Tekisha Harvey of CannaCurious Magazine: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started Leading a Cannabis or CBD Business
…have a proactive and ongoing plan to course correct for the future. Talk honestly about the disparity and make it known that you want to change the narrative and then actually do it. Go find the talented women and hire them. Then promote them and give them the space to lead.
As a part of my series about strong women leaders in the cannabis industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tekisha Harvey.
Tekisha Harvey left behind 15+ years of corporate life, working with Coach, Ralph Lauren, Conagra Brands and more, to travel the world and eventually become an entrepreneur. She launched TH Consulting in 2018 to help wellness brands with brand and marketing strategies. Since then, she has worked with major cannabis and CBD brands to help them with consumer research and market expansion strategies. Most recently, she co-founded CannaCurious Magazine, a digital magazine targeted to women interested in learning more about the benefits of CBD and cannabis. Tekisha is passionate about eliminating the stigma and normalizing conversations around cannabis and its wellness benefits. Tekisha has a Bachelor’s in Economics from Florida A&M University and an MBA in Marketing from the University of Maryland.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the cannabis industry?
In 2018, I was working out of a co-working space and a major CBD company was renting office space there. It was my first encounter with CBD after hearing so much about it. I was hesitant to try it, but eventually did after realizing there were no side effects. From there, I knew there was something to this industry and it would become big. So I literally started saying out loud to people that I wanted to work in the cannabis space. I didn’t know how I would get into the space, but I knew putting it out into the universe was a start.
Then, in a conversation with a former colleague, he mentioned that another colleague had started a cannabis consumer insights company and was looking for help. The ironic thing was that she was from Chicago, but now lived 3 hours away from me in Florida. We got on a call and decided to meet in person a week later. We each drove an hour and half and met at a Starbucks in Fort Myers, Florida. We instantly hit it off and I started working with Aclara Research, as the Marketing and Strategy lead. That was how I got into cannabis! It was while working in consumer research with cannabis brands, that I discovered the lack of approachable resources for women, specifically, to get educated on cannabis. Existing publications were too business focused, medical focused or perpetuated the “stoner” stereotype. Nothing was speaking to the novice woman who didn’t quite identify with what was out there. So my friends and co-founders, Diana Sanmiguel and Kinisha Correia, and I created it! That was how CannaCurious Magazine came to life in April of 2020 and we launched our first issue in September of 2020.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Since launching CannaCurious with my co-founders, I’ve been blown away by the positive response to the magazine. Women are drawn in by how beautifully designed it is. To be honest, we did that intentionally to capture their attention and re-write the narrative around cannabis. Talking about cannabis and CBD in a way that feels normal and natural, as if you were reading any other lifestyle magazine, is our way of starting the conversation with women. Including fact-based information and personal, relatable women’s stories are what keeps them coming back.
Do you have a funny story about how someone you knew reacted when they first heard you were getting into the cannabis industry?
When I was with the consumer insights company, we launched the first consumer product testing service in California. Given my consumer product goods background, I was familiar with testing new products, but not cannabis! We recruited and screened close to 400 participants for an edibles study. I have never seen so many happy and excited market research participants. It was a big change from testing canned pasta! When it came time to pick up the products, the constant question was, “So let me get this right. I get paid to try gummies?”. To which my consistent reply was, “Yes, as long as you take the survey after and tell us your thoughts!”
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Carmen Brace, founder of Aclara Research has definitely been an inspiration. She gave me my start in the cannabis industry and it was through our work with cannabis consumers and patients that I learned that people were using this plant to get well, not to simply get high. Pain, anxiety and trouble sleeping, conditions that impact over 140 million Americans, are the three main reasons for use for both cannabis and CBD. Working with her and seeing her insight into what this industry could become, led me to forge my own entrepreneurial path with CannaCurious.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We are just starting with CannaCurious and while we have had great traction already, we have so much more planned. Our goal is to be a source of enlightenment for all women, highlighting the many ways in which cannabis and CBD can address their specific issues. We started out as a digital publication, but have recently gotten interest from two major book retailers to carry printed issues. Additionally, we want to host workshops, events, and even put on a conference — when the world opens back up, of course! We aim to normalize conversations around cannabis in the same manner we talk about happy hours.
Ok. Thank you for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. Despite great progress that has been made we still have a lot more work to do to achieve gender parity in this industry. According to this report in Entrepreneur, less than 25 percent of cannabis businesses are run by women. In your opinion or experience, what 3 things can be done by a)individuals b)companies and/or c) society to support greater gender parity moving forward?
- First and foremost, admit and acknowledge that disparities exist. You can’t fix the problem until you acknowledge there is one.
- Release fear and embrace change. Instead of trying to get women to fit the existing mold for leadership, consider that the mold can be different. It’s 2021 after all, not 1950. Things should evolve and change. That’s the beauty of life. We learn and do better.
- Lastly, have a proactive and ongoing plan to course correct for the future. Talk honestly about the disparity and make it known that you want to change the narrative and then actually do it. Go find the talented women and hire them. Then promote them and give them the space to lead.
You are a “Cannabis Insider”. If you had to advise someone about 5 non intuitive things one should know to succeed in the cannabis industry, what would you say? Can you please give a story or an example for each.
- Expect the unexpected. The cannabis industry is new and growing very fast. We are building the plane and flying it at the same time, so be flexible and open to a rapidly changing environment.
- Connect with people in cannabis at local and online events. The cannabis industry is still very grassroots and people are leaning on each other to help move the industry forward. If you don’t know something, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask someone for advice.
- Focus on the ancillary businesses, not just plant touching. They make up two thirds of the cannabis industry. We knew with expanding legalization, access to cannabis was increasing and people needed to be re-educated. That was why we started CannaCurious — to educate women in an approachable, beautiful and informative way.
- Learn the history of not only the plant but also the impact of the War on Drugs to communities of color. It is important to understand this past in order to create a new narrative that is inclusive and equitable.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the cannabis industry?
- The opportunity to shape the industry in a better way than traditional industries.
- The passion of the people who are truly advocates for the healing benefits of this plant.
- The social justice and equity work that continues to be an undercurrent of many business operations. It can be better, but movements like #MeToo and BLM have helped to keep things moving in the right direction.
Can you share 3 things that most concern you about the industry? If you had the ability to implement 3 ways to reform or improve the industry, what would you suggest?
One of my biggest concerns about this budding industry is unequal access. It can cost up to a million dollars in startup capital to open a dispensary. How many people have access to that type of capital? I hope that cannabis doesn’t become another elite industry in which only a select few can enter and be successful. It creates another situation where only a few corporations run everything. While 35 percent of cannabis businesses are plant touching, 65 percent of them are ancillary business, like accounting, software, education and accessories. I’m passionate about finding and highlighting those areas of opportunity for folks.
What are your thoughts about federal legalization of cannabis? If you could speak to your Senator, what would be your most persuasive argument regarding why they should or should not pursue federal legalization?
I believe in the federal legalization of cannabis, but only if it’s done thoughtfully. What I mean by that is addressing and expunging records of those with cannabis-related convictions, providing social equity programs so that Black and Brown communities which have been disproportionately impacted, have access to participate in this space and lastly, to ensure that a portion of the tax revenue from the legalization of cannabis goes into investing into those impacted communities of color.
Today, cigarettes are legal, but they are heavily regulated, highly taxed, and they are somewhat socially marginalized. Would you like cannabis to have a similar status to cigarettes or different? Can you explain?
No, I don’t think it should be on the same level as cigarettes because of the numerous, under studied health benefits of the plant. Unlike cigarettes, you don’t only have to smoke cannabis to receive the benefits. You can eat it, take it in a tincture or even a topical cream. What cannabis needs is more research studies that people can learn about and connect to vs the old narrative of just getting high.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favorite life quote goes something like: “Don’t compare someone’s highlight reel to your ‘behind the scenes’.” In our age of social media, it is super easy to get caught up in the “wins” of others. It can take a toll and make you feel bad about your progress (or lack thereof). When in reality, you don’t know what it took to get them there, how long it took and if it’s even real. When people saw the first issue of CannaCurious, they thought we made it and were raking money. The reality was, we are a lean team who luckily has the skillset to make it happen, but we are currently doing this all on our own. It’s a journey and I try to use others for inspiration instead of comparison, knowing there is always more to the story than the glamorous end result.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
My movement would be called “Why Not Me?” As a child of immigrant parents and as a Black woman, I understand and have faced limits and challenges that others have not. However, one thing I know for sure is that you have to believe it is possible for you in order to even go after it. “Why Not Me?” is the question that can get the ball rolling. We are often taught to be cautious and risk averse, trying to foresee every potential pothole. Instead, let’s focus on the possible and see what comes about when we believe that we can truly have our biggest dreams.
Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you only continued success!