A Q&A with cannabis entrepreneur, lawyer, and advocate Shaleen Title
As an cannabis entrepreneur and activist, I am passionate (and optimistic) about the positive opportunities that this emerging economy can bring to job seekers of all ages, persuasions, and skill sets. As a man of color whose personally witnessed the disproportionate criminalization that law enforcement has inflicted in communities of color, I’m especially excited to speak with and learn more about other folks of color who have launched cannabis-focused entreprises.
I recently caught up with Shaleen Title, who is a co-founder of THC Staffing Group. A job placement agency focused on matching qualified and interested job candidates with cannabis enterprises, THC has a job fair in Boston this Thursday at District Hall. Here’s what you need to know …
MJS: You’re in the weed industry but you don’t sell weed. Talk to me about what you do and why you chose this route for cannabis entrepreneurship?
ST: In 2014 I started a business to help match up legal marijuana companies with people who want jobs. My company, THC Staffing Group, is a boutique recruiting firm for the legal marijuana industry focused on diversity, inclusion, and economic empowerment. If people are interested in opening businesses, I encourage them to consider starting cannabis-related businesses that don’t “touch the plant,” i.e. businesses that don’t require competitive and expensive marijuana licenses.
Why focus on jobs?
Two reasons. First, my business partner and I wanted to start a company that was mission-driven and reflected our values. Helping people find jobs goes along naturally with our advocacy work standing up for people with marijuana convictions. Second, we fill a significant business need. It’s difficult for cannabis companies to find diverse groups of people who are qualified and interested in cannabis, and when the right candidates are interested, they often don’t know how or where to start looking, so they come to us.
Are there challenges to being a female entrepreneur in a field dominated by men?
Sometimes, but I have zero patience for it. If I get a sexist vibe from anyone, I don’t do business with them. I fired a client once because he messed up an interview and then told me I was being “dramatic.” I don’t have time for that. Most people I work with are great, and in an industry where 1-in-3 people in leadership positions are women (the average is 1-in-5), there are plenty of other women to work with.
What advice do you have for women, especially women of color, for getting in the weed game without selling weed?
This is a great question. I’ll tell you the advice someone gave me. She said, don’t start by worrying about investors, research, or legal structure. Start by figuring out what someone will pay you for. Not just asking if someone would pay you for a good or service—people will want to be nice and say yes—but doing the work and actually getting a check in your hands. Meet people in the industry and ask what their biggest challenges are that day, what they wish they could pay someone to handle for them. You might hear things like event planning, marketing, employee training, software development, or anything else. When you know for a fact that people will pay you, then begin the process of starting a business.
Specifically for women of color, my advice is this: do not do any work for free! Know your worth, negotiate, and never ever do any work without a contract in place. A situation I see often is that a company will tell you that they intend to hire you in the future, and in the meantime they want you to show up to various events or meetings or do outreach on their behalf. It that happens to you, say you’re excited to work with them and let them know what your hourly consulting rate is.
You can find more information about Shaleen, THC Staffing Group, and the career fair at thcstaffinggroup.com.
Marcus Johnson-Smith is the co-founder of Kush Groove. He is also the founder of Clearwater Branding. You can follow Marcus on Instagram and Twitter @mjohnsonsmith and at his website:marcusjohnsonsmith.com. Send your letters and emails to: [email protected].