Ask the CEO: Amber Senter
CEO of Breeze Distro, Founder of SuperNova Women
I had the honor recently of interviewing visionary Amber Senter for our #asktheCEO Series. Amber shared her profound journey as a social equity pioneer and champion of California’s SB1294, Breeze Distro CEO, founder of SuperNova Women and Equity Works Incubator as well as what she has on the horizon.
“A lot of people ask what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur…
It takes grit.”
Amber didn’t start out in the cannabis industry (like most of us). She is a Coast Guard Veteran which gives her a unique perspective and voice.
I was in Naval ROTC in high school and went onto officer training. I went through a lot of leadership training while in the Coast Guard that definitely prepared me for leading groups, leading teams and being able to multitask which is what I do now- running a number of different cannabis companies.
Amber is the founder of SuperNova, which just celebrated its 5yr anniversary, a pioneer for not only women in cannabis, but women of color.
I am the Co-Founder and Chairman of the Board of SuperNova Women. We are a group of women of color who work to empower people of color in becoming self sufficient shareholders in the Cannabis Industry. We do that through education and advocacy as well as network building. We have done a number of different things on the advocacy side. We have worked with the City of Oakland to develop and implement the first Social Equity Program in the country. We have also worked with San Francisco to develop their Social Equity Program.
“Social Equity Programs were established to right the wrongs done by the War on Drugs.”
There are different aspects to them (Social Equity Programs), but primarily what they do is prioritize communities that were disproportionately affected by the “War on Drugs” through a number of different ways. They have most recently added a workforce development piece which I like because it is not focusing on being the owner of a business, but it is focusing on building an inclusive workforce.
That is so huge, because part of the reparations that need to be made are in communities that need to have lots of jobs available. I love the workforce development idea, because there are only so many owners that can get so many licenses.
“This is a hard industry to be an owner in…
They regulate the plant like it is plutonium.”
And this is a HARD industry to be an owner in -they regulate the plant like it is plutonium. I feel like you’re crazy if you want to be a cannabis business owner.
It is difficult to break into the cannabis industry. You’ve done that as a woman of color and I’m curious what your journey has been like? Do you have advice for anyone who might want to follow in your footsteps?
Oakland has created so many different support systems for Social Equity Operators and programs …People say “I really want to start that in my city”. There is so much support around the operator that this is just one of many components. It wouldn’t be successful without all of the other pieces to Oakland’s Social Equity Programs. So, I definitely want people to pay attention not just to this program, but to all the pieces that Oakland is pulling together to make this entire thing whole and work. This only works because there is a grants and loan program in place. The operators are funded through that -otherwise they’d just be in this incubator with no money. Oakland has released this workforce development program. So, now the operators in the kitchen have access to a trained workforce that they can utilize to help them be very productive when they are in the manufacturing facility. So, all of these pieces do play together and all lead to the operator’s success, essentially. They’re very dependent on one another.
Photo Credit: Eaze
Here’s what Amber has to say about being underestimated. If you’re skimming through, make sure you read this section & her advice on getting your foot in the door.. She really is inspiring.
I mean I’m a queer black woman so I am always underestimated, constantly. But I’m also an overachiever and a general badass, so their underestimations don’t phase me. I already know what I’m capable of… I’m very confident and secure in who I am and what I can do and what I bring to the table. And it’s undeniable… my track record is undeniable, the work I do is undeniable. I’m just very confident and I think people see that… Where someone might underestimate me -believe or think whatever you want. It doesn’t phase me. I’m going to continue to do what I do and do it very well. Eventually they will see, maybe they won’t. Who cares, but I know what I am doing.
To everyone just starting out who maybe doesn’t know exactly what they’re doing yet:
If you are looking to get into Cannabis, definitely do your due diligence. A lot of people believe that Cannabis is this really profitable business and it’s not. I mean you can be creative and figure out ways to make money, but don’t think you are going to get in it and turn into a bazillionaire, because it’s not happening. It won’t happen for a long time until we get some regulations changed -taxes and compliances and things like that. I would definitely encourage people to do their due diligence and see what the actual margins are. Talk to real operators -talk to operators who have been around for a little bit; not even new operators, because they probably haven’t been smacked in the face -yet. Get a mentor, mentors are really important. They can help you avoid some of the costly mistakes that they’ve gone through. This industry is really hard and expensive to operate. It takes a lot of know-how and reading between the lines, being savvy. It takes a lot of grit to be able to hang on and ride the waves in Cannabis.
“They are investing in me, because they know I am not going to let them down.”
Amber has great advice on raising capital based on her own experiences. This is one of the biggest obstacles for new owners.
Raising money for a product is tough, especially if you don’t have a proven product and it is still just theory. The best advice I have is:
- Ask friends and family.
- Don’t sell more than 15 – 20% of your company when you’re first taking on an initial investor
- Don’t have a ridiculous evaluation -try to stay pretty conservative.
They are really investing in me. Even though, of course, they are investing in my company -they are investing in me, because they know I am not going to let them down.
Amber is a truly inspiring, self driven entrepreneur paving the way for women of color in the cannabis industry. Want to learn more from Amber? Watch the full live:
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