Honeysuckle is proud to present Trailblazers’ Authentic Voices: Pride ‘22 “Sweet Sixteen” series! Get to know sixteen LGBTQIA+ cannabis industry leaders who inspire us. Click here to find all their stories.
A Pride Month Message From Trailblazers Co-Founder Tyler Wakstein
Trailblazers is a curated community of cannabis and psychedelic business leaders, entrepreneurs, and innovators who work together to advance the industry. We are unified by a shared ethos and vision of the future of plant medicine and other alternative healing modalities. We are a group of leaders and visionaries from across the entire ecosystem - from brands, to operators, to investment banks, MSOs, policy and law makers, scientists and researchers. We believe in creating a new paradigm of doing business - where collaboration, authentic connections and an abundance mindset drives the industry. We believe equality, social equity, and justice are not just something to pay lip service to, but rather the cost of entry into cannabis or hemp at large. We are honored to celebrate PRIDE Month with Honeysuckle Magazine and want to help empower the next generation of change-makers and emerging leaders in cannabis through access to the Trailblazers platform. Diversity drives innovation within a community like ours and we recommend applying to our fellowship program if anyone is interested in getting involved. trailblazerspresents.com/trailblazers-fellowship
Interested in finding out more about Trailblazers NYC, coming July 27, 2022? For details, click here.
Meet Andrea Brooks, Founder And CEO Of Sava
Andrea Brooks is the founder and CEO of Sava, a digital platform that provides e-commerce solutions for top-quality cannabis goods. A cannabis advocate and lobbyist for social change, Brooks is also an entrepreneur with a passion for health and wellness. Following a disabling injury in which cannabis played a crucial role in her recovery, she was inspired to advocate for the plant and build solutions in the space. Since then she’s built Sava into a highly curated cannabis e-commerce company delivering to the larger Bay Area, from her vision to “Rethink Cannabis” in the mainstream. In Brooks’s own words, “Sava is changing the way people try, buy, and enjoy cannabis: we curate only the best and, to meet our strict quality standards, every product is hand-picked by myself and my co-founder Amanda Denz. The brands you’ll find on Sava are quality-obsessed and share our goal of creating a progressive, legal, and inclusive cannabis industry.”
Under Brooks’s stewardship, Sava has grown from 1 to 50 employees, expanded its product offering to more than 70 brands and 750 SKUs, and experienced 10X growth in revenue. Sava is women-, LGBTQIA- and LatinX-led, and has a mandate allocating 50 percent shelf space to women-owned brands and 25 percent to BIPOC + LGBTQIA-owned brands. Brooks and Denz also seek out small artisan makers and support brands they feel are building the industry.
TRAILBLAZERS: What is something unique that you bring to your work and the greater cannabis industry overall from your previous work or life experience?
ANDREA BROOKS: Previous to entering the cannabis industry, I was a development consultant to NGOs [non-governmental organizations] both domestically and overseas, primarily in the health and human services sector in the Middle East, East and West Africa, and San Francisco. Creating meaningful change in the world was my driving motivation and for a nonprofit to be successful, they need to have a clear mission grounded in strong values. Harnessing my understanding of how to effectively infuse an organization with meaning and build a company culture rooted in kindness, collaboration and curiosity.
Drawing upon my background in the nonprofit world where you must watch every dollar, every cent – I bring an important perspective and strict discipline around managing cash flow to the world of cannabis and lend my expertise to others where I can as a mentor and fellow leader.
Why are you passionate about being part of the cannabis industry?
I started Sava out of a personal need. About ten years ago I experienced a spine injury that left me with debilitating nerve damage. As a young, healthy person, I figured I’d recover in a matter of weeks. But weeks turned into months, and instead of improving, I got worse. Before I knew it, I was on a cocktail of prescription medications that left me with no energy to function. That's when a friend suggested I try cannabis. Within weeks of starting a regimen of tinctures, topicals, and flower, I was able to wean off the pain medications and begin to take back my life. All I could wonder was: Why didn’t I come to cannabis sooner? Who else is out there that could benefit from cannabis? How can I be a part of the solution? I was blown away by how much it helped manage my chronic pain, and knew I needed to make it easier for others to learn about and access.
How can I be a part of the solution? That's where the idea for Sava was born. We strive to provide not only the highest-quality selection of products via our strict curation process,, but also the support and education people need to have the cannabis experience that meets their needs—whether their needs are pain management, a good night's sleep, or good 'ol fashioned fun and relaxation.
What’s your favorite LGBTQIA+-produced cannabis product that isn’t from your brand?
I have so many favorites - how do I choose?! For flower, my favorite is Sonoma Hills Farm; for pre-rolls, Stone Road; for tincture, The Farmaceuticals Co.; for vaping, Sonder; for gummies, Sundae School; and for drinks, Cann and Calexo. What these brands all have in common is this: They craft truly exceptional products.
Cannabis is all about community. What partnership opportunities with other companies have allowed you to create something even better than imagined due to your combined efforts?
Last year we embarked on a partnership with Cann and released a co-branded sku - it was our very first product. I was so excited to work with another LGBTQ-led company. Cann is a true thought leader in the cannabis drinks space, and the combination of our teams created fire in the delicious form of Lime Basil, which has both THC and CBD. We also had Ruby Rose involved in the artwork and concept. Fun fact: There are tattoos from both myself and Ruby Rose hidden in the artwork design!
What advice would you give to others who wish to join the cannabis industry and follow in your footsteps?
Make sure you have a strong support system surrounding you - cannabis is a bumpy ride, but it’s worth it!
What are you most excited to see more of in cannabis next year?
I'm excited to see more brands and companies deepen their allyship to the LGBTQ+ community. Being an ally goes way beyond being supportive around Pride celebrations. In order to be a proper ally, I’m looking forward to seeing more of these actions:
- Do givebacks more regularly that support the LGBTQ+ community.
- Make sure to post jobs on queer-focused job boards.
- Support your staff in creating LGBTQ+ ERG—an employee resource group where employees can volunteer to advocate and promote LGBTQ+ rights in the workplace.
And for fellow retailers—make significant shelf space for LGBTQ+ brands and share their stories with your audience throughout the year, not just in June!
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Featured image: Andrea Brooks, founder and CEO of Sava (C) Sava