We all love a good origin story. At least I do. I love hearing about how an idea became a reality. It adds layers to a brand when you can find out how it came to life. You become more than a customer, you become a fan.
I’m a fan of Roll Up Life. Headquartered in New Jersey, Roll Up Life, Inc., is a technology-based cannabis company that offers a unique and secure delivery experience which covers all transportation needs for growers, dispensaries and consumers in the state. It’s one of the best known Black-owned brands in New Jersey, a socially-conscious company that strives to give opportunities to Black and brown people who have been disenfranchised by the War on Drugs, through delivering for Roll Up Life and their various education and training initiatives.
Watch the full interview with Roll Up Life CEO Tiyahnn Bryant:
What Makes Roll Up Life Different? Cannabis Social Equity And Expungement Efforts In New Jersey
Operated by lifelong friends Tiyahnn Bryant and Precious Osagie-Erese, the company holds to its slogan, “When You Need Us, We’ll Roll Up.” They are certainly doing that for their community. Most recently, Roll Up Life partnered with the community of East Orange, New Jersey - including the city’s mayor Ted Green, the East Orange City Council, and the Mayor’s Office of Employment and Training - to launch a three-part expungement program. The program provides eligible residents with free one-on-one legal services and reentry resources to help clear their records of nonviolent and cannabis convictions, and kicked off its first round in February.
Phase one of the expungement program grants attendees access to information from the participating law firms on the expungement process while collecting casework information. During phase two, attendees will be matched with an attorney for a one-on-one consultation. In the last phase, petitions for attendees with qualifying criminal convictions and dismissed charges will be filed and processed for expungement.
“We created this program not only to help residents obtain a clean record, but our overall goal is to see that people are reentered and given opportunities for a fresh start,” Tiyahnn Bryant, Roll Up Life’s CEO, had said to Essex News Daily at the program’s launch. “It feels good to actually make a difference in the city I call home.”
But where did all this good work start? Tiyahnn Bryant has an amazing story about how the brand came to be. It moves like a movie. It involves life-changing moments, best friends going into business and finding a mentor like no other in Roz McCarthy, cannabis industry icon and founder of Minorities For Medical Marijuana (M4MM). You’ve really got to hear him tell it.
Read on for our interview with Tiyahnn Bryant, where he explains the origins of Roll Up Life, the importance of Roz McCarthy, and getting a friend to help with a dream.
Roll Up Life CEO Tiyahnn Bryant On The Company's Origins
HONEYSUCKLE MAGAZINE: Tiyahnn, thank you for taking the time to speak to us. I’ve been excited to have this conversation. I love people who have real unique stories about how they got into the business of cannabis. You started off with football, correct?
TIYAHNN BRYANT: I did! I went to college at Delaware State University first. I started off playing my football days there at the state.
I majored in political science when I got to school as a freshman. I wanted to be a lawyer. I have friends and family who are in and out of trouble and I always wanted to be the person who they could come to if they ever needed a lawyer.
I was decent enough to earn a spot on the Delaware State football team. [But] I got in some trouble when I was at Delaware State. I was a young student, and I was going into a really dark space in my life at that time. My freshman year, my grandmother, who I've always lived with, had her first of two strokes while I was in school. So you can imagine I'm thinking the worst. My grandma lives with me right now. I had to come back home to go to a local community college for a while while my grandmother was recovering. And there, I wound up back on the West Coast to finish out my college career at Boise State.
From New Jersey to Boise, Idaho. That’s a huge change in scenery.
I played well enough in junior college to receive a spot. But while I was transferring, I found out that one of my grades didn't transfer over. So there went my athletic career. Just like that.
So now I'm in Boise, Idaho, and I have to figure out what the hell I'm gonna do in my life. It's one of the most depressing phases I've ever been in because you think about it. At that time, I was about to turn 21 and I've been a football player my entire life. I'm only in college because football got me here right? I've always been smart, and always been a good student, but school wasn't my drive for going to school. You know, maintaining being a student athlete was my drive for going to school.
What was next?
From there, I started to dive into the cannabis industry. I've sold weed here and there in my life. Cannabis was where you know this can make a quick buck. I turned 21 and now I'm finally able to purchase cannabis. We would take the drive over to Oregon. We took that first trip to the dispensary. I remember driving out there thinking, “How can we get into the business?”
Roll Up Life: New Jersey's First Black-Owned Cannabis Delivery Service
From selling bud as a student to coming up with a unique delivery service as an adult. When did the idea of Roll Up Life come about?
That happened one day driving around New Jersey. I’m back in New Jersey. I’m no longer playing football. I felt disappointed in some ways. I didn’t even tell people I was home at first. My cousin finds out I’m back home. I was avoiding a lot of people, but my cousin is like one of my closest friends.
I’m riding with my cousin. We were smoking at the time. We used to call it tennis. We would pass the blunt back and forth, that was tennis. No one knows I’m back in New Jersey. All of a sudden, my trap phone starts ringing. People wanted weed. I’m wondering who even knows I’m back here.
I said, “I wonder if there's a special vehicle that delivers weed?” It hit me all at once. I remember telling my cousin “Yo, I need a way to optimize this.” I said, “We need an app.”
I remember passing the blunt to him and jumping out the car. He was like, “Where are you going?” I told him, “I got to write all this down.” So I jumped out of the car and ran home.
I spent the entire day coming up with the initial shitty logo for Roll Up Life. I started to write out the initial plan, but I needed help. Before putting any thought to it, I ran around the corner to where Precious [Osagie-Erese, now Roll Up Life’s Chief Operating Officer] lived. I’ve known her for years. She’s my best friend. So I run around the corner and I say, “Precious, I need you to help me do this.”
Roll Up Life And Mentorship: Minorities For Medical Marijuana Founder Roz McCarthy
What was the initial reaction from your inner circle when you presented the idea?
Everyone was hesitant at first. My dad, when I first presented it to him, he was like, “There is no way they are letting a Black man do this.”
So it's like, you start to second guess yourself a little bit, like them? “Is it worth it?” These are my closest friends and family. But it's like, I needed one person and I didn't have any people. I had myself and my grid and that resiliency. I also just opened up 40 hours a week of my time not being an athlete.
Roz was taken by the complexities of how I wanted to execute cannabis delivery. Not just cannabis being a delivery service, but the multitude of multifaceted ways I wanted to execute it and being in complete control of that sale cycle. Roz took me under her wing for about two years. She helped me get into events and any programs M4MM produced. However she could get me into a room, she did.
Roll Up Life And Friendship: Tiyahnn Bryant And Precious Osagie-Erese
You mentioned your Chief Operations Officer, Precious Osagie-Erese. When I think of Roll Up Life, I think of the both of you. When did Precious officially come on board?
Marketing is not my thing. Being a people person is not my thing at all. I’m not good at public speaking. But she is.
One day, I went down to her job. She was literally on the clock. I came to her office with my laptop. I opened it up and showed her the Roll Up Life pitch deck. So I started showing her some of the stuff that I have done so far by myself. I told her, “I need you to be part of this.” I’m sure she just wanted me out of her office, but she said “Okay.”
She started asking me a bunch of questions about the cannabis industry and what we were doing. She didn’t know anything about cannabis other than she got her weed from me. I told her that I need her to speak for us. I’m not good at public speaking. As long as I’ve known her, she’s been great at it. I knew she could be a great voice. She came on and started to get into the swing of things.
I introduced her to people. She started using her journalism connections to meet even more people on the cannabis side. It started to just blow up.
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Featured image: Roll Up Life founders Tiyahnn Bryant (left) and Precious Osagie-Erese (right) (C) Roll Up Life