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.
Raeven Duckett is co-founder of Community Gardens, a licensed non-storefront retail and distribution company in Oakland, California — the first in the city to earn a license to sell edibles, tinctures and cannabis buds to people over 21. As an Oakland native, she’s seen the way that the tech industry has shaped and changed the social landscape of the Bay Area, for better and for worse, and she entered the cannabis industry to be part of its imminent impact on her neighborhood. As a member of the Momentum program’s inaugural class, Duckett talked to Eaze about her journey — and where she plans to go next.
Why don’t you tell us a little bit about where you grew up and what your childhood looked like?
I grew up in Oakland, California. It was just me and my mom growing up. I went to an all-girls school for a long time. That’s been something that’s been pretty defining for me, being able to make those genuine connections with other women. I grew up in a neighborhood that has seen a lot of change, as Oakland has kind of been a side buffer of the tech industry that crashed and landed in San Francisco.
I moved back to Oakland from Long Beach in 2013, and I was really able to kind of see the change that happened in my neighborhood. Growing up, there was a corner store by my house that my mom wouldn’t let me walk [because there] was a lot of loitering and violence [on that corner]. Now they sell baby diapers and fresh fruit, and so there’s been a lot of change since growing up in Oakland.
Leaving and then coming back — it was just like night and day, probably.
Yeah. I was really very fortunate. My mom prioritized education a lot growing up, and so I did go to all-girls schools where there was a lot of focus on STEM education. . When I moved back to Oakland, I actually worked in the tech industry. I ended up working for Pandora Radio, which is based in Oakland.
I was living the dream, basically. But I could see that most people in my neighborhood, most people I grew up with were not benefiting from the tech industry in the way I was. When I joined the cannabis industry, that was kind of what I was thinking about. I saw that cannabis was going to be the next big thing that happened to my city. I was able to see, from [my experience in] tech, how much an industry can really come in and change the whole dynamic of a city. I think that was one of the things that really motivated me to get in this industry.
What were some of the trials and tribulations or the everyday struggles you’ve encountered?
Our business was born out of the Oakland Equity Program. I had a lot of interest in joining the cannabis industry before legalization, but when prop 64 passed, I was like, okay, I got to get in this thing. I was going to city council meetings in Oakland, Berkeley and Emeryville and trying to figure out how I could get in? How could I make it happen? How are these people operating? How are deliveries working? Then Oakland passed the Oakland Equity Program.
My co-founder and my husband lived in one of the neighborhoods that qualified you to be a part of the Oakland Equity Program. At the first Oakland Equity mixer, we met Kiva Confections, who ended up being our incubator and they were really instrumental in helping us set up our delivery and really build our company in the legal market.
We did build our legal market company in a medical market mindset, which I think a lot of people did. And so it took awhile for us to really understand the dynamics of the new adult use market. Just because the government legalizes cannabis and just because legal shops opened their doors does not mean people are going to rush in and buy their weed. People are going to continue to buy their weed the way they’re most comfortable buying their weed, and usually that’s through a personal friend, through someone that comes to their house. And so we’ve really transitioned into an in-home model where we can go and get people where they’re at instead of expecting them to come to us.
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Raeven Duckett @raeven_elyse started her first cannabis venture in Oakland, California by cofounding Community Gardens, a licensed cannabis delivery service. She traveled to Portland to partake in the @intheinitiative business excelerator program. Here she has molded her business plan for @urbn.cirque . She will be specializing in curated experience based such boxes representing minority businesses in the cannabis industry. As an activist she has also devoted time to being a board member of Supernova Women @supernovawomen ; a community empowerment based organization with a focus in advocacy, education, and networking. We were so happy to have the opportunity to meet and work with Raeven in our weeks with @thecommunepdx, and are really looking forward to spreading the word to our Cali canna sisters about this kick ass experience! #tokeativity #urbncirque #womenincannabis #thecommune #intheinitiative #womensupportingwomen #cannabiscommunity #wcw #womancrushwedensday
What are you going to take away from Momentum? How is this program going to improve your business?
I think that we’re going to learn how to build a business that is scalable. I think that we’re going to learn how to build a business that is investible. I think that we’re going to learn how to build a business that’s acquirable. When we started in the industry, I had a very personal connection to the company that I was building. It was like my baby and it was an extension of me. I had all these emotional attachments [to the] company and I didn’t know the industry yet. I didn’t know about raising capital. We’ve been operating in that manner and it hasn’t worked for us, so I’ve had to understand what it means to build a scalable company, what it means to take on investment.
I think this program will connect us with qualified people who will be helping us build our business and provide us with connections that we’ll have with the investors that are comfortable with investing in plant-touching businesses. I think that it’s going to be life-changing for our company and for us as well.
What are you most proud of?
The Teapad, our event series. Historically, a “tea-pad” was a room or an apartment where people would go to smoke weed back during the Harlem Renaissance. In 1930, there were over 500 tea-pads in New York city. Before we launched the tea pad idea, we threw all these events and we were talking to all these people — we went to a senior center, we went to a Catholic church. We’ve thrown private events at homes and stuff like that. But what was most rewarding was teaching people about cannabis one-on-one, and seeing it kind of click [with them] that this isn’t some crazy, evil drug that takes over people’s lives. This is really what it is: it’s a plant, and here are the people that grew it, and they’re wonderful people. They really care about the plant. They really care about the product they made. You should try it. And so I think what has been most effective, in a business sense and personally, has really been making those one-on-one connections and educating people about the cannabis plant in a very clear and transparent way.