, hunger, the ability to not take no for an answer and a losing-is-not-an-option mentality. It is necessary to maintain great relationships and compassion for others and to be a selfless person. Perseverance and passion to keep going and keep your name in good standing in the industry, as it is small and everyone potentially knows everyone. But beyond the same go-getter attitude that any other industry requires, you need to be able to listen to and learn from the plant herself. You need to understand the sacred, healing medicine this industry is based on and the racism and turmoil she and her advocates have endured in order to bring this medicine to those who need it.

What are the biggest challenges facing businesses today?

Finding space for Equity businesses is a constant struggle. The Office of Cannabis lists potential incubators that are offering space they do not have! Another challenge is finding legitimate, educational resources for Equity applicants, what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to being from the equity community. Crowd funding is also a struggle because of the wealth disparity in our community.

If someone is contemplating taking the entrepreneurial leap, what advice would you offer?

Absorb all the knowledge about the industry you can. Find mentorship that can help you with the complexities. Be adaptable and prepare to pivot because the rules are constantly changing— what may have worked yesterday may not work today. Also, have an exit strategy by asking yourself what is your long-term vision of what is going to happen and how when you go from the 97% to the 3%, who will you be?

If you could change one thing in the industry what would it be?

I would like to change how the equity community is viewed in this industry and how the equity community views themselves. They are an important voice that deserves to be in this space above any investor or Fortune 500 company.

What is your idea of perfect cannabis happiness?

Perfect cannabis happiness is federal descheduling. It is banking for businesses to get loans, investments and make deposits. It is lower business and consumer taxes. It is sustainable businesses and companies making enough money to be able to pay living wages to employees and every company having an Equity footprint. Perfect cannabis happiness is the re-entry community who has suffered greatly from the War On Drugs being employed and having ownership in this industry, their industry.

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