Andrew Farrior, the cool, calm, and collected Managing Partner at Digital Venture Partners, is among the best young cannabis business minds today. Before entering into the cannabis industry, Farrior worked in PR and as the Marketing Director for Street Execs Management — the company responsible for the success of artists like 2Chainz, Young Dolph, and Travis Porter. The Alabama native is adept at creating environments where artists control every part of their career.Taking the knowledge he gained in the music industry, Farrior is working to make sure that all minority entertainers, athletes, and entrepreneurs have access to cannabis equity, opportunities, and information that lets them control their energy, time, and money.
A common complaint among cannabis patients, activists, business owners, and influencers is that white-owned companies are using the image and likeness of African-American men and women to secure licensing, funding, and customers without offering them equity. For decades, we’ve watched African-American musical artists fights to own their masters, and businesses like Digital Venture Partners, co-founded by multi-platinum artist and producer Sonny Digital, focuses on applying that same pressure to the cannabis industry.
“We noticed while shopping Sonny to launch a retail brand that companies weren’t interested in letting him have equity, they just wanted to pay him a fee to use his likeness and stamp it on their products so they can appeal to young black and brown people,” shared Farrior. “After identifying that no one was going to let him own his brand outright, we decided to create a company that would do exactly that.”
Keep reading to learn more about Farrior’s introduction to the cannabis industry and the work he is doing with Digital Venture Partners to help entertainers, athletes, and entrepreneurs gain access to cannabis equity.
LW: How did you get started in the cannabis industry?
AF: I transitioned in from the Music Industry. I was approached to help build out a cannabis business model, which would eventually become our startup, Greenbox. It’s a retail delivery application that will launch in NYC, post-legalization.
LW: How has your relationship with cannabis evolved since you started working in the industry?
AF: It didn’t exist, and probably never would have had I not entered the industry honestly. Once I began to work with cultivators, growers, brands, and not to mention my partners who all had a real passion and education around the plant; it made me want to learn as much as possible, outside of just figuring out a business model that I could create. I’ve lost count on how many facilities I’ve visited, but it’s really opened by eyes to the culture around Cannabis, as well as the science.
LW: You’re from the south, which has been slow to accept cannabis reform, how has that influenced your work?
AF: For one, I never consumed until I was out of the south, being that it’s still heavily criminalized. So from a consumption standpoint, not only is it still a huge risk to use cannabis, it’s a lot harder to find good flower. From that perspective of a businessman, people in the south don’t really take the industry seriously yet, so people don’t grasp the opportunity that’s approaching, and they think it’s going to be illegal forever.
LW: How does your family feel about you working in the cannabis industry?
AF: I have a small family, really just my mother and sister, and they’ve both been completely supportive. I’ve been a serial entrepreneur since I was a child, so they know I’m going to take risks and try to create things out of thin air. They do whatever that can to help me stay motivated.
LW: Do you think cannabis has the power to transform the lives of African-Americans? If so, then how?
AF: I’ll answer this purely from an economic standpoint: yes. This is about to become a national, multi-billion dollar industry on an exponentially larger scale than it currently is. Cannabis is slowly transitioning from the classification of “drug”, to an essential crop. And the structuring of it is already well underway. Those of us receptive and agile enough to create vehicles and careers that can benefit from this process, should. Any new industry gives a higher opportunity for ownership, which is what I hope to see happen for us.
LW: How does the cannabis industry fail Black entrepreneurs?
AF: The entire vertical of legal cannabis fails blacks people. From the lack of access to information, the virtual non-existent Capital willing to invest in our ideas, to the continued criminalizing of our neighborhoods around Cannabis. The last report I read had black ownership somewhere around 3% across the industry, which I honestly think is probably a bit higher than it really is. Even the Social-Equity programs being rolled out by most municipalities set our people up to fail, or be bought out.
LW: Tell me about Digital Venture Partners.
AF: DVP was Co-Founded by Sonny Digital and Ryan Rapaport in 2019, as well as myself. In laments terms we are a portfolio company that’s creating an ecosystem for minority brands, companies, and private equity to come into the legal cannabis industry with favorable terms and gain access to cannabis equity. We’re in the process of announcing two new partnerships soon, both with Ex-NBA stars, but we can’t divulge quite yet.
LW: Tell me about the Black Entrepreneurs series that DVP is working on.
AF: So as one of the young black executives navigating the space in 2019, I came into great relationships with prominent people who’ve been immensely successful. These people range from heads of $700M Venture Capital firms to black founders my age who’ve successfully sold millions of dollars in revenue for black-owned products. Realizing how much this information was helping me, DVP decided to just ask these people to repeat our conversation for those not fortunate enough to be quite where we are yet. One we did that I’m proud of was with Nicolle Callier, she’s an accomplished Journalist whose produced content for nearly all of the large publishers in the space. There was a lack of relevant information for black people, and we are going to do our part in fixing that this year.
LW: How can Black entrepreneurs better prepare themselves to excel in this industry?
AF: I always tell people that the talent transfers. If you’re a videographer, companies need that. If you’re a genius at retail sales, companies need that. I’d say learn as much as you can about your state or city you’re thinking of going into, and attend events. Shake hands, talk to local policy-makers and politicians.
The industry is moving fast, but these people in it are not smarter than you. Maybe more familiar with what’s happening, but if you’re devoted, you’ll close that gap quickly.
Lyneisha Watson is a Cannabis Journalist focused on understanding the people who use the cannabis plant.