In this Cannabis Creative Interview, I sit down with Bee Downin of Bee Kynd. We talk about the economic impact of legal cannabis on rural communities, the need for business education in social equity programs, and how spirituality and cannabis intersect in her life.
Some people start a business for the money, some people start a business as a means to an end, and some people start a business because they have a vision of something better.
A vision of something better is what drove Bee Downin into business. Downin is the founder and Queen Bee of Bee Kynd, a Texas-based cannabis wellness brand.
From the moment we sat down together, it was obvious that Downin has infectious energy and an undeniable passion for what she does. She talks about the plant in terms of healing, growth, and spirituality. She walks through the economic impact of opening a processing warehouse in the same breath as describing her calling. Truly, Downin has a mind for business and a heart for cannabis.
Downin describes herself as “not a big smoker” and rekindled her love for cannabis through edibles. Making edible led to making the topicals and tinctures that would ultimately become the product she sells today. But it wasn’t until the start of the pandemic that Downin truly had the time and space to dedicate towards starting her own canna-business. Like many others businesses it took intense planning and pivoting, but she never strayed from her path.
Downin describes her approach to cannabis as “nourishing her endocannabinoid system inside and out,” and she approaches her products with the same mindset. She’s benefitted greatly from a health-focused approach to the plant, and wants to share that with others who may not enjoy smoking or may not be aware of the options they have for consuming cannabis.
Downin has big plans for Bee Kynd, including a combined HQ/warehouse, partnerships with local farmers, and an increase in sustainable packaging. She’s most excited for the connections she’s making in her community and the conference opportunities on the horizon. But at the heart of it all is an intense focus on alignment, and doing that work that resonates with her and her tribe.
What’s something in this industry that excites you?
BD: I love the fact that so many more BIPOC are coming in, specifically women of color, are coming in this industry. That brings my heart joy. And when I say women of color, I don’t just mean black women. Women of all shades coming in here, doing the thing, because this industry has been predominantly dominated by men, specifically white men. And it’s our time to shine in this.
There’s still a lot of opportunity here, for women of color, people of color. And the thing is that, there’s opportunity everywhere. You just gotta see it and take advantage of it. See, I come from a background where we don’t wait for opportunities to happen. We make them.
If somebody tells me, I can’t do it. Oh yes I can. I don’t need a seat at your table. I can make my own table.
What’s one thing that needs to change in the industry?
BD: I have to start where I am- the laws here in Texas.
I’m not big on politics at all, never have been. However, when I got into this industry, I found out that I had to be somewhat aware of the laws because they affect what I’m doing and how I work in this industry. So I had to find out how the laws are made here. And I think I’ve been here 15, 16 years, but never really paid attention to how laws are made here.
I’m here in Texas. I reside in Texas where actually the laws are made for us by the legislature. So we don’t vote on laws here. It’s a group of professionals, they’re lawyers and doctors, mostly because they can afford to be off to make laws for us.
With that, marijuana legalization actually only comes up every two years here in a session that spans maybe 140 days every two years. So that is why we are so behind, here in Texas well, and also cause of the governor and the Lieutenant that here as well.
How does sustainability factor into your business choices?
BD: Right now, since I’m so small, I don’t have the sustainable practices that I would like to have in place, like my packaging and all that – it’s just not cost effective for me. Right now, I’m using plastic containers, safe plastic, that I hope people reuse.
Going forward, as I scale, I want to be able to use more sustainable packaging. Also, when it comes to who I source from, I really do want to use local farmers. Preferably by farmers that are for regenerative farming. I don’t have that luxury right now. Everything is so new here with him here in Texas, and a lot of and I’m sure there are some local farmers out there. I just haven’t had the real time to delve into finding them.
Going forward. I’m not only looking at the environmental sustainability, but I also have to take into consideration the economic and the social sustainability as well. As I scale, when I look at economic and social, I’m looking at where I decide to put my warehouse, my headquarters, how does that affect the community in which I choose to do that? Employing people will also affect the community as well. I have to take all of those things into consideration as well as I move forward.
Talk to me about diversity and inclusion in your business and the industry.
BD: Being a solopreneur, I am the organization. I am diverse and inclusive!
As an industry though, I’m gonna take my organization out for a minute, of course, I definitely wanna see more diversity and inclusion. It’s absolutely necessary.
As my organization grows, of course diversity and inclusion will be considered in my hiring practices. The thing with me, I don’t care how you look, who you love, how you love, whatever, you know do we do you all, but do you commit to the vision and the values of the company? Do you add to the positive energy and vibration the culture in which I want in this company? Because at the end of the day, my company is set up to serve the greater good, the greater public. So are you with that mission? Do you mess with those values? Do you mess with that purpose?
Let’s talk about social equity
BD: I’m in Texas, we don’t even have a viable medical program. So with that social equity ain’t even on the table right now.
From what I see when laws are made, on the state level to legalize cannabis, social equity is on the back burner. I suspected that’s gonna be the case here in Texas as well. Because honestly there’s not enough people that look like me that are making the decisions.
Even though the advocates that are for legalization, for viable medical marijuana program, they’re still not talking about social equity.
A viable social equity program to me is not just about giving the underserved community money, capital. It also has to include an educational component on how to that capital effectively. On how to run a business. Yes, cannabis is wonderful, it’s great it is the most amazing plant ever on this universe. But it’s still an industry, still a business. And you gotta know how to run a business.
So these social equity programs not only have to be able to give the capital, but have to also have that education component on for that the end user to run a business, A viable business, or otherwise it set up to fail.
I have a formal degree in business. I have a graduate degree in business and even still I didn’t learn about entrepreneurship in business school. I’m learning it through the hard knocks.
What about the economic impact of cannabis?
BD: A lot of times when we talk about, legalization, they talk about the medical, the decriminalization. But I don’t hear as much about the economic impact, especially in these outlying areas. These rural areas that have been forgotten, and how the bringing cannabis into the fold could really revitalize them.
I always hear about the medical, the decriminalization, but not enough on the economic impact. And honestly, if we’re going to turn around the politicians, we have to drive the money because that’s what they’re think about- the money.
You got to talk about the economic impact, and how the economic impact is so much greater than just criminalizing it.
What are you really proud of?
BD: I’ve got two that I thought of. The thing I’m most proud of is in my healing journey, I have been able to touch quite a few people and help them feel in their health journey, in their spiritual journey, in their career, and make changes. And I’m proud of that and the impact that I’ve been able to make on others.
The other is finishing school finally. I did not take the traditional route, I left college in my junior year. I started school very young and I stepped in my junior year, I was 19 years old. I went back to school 10 years later and finished my bachelor’s degree. And even that was a lot of struggle. A couple years later, and I don’t know what possessed me, I decided to go back for my master’s,
I had a lot of bumps and bruises along that way as well and it took me six years to finally get my masters. I finally finished. It took a long time, but I finally finished. Don’t give up, don’t ever feel like, oh, I can’t do it, I can’t get this done. You can just keep going. It doesn’t matter how long it takes, just finish it.
What do you want customers to take away from an experience with you?
BD: That they learned a little bit more about the plants. That they appreciate a little bit more about the plants and that they’re open to experiencing the plant more.
I’m not gonna be able to give them everything. I’m a nerd when it comes to subjects like this and I try not to do that too much when I’m out there like at vendor markets. I try to keep it as basic and brief they can, but with enough passion that you wanna learn more. I’m not just selling you a product. If you have questions, I want you to know that I’m there for you. You don’t have to just go online and order. If you have questions reach out to me, let me know. I want them to know I’m here.
What is your favorite fun fact about cannabis?
BD: A historical fact: Queen Victoria used to use cannabis for her cramps. To think about the monarchy using cannabis! (Author’s note: this is factual)