So what's it like being a minority in the hemp biz? Well, Elvis "Papi" Edwards is here to enlighten you with his experience and latest venture: Dr.Jimmy's.
Originally from the Caribbean island of Dominica, Elvis inherited an early appreciation for cannabis as his father was the village herbalist. As an herbalist, his father worked and experimented with a variety of natural and medical plants, including cannabis; which has long been a feature in indigenous medicine and local culture. Elvis observed how cannabis was used around his community to help with various ailments, and he became a firm believer in the plant’s beneficial medical possibilities outside of its recreational use. At this time, the laws surrounding cannabis were still highly restrictive, and his dreams of building a cannabis business seemed out of reach. Luckily, Elvis got his opportunity when Colorado became the first state to legalize cannabis; he booked a one way ticket to Denver with a simple goal, “to bring the healing powers of cannabis to the people of Colorado.”
Since 2009, Elvis has thrived. Combining his creative business ideas, knowledge of the plant, and effervescent personality, he’s launched a diversity of new businesses from unique lifestyle brands to cannabidiol topicals and dietary supplements. When asked about working in this industry as a black man from the Caribbean, Elvis shrugs, "minorities and people of color have been working with the plant and pioneering the industry for years...if you want to succeed, just do what you're passionate about, be genuine, and people will vibe with that above all."
The launch of Elvis' latest venture, Dr.Jimmy's, comes during a unique place in the evolution of the cannabis industry: it’s growing acceptance as a legitimate industry, and the demand for minority-owned businesses. To stand out, it was important that Dr.Jimmy’s first focus on providing unique, purpose-built, hemp products that support healthy, “hempy”, recreational living. Hemp cannabinoids are key to Dr.Jimmy’s formulations as they inherently help aid in skin recovery, reduce long-term damage, and even ease the pain of sunburned and irritated skin. When combined with other beneficial and natural ingredients, Dr.Jimmy’s formulations remain simple, while still helping with a variety of outdoor ailments. Like their After Sun Aloe+CBD moisturizer that soothes dry skin and sunburns (it even has antibacterial properties to help protect scrapes and cuts from infection), to their unique SPF+Hemp Sunscreen that employs a unique combination of hemp cannabinoids to help reflect harmful UV rays and reduce long-term skin damage.
Elvis' vision for Dr.Jimmy's isn't just in the hemp/cannabis space, "we're going to be big, big, big..." exclaims Elvis, "we're going to be in Walgreens, Walmart, REI, ABC Stores, everyone needs hemp."
As a minority-owned business, it was imperative that this company's mission go beyond the witty sales pitches and marketing; it needed to include action. "Minority-owned" not only means that the products are inclusive and designed for all skin: types, shades, and textures, "it means supporting diversity, and equitable access to the outdoor spaces our products help people enjoy." Starting in Hawaii, Dr.Jimmy's has partnered with AccesSurf, and their legion of volunteers, to help support the organization’s ongoing adaptive-surfing programming, equipment needs, athletes, and probably a few sunburns. AccesSurf's mission coincides with Dr.Jimmy's in that they've been promoting and supporting access to the ocean for over a decade, through their adaptive surf camps, beach days, and helping competitors compete on the world stage like the Rio Paralympic Games and the Adaptive Surf Championships in La Jolla, CA.
Elvis and the Dr.J's team are looking for more like-minded partners and programs to help further their mission, but wanted to also acknowledge the “need to look after those without a "voice", and share our wonderful planet.” That is why Dr.Jimmy's products are made reef safe, vegan, and cruelty-free; and "as we grow, we will continue to find ways to innovate and improve the sustainability of our products, sourcing, supply chain and hopefully do a little surfing..." laughs Drew Farwell who lives in Hawaii and helped co-found the company.
Moving forward, "...one of my goals has always been to bring my business back to the Caribbean community." explains Elvis. Long underserved when it comes to cannabis, the island nations that dot the Caribbean have been historically restrictive outside of the Rastafarian religion. Now, a progressive new outlook, relaxing restrictions, and the lure of the lucrative tourist markets have made Elvis' newest goal of bringing Dr.Jimmy's to the Caribbean, a tangible reality. While that is in the works, you can find Dr.Jimmy's products online (at doctorjimmys.com) and in a growing number of stores and retail partners (Target, are you listening?).