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“The village is about bringing together the best talent in the nation and having conversations that uplift and motivate the village.”
– Hazey, Black Cannabis Magazine
MJBizCon: the largest cannabis business conference and expo in the industry with 35,000 + attendees, 1,400 exhibitors, 180 + speakers, and an abundance of networking opportunities, celebrated its 11th anniversary in Las Vegas, Nevada this year.
The Las Vegas Convention Center was packed — inside, outside, and on all sides — with cannabis industry professionals and cannabis consumers. On and around the Las Vegas strip were industry parties, meet and greets, brunches, dinners, and groups of people filling the skies with clouds of cannabis smoke.
Cannabis industry professionals met many of their connections for the first time, virtual teams got together for the first time this year, business meetings were held in coffee shops, and deals were closed over many dinners. MJBizCon 2022 was a first for many, an annual business trip for others, a conference where fate awaited for a few, and something like Shark Tank for inventors and investors.
Some first-time experiences included Sesh with Friends, scholarships: the Social Equity Scholarship Program, and takeovers: Diversity Village. In a place where black and brown were the minority, what Hazey, Black Cannabis Magazine, and the sponsors put together and supported was one of the biggest impacts of MJBizCon 2022.
About The Diversity Village: The Purpose
The Diversity Village was born from the reality that ‘it takes a village.’ Hazey, the founder of Black Cannabis Magazine and the Diversity Village, says: “We must find a way to work together and unite for the plant. The village was established to create diversity inside cannabis trade shows and events”.
The Diversity Village is a non-profit organization that accepts donations from cannabis companies. Donations will help support first-time exhibitors via grants that will help with the costs of space, display, travel, food, and promotional items so that entrepreneurs can do high-level business and be ‘in the room.’
Q & A with The Diversity Village Founder: The Journey to MJBizCon
How was The Diversity Village pitched to MJBizCon organizers?
In April, MJBiz asked me to do a pop-up magazine (https://www.popupmagazine.com ) and asked me to help them hire the keynote speaker (Jay Z). We had been in chats since MJBizCon 2021 about how to make the conference and expo more diverse. So, I presented them with a pitch deck that I pitched in May.
My pitch included a week of events that started with an Urban Golf Challenge, an all-black panel, 3 Days of Diversity Village, and a 90’s inspired afterparty with Lil Kim, Method Man, Redman, The Lox, and the Luniz.
They agreed to let me do my own panel, giving me their booth for a day and the opportunity to put on the first official afterparty. This was my first Co. Marketing Agreement with a cannabis company, one worth 100M+.”
Diversity Village may come across as only welcoming the BIPOC community. Can you explain the vision and intention behind the collaborative melting POT?
“When I attended MJBizCon in 2021, I walked away feeling like I wasn’t included. I have seen so many companies on display, but few looked like me. I knew many others related to my experience, and some people felt left out by Black Cannabis Magazine. I wanted to create a space where all could feel inclusive regardless of race, gender, preference, life, and professional experience. We want everyone to feel included in everything we do moving forward.”
Over eight panels, more than 20 panelists, some firsts in the industry, some celebrities, and an audience that had the area packed out; how did you feel watching all of this?
“It was amazing to see my black and brown brothers and sisters united, coming together to educate and inform our peers. Our voices need to be heard, and this was definitely the platform for it. It gives me hope, knowing that this is only the beginning of something greater.
Eight panels and everyone had so much to offer, and the audience learned so much. The biggest takeaway was the smiles on everyone’s faces. It was good to see. I can’t wait to drop the recap videos.”
The sponsors, some big names in the industry, supported the village. How does it feel to be supported by these names?
“I almost like to say partners instead of sponsors because we aren’t doing this to make money or profit. The involvement from our Diversity Village Partners lets me know that our future is bright and that our voices won’t go unheard.
I hope the involvement of sponsors this year allows for more sponsors/ partners to be involved. As far as the people who came out to support, it was amazing to be supported by my peers because it amplified our overall message. I think MJBizCon and other conferences will understand our presence and our power going forward.”
Can you share plans for the future of Diversity Village?
“Plans for the future are bigger and better. I’m actually talking with a group to bring The Diversity Village to Phoenix, Arizona, for the Super Bowl. We would have more space and opportunity to make a bigger impact. I hope all goes well and we can come to an agreement to make this happen for February 2023.”
Will MJBIZCON see Diversity Village in 2023?
“MJBIZCon will definitely see The Diversity Village.”
How can people support the village?
“The Diversity Village is now a non-profit organization, and people can donate money towards helping us pull off the next one. I hope that more people get involved next year so that we will be able to give out grants to entrepreneurs who haven’t exhibited in a tradeshow or cannabis event. We would like to purchase their space on the floor, promotional items, food, and lodging. The ultimate experience to equip them to do high-level business during the conferences.”
Closing Words from The Diversity Village Takeover Panelists and MJBiz
“This was my first year at MJBIZCON, and overall, it was a very impactful experience. I was honored to be a part of the MVP- Most Valuable Partner panel at the Diversity Village takeover this year. It was surreal sitting next to brands I respect and have watched grow so much in the industry. Partnership got me into the cannabis industry and working through my partnerships has opened more opportunities than I could have imagined.
The Diversity Village was a space where our words fell upon ears that wanted to hear our stories, journeys, and how we became the business owners we are today. We need these impactful conversations and panels to help inspire and guide us to better.
From a panel of big reputable brands to rap artists to entrepreneurs all in the cannabis industry, we shared one space with similar goals: inspiration, collaboration, and support.”
— Sahir Al Salam, Co-founder/Co-owner of Detroit Life Lounge.
“I have been part of many companies, organizations, and panels surrounding diversity. None held a candle to this. Whenever diversity and inclusion are given a platform, it is premised on awareness, not presence or commerce.
This event showcased them both. It showcased resiliency and culture. It was not a ‘we need more people with brands and licenses’; it was, ‘here are the people with brands and licenses coast to coast, their stories, and triumphs.’ The energy and star power were palpable.
The paradigm shift Black Cannabis Magazine and Hazey brought was seismic! I have never seen that much culture in a traditionally boardroom corporate event.”
– Margeaux Bruner, M.S., POPM- Holi Smokeables
“We were so glad Black Cannabis Magazine agreed to do pop-up experiences at the MJBiz Central booth at MJBizCon in 2022. It’s a way for MJBiz to literally provide a platform for more voices in cannabis and add to the overall MJBizCon experience. It was great for both sides. Black Cannabis Magazine brought incredible creativity and energy to the project.”
– Pamela Moore, SVP, Content & Audience, MJBiz
You can find Diversity Village at HTTP://diversityvilla.ge or @diversityvillage on Instagram and @dvrstyvillage on Facebook and Twitter.
Huge thank you to my MJBizCon 2022 journey, stay, and content creation sponsors:
Bud Counters: Cannabis business accounting/financial services
Bud and Breakfast: Cannabis-friendly lodging/experiences around the world
K Rich Consulting: Learn about having an online Cannabis business
The Hemp Mansion Farm: Sungrown Florida hemp flower and tinctures
GramCo.: Florida-grown hemp and Delta 8 products
Sunflowers Spacecakes Catering: a vegan, 420-friendly catering company
Vaycay: Premium Delta 8 and Delta 10 products
Weedgets: Accessories designed to eliminate the harshness of smoke.