· By Tarleton Walmsley
Each year around this time, we like to reflect upon our equity initiatives–a set of accountability pillars we adhere to as white people working in the cannabis and cannabis-adjacent industry. These initiatives were first shared with us from Danielle Adams of Hemp Equity NC (currently on hiatus). Danielle created these pillars as a way for us to track how well we were doing in our efforts to be more thoughtful about how we operate within an industry that continues to disproportionately, negatively impact BIPOC communities. We've been sharing the results of our efforts at the end of each year for going on four years now. For further context, and to see how we did in comparison to 2022’s numbers, you can revisit last year’s review here.
HIRE PEOPLE REGARDLESS OF CRIMINAL RECORD:
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.
SHARE PROFITS WITH COMMUNITIES HARMED BY THE WAR ON DRUGS:
This year Garden Party shared a total of $1,818.09 with non-profit organizations, accounting for about 0.78% of our gross income. Unfortunately I didn’t meet our goal of 2%, but this number is up from last year so that feels like a small victory in and of itself. Between having to move twice, having to pay for the costs of our business’s break-in, and a recognizable shift in shopping habits, I anticipated that it might be smaller than 2022’s contributions and was pleasantly surprised to find that it actually surpassed our donations for 2022. Still, we couldn't have predicted how difficult this year proved to be and in hindsight I was overly confident in our goal setting;). Garden Party also donated about $350 worth of products and gift cards to local organizations this year to help with their fundraising efforts. I’d love to see us reach 1% of profits going to monetary donations in 2024, but I also know that our income has shifted rather dramatically during our shop’s temporary closure and while this percentage is small, it’s a big lift for us right now in our current iteration.
In addition to our non-profit donations, Garden Party continues to remain an active member of Broccoli Magazine’s Floret Coalition, an organization of cannabis and cannabis-adjacent businesses who collectively raise about $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–even during this time of our temporary closure. I was also able to dedicate about 15 hours of volunteer time as a founding board member of Legalize Appalachia.
AT LEAST 15% OF GOODS SOLD ARE FROM BUSINESS OWNED BY PEOPLE OF COLOR + STRIVE TO WORK WITH BUSINESSES ADHERING TO FAIR LABOR STANDARDS:
As far as our inventory offering goes, Garden Party worked with 89 different brands in 2023, and it is in this category that we found the most improvement from the previous year. I really began thinking about our curation with more intention, and as I mentioned last year, I continued to ask myself what voices were missing from our offerings. As a result of those efforts, 20% of our brands are BIPOC-owned businesses, up about 4% from last year. 70% of our brands are woman-owned, up 5%. And 11% of brands represented are LGBTQIA+, up about 3%.
In addition to that, the vast majority of brands we work with continue to share the same values when it comes to fair labor practices, to the extent that they share them. Sometimes it can be tricky getting a reveal behind the curtain with brands, but across the board I’m seeing our vendors expressing similar values and in addition to that, I’ve noticed a lot of brands we work with beginning to set better standards so far as their environmental footprint goes.
OFFER LIVABLE WAGES AS WE GROW:
Ah, livable wages. This category gets a bit harder for us each year, especially as the rate increases. As of this writing, the 2024 Just Economics Living Wage Rate for Buncombe County is $22.10/hour. Don’t get me wrong, the living wage rate should absolutely increase (and should probably be a lot higher to boot) but as a teeny, tiny-sized small business, we simply aren’t there yet. Finding a way to pay myself a livable wage, plus anyone who works with us the same, proves once again to elude me. The math just isn’t mathing, and I’m looking at ways to improve upon this in the year ahead. Where are the places in our budget that we can adjust to offer a higher starting wage rate? For example, do we really need another social media management platform for $75/month? How can I be a more thoughtful buyer so that less money goes toward the cost of inventory and more for the people running the business? These are considerations I know we can be making as we look forward to reopening in the spring, and I am optimistic that we can increase our hourly starting rate. For transparency, our rate currently starts at $17/hour and then after 30-90 days goes to $18/hour. If you’re reading this and are a business committed to the Living Wage Certification–I’d love to talk and learn more about how you’re making the numbers work.
As I look into 2024, we've got a lot of challenges ahead. While this temporary closure has been helpful for me on a personal level, we've also experienced a significant shift in income. Unfortunately bills still need to be paid on time, and I'm also trying to account for the costs of moving into and building out a new space when the time comes. And yet, I'm committed to these initiatives despite these challenges. I would also invite anyone else operating in the cannabis space to adopt these initiatives, too. Though they might seem like small efforts, their impact is felt and continues to challenge me to be a more responsible, thoughtful business owner each year we do this review. Thank you for being here, and thank you for Garden Partying with us.
Thank you for tracking this and doing this work, Tarleton! It’s hard and your efforts are paying off!