Workshop aims to expand cannabis businesses to minority owners

The Minority Cannabis Business Association is hosting 10 equity workshops in major U.S. cities including Minneapolis.

MINNEAPOLIS — They say great businesses start with a great idea, but even a great idea means nothing if you don’t know what to do with it.

“It’s like yeah, this is what I want to do, but how?” Kenneth Winslow Garnier said.

Garnier was among a few dozen potential business owners who attended a workshop Tuesday held by the Minority Cannabis Business Association (MCBA). The organization is hosting 10 minority-based workshops in major cities across the country to give minority business owners the tools they need to start successful cannabis-based businesses.

“It’s very challenging. A lot of people are getting retail spaces and going into debt, they most likely will not recover,” Garnier said. 

Angela Dawson is one of the mentors in the group. She’s a 4th generation farmer and has been growing hemp in Minnesota for the past three years.

“One of the cool things about cannabis is that it’s such a diverse plant,” Dawson said.

But she says diversity in the industry is a big problem, with small business owners, minority owners especially, struggling to get started.

Dawson says the cannabis industry is mostly dominated by larger companies that have more resources and experience with starting new businesses.

“One of the lessons we learned from other states about how it was done wrong is that we thought about diversity as an afterthought. They just ended up being cut out of the industry in general. They didn’t know how to survive. They didn’t have the right skills. They didn’t have the right networks,” Dawson said.

Several experts and industry leaders spoke during the event.

Business owners also had a chance to connect and share their ideas.

Garnier is still working on the final details of his business idea.

He says it’s great to have a group like this to throw ideas around and to build a growing industry together as a community.

“Cannabis is a way for us to be able to have some self-determination, to run our own businesses, to grow our own food, to build some sort of generational wealth,” Garnier said.

The Minnesota Department of Health says nearly 2,500 businesses have registered with the state to sell edible cannabis products.

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