Earlier this year, Eaze launched Momentum, a business accelerator designed to support and empower underrepresented founders in the cannabis industry. Momentum’s goal is to help build a diverse industry that addresses the War on Drugs and support small businesses in becoming more profitable and sustainable.
One-hundred million Americans report having trouble falling asleep, a challenge Carolina Vazquez Mitchell resolved to address when she founded Dreamt, a sleep aid combining a precise blend of THC, CBD, melatonin, valerian root, and terpenes.
We sat down with Vazquez Mitchell, a member of Momentum’s inaugural class, to learn how she overcame humble beginnings in Mexico and realized her dream of starting Dreamt.
Can you tell us a little bit about where you grew up and how it influenced your upbringing?
Growing up in Mexico was hard; I didn’t have hot water or a door in my room. But I always loved science and was fascinated by how molecules interacted with the human body. I was working with terpenes in a lab when I was only 16 years old.
Ten years ago, I finished my Bachelor’s in pharmacology and decided to come to the United States, where there were a lot of opportunities for women in science. I became the first in my family to finish college, and the first to go into a PhD program and now I have my own company in California—it’s a dream come true. When I was a kid, I was bullied for being a dork, but now it’s paying off!
How did you get involved with the cannabis space?
I first came to the United States in 2009 and I enrolled in a PhD program in chemistry where I was studying a weird protein that nobody cares about. I loved science and I always wanted to do something for people that I actually can see. I didn’t want to work for six years in a PhD program trying to find the cure for cancer but never see it in my lifetime. So I wanted to do something that is grounded in science and can tangibly help people in the near future.
So in the fourth year of my PhD, my boss in the program told me that I have two more years in which I have to publish three more papers, even though I already published a book chapter in two scientific papers. And I grew kind of depressed, as I felt like getting research published was more of a priority for my program than helping people. So I started using my knowledge to help some startups making food with cannabis.
And I found it very interesting because it combined my knowledge in chemistry, as well as my experience and knowledge in pharmacology, as I was making a product and introducing something that actually affects your brain and your body. So I found that very exciting and I decided to exit the PhD program, get my Master’s in chemistry and start helping cannabis startups develop new products.
And how did you hear about the Momentum program?
After I exited the PhD program and earned my Master’s in chemistry, I was hired by a very big company in Los Angeles—one of the biggest gummy manufacturers. And then I met some people, including my now-husband (a lawyer). Three of us quit our jobs at this big company and decided to start our own company. Between the five of us, we each had different expertise from finance and law to clinical trials and marketing. My CFO knew all about Eaze and heard about the program early on, urging me to apply. At first, I said “No, I just want to be in the lab,” but his encouraging words inspired me to apply; I thought about how as a Mexican immigrant and a woman, it can be a challenge to have credibility in the science space, so this was a very good opportunity to align with a program that specifically supported people with my background.
What are you hoping to take from the program?
Everything. We just launched our product at Hall of Flowers. The other four founders and I worked 14 hours a day for three days filling, capping, packaging, stickering, and boxing our first production run. We produced 5500 vapes. We couldn’t even grab a glass of water after that because we were so sore and still tired. And then the next day I came here and got the surprise that we got the grant. So now we can actually hire people to help us make the product. And now we have all this guidance. We have been in the industry, but we are a real, lean startup, so this opportunity is pretty amazing. I’m hoping to learn everything from law to distribution. This is the best timing for us.
Of everything that you’ve accomplished in your life, what are you most proud of?
Starting my own company. I’m proud to be the first in my 100-person family to finish college, but having my own company in California—that’s an absolute dream come true. I grew up poor, even by Mexican standards. And now I’m starting a new company in the hottest industry in the United States in the state with the highest consumption of cannabis. I think I’m part of history, so I’m very proud of that.
This interview has been lightly edited.
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