Having worked in live music promotion and production as a newly minted talent representative at entertainment agency William Morris Endeavors (WME), Sean Wynn knew his connection with artists would be one of his strengths. But by often being the only person of color in meeting rooms — aside from the artists themselves — Wynn, who is African American, often found himself playing the role of cultural translator.
As the trickle of cannabis businesses pitching WME clients grew to a stream, Wynn eventually was struck by the lack of diversity on the pitch end of the table.
“I would be sitting with all-white agents across the table from an all-white founding team from Northern California or Silicon Valley,” Wynn told The News Station. “They had the best of intentions, but it would be all centering on me to serve as the conduit between these all-white founders and our very large amount of black and brown talent.”
Eventually, it dawned on him that this situation did not resemble his personal projections of cannabis legalization. “If you ask anybody, yourself included, myself included, 20 years ago, ‘where did you get your cannabis from?’ it wasn’t a tech firm. It was a black dude or it was a brown dude,” Wynn said.
However, it was not this realization that ultimately led to the creation of Cure Crate, a personalized CBD subscription service. Rather it was an innocuous text from his mother letting him know that she had picked up some CBD from her local Circle K gas station in North Carolina. He was able to quickly call her, prevent her from consuming the Circle K CBD, and assess her goals in trying CBD.
The package of products he put together and mailed her was part of the genesis of Cure Crate. Shortly after that “light-bulb moment,” Wynn partnered with Alexandra Mulconnery, who as a woman is also an under-represented demographic in the cannabis industry.
“Cannabis is a plant that has people from a wide variety and diverse amount of backgrounds. That really is not accounted for with a lot of the representation and the makeup of a lot of these companies,” Wynn explained. “It really stuck with me, and it was something I wanted to have an effect on changing.”
As former President Barack Obama said, “Be the change you seek.”
Diversity shapes their ethos and every aspect of their business. In addition to being well-versed in its healing properties through experience and word of mouth testimonies, Wynn said one of the reasons they chose to start in CBD versus THC is the difficulty he and Mulconnery would have had securing the funding to start a business in the highly regulated and expensive California THC industry.
A consulting partner who was going to be responsible for securing funding dropped out, and Wynn said that was probably one of the best things that could have happened because it forced them to focus on their business model.
“We’ve found ridiculous success for the amount of money that we’ve put into marketing. We’ve really seen this business sort of take off,” Wynn said.
It was important that they take some of the financial gains from that “ridiculous success” and divert it towards causes like cannabis criminal justice reform through their support of The Last Prisoner Project. The Last Prisoner Project is a non-profit that focuses on “freeing every last prisoner of the unjust war on drugs, starting with 40,000 people in prison for cannabis offenses legal in most states.”
Cure Crate also plans to do business in ways that promote diversity and equity. Their rotating selection of CBD brands during the month of February will feature black-owned businesses.
As the cannabis industry continues to grow, the fight for equity and inclusivity continues to make news and attracts some prominent supporters. Hip-hop billionaire Jay-Z recently donated $10 million towards funding his own “Equity in Cannabis” fund, something that Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-Cal.) fully supports.
Many who promote equity in cannabis would concede Jay-Z’s donation and the resulting press are a step in the right direction. but, Wynn says, there is more work to be done. “The amount of effort it’s taken me to get these black-owned brands for [Black History Month] shows why we need more companies in this space doing what we’re doing — because it’s hard [to find black owned cannabis businesses].”