How One Man Utilized Oakland’s Social Equity Program to Start a Budding Cannabis Business

The legalization of cannabis has allowed many people to open up businesses and thrive in the growing industry.

The conviction rates for minorities was high, in part, because of marijuana use and selling of the product. Knowing this, Oakland created the Social Equity Program, which one entrepreneur took advantage of to start The Peakz Co.

Jessie Grundy, the founder of the cannabis brand, spoke to Black Enterprise about how he went from the streets to The Peakz.

BE: What motivated you to explore getting in the business of cannabis and how were you able to start it up?

Grundy: I was ending a relationship, all my past business ventures had failed, and I was over getting in trouble. In 2018, California passed the law for recreational cannabis use and that’s when I knew I had to get into the industry. Lucky for me my hometown, Oakland, California, created a program called the Social Equity Program that made sure natives from the inner city or people from Oakland with cannabis convictions got priority with licensing. In 2018, I was one of the first to get licensed; it took me a year to get operational and start selling our products.

You started The Peakz Co. in April 2019. How were you able to amass such a following on social media and how did you position yourself to market your product online?

In August 2018, I had my license and brand name. I was in grind mode after that, so that I was ready to launch in 2019. I was going hard on social media. I used influencers, mainly black women with a high following and engagement to market our products. Then I started making custom packaging for them. From there, people started clicking our Instagram.

The Peakz Co. is a new, young, and a black-owned business, which drew in the attention. Not too many companies in this industry are young and black. People instantly wanted to support and be a part of our movement. Word of mouth has been our best marketing strategy, honestly.

We know that minorities have been on the receiving end of the penalties of cannabis, do you think that we will be able to benefit now?

I believe people in cities with social equity programs can thrive in this industry, especially programs that offer loans and grants. Money is the main reason minorities are struggling to enter the field. You need money for employees, raw product, packaging, labeling—and that’s just the surface. If you don’t have a large savings, or [are] enrolled in a program like Oakland’s that offers a $100k interest-free loan, it will be an obstacle that many of us will not be able to overcome. If given the opportunity though, I believe you will see more black people thriving, especially black brands because we dictate the culture.

The Peakz Company
(Image: The Peakz Co.)

What is the outlook for The Peakz Co. and other black-owned companies since you’re one of the few black businesses capitalizing on the cannabis industry?

I want to keep The Peakz Co. between me and my family for the foreseeable future. I worked so hard to get The Peakz Co. up and running, and see it become so successful, I can’t see myself ever selling it. I’ve turned down multiple multimillion-dollar acquisitions, even for small percentages. I’m a control freak, so owning The Peakz Co. 100% is something I take pride in. I currently have two other licenses, and once those companies are up and running, it’s possible that I will sell them but Peakz is my baby. I want to make it a brand similar to Supreme or Bape, but in the cannabis industry. The Peakz Co. will be a household name; not super massed-marketed and commercial.

Where can people find your products?

If you’re in the Bay I would suggest Eco Cannabis. Eco Cannabis was the first dispensary to carry our products. There’s Sparc, which was the first chain dispensary to carry us. California Cannabis in LA, black-owned with three locations. Cookies owned by Berner; we are in three locations Oakland, SF and Redding, and Barbary Sunset, in San Francisco. You can always have our products delivered by The Hybrid Room, a legal delivery service, owned by my cousin Kiel.

What advice do you give to other minorities interested in exploring business opportunities in the cannabis business?

Find the money, find your niche and do not let the paperwork discourage you. A lot of people see all the paperwork they have to do and instantly give up. Take an hour or two a day to go over it, so you don’t overwhelm yourself. Also, find a city with an equity program or lobby for your city to make one if they have recreational cannabis. Most cities make enough tax revenue to invest back into its citizens. I really respect Oakland for believing in us; I probably would not be in the position now without them.