Brandon Dunn / June 23, 2023
To say that social equity is one of the most relevant and highly publicized talking points in cannabis is an understatement. But often the vision and purpose of social equity conversations is bogged down by inaction and ineffectiveness.
With the launch of Savour gummies under a partnership with Illinois-based HT23, the production team at SINSE Cannabis via parent company BeLeaf is putting its money, and resources into fostering equity and inclusion in the cannabis industry.
Rolling out exclusively in SWADE retail locations earlier this month, the Savour line quickly sold out and became a resounding hit. Now, with additional production moving ahead, Greenway spoke to BeLeaf CEO, Jason Nelson about what one of Missouri’s hottest new brands means for the conversation.
The Savour line of gummies has been a huge success for both HT23 and BeLeaf Medical
“This effort and partnership emerged because we all understand how difficult it is to become operational in cannabis in this current financing climate, beholden to the difficulty in ability to raise capital to launch a business,” Nelson said.
The partnership with HT23 is part of a larger community outreach effort by BeLeaf Medical, who has also partnered with Harvest 360 to assist microbusiness applicants through their Missouri Microbusiness License Accelerator Program.
“Working with Harvest 360, a company renowned for their work in accelerator and social equity programs around the country, these startup cannabis companies will benefit from working with experts in the application process, production and retail operation development, technology integration, supply chain management and more. All service and support offerings from the Accelerator program are free of charge and do not require the applicants to surrender any ownership in their business to BeLeaf Medical” Nelson said.
“BeLeaf Medical is St. Louis born and bred, and part of our mission is for us to do good in the world that we’re serving. The best case outcome is that we set an example for how to incubate these business applicants successfully helping them become operationally sound as quickly as humanly possible so that Kansas City operators, rural operators, and anybody else in Missouri has a general blueprint of how they can support these businesses.”
“I’ve gone through this activity in Illinois previously with their round of social equity licenses back in 2020 for the adult use market launch. And what I learned pretty quickly, is that while I could take any number of resources and build out my own corporate wing of BeLeaf that handles this, it really makes more sense to just channel those resources into groups that are already doing that good work out in the world. And so our executing partner for the accelerator program is Harvest 360, a great veteran-led group, based out of Kansas City.”
For Nelson, the role BeLeaf, SINSE, and SWADE play in helping to cultivate the next crop of talented new business leaders in cannabis is a predominating corporate duty.
“Really, as I consider it, the philanthropic arm of any cannabis corporation has to be multifaceted. So the one we’re talking about here is business entrepreneurism. Supporting entrepreneurism through business incubation, leveraging all the resources, and expertise that BeLeaf has to rectify the lack of diversity in the business ownership structure within the cannabis industry.”
That focus on inclusion and creating opportunity is a vital part of what pushed Nelson and the team at BeLeaf to bring HT23 and Savour to Missouri.
“One of the things that this was predicated on is how difficult these types of partnerships are in the cannabis industry, highly beholden to the difficult business operating climate for cannabis companies.”
“As we were looking to execute against this model, one of the key things that allowed us to set this template so successfully is that we have mutual alignment of principles and foundations and values, which is consistently difficult in the cannabis industry.”
“West Coast brands a lot of times don’t necessarily have similar values to Midwest brands, for example, or Midwest to East Coast. What works out in some of those markets just doesn’t take hold, or so much so that really, it is such a difficult operating climate that if you don’t have a very strong relationship with your operating partners, there is a significantly higher probability of failure. And truthfully, that would have been one of the worst outcomes associated with this effort, if we had really tried to make progress with it and it just couldn’t get across the finish line. Unfortunately, we’ve repeatedly seen that outcome before.”
“The notion of this template was predicated on a very strong relationship between the CEO of HT 23 and myself. It always had to be a fair and open dialogue with them about how does this work for you, how does this work for your business model? Is this acceptable? What needs to change? And unfortunately, a lot of times you’ll have these partnerships just go awry, it’s a lack of shared expectations and/or shared goals”
“We want to set the model and template based on a strong relationship so that independent parties who don’t know each other well can execute against this. That was a big outcome we hoped to show here – a road map to do this responsibly,” Nelson explained.
SWADE | AARON BUNSE
For Nelson and company, the partnership allows for an opportunity to give back and create shared success while building the cannabis industry in a positive way, creating opportunities for those who have been disproportionately affected and historically disenfranchised. For HT23, the partnership brings the ability to operationalize and secure capital while working to launch in the company’s home market. Success in Missouri with SINSE and SWADE brings brand recognition, but also data points and community feedback.
“It’s exciting for the team from HT23 come down and be able to have a product that they can talk about and be proud of, even before their facility is ready to produce it in Chicago.”
“We were fortunate to launch Savour to tremendous success. The team understands that there is room to differentiate a gummy product. Savour is a five-and-five ratio gummy, five milligrams CBD, 5 milligrams THC, with an amazing dual-layered flavor experience of a sour pomegranate where you get a nice sour kick on the front end and a very sweet finish. The flavor really does well to complement the natural cannabis oils. And they also wanted to be able to speak to a legacy consumer that maybe wants a little bit of a higher dosage. Savour offers a 30-milligram piece (a 300mg 10 pack) with that same great flavor, just at a higher potency for those who are interested in more bang for the buck.”
While many new product lines in Missouri are launching with established brands and celebrity faces, Nelson explains what makes Savour unique. “With HT23 you have a company and a vision that supports a really strong cause. The leadership group at HT 23 is working to bring forth the outcomes that social equity is supposed to incur. For a consumer that has a lot of choices, a newly burgeoning licensee like that – it feels good for a consumer to buy from them, and then once you consume the gummy, it’s an amazing product.”
For SINSE, SWADE, and BeLeaf, the successful launch of Savour helps to prove the formula. Moving forward, having a relationship with established brands like SINSE, SWADE, and BeLeaf helps to open doors for HT23 and forthcoming social equity brands.
“There’s no better steward of the brand vision than the HT23 founders. Having them visit us from Chicago, do in-store events, talk about the brand, and talk about the work that needs to be done not only by BeLeaf, but by all cannabis operators. That’s been a really special outcome.”
For more information on the Missouri Microbusiness License Accelerator Program please visit the BeLeaf In Equity website at www.beleafinequity.com