Hilary Yu is the co-founder and Executive Director of Our Academy (Our Dream), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit 20-week cannabis accelerator for BIPOC and justice-impacted entrepreneurs. Over the past two years, Our Academy has been digitally native and offered 1:1 mentors, technical assistance, and evergreen courses on topics like how to vet an operating agreements, tax planning, and how to fundraise.
What Is Our Academy (Our Dream)?
Founded in 2020, Our Academy is a volunteer-run 501(c)(3) nonprofit workshop, mentorship, and open education resource for cannabis equity applicants, operators and others harmed by the War on Drugs (e.g. incarcerated individuals, immigrants, refugees and the LGBTQIA+ community). The organization offers services that include:
- Free templates and resources
- Access to pro bono service providers
- Live workshops taught by industry leaders
- Networking events
- Technical compliance licensing assistance
- Fundraising and consulting support
- Sponsorships for social equity operators to attend conferences and other industry events
Since 2021, Our Academy has partnered with MJ Unpacked, the nation’s most prominent cannabis CPG conference, to present a showcase of social equity brands that give small business owners a platform to pitch to major investors.
Our Academy And Honeysuckle: "The Limitless Dreams Of New York's CAURD Licensees"
From late 2022 onward, Our Academy has been contracted with New York State's Office of Cannabis Management to educate and support the 460-plus Cannabis Adult Use Retail Dispensary (CAURD) Licensees. In Spring 2023, Honeysuckle partnered with Our Academy to produce the photo and video campaign “The Limitless Dreams of New York’s CAURD Licensees,” documenting the diversity of the participants in the program. Photographed on the famous Shakespeare Avenue Stairway in The Bronx, a landmark featured in the 2019 film Joker, 25 CAURD license holders gathered to celebrate their achievement. Dressed in styles reminiscent of the 1990s, an homage to the golden anniversary of hip hop because the musical genre’s history is interwoven with the plant’s, those in the group represent the vast array of participants in New York’s legal cannabis space: They are filmmakers, designers, restaurateurs, poets, activists, parents, community leaders.
Watch behind-the-scenes footage of "Limitless Dreams":
The concept for “Limitless Dreams” was created by Hilary Yu, Tess Melody Taylor, Board Member of Our Academy, and Honeysuckle’s Ronit Pinto and Sam C. Long. The shoot featured photography and video by Long, production by Pinto, and creative direction by Mary Pryor, founder of Sheba Baby and co-founder of Cannaclusive. It was selected for the 2023 Clio Cannabis Shortlist. (More about the shoot and the CAURD program can be found in Honeysuckle’s 17th print edition featuring Havoc of Mobb Deep. Get your copy now.)
Hilary Yu's "Beginning To End Inspiration" Weedsday Playlist
For her Weedsday Playlist, Hilary Yu brainstormed selections you will want to play all day long. She says, “This is a playlist for aspirational and inspiring vibes to play from the beginning to the end of your day. Start off with Al Green, feel the positivity radiating with Tina Turner, keep it going with Fred again..., round it out with Kyle Minogue and the one and only Whitney Houston.”
Al Green - "Let's Stay Together"
Days are better when you start the morning with Al Green. This is definitely a superstition I've created in my head, but I swear, when I play Al Green in the morning there's an energy shift. That's a hill I'm willing to die on.
Tina Turner - "The Best"
Tina Turner was and is an icon. She turned her pain into art, reinvented herself, and created a new life while taking back her agency and power with her art. Stepping into your power and envisioning pathways for opportunities, even if you've been wronged, is something we support wholeheartedly at Our Academy, and that's why I included her in this playlist. You also can't listen to "The Best" without feeling your spirits lifted. If you disagree, I dare you to sing these lyrics without feeling the corners of your mouth lift.
Brittany Howard, Joy Anonymous, Fred again... And Childish Gambino - "Stay High again..."
Stay High.... say less. We play music at the beginning of Our Academy workshops and webinars to keep the energy high. Learning about how to run a cannabis business can be dry, if you let it. This is always a favorite, at the end of the day. We all have Zoom fatigue, but not when you jump onto a webinar and hear this playing.
*Editor's Note: Did you know? Tokeativity's Chief Creative Officer Nickia Delaware chose Childish Gambino's "12.38," featuring 21 Savage, Ink, and Kadhja Bonet, for her Weedsday Playlist. Check out the list here.
Kylie Minogue - "Padam Padam"
Kylie Minogue hadn't had a hit since 2010 and she came out with a summer anthem [in 2023] at 55. Talk about being in her redemption era. Other than it being so fun to blast and sing in the car, it's a reminder that you can always have a second, third, and forth wind. What's more empowering than that?
Whitney Houston - "It's Not Right But It's Okay"
This is the best karaoke song regardless of whether you're going through a breakup. Do I sing it well? No, that's besides the point. Sometimes life can throw a few bumps in the road, “but it's okay, [you're] gonna make it anyway”.... Feels like a life slogan that we all need to remind ourselves, especially in the cannabis industry.
For more about Hilary Yu and Our Academy, visit thisisourdream.com.
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Featured image: Hilary Yu, co-founder / Executive Director of Our Academy (C) Maxine Tamoto