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I had the pleasure of meeting Ebele Ifedigbo at The ArcView Investor Forum in Los Angeles this past January. Ebele presented in front of a room full of prospective investors and cannabis entrepreneurs about their company, The Hood Incubator. Similar to last week’s piece on Sara Gullickson, I like to share the story of people I’ve encountered on my journey in the cannabis industry.

Alongside showcasing their story, I want to bring to light topics that need to be discussed in the cannabis industry. Below is an edited transcription of the phone call I had with co-founders, Ebele Ifedigbo and Lanese Martin on how the Hood Incubator began.

What’s the Hood Incubator?

The Hood Incubator transitions underground cannabis entrepreneurs to legal markets by translating & augmenting their existing capacities.

The Hood Incubator was formed in Oakland in 2016 in response to the wave of cannabis legalization happening not only in California but across the country. To date, this new legislation has not adequately addressed persistent race and class disparities inherent to cannabis prohibition, nor has it meaningfully provided social, political, or economic reparations for those communities who have borne the brunt of the devastation of the War on Drugs. The Hood Incubator works to ensure that the questions of racial equity and social justice are not lost as the cannabis movement and industry move forward.

How did the Hood Incubator get its start?

We took a look at the cannabis industry in search of missing gaps, and our first question was where are the people of color?

There has always been a demand for cannabis, it’s only been in recent years that we’ve seen an increase in traditional corporate folks eyeing the industry for potential investment and profit streams. New people entering the cannabis industry should remain mindful of the fact there has always been a supply and demand for cannabis in the United States, and traditionally communities of color have taken the risk to feed that demand.

How did the founding team come together?

We kept crossing paths at different industry events and we noticed how we were among the few people of color in the room, and began networking and working together. We had skill sets that we put together to create the Hood Incubator and began organizing black and brown power in the cannabis industry. We want to spark business development, ownership and or investment in the cannabis community.

What courses/topics get discussed?

The Hood Incubator is essentially a non-equity based cannabis business accelerator, it’s a four-month program, totaling 100 hours, and is business development driven. Our first cohort started on January 7th of this year. We teach on different aspects of the cannabis industry such as agriculture, business development, compliance, regulations, and understanding balance sheets, cash flow statements, etc. We give a grounding view of what the cannabis industry is and is becoming.

Addressing questions such as:

What is your business model development?
Who is your customer base? What is your sales channel?
What are the moving pieces of your business?
How to build out your website?
What license(s) are you seeking for your business?
How do you begin seeking investment for your company?

“Yale taught me this, traditional education, having access to this information, and knowing where resources are. We have the opportunity to bring this information to our communities who don’t have access to this,” stated Ebele, “a big part of our program is how we have different events that we plug our fellows in. By building a presence of people of color in the cannabis industry, this ensures we are being present in the legal framework and discussions surrounding this industry.”

How are companies selected to be a part of the Hood Incubator?

We aim to fill ten spots in each cohort, and this past cohort, we selected sixteen founders and had a total of forty applications submitted for the program.

The process is a multistep process in the form of a written application, phone interview, then in person group interview, and then selection occurs. We are looking for people who are passionate about their community and themselves to be in our program.

What are some milestones in the future for Hood Incubator?

We are in the beginning phases still but I will mention that we are working on

  • Forming a statewide coalition that brings together patient and business owners on different issues, approaching elected officials needs to happen on a united front.
  • Provide community resources in the form of
    • Do it yourself clinics, partnering up with local nurses, and doing workshops with hands-on training.
    • Engage more people of color in the cannabis community
    • Community Pitch Event happening in May
    • Monthly member meetings
    • Legal workshops targeting black and brown neighborhoods

To learn more about the Hood Incubator, check out http://www.hoodincubator.org/.