· By Tarleton Walmsley
2022 marks our third year actively adhering to a set of equity initiatives first penned by our canna colleague Danielle Adams of Hemp Equity NC. Although Hemp Equity NC is on hiatus, we continue to follow this set of initiatives as a way to practice accountability in how we operate as white business owners in the cannabis adjacent industry. Each year we recommit to practicing these standards to the best of our abilities. I also like to start each calendar year by looking back on the previous year as a way to gauge how successful we were and what improvements can be made in the year ahead. If you’d like to read about the previous few years’ efforts, you can read more about them here and here.
As a refresher, Garden Party is committed to the following:
-Hiring individuals regardless of criminal record.
-Actively and continually sharing a portion of our profits to communities negatively affected by the war on drugs.
-Offer livable wages to our employees as we grow.
-Strive to work with vendors that abide by fair labor practices.
-At least 15% of the goods we sell will be procured from businesses owned by people of color.
Garden Party remains committed to hiring individuals regardless of criminal record. We don’t perform background checks on any staff, nor do we check for criminal records at all. We encourage ALL to apply for any open positions we have and ALL are welcome in our space.
*As of 1/26/23 per this article the Living Wage Rate has adjusted to $20.10 for 2023.
According to Just Economics, the current Living Wage Rate for Buncombe County remains at $17.70/hour in 2022 with or without health benefits. We currently employ two part-time folks and I remain our only full-time employee. Our Sales Position starting salary starts at $17/hour. Each year we fall short of meeting the requirements for becoming Living Wage Certified because I continue to pay myself sparingly and not at all close to $17.70 an hour. When I wrote about this last year, it was my aim to become certified in year 5. Garden Party turns 5 in August and in full transparency, I remain uncertain that we can sustainably meet this goal this year but this is a marathon, not a sprint. I remain committed to making this goal a reality.
In 2022 we were able to share $1,398.91 in donations to non-profit organizations and mutual aid funds. This makes up approximately .69% of our income for the year, which is down percentage-wise from last year. The usual suspects can account for this decline–access to cash flow and the rising costs of owning and operating a business with the ongoing impact of COVID-19 were certainly at play, and we continue to bootstrap our way to profitability. The perfectionist in me is determined to bring this number up in 2023 and 2% feels like an achievable goal to consider as we recommit to distributing profits to communities most harmed by the war on drugs.
Garden Party also remains an active member of Broccoli Magazine’s Floret Coalition, an organization of cannabis and cannabis-adjacent businesses who collectively raise over $10k each month to an organization of the Floret board’s choosing. This commitment means that we donate a minimum of $50 each month, throughout the entire year, no matter what. I’m also realizing that sometimes contributions don’t always come in the form of large numbers, even if I would love to be able to offer profit-sharing more frequently and in much more significant amounts. Still, in addition to monetary contributions, I was able to volunteer 75+ hours of my time as a founding board member of Legalize Appalachia and about 10 hours to ACT. I've found these volunteer roles to be crucial in keeping me engaged in equitable cannabis advocacy in the Appalachian South, and I will be continuing these volunteer roles in 2023.
Finally, a breakdown of our inventory offerings. Across 91 different brands offered in 2022, 16.48% are BIPOC-owned brands. 65% of those different brands are woman-owned, and 9.89% are LGBTQ+ owned. I’ve come to appreciate this aspect of our initiatives the most, as it continues to help me put thought and care into the products we decide to carry at Garden Party. I can get easily caught up in the shiny and new product lines we come across, but I have also adopted the practice of getting to know a brand better before I make a knee-jerk purchase for the shop. I also think about our product offerings as having a voice–specifically, whose voice is missing from Garden Party? Whose voice do we need to uplift and hear more from? These considerations have created space for me to be much more intentional about our curation and it's made me a better business owner as a result.
Looking into 2023, I can see that we have some tangible goals to improve upon. They feel obtainable, and I know that is in part because of our community of Garden Partiers. Each time you support this business it helps us get one step closer to engaging more fully with our equity initiatives. So I know I've said it before, and I'll probably say it again. Keep Garden Partying with us. Your support means we can continue to grow our business, sure. But it also means we can grow our business AND thoughtfully stick to our values.