Building An Indigenously Owned Cannabis Company In Canada

First Nations professionals looking to enter the cannabis industry inevitably face unique challenges. Thankfully, brands like Seven Leaf are breaking the glass ceiling by positioning their company as the first producers operating on Indigenous land.

The brand prides itself in its motto, “happy people grow happy plants!” This concept is foundational in every aspect of the business as they work to build a company that honors the generations that have come before and invest in the future of the generations to come.

Recently, on Kaya Cast, KayaPush’s podcast, we spoke with Dianna Tarbell and Myan Adams, Seven Leaf’s General Manager and Sales Manager (respectively). Seven Leaf is the first Cannabis producer to receive a Health Canada license that is 100% Indigenous-owned and operated. The brand is pushing to promote the Akwesasne community in Ontario.

Dianna, Seven Leaf General Manager, comes from a long line of finance background within the Akwesasne community, including holding the position as the general manager of Mohawk casino. Myan is a Cornell graduate who returned to the community and is now a business owner and sales manager for Seven Leaf.

They covered all things diversity, from turning words into actions and more. 

A cannabis jar

In this article, we will explore their journey of building the first Canadian indigenous cannabis company to receive a health Canada license. It all began with a big idea. “It all started in 2013. The whole concept of Seven Leaf was formed, and basically, we saw that within this new industry, licenses were being awarded. And the idea came up with why not us?”

Dianna recognized the opportunity within the cannabis industry. She wanted her community to be able to be actively involved, “In our past history within First Nations, they're often overlooked when it comes to economic development. And we just wanted to be the ones that were in on the ground floor of a burgeoning industry.”

4 Solutions to this pain 

1 - Develop a meaningful brand.

Entering the cannabis industry as a unique brand is challenging in it of itself, which is why it’s crucial to develop a brand that is meaningful to your purpose. For example, the name Seven Leaf is not only unique but personal to the First Nations culture. 

Stemming from the recurring theme of seven throughout the community, the name recognizes that we will always find ourselves in the middle of seven generations:

  • Great grandparents
  • Grandparents
  • Parents
  • [Yourself]
  • Your children
  • Your grandchildren
  • Your great-grandchildren

2 - Offer something unique to the market.

Having a creative and meaningful name isn’t enough to enter an emerging market. You have to consider a unique aspect you can offer that sets you apart from the competition.

Seven Leaf is unique in that the Mohawk territory of Akwesasne is multi-jurisdictional, straddling the US and Canadian border as well as provincial borders. While staying within the Akwesasne territory, you can cross the international border multiple times in a day.

The other unique aspect of Seven Leaf is that it is 100% Indigenous-owned and operated, meaning all the employees are from the Akwesasne community.

canadian flag and parliament

“... we all share in the joys of the births, the weddings, the, unfortunately, grief from the losses… there is something to be said when all of your employees are from the same community. There is a sense of family.”

3 - Follow your rules and regulations.

Like any thriving business, you must ensure you follow applicable rules and regulations. Anyone in the cannabis industry knows these are plenty. While the process may seem endless, it’s important to remain optimistic - there is a light at the end of the tunnel as long as you follow compliance.

4 - Produce a high-quality product.

In addition to your brand, your product will keep people coming back to your dispensary. Seven Leaf takes its product very seriously, incorporating Indigenous beliefs into the cultivation process.

a cannabis fields

“... one of the most enriching experiences [has been] seeing the way that our cultivators have taken to the care of the plants… within First Nation culture, there is a natural protective belief over nature [and] over the plants, and you can really see that in our cultivators.” 

Key takeaways

While the cannabis industry continues to grow, it’s also essential to include the underrepresented communities in the economic growth. Rather than waiting for the opportunity to pass by, it’s equally important for communities to band together and make a mark in evolving industries like cannabis.

Thankfully, emerging technology like KayaPush makes it easier than ever for small business owners to stay on top of all of their operational necessities, from hiring procedures to payroll processing!

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