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 Rachael Rapinoe, Founder And CEO Of Mendi
Rachael Rapinoe is the founder and CEO of Mendi, a female and LGBTQIA+-led hemp sports brand that empowers the community with reimagined wellness tools to help people thrive naturally. A former professional soccer player for teams in the United States and Iceland (and twin sister of women’s national soccer team captain Megan Rapinoe), Rachael Rapinoe entered the hemp space when she was seeking natural alternatives to pain medication for injuries she had sustained on the field. She discovered that high-quality hemp extracts and plant-based compounds had enormous health benefits. Inspired to share this with the world, Rapinoe launched Mendi, headquartered in Portland, Oregon, in 2019.
In Rapinoe’s own words: “We have created a beautiful community fueled by women who are seeking natural alternatives so they can continue to do all the things they love, with the people who bring them joy. We are committed to serving our community of women because we all know when women are protected and lifted up, everyone benefits. Additionally, this demographic has been underserved in the hemp and cannabis industry so we are here to change this.”
TRAILBLAZERS: What is something unique that you bring to your work and the greater cannabis industry overall from your previous work or life experience?
What is unique about Mendi is our positioning in the market–a female and LGBTQIA+ sports brand bringing hemp products to meet the demands of the busy, active and athletic-minded female consumer. We are serving her needs with our lineup of locally sourced, all-natural products made for her busy days and sleepless nights. Our products fuel peoples’ days and weeks however our brand rally cry is to build a brighter future in the cannabis, sports and cultural landscape, together.
Why are you passionate about being part of the cannabis industry?
I am part of the cannabis industry because I sincerely believe in the power of the plant. As a former elite and professional athlete, I know firsthand the destructive role opioids and OTC meds can have on my life and so many others. I did not discover the powerful medicinal effects of cannabis until my mid-twenties; however, once I started using products consistently, my life was changed forever. I’ve never taken a single opioid or prescription sleep aid since and my OTC med use has decreased by about 80-85 percent. These products absolutely increase overall quality of life, so I want to help destigmatize them in the sports and cultural landscape and provide an approachable entry point for people to try them.
What advice would you give to others who wish to join the cannabis industry and follow in your footsteps?
I was a little naive when I first joined this industry, and looking back I wish someone would have told me to be more discerning and always prioritize aligned values over anything else. This industry is tough to operate in for many reasons, and while there are a lot of incredible humans working tirelessly to ensure its heading in the right direction, there are also a lot who aren’t. Don’t waste your time with people who don’t align with your values. There’s enough for all of us to eat, so be quick to move on if it’s not a good fit.
What does Pride mean to you personally? How are you celebrating or championing Pride through your company, the communities you do business in, or the industry overall?
To me Pride is a continual fight to live loudly, proudly and to celebrate the uniqueness and beauty in every human being. Pride is all year long and it’s about the collective effort by all of us to protect and uplift every single person. For Mendi, Pride means partnering with like-minded companies in our Portland community, creating safe spaces for us to gather and celebrate and giving back our dollars to organizations who are working tirelessly to protect our LGBTQIA+ communities. This year, we are partnering with our family over at Burn Cycle and using the proceeds from our Pride collection to give back to The Trevor Project to help fund the support they provide to our LGBTQIA+ youth.
How are you supporting the advancement of LGBTQIA+ diversity, equity and inclusion efforts?
No matter how big or small the organization is, I strongly believe every leadership team should take a DEI training course. We completed ours last year with WorkPlace Change here in Oregon and was invaluable. I think in order to create safe spaces in your organization, learning and using the appropriate language is key. Words are powerful, they carry more weight than we often realize. These trainings teach us the language we need in order to create a path forward where true inclusivity can thrive in organizations.
Other than holding ourselves accountable, I also believe partnering with other LGBTQIA+ led companies is very important. We need to continue lifting each other up and to make sure other marginalized-led founders have a seat at the table.
What is one of your favorite LGBTQIA+ organizations to support?
Every June we donate proceeds from our Pride collection to an LGBTQIA+ organization. We’ve partnered with the Cascades AIDS Project, the Q Center, and this year we are donating to The Trevor Project. We believe now more than ever it’s important to partner with organizations who are protecting and lifting up our LGBTQ+ youth, which is why we chose The Trevor Project as our giveback partner.
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?
We are fortunate to have many retail partnerships with other like-minded Portland-based companies who also love to combine efforts to create a better world for all. This year, we have partnered with the incredible folks over at Burn Cycle to combine our proceeds for The Trevor Project. They hosted free spin classes all day on Friday 6/17 and had a Burn MVMT class on Saturday 6/18 and invited us both days to do a pop up. The collective effort across digital and in-person activations always creates more of an impact.
What are you most excited to see more of in cannabis next year?
I’m excited to see this industry get to a place where people are more open and enthusiastic about collaborating and less focused on their own individual interests. This is still a very young industry and it’s apparent how the “scarcity mindset” is how businesses are run. As this industry continues to grow and mature, it’ll be fun to see more and more cannabis brands combining their efforts to lift up everyone around them. There’s enough for all of us to eat, so let's feed everyone!
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Featured image: Rachael Rapinoe, founder and CEO of Mendi (C) Mendi