our academy through the years
Founded in 2020, Our Academy is a volunteer-run 501(C)(3) non-profit workshop, mentorship, and open education resource for cannabis equity applicants, operators and others harmed by the war on drugs (e.g. incarcerated individuals, immigrants, refugees and the LGBTQ+ community).
ny web3 & cannabis event (2.1%)
ny equity bootcamp (9.9%)
mj unpacked las vegas (6.7%)
mj unpacked new york (15.6%
workshop program (65.6%)
other initiatives (6.9%)
mj unpacked las vegas (30.4%)
workshop program (48.6%)
A few sentences on what OA accomplished this year and it’s vision moving forward.
While increased legalization of cannabis in the United States should bode well for increased participation among marginalized communities, less than 1/5th of cannabis business owners identify as a person of color.
The data shows that Black, Latino, Indigenous, Asian, Pacific Islanders, and other communities of color are disproportionately disadvantaged from commercial opportunities in the cannabis industry, while 80-90% of licensed operators are owned and operated by white individuals.This not only stems from the high start-up costs involved in starting and operating a cannabis business, but it is also almost always an incredibly competitive, costly, and laborious state license application process, which, in some states, requires applicants to own or rent property as a condition to apply.
In response to staunch criticism and years of advocacy from various pro-legalization groups, legislation is now striving to promote equity in the cannabis industry with the inclusion of statutory or regulatory social equity programs, as well as prioritized licenses. Our Academy’s aim is to reverse some of the damage done on communities of color by the war on drugs and racism by empowering equity applicants to thrive as cannabis entrepreneurs and in turn create generational wealth.
Our Academy envisions a thriving cannabis industry where previously marginalized groups have transformed the market into a more equitable space as empowered entrepreneurs and Social Equity operators.
Our Academy is a socially inclusive digital cannabis space that supports minorities and fosters normalization through community-building. We advocate and create spaces for social equity applicants and others affected by the war on drugs to gather and discuss current opportunities and how to surmount the predatory practices they face, while gaining tools to effectively execute business plans.
Through the power of sharing stories and resources as well as strategizing with other equity and community-focused allies and organizers, we ensure that disproportionately impacted communities are empowered in an authentic way, and that programs built to serve them are supported through national collaboration rooted in justice impacted communities.
Our Academy is a manifestation of our core values: fairness, justice and equity.
"Without Our Academy I would not have had half of the experience or knowledge in the cannabis industry had it not been for Hilary, Jess, and the Our Academy team. They spent weeks on weeks preparing us to present and pitch at MJ Unpacked, which was an amazing experience for me to launch my brand, but also to see which facet of the industry would work for me. They also connected me with amazing attorneys and business owners that gave me first-hand experience on how to run a cannabis business. Had it not been for Our Academy, I probably would not have applied for the conditional retail round in New York. I was definitely overwhelmed and in over my head, but they took time week after week to help me game plan and now my application has been submitted and I'm pretty sure I'll be licensed in the next few months. I am so grateful for their help they've given me and so many others. I connected with so many people in our cohort and now we're not just a group of individuals working to get in the cannabis industry, but we're a family."
"I am part of the 2020 mentee cohort of Our Academy. Our Academy put on an amazing 15-week program that educated Black-owned and equity-owned cannabis businesses about the ins and out of running your own cannabis company. It's been instrumental in helping me realize what I needed to do to be successful in this space and they connected me with vendors and retailers in the space. Today I run my own premium lifestyle cannabis brand called the Good Smoke Company and I'm also a social equity applicant out of the city of Long Beach. I couldn't be anymore pleased with the program and all of the opportunities and connections Our Academy has presented me with. If you're considering on joining, I highly advise that you look into it and check in with Hilary and the other companies that have come out of the program, it'll be well worth your time while creating more diversity in the industry which is absolutely essential. So thank you Our Academy and I'm so excited to see the success that keeps coming from this in the future."
"Being apart of the Our Academy cohort was an amazing opportunity working alongside individuals in similar positions was extremely encouraging. It really debunked the myth that you have to have it all figured out before you start. The tools and resources associated were beyond helpful. The guidance of a mentor was paramount, seeing and hearing a perspective of someone who had done what I’m trying to do was extremely encouraging. A real life example. Lastly, the association to Our Academy gave me a boost to my resume and helped give me an extra nod from potential employers. Shoutout to Hilary and her Team at Our Academy."
"Our Academy gave me the ability to work with Ted Lichtenberger from the Flower Company and make a genuine connection with someone from a different walk of life who also taught me a different way of culturally doing business. It showed me that there are people on the other side of the train tracks to bond with and learn from. The program also provided me with a built-in network to flourish nationwide. Since OA, I have worked with another mentee and social equity applicant, Tre Hobbs, and taught him what I learned in California to apply it to his launch in his home state, Michigan. OA also helped us all work together and learn from each other’s strengths and weaknesses as a unit, helping us support each other’s ventures in CA and MI. Going into the next stage of my career, Tess Taylor, who’s also an OA alum, has helped me showcase my strengths in other states for consulting contracts. There’s been a positive sorority/fraternity effect where alumni vouch for one another in the real world to create more representation in the cannabis industry."
"Our Academy provided a wealth of knowledge and resources to help take my business, ButACake, to the next level. The Academy is ran by a team of experienced business professionals who are extremely knowledgeable and supportive throughout the entire process. One of the most valuable aspects of the program was the networking opportunities it provided. I had the chance to connect with other business owners and entrepreneurs from all over the country. These connections have proved to be invaluable and have opened up new doors for my businesses. In addition to the support and guidance from the program mentors, I also received access to a range of tools and resources, including training materials, templates, and videos. These resources have been extremely helpful in driving the growth and success of my business. Overall, I would highly recommend Our Academy to anyone looking to take their cannabis business to the next level. It's an incredible opportunity to gain valuable insights and connect with like-minded individuals in a supportive environment. Thank you to the program organizers for such an amazing experience!"
We are very grateful to all of the volunteers whose generosity made this program possible. We were fortunate to have the support of mentors and workshop leaders from some of the best companies in cannabis that co-created our programming, have made donations to keep this program running, and have donated their time as mentors.