Access to capital remains the most important factor curbing the establishment, expansion and growth of minority-owned businesses, a recent report out of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency says.
Now, this trends seems to be magnified and exacerbated in the cannabis and hemp sectors, where businesses already face enough hurdles when seeking capital from traditional sources like banks.
Trying to help solve this issue, the Minority Cannabis Business Association and Merida Capital Partners created a program, the Inclusive Industry (“i2”) Accelerator, which looks to close the disparity, diversity and inclusion gaps that exist in two of the fastest-growing sectors in the U.S.
The accelerator will initially deploy $500,000 to speed up the growth of five minority-owned businesses. Winners were announced a few days ago.
Each of the selected businesses will also undergo an intense mentorship program and have access to sought-after networks in an extremely competitive space.
“In conjunction with the MCBA, we went through 113 amazing applications to not only find strong investments, but entrepreneurs who are likely to continue the work of closing the inclusion gap for disadvantaged communities,” said Merida Capital Partners Managing Partner Mitch Baruchowitz.
MCBA President Jason Ortiz added, “It is no secret that minorities have been disproportionately impacted by our laws. This program takes an important step towards a more inclusive cannabis industry and will give these deserving companies access to a host of tools to help ensure their businesses succeed.”
The first five i2 recipients were:
- The only Latino-owned company holding a Connecticut pilot hemp license, Vega Holdings;
- An app-driven delivery platform, High Road;
- A state-licensed vocational school with a cultivation and extraction lab, Higher Learning Institutions;
- A minority- and veteran-owned lifestyle, health and wellness cannabis brand, James Henry;
- A members café in Atlanta’s Historic West End, Canna Bistro.
“For decades, the family farm has been threatened by big agriculture, forcing many to turn their farms over to corporate giants,” Vega Holdings Founder Luis Vega, who got the largest investment at $150,000, told Benzinga. “The hemp industry is giving family farmers like myself a way to get back to the land and teach those impacted the most by the failed War on Drugs a marketable skillset, so they can earn a livable wage and experience upward mobility. After putting nearly everything I had into our operations, i2 will provide my business with the capital, mentorship and networking it needs to succeed and help us scale our farm, which we worked incredibly hard to build.”