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.
To learn more about how you can get your own CBD Business Launch Kit, click here. To stay connected to Q.Nicole's mission, follow her here.
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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Exclusive: Keke Palmer On Music Industry Struggles, Her Mom Bod, And How Her Growing Family Impacts Her Art
Keke “Keep a Job” Palmer, as social media has deemed her, has experienced various sides of the entertainment industry. From acting, hosting, Broadway, and more to creating opportunities for other creatives through her digital network KeyTV, it feels like there’s nothing she hasn’t explored and conquered. However, when you talk to her about her passion for music and layered views on growing up in the spotlight, it’s clear that everything hasn’t always been as picture-perfect as it seems.
In this exclusive conversation with xoNecole, Keke shares insight into the struggles she battled within the music industry, what audiences can expect from the Big Boss visual album release, and the impact love and motherhood have brought to her life.
The visual album is a little over 40 minutes long, but in that short amount of time, it taps into many of the multihyphenate’s emotions and experiences, like unhealthy relationships, therapy, family dynamics, and more – all while showcasing Keke’s bops and fire dance moves. One scene that resonated with me most is when she walks into a music studio with someone in the music industry she thought she could trust, played by Harlem’sRobert Ri'chard.
You expect to be greeted by the studio norms, but instead, the room is filled with dead animals and people eating raw meat, while everyone is strangely oblivious to it. Just from that startling scene, it’s clear that her experience within the music industry was a dark one. She explains, saying, “The biggest struggle, simply put, was misogyny and politics, just trying to get people on board with you, people are so clicky and don’t see success for you. It’s just a lot of drama that’s not based on talent, and it gets really exhausting and tears at your spirit."
Photo courtesy of Keke Palmer
She continues, “Every artist is sensitive and trying to grow, learn, and be safe in their career, and it’s constantly halted with all of the other stuff. The people I was choosing to be around were not for me. It’s the same people that continued the negative narrative that I became conditioned with from my first record deal.”
As the art continues to dig into what she went through in the industry. It also explores her personal relationships with loved ones and how she unpacked them through therapy. In one emotional scene, she opens up about not fitting in. She tells her mother: “I feel trapped. It’s like knowing exactly who you are, and everyone’s looking at you and seeing something different.” I don’t know if it was the fact that Mama Palmer was actually playing herself or the power of Keke’s words, but it felt very honest, and it made me wonder where it stemmed from.
She expounded on the scene, saying, “Everybody is perceived as someone now in the social media era, but I was coming from my own personal story, growing up in front of people and being seen since I was a kid. I can never go back from that; I can never be a new person again. I’m always going to be whoever people invented me to be. My mom used to say this quote to me, ‘never let other people’s perception of you be a perception of yourself,’ that is hard to do. But I finally had to live up to the quote and resist the temptation to allow people to tell me who I’m going to be and what’s there for me, which specifically happens a lot in the music industry.”
"My mom used to say this quote to me, ‘Never let other people’s perception of you be a perception of yourself,’ that is hard to do. But I finally had to live up to the quote and resist the temptation to allow people to tell me who I’m going to be and what’s there for me, which specifically happens a lot in the music industry.”
You can tell sis is feeling real liberated, and the art isn’t the only reason. She credits the love from her relationship and son for sparking something new in her. “I have such a beautiful bond with my mother, but it’s not something I thought I could realistically have outside of my family,” the new mom explains. “The kind of unconditional support and love they give me is so selfless. I just wanted a partner that felt like my family – one that wasn’t burdened or intimidated by my success, and I think hoping that and thinking about it brought it into my life.”
Keke also feels like motherhood has impacted her creatively and brings a sense of peace. “Nothing is more important to me than my son. It’s this sense of ease because there’s nothing I care about more than him. Everything will be okay. That ease has brought tons of inspiration, courage, and power,” she says. “He’s my everything. At one time, all I had was my career, then it went to building a bond with my partner, and that was the beginning of me really having something of my own. It’s not a part of entertainment; it’s my family, so for that to keep growing, it just makes me that much more creative and full.”
Photo courtesy of Keke Palmer
Wait a second – speaking of things her son gave her. We had to get into her mom-bod. Like many, motherhood has changed her body, and the millennial diva looks bomb AF, while she mentioned being appreciative of all the love she’s getting online about it, it made us discuss the pressure women sometimes face trying to fit an aesthetic.
“I think I’ve always been body conscious because so much is about your body in the industry. But after having my son – I’m just like, who gives a shit? I still want to be on point because that’s part of my industry. But I think a lot of moms feel that snapback culture because of celebrities and social media.
She continues, “I try to stay on point because of the opportunities I want, but it’s never to the point where it’s life and death. I think there’s a level of confidence I have in this new body. It’s really about how I feel inside, more than what it looks like outside. I never thought I would have this (hips, thighs, etc.), but now it’s here, and I’m so confident. I feel better than ever.”
“I think I’ve always been body conscious because so much is about your body in the industry. But after having my son – I’m just like, who gives a shit? I still want to be on point because that’s part of my industry. But I think a lot of moms feel that snapback culture because of celebrities and social media."
From Barbershop and Akeelah and the Bee to Nopeand Hustlers to the endless viral digital moments, Keke continuously works and keeps us entertained. But one of my personal favorite things about her is how inspiring she is, and the Big Boss music and film is a clear example of that. “I think I’ve seen a lot of benefits to the seeds I’ve sown. I overcame a lot. Specifically, I’m not afraid to be my biggest champion. I’m not in a place where I need people to agree. I feel so secure, and that was kinda the energy that we [her and her EP, Grammy award-winning Tricky Stewart] put into the project.
"This Big Boss era is ultimately about ownership, independence, and strength. There’s been moments in my life where there might have been hesitation or confusion, but now everything is solution-based.” Keke embodies the idea that you can do what you love with who you love on your terms. And I really love this Big Boss Era for her and can’t wait to add the music to my playlist. It’s giving, summer 2023 is gonna be one for the books!
Big Boss, the film is available Friday, May 12, 2023, exclusively on KeyTV and available for streaming wherever you stream your music.
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Feature image courtesy of Keke Palmer