Editor’s Note: Eaze is celebrating Black History Month by highlighting the voices and experiences of African-American leaders in the cannabis space and who are part of the Eaze family.
Adrian Wayman took a simple concept — a curated subscription box — and brought it to the cannabis industry. That’s how his company, Green Box, came to be. In 2016, when it first launched, Green Box became the first licensed cannabis delivery in Portland, Oregon. Three years later, they’re still delivering their premium boxes, packed with a personalized selection of cannabis products that cater to each individual customer. Now, as part of the inaugural class of Eaze’s Momentum business accelerator, created in partnership with Bail Capital and Ultranative, Wayman is ready to take his company to the next level.
Tell me a little bit about where you grew up.
I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia. I moved away from Atlanta when I turned 20, as a way to get out of the South, went as far as I could to Portland. You know, I still miss the South. It will always be home, but it feels good to be in the Northwest.
What was your inspiration of moving? Why did you get out of Atlanta?
[Growing up in Atlanta] I felt like I knew everything that was there to offer, and I wanted to try something new, a new experience. So, I booked a ticket, hopped on a plane, and landed in Portland where I knew absolutely no one.
So, how did you originally get involved in cannabis? What was your involvement back then, when you first started selling?
Well, I became a user. I think that was the very first thing, becoming a user, and became a local dealer in my [community]l. That was a quick way to make easy cash, and make good friends.
What were some of the struggles being a local dealer in your [community]? What were some of the struggles of working in cannabis?
Well, at that time, you know, we lived in a prohibition state, so we [were] always at risk of interaction with police. Sadly, I had a few run-ins with police, whether I was holding or not. The police seem to be in the mindset that you’re a criminal no matter what, and so, that was something that I had to deal with up until I left [Atlanta].
What got you interested in becoming more official, like an actual business? And what were some of the struggles leading up to that point?
I started off in the legal industry, in the medical industry, as a budtender, back when it was still illegal for adult use in Oregon. When the first set of temporary rules for adult use came out, I saw there was some language around delivery, and I jumped with excitement. I instantly went home, and told my husband and said, “Hey, delivery is possibly an option.”
At that time, I knew that access was very limited — for those with limited mobility, and those with limited transportation, seniors and baby boomers, people like that. I wanted to solve that problem. And at the time, [there] was a lot of restrictions within the temporary rules, and it was actually still illegal within the city of Portland. But when I first saw those set of rules I instantly registered with the secretary of state, started to buy domain names, secured social media tags. I didn’t actually have a business plan, but I knew I wanted to deliver cannabis legally, and I wanted it be called Green Box.
So, I began lobbying with state officials and Portland city council to make delivery legal in the city, in the state, in a way that I can operate. After about a year and a half of lobbying, testifying in front of Portland city council, meeting with Oregon liquor control commissioners, they voted and created a new license category, which allowed for delivery only sales. We were the first recipient of that license as well.
So, when you were becoming legal, your company, what was it like, from a business standpoint?
You know, I could not find any options. We’ve been completely bootstrapped. [We’re in] credit card debt and liquidated all of our savings — that’s how I built the company. I reached out for outside funding, but unfortunately just wasn’t lucky enough to land it. So, I’ve been able to make it on my own.
What are you most excited about the Momentum Program?
One thing I [learned] as I’ve journeyed in building this company, is that “it’s all about who you know.” That hasn’t changed. So, [I’m excited about] making good connections with other entrepreneurs that are in the same situations as me, and making connections with those that can help me scale and take my business to the next level.
It’s important to me, because it gives me the opportunity to scale my business. It’s just plain and simple. You know, being a gay African American male in the Oregon cannabis industry, it’s very challenging. So, this gives me, you know… it takes me to the next step, but it will take me to the next level of scalability.
What are you most proud of with everything that you’ve done? You went from selling weed in high school, now to creating something beautiful, a company. You struggled, I’m certain, but really what today makes you the most proud of the man sitting in front of me?
Just being able to grow my business, and still be here. You know, bootstrapping — a delivery service in the Oregon market is quite challenging. I’m competing with a lot of big dollars, a lot of Canadian money, and I’ve seen a lot of mom and pop shops close. You know, a lot of people that were testifying and trying to get their businesses going when I was. They’re not here anymore.