EstroHaze is pleased to present part two of our informative discussion with Mystic Herbal’s Felicia Shaw, whose journey to licensure is one step closer to completion.
California’s new recreational regulations require that all cannapreneurs obtain local and state permits to operate legally. The City of Oakland offers 2 paths for current and potential business owners to apply for licensure: equity and general.
Eligible equity applicants must have lived in an Oakland neighborhood disproportionately affected by drug-related arrests for the past 10 of 20 years, been convicted of a cannabis-related crime within the city, and earn less than $52,000 annually. Equity applicants receive first priority for licensing and the waiving of steep application fees. Those who choose to get incubated receive 3 years of rent-free space provided by their general applicant partners.
The general candidate pool often includes more wealthy candidates who can choose to incubate equity applicants in return for first priority status. Shaw spoke candidly about some of the pitfalls of the equity application process, namely the risk of being taken advantage of by general applicants with predatory tendencies, but her vision of running a thriving, legal canna-biz remained intact.
During our previous conversation, Shaw, and business partner James Walker, explained that they had obtained a temporary state license for non-store front delivery service while awaiting a micro-business license that would also encompass non-volatile manufacturing and distribution as well. As luck would have it, Shaw finally received the temporary micro-business permit last month. She and her business partner now have 90 days to get their place of business fully operational and receive their annual (permanent) license.
Please tell us more about your most recent licensure achievement.
We were issued a temporary state license for a micro-business license on March 22. It’s a combination of 3 business types under one license. Now we have a distribution, non-volatile manufacturing and delivery license all in one. We’re super excited. All the hard work starts now.
What ever happened with that questionable general incubator who wanted you to sign over your business license to him, and changed the locks on the building once you refused?
I ended up talking to a lawyer who helps equity participants. I showed him our agreement and explained to him what had happened. We found that he wasn’t really a general applicant and was basically a total fraud. He hadn’t applied to be a general applicant or anything in Oakland, and that must be done in order to participate with an equity partner. In the end, I was not going to sign any thing over to him and I told him that our partnership was over. We all agreed to go our separate ways, no harm was done and it all worked out for the best.
I’ve moved on and luckily I was able to obtain another general incubator. Her name is Betsy White. She and her husband are the building owners and they are so awesome. I also obtained the keys to [our new location], so I’ve been cleaning out the space since we received the micro-business license.
So what’s next in the process?
Now the hard work begins: we have to renovate the space. Everything is pretty much the way that I want it, but I am [installing] somewhat of a commercial kitchen for the manufacturing piece of my business. In order to do that, I have to obtain some kind of funding so I’ve been applying for [various] loans. I’ve also been meeting with prospective investors. The City of Oakland is supposed to be offering loans with 0% financing, but that hasn’t been made available yet. They say the applications should be available sometime in the spring or summer.
You’re operating Mystic Herbal on top of everything else. You must be extremely busy.
I still take care of almost all the deliveries myself. When I get home, I work on updating my business plan to include non-volatile manufacturing and distribution to present to investors. I have a lot of early mornings and late nights right now. It’s totally worth it and I’m so excited about everything.
Now that you have your temporary micro-business license from the State, what must you do to get the annual license?
Once the building is ready, we contact the City of Oakland. They alert the State that everything’s been approved and all inspections (plumbing, electrical and fire) have been passed, and we must follow up with documents to support that.
I actually think it’s going to be easy to pass inspections with this building. It’s super secure and the people I’m working with are very supportive, especially Betsy. She really wants to help women of color, especially Black women. Actually, once we’re operating we plan to offer training and development for people, because I am going to need a lot of support.
Your hands will certainly be full for the foreseeable future. How do you feel? Are you overwhelmed at this point?
I’m not overwhelmed, I’m super excited. I am just trying to stay calm and focused at this point. I have until July to get this building together and I’m pretty sure it’s going to happen. If not, I’m sure we’ll be pretty close to that deadline. There’s not too much construction needed. I just need an investor so I can purchase equipment, furniture, etc.
During our last chat, you spoke of plans to provide a space for people of color who aspire to create and package edibles. When do you estimate you’ll be able to offer those opportunities?
It’s hard to say, but maybe next year. First, I need to build up my business, then hire and train people. I want to get things running smoothly before I can start mentoring.
If you could go back in time to advise your past-self on how to navigate the licensing process, what would you say?
There’s not much I’d do differently but my advice would be to be patient. It takes a lot of patience to go through this process.