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 Rachel Burkons, Co-Founder Of Altered Plates
Rachel Burkons is the co-founder of Altered Plates, a culinary cannabis hospitality group specializing in brand activations, product development, and special events. Burkons started the company in 2016 with her brother, Chef Holden Jagger. Based in Los Angeles, Burkons works with a variety of brands to develop systems of service for cannabis that explore the boundaries of what cannabis hospitality can and will look like. In her own words: “As a consultant, educator, writer, and creator at Smoke Sip Savor, I frequently use the lens of cannabis food and beverages to help people understand how cannabis can meet them where they are –at the table!” Currently Burkons is consulting on a cannabis consumption lounge in West Hollywood, California, where she says “we’ll be bringing cannabis hospitality to life in new and unexpected ways.”
TRAILBLAZERS: What is something unique that you bring to your work and the greater cannabis industry overall from your previous work or life experience?
RACHEL BURKONS: After spending 12 years working in the wine and spirits industry developing trade marketing programs for global brands, when I began working in the cannabis space, I was immediately struck by the similarities between cannabis, wines, and spirits. I began to take the same language, tools, ideas, and techniques I’d used to explore wines and spirits and apply them to how I approached cannabis. I quickly found that people responded really well to thinking about cannabis in the context of a dining experience, and that there was an easy, inherent connection forged at a cannabis-enhanced event. Given my experience in the traditional hospitality world, I do think it’s exciting to have the opportunity to rethink that, turn it on its head a little bit, and I’m excited to have had the opportunity to explore that for nearly seven years now.
Why are you passionate about being part of the cannabis industry?
I consider myself incredibly grateful to be working in this space. When Altered Plates was first founded, we were among the first to bring a modern, elevated take to what cannabis hospitality looks like. Having the opportunity to be a part of shaping that culture, build out exciting ideas, and create new experiences has been a true gift. But behind it all, I really love the plant! I love consuming it, learning about it, tasting it, trying new products with it... you name it, I want to play with it! I do believe that cannabis hospitality in particular has the potential to normalize and educate in truly meaningful ways, and I’m thrilled to be working to build out this segment of the industry.
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?
I love collaborating with others, and frequently find ways to collaborate with other thought leaders in the culinary cannabis space in particular. During the pandemic lockdown, I worked with one of my favorite collaborators to build an educational culinary cannabis show on Instagram Live. Co-hosted by Jamie Evans, founder of The Herb Somm and co-founder of Herbacèe Sparkling Rosier, The Herb & Smoke Show featured brands we loved, people we admired, and education we wanted to share, with topics ranging from beers and wines to cannabis and cocktails (and a little girl talk!). The show lived on for more than a year, and became a space where we could both bring our talents and experience in the world of cannabis, food, and drink to life!
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?
For me, Pride means celebrating who I am with my family, friends, and community, and that certainly extends to my work in cannabis. I will always make an effort to work with, prioritize, and support queer-owned brands whenever possible across all of my projects.
What is one of your favorite LGBTQIA+ organizations to support?
I’m an L.A. native, so for me, it has to stay local. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with and support the L.A. LGBTQ Center in the past and look forward to continuing to do so, particularly as part of our community outreach and internal programming for the West Hollywood Lounge.
What’s your favorite LGBTQIA+-produced cannabis product that isn’t from your brand?
I am obsessed with so many! I love what the Drew Martin team has built. Their botanical-infused pre-rolls are not only gorgeous, but offer a strong perspective that I think appeals to a very cool, very specific consumer, and the brand feels very authentic to me. I also love their tenacity at taking on such a traditional, un-innovative category, and turning it on its head fabulously and flavorfully.
What advice would you give to others who wish to join the cannabis industry and follow in your footsteps?
The most important thing you can do at any stage in this industry is educate yourself, but it’s most essential as a foundation. Start with the plant. You’ll need to know all of its various functionality, terms and parts before mastering differing product types and form factors. Once you have the basics down, get out and explore these products! But no matter where you are in your cannabis journey, the most important thing is to keep learning. This industry is multi-faceted and ever-changing, and we’re still unlocking the mysteries of the plant, so the education never ends!
What are you most excited to see more of in cannabis next year?
I’m excited for the continued growth of two key categories in particular: Cannabis hospitality spaces and cannabis beverages. As more and more cannabis hospitality spaces open and licenses become available across the country, it will be very exciting to see the diversity of concepts and models. I believe that cannabis hospitality spaces will be a huge driver of consumer education and normalization that can go a long way in helping change hearts and minds about cannabis.
I’m also extremely excited to watch the continued advancement in the cannabis beverage space. With a steadily climbing market share, improved technologies and infrastructure, and a diverse set of quality brands emerging, I believe that cannabis beverages will be the next big category. Moreover, cannabis beverages tap into our ancient obsession with drinking while capitalizing on shifting trends in [reduced] alcohol consumption, making the category exciting to new consumers in particular. I’m excited to be a part of the Cannabis Beverage Association, which works to educate on and advocate for this segment of the industry.
Learn more about Trailblazers by visiting trailblazerspresents.com. You can find out more about Altered Plates at alteredplatesevents.com. To learn how to support the LA LGBTQ Center, visit lalgbtcenter.com.
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Featured image: Rachel Burkons, co-founder of Altered Plates (C) Altered Plates