How Q. Nicole Is Breaking The 'Grass' Ceiling In The World Of Cannabis
Gummies, tinctures, edibles. Indica, Sativa, or hybrid. No matter how you consume this multifarious plant, cannabis's ability to shape-shift emphasizes the many ways it can be enjoyed as well as the plethora of business opportunities that can stem from it. For decades, stigmas surrounding cannabis and marijuana have prevented Black women from experiencing the joys of computation along with the health benefits that the plant provides. From decreasing stress and easing anxiety, to relieving joint pain, migraines, and menstrual cramps, this plant has a lot more to offer than the cultural taboos that ellipse it.
Today, the cannabis industry continues to climb as one of the largest growing markets in the country, projected to reach $30 Billion by 2025, through the Farm Bill of 2018 and the reclassification of cannabis in 2020. Although this comes with its restrictions, this shift in the regulation has opened the door for opportunities surrounding hemp-derived products to be explored by those who have been disproportionately left out of the industry. As a result, one woman is on the mission to not only destigmatize the language around cannabis while equipping Black folks with the tools (and kits) needed to launch their own CBD empire.
Like most ambition-driven women, Q. Nicole started her corporate career with a plan. "I'm Generation X, and we were taught college + good job = financial security." Upon graduating from college, Q. would soon become a six-figure earner with a rampant 12-year career trajectory that laid the foundation to eventually, "walk on water" and live out what she calls "a cushiony life." But even the most diligent readiness could not prepare her for the abrupt passing of her father in 2013.
At the time, she found herself drowning in the grief of the recent loss while attempting to balance the demand of her transition from corporate life into full-time entrepreneurship. The hectic nature of her work-life balance triggered a deep emotional response that was so unfamiliar, she knew it was time to seek professional help. Shortly after, her therapist diagnosed her with delayed PTSD, a response to her father's death. Her loss triggered an inability to cope.
Courtesy of Q. Nicole
During the heaviest points of Q.'s healing process, she was recommended by a psychiatrist to explore opioids to balance her mood. Yet, something about the drug didn't sit right with her, so she sought alternative options. Since medicinal marijuana was legal in her state, she was able to get approved for a license to explore plant-based options to deal with the anxiety and depression that were a result of her PTSD. "That was my introduction to the space as someone who genuinely was a patient." She continues, "I was broken, emotionally. I was in a very fragile place and cannabis saved my life."
This turning point allowed Q. to regain control of her life and reestablish her emotional and professional momentum. Now, Q. Nicole leads WH Farms, a five-acre, three-greenhouse farm located in Eastern North Carolina. She aims to equip Black folks with everything needed to build their own consumable products through the CBD Business Launch Kits and puff, puff, pass the baton into the booming hemp industry that awaits them.
xoNecole: Tell us more about the work you do with WH Farms.
Q. Nicole: Our farmers are African-American legacy farmers which is huge to our story. We're growing with farmers who have had this land for 100s of years, from their sharecropper ancestors who were first-generation slaves. So that's a part of the heritage that we're proud of when purchasing products. I'm a country girl and I've always felt like mobilization is a part of my purpose. WH Farms currently has 200 acres of land that we can pull from. The farmers wanted to protect themselves from large corporations that sought to extract from their land and not pay them their worth. So we wanted to partner with them and whatever our overflow was, we could source it from legacy farmers.
Were there any stigmas that you had to detach yourself from before exploring cannabis?
I had my preconceived notions. I came from corporate real estate development, so everything I did was about my career advancement. Playing with what was considered a drug was very "anti" my professional development path. But I was open to understanding the medicinal benefits because I saw so many high-profile professionals using it. I would be in conversations with physicians and surgeons and they would talk about how they would grow the plant at home. It made me realize that society had established a stigma that was "urban", but in reality, the plant wasn't just for "urban" use. I became a little bit more open-minded, but at that time of transitioning into full-time entrepreneurship, I did what I needed to do to not compromise my professional standing.
You have a background in real estate and corporate development. What was the transition like for you pivoting from the corporate world into entrepreneurship?
Being in real estate and understanding a number of things about the economy and marketing, I understood that the cannabis industry was exploding and I wanted to be a part of the solution. I wanted to be a part of bringing it to the market for the other corporate, straight-laced individuals, especially African-American women like myself who would otherwise suffer in Corporate America because of the stress that comes along with being an achiever. They place more on you, they expect more from you.
You have the responsibility on the shoulders as the woman and now she's in this corporate environment struggling. But here's this plant that she can drop in her coffee in the morning and have a completely different experience. It was so important for me as a corporate girl to come to the table and say, "Listen, [cannabis] is nothing to be afraid of. Stress is a silent killer and if we're not able to identify ways to relieve our stress in a very tangible way, on a daily basis, then we're going to find ourselves as a community losing to some of these silent killers."
"It was so important for me as a corporate girl to come to the table and say, 'Listen, [cannabis] is nothing to be afraid of. Stress is a silent killer and if we're not able to identify ways to relieve our stress in a very tangible way, on a daily basis, then we're going to find ourselves as a community losing to some of these silent killers.'"
Courtesy of Q.Nicole
How do you see the match between Black creativity and the hemp-derived product industry complementing one another?
I see nothing but Black wealth, Black advancement, and Black opportunity. This is why I'm so passionate about the Launch Kits and what our farm does. We know this plant, maybe not the technical-scientific data, but we know the way it makes people feel, we know the weight, we know how much it's worth. When you take that transferable skill and talk about the Black men who are a part of STEM programs looking for ways to add cannabis to technology, that skill is helpful.
Cannabis goes well in so many different forms, it has chemical qualities that help with hair growth and fight acne. There are ways that the industry needs to be supported by science, manufacturing, technology, and chemistry. So when you talk about a group of people who have certain soft skills and are already exposed to the plant, we're not starting from scratch, we're starting from a basic understanding of it.
How were you able to adapt to the shift in your purpose?
I don't think that I ever shifted purpose. I understood very early in my purpose walk that my purpose would always expand. Jullien Gordon [real estate entrepreneur] and I were professional buddies, and he shared that, 'if it's truly your purpose, it'll always just expand into a new version of itself.' WH Farms is just a continuation and expansion of the same purpose: I educate and empower. There's a lot of people who don't know about cannabis.
Since I grow it, I can educate them and empower them to have their own CBD product line and be positioned to take advantage of what this industry has to offer. As a business owner and CEO, I always want to build a business that helps people create more than they already have, learn more than they already know, and believe they can have more than they already have.
You’ve tapped into two industries (real estate and cannabis) that are known for their high return and opportunity for growth. How has navigating these growing markets shaped your views on generational wealth?
It's taught me that generational wealth is a goal and it should be an expectation, but it should never be confused with something that's easy. I think it is a necessary collective reset because it's a great buzzword, but what does it really take? To be a woman in the entrepreneur space, I've had to fight to not be backdoored on deals not only to get respect but to receive the compensation I deserve. Same for the cannabis industry.
It's still the Wild Wild West, it's still a developing industry and because of that, it takes courage, bravery, and the ability to manage risk. The guts that it takes to play in these spaces for generational wealth reminds me that it's something that isn't free, it comes with a price and it comes with perseverance. It's not always easy but it's always purpose, it's always valuable, and my ancestors also fought for it.
"The guts that it takes to play in these spaces for generational wealth reminds me that it's something that isn't free, it comes with a price and it comes with perseverance. It's not always easy but it's always purpose, it's always valuable, and my ancestors also fought for it."
Courtesy of Q.Nicole
I think sometimes there’s a push to encourage women to go after entrepreneurship, but we’re rarely told how to balance the weight of it. As a serial entrepreneur yourself, what are some tools that help you find balance in all that you put your hands to?
I find that there's never balance, it's only harmony and that's the first permission that I gave myself. I seek harmony and that gives me a different metric to measure by. Everyone knows I have my phone on 'Do Not Disturb' from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Friday. That's because I have to hear myself. All calls are scheduled and I don't do a lot of distractions. I have to make sure that I am able to bring forth what I feel I'm supposed to be putting into this business and stay ahead of it.
I work in chunks, I'm big on grounding, I make sure I do meditation in the morning, and I love my CBD tinctures and smokable herbs in the morning -- it helps with mental focus and gathering my thoughts. I leave work at work and keep home at home; I am a person who attempts to separate the two. I think that the way to be present in these various relationships, especially my relationship as a wife and my role as a wife because that is certainly a priority for me before business. I don't let things bleed, I'm very compartmentalized.
"I think we have to give ourselves grace in the human experience and the permission to turn the poison of our mistakes, of the doubt, setbacks, and the hate into the medicine that fuels us and turn it into lessons and inspiration."
Courtesy of Q. Nicole
What advice would you share for those starting in entrepreneurship?
Learn how to comfortably turn poison into medicine. You're going to fail, you're going to fall, things aren't going to go right, it's going to be stressful. You may look at yourself and say, am I actually doing it right? All of these aspects of the journey are pretty uniform to everyone's journey because this is the journey. And I think we have to give ourselves grace in the human experience and the permission to turn the poison of our mistakes, of the doubt, setbacks, and the hate into the medicine that fuels us and turn it into lessons and inspiration.
Courtesy of Q. Nicole
Aley Arion is a writer and digital storyteller from the South, currently living in sunny Los Angeles. Her site, yagirlaley.com, serves as a digital diary to document personal essays, cultural commentary, and her insights into the Black Millennial experience. Follow her at @yagirlaley on all platforms!
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32-year-old social media influencer and mother of five, Ariel B, did not set out to tell her story; but it was her truth that set her free. Her truth is also the inspiration for her new podcast "This Too Shall Pass," produced by Idea To Launch Productions. The podcast delves into Ariel's life and journey as a single parent and a domestic violence survivor. But it also serves as a window into her past traumas that have fostered her resilience.
In an exclusive interview with xoNecole, Ariel B. reveals that her online following grew after she decided to share the realistic, non-curated parts of her life on social media at the advice of her therapist. "Growing up, I was taught to hide things that made you seem less than," she says. "I didn't mind speaking at the shelter for women and children. I didn't mind speaking in my domestic violence group with other women, but I was ashamed to talk about it with people that I felt had a perfect life. So [my therapist] said 'No, you need to get used to telling your story. If you don't like it or you feel some kind of way, just delete it.' I started first on Instagram, and that was probably the first time I dipped my toe in the social media world of telling the truth."
Ariel's followers became inspired by her honest and raw day-in-the-life perspective: the days when she would be over her budget, her kids' rooms wouldn't be the tidiest, or when she'd be running late for pick-ups and drop-offs. Her relatability made single mothers everywhere feel seen, but there's much more to life Ariel's story that she's found the bravery to open up about.
The Florida native had her first child when she was 16 years old. Growing up in a middle-class suburban family, she says she felt judged by family and peers for having children out of wedlock. "I already had two kids before I got married," she says. "And when I got married, I think that was my parents' sigh of relief. Like, oh my gosh, she's finally married. She's not a single mother of two. She should be safe. It was a disaster."
Ariel says marriage was great in the beginning. Her ex-husband presented himself as loving and was a proud stepfather to her two children. After welcoming two more children with her ex-husband, she says that's when the problems started. "We were arguing all the time. The finances were bad. And then it got to the point where he was consuming a lot of alcohol all the time," she says. "And when the alcohol got bad, it got physical. I was embarrassed. I just invited all of my family to this wedding and everyone's so happy that I'm married, but I'm miserable."
Ariel eventually filed for divorce, and was then forced to get a restraining order after her ex proceeded to stalk her. Though these frightening moments are behind her, she's working every day to address the residual trauma. "It was a lot of trauma to get where we are, and a lot to finally feel safe," she says. "But I just wanted to do whatever I had to do so my children wouldn't have to heal from a choice that I made."
It's clear that Ariel's adorable children, ranging from ages three to fifteen, are her biggest inspiration. She often posts videos of herself teaching them important life lessons like how to create a budget and maintain good credit. It's these important life skills that many of her followers said they wished they had learned growing up. For Ariel, her greatest goal is to fill up their self-love tank. "The world is going to knock you down enough when you get older," she says. "So if I can push them out there at a hundred percent if the world can only knock them down to 80, I'd be happy with that. But if they only go out there at 80 and the world can get them down to 60 or less than half of who they are, that's a problem for me."
When it comes to her new podcast, Ariel isn't afraid of the judgments that may come, both from loved ones and strangers. "When you tell the truth, there's nothing to hide from," she says. "I am a single mother of five. I do have more than one child's father. We are on a budget. And when I was able to just be honest, I think I wasn't shameful anymore. I didn't have to pretend and I was able to tell my truth out loud."
"This Too Shall Pass" is out now!