Cultivating Community and Authenticity in Your Cannabis Operation with Susie Plascencia (Humo)

Episode Description

In this episode of Kaya Cast, we dive deep into the importance of authenticity, community, and representation in the cannabis industry.

Susie Placencia who is the Brand Partner for Humo, shares her journey of self-discovery and the magic that happened when she embraced her true identity as a Latina, a corporate person, and a cannabis user. She shares insights into how focusing on serving the community and staying true to one's passions can lead to success and positive change in the industry.

As a Latina-led brand, Humo is on a mission to repair the harm done by the war on drugs to black and brown communities. Susie emphasizes the power of supporting diverse and women-owned brands and how doing so can send a message to investors about the importance of diversity in the industry. So sit back, light up, and join us for this powerful conversation on the Kaya Cast.

Susie Plascencia is the Brand Partner at Humo Cannabis where she oversees brand development, social media, marketing, and sales. A Latina entrepreneur, storyteller  and cannabis advocate, Susie leads the pioneering, Mexican-American owned craft cannabis company’s commitment to providing meaningful representation in an industry that has caused disproportionate harm to Latino communities. In 2020, Merry Jane Media named Susie a top “cannabis power player.” In 2022, Marijuana Venture included Susie in their 40 Under 40 that highlights rising stars in the industry.

Susie is especially passionate about Latina representation in the cannabis industry. She’s a proud Trojan and alumna of the Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California where she holds a Master of Arts in Specialized Journalism and Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations. Susie is also co-founder of MOTA Glass, a leading brand of US-made functional glass.

Find out more about Humo at:

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Episode Transcript

Susie Plascencia: I think my biggest advice is really find out what you love to do and your dream job. Your dream career lies in the intersection between your skills and talents and your passion and your desires. That's your dream job right there.

Tom Mulhern: Welcome back to the Kaya Cast Podcast. I am your host, Tom Mulhern, and today I have a very special interview for Cinco de Mayo Week. We want to be a podcast, be a company that really elevates different voices in the industry.

And so when we were looking for a Latino voice to highlight for Cinco de Mayo, we reached out to Susie Placencia, who is the brand ambassador for Humo. Humo is a Mexican American owned craft cannabis company who really has a commitment to providing meaningful representation of Latinos in the cannabis industry.

And Susie as you'll quickly find out, is full of passion for helping Latinos find a voice. She heads a bunch of different organizations, companies, including Latinas in Cannabis. And her passion really is elevating the Latino voice in the cannabis industry.

So we talk about what it takes to launch a brand, staying true to your community, to really your vision as a company. So I really hope you enjoy this conversation with one of the cannabis power players in the industry, Susie Placencia.

Tom Mulhern: Susie Placencia is the brand partner at Humo Cannabis, where she oversees brand development, social media, marketing and sales. A Latina entrepreneur, storyteller, and cannabis advocate. Susie leads the pioneering Mexican American owned craft cannabis company's commitment to providing meaningful representation in an industry that's caused disproportionate harm to Latino communities. In 2020 Mary Jane Media named Susie, a top cannabis power player, and in 2022, marijuana venture included Susie in their 40 under 40 that highlights rising stars in the industry. So Susie, welcome to the Kaya Cast podcast. I'm so excited to kind of dive into even some things that were brought up in your bio, but welcome to the podcast.

Susie Plascencia: Thank you so much for having me and thank you. Thank you for having the podcast. Of, because you are bringing those stories of the cannabis community to the, to the people, and, and it's what we need. So thank you for doing this.

Tom Mulhern: Yeah, it's, well, it's, it's a lot of fun for me and I love hearing stories, especially of entrepreneurs and how people got into the industry. So why don't we start with that. Tell me a bit about your background and how did you end up in cannabis?

Susie Plascencia: So my background is in traditional PR and marketing communications. So I got my PR degree from USC and I started, you know, a very traditional PR firm. And I think that early on, know, I wanted to be a corporate queen. I wanted to be that executive in in the machine and, and feel that, you know, I have a secure career and I'm making my parents proud. You know, but then I got to that world I didn't feel passionate about the work I was doing.

I was checking a box, you know, and I thought, am I happy? Well, no, you're not supposed to be. It's about just coming in, doing your work and then getting clocking out and then having your life. Right. And that's what I, I thought that I wanted, it's what I thought I needed and it's what I thought my parents wanted out of me, you know?

And I think that early on in my corporate career, I started to experience the effects of identity crisis.

And that takes a toll. It takes a toll because you really start losing yourself and really figuring out like, who am I? What do I want? You know? So it wasn't until I started working in the cannabis industry that I started to confront. You know, who I really am. And the truth is, is I'm a hundred percent Latina.

I'm a hundred percent a corporate person, and I'm a hundred percent a cannabis user, and it's important that we come out of that weed closet and, and are truthful with ourselves. And I think that's when magic truly happens because when I was, I was truthful with myself and my passions is when I was able to really take the industry by storm.

And that's why I have the businesses that I have because they're very mission focused, but they're also authentic to who I am as an individual.

Tom Mulhern: What's kind of the history of cannabis from a Latino perspective, and how has popular culture kind of demonized it and made it so that you have to have these different identities that are separated?

Like, give me, give me cannabis from a Latino perspective 101 .

Susie Plascencia: I mean, It comes back to our, in our indigenous days, right? Aztec culture used cannabis in the rituals, right? It was used during Aztec rituals when the, when the priests. You know, would, would do their rituals. Cannabis was always at the center of that. So why is it that cannabis is so rooted within our culture, but it's demonized, right?

The war on drugs has a lot to do with that. You know, Harry Ann Slinger and, and his campaign with the war drugs, you know, heavily focused on the fact. Cannabis it, it was this Mexican thing, right? It was the Mexicans were smoking it at the border and it's their thing. They brought it to America and you know, they messed it all up for everybody else.

So I think that was a narrative that. You know, the war on drugs really hung their hat on. And so the impact of the War on drugs, specifically for communities of color, it's, it's an impact that many communities are still trying to come back from to this day. But also, we ha we can't ignore the fact that the war on Drugs was very focused on this word, marijuana.

They didn't say cannabis, they used marijuana, and they specifically used that term again, to put Mexicans at the, the center of the war on drugs. And so when we talk about the harm that the war on drugs caused to communities, we have to take pause and remember that it was a Spanish word, it was a, it was a Mexican term that they were using.

And so we have to reframe that when we think about. A Mexican American owned brand entering the cannabis industry, we have to remember that, that impact and what we're still dealing with.

And when you're in cannabis, when you're in California, cannabis, Latinos, we are present in every facet of this industry. So to not acknowledge the, the harm that the war on drugs have has caused is a huge, you know, opportunity to really show yourself as a cannabis brand. And that's really what we've done with Humo.

Tom Mulhern: I know you are passionate about helping the Latino community overcome that complicated relationship with cannabis. So what are some specifics that you guys are doing at Humo or maybe your other businesses to kind of bridge that gap for people to overcome that complicated relationship?

Susie Plascencia: I think one of the main things that I do with all my businesses is pride. We wanna show the Latino community to come out of that, you know, weed closet and turn it around. Go from being ashamed of smoking cannabis and, and make it something that you're truly proud of. So one of the ways that we do it with Humo, Our strain names, they all follow a name structure that is nostalgic.

It is meant to bridge the gap between your Latina, your culture, and cannabis culture.

I want people to know that they're their culture, their traditions. They don't end. When you become a cannabis user, they actually become stronger, right? So Humo is a brand that really helps paint that picture of your culture, your cannabis consumption, all being there with one.

And then with Latinas and cannabis my organization that's a nationally recognized organization aimed at supporting Latinas in this industry, we are providing events in real life events that bring us together, that remind us how, how much we need to be valued in this industry, but ultimately give us those resources to really advance.

Tom Mulhern: You really are creating that bridge in, in creating a comfortable space for Latinos to come in and feel accepted and feel a part of this industry. Like you said, especially in California, like it's, it's so core, the Latino community, and so it's, it's amazing to see this brand that you've built.

What sort of inspired you guys to launch Humo brands, and what makes it unique to other cannabis companies in California?

Susie Plascencia: The story of Humo is really great because it shows that when something is meant to happen, it's just gonna happen. Our parent company for Humo is a company called Possible. They're a 12 acre farm in Salinas, Monterey Bay. They are a hundred percent Latino owned and operated farm.

And so they launched in 2017 and they had been providing flower for several brands for years. And doing great in the market. But after doing that for a few years, they started to think, we're doing this for other brands. Where are all the Latinos. Where are the Latino owned brands?

And that is a question. That a lot of us have been having in the cannabis industry. But when you think of what it takes to create a brand in cannabis, that's when you start finding out the reasons why Latinos aren't present.

It takes a lot of resources. There's a lot of grants that you need to have. There's a lot of the licenses that you need to be able to, to have that, without those resources. Black and brown communities we're excluded from that.

So that's a big reason why you don't see more Latino owned, black owned brands on the market. The ability for us to get there, we have more barriers to us. So to see a a Latino owned farm, a producer be able to do that at that scale, I knew that they were gonna be able to launch a brand and have the resources for it to be what Humo is now.

And from day one, the brand was destined for success. Because we have passion, we have mission, we have the drive to create something more than just flower. For our community, we're creating representation in a way that really hasn't existed in the cannabis industry. We're trying to get people out of that weed closet.

We're trying to get people to be proud of their cannabis use, and ultimately, we are trying to provide jobs in this industry.  It is our mission as a Latino owned brand to repair the harm that the war on drugs cause to black and brown communities. And one of the ways that we're doing that is by giving the industry a brand that they can get behind, that they can support.

Because when you support Humo, you're supporting change in the industry. You're supporting women in cannabis, you're supporting Latinos, you're supporting diversity and it's buying humo is sending a message to all those other people in the industry that this is a brand that you guys want and it's gonna show those investors that, that pour money in this industry.

Hey, we should be investing in diversity in women. So I think that that's, that's what Humo is providing for the industry as a whole.

Tom Mulhern: This is a conversation I have over and over again, like, how can brands be more like inclusive and support, diversity. It's investing in brands like Humo and saying like, we believe in this and it's supporting and seeing those brands that are trying to do something good like you guys are doing.

So that's really inspiring.

Susie Plascencia: Thanks so much. We're trying to show the power of cannabis, right? This past December we were involved in an amazing holiday donation drive where

we turned 23 of our retail partners into donation, drop off locations, and we let people know if you go to these dispensaries, drop off lightly, gently, or brand new toys, shoes, clothing, all to benefit the farm workers of the San Jose Salinas area.

And we'll give you guys a deal on Humo pick up Humo While you're there, while you're doing a good deed. The response that we got from this, two truckloads of goods that we got to set up and we did an event for the farm workers of the Salinas area. Salinas is where our farm is located, so we wanted to do something specifically for the, for that area.

We had an event, we had food, we had tamales, we had a jump station for the kids, and basically we just had tables of all the stuff. We sorted it all out and we had over 300 families come up and we got to distribute all of the goods from all those 23 retail partner locations. And so we got to give back to the Salinas community, a Salinas community.

Farm worker centric. And we got to use the power of cannabis to donate to these, to, to these families. So we're trying to show the industry think beyond cannabis. Think beyond the bottom line and think of you know, the power of what we can create for our communities.

Tom Mulhern: It sounds like you are using your, your marketing background, your PR background to build this brand, but what are some of the like really effective strategies you've used to help grow Humo to what it is today? Launching a brand is really hard and it sounds like it's been really effective for you guys.

So what are some of those things that have worked and maybe even, what are some things that you tried that just failed? Cuz we all have those.

Susie Plascencia: I know, right? Well, I could tell you what worked and then what's always gonna work is focusing on your community. When you really know who you are serving and you create products and experiences that are to the people that you're serving, you're always gonna win. I think where brands sometimes fail when they work in, in a vacuum, when they have their heads down and they, they're like, I'm gonna create a brand that I think I want, and that's, and it's for me only.

And then they take it to the market and then people are confused and then they don't understand. And I think that brands really gotta understand who they're serving. And remember that because who you serve, that's who you're gonna, who's buying your products, right? So I can say that for Humo, we definitely have Humo supporters and Humo fans that buy exclusively Humo and hunt us down at shops like Where's the Humo?

And I think that that was a creation because. Our strain names, our branding, our particular events, we got them included into our Humo familia, I call it. When you focus on the community and you're serving them, you're always gonna win.

When you lose sight of the community and you start doing things for clout people are gonna see through that and it's always gonna fail. So always stay true to your community. Stay true to quality, stay true to giving people accessible, high quality products, whether it's cannabis products or it's apparel, you're always gonna win.

But as soon as that starts to shake, people see through it. They really do.

Tom Mulhern: How much of an emphasis do you put onto bud tender training? Like do you guys work with dispensaries? Your, you said you have 200, was it 200 retail locations that carry Humo? How much of an emphasis do you guys put onto getting out there and sharing your passion behind your strains and your brand and everything?

Susie Plascencia: It is so deeply important. When we are in a shop, we already have education scheduled. That's what happens. That's the first things. First, I wanna connect with the budtenders. I'm a former bud tender myself. So, when I do trainings personally, I like to start off with kind of a pep talk. My, my trainings and people will tell you my trainings are a mix between a TED talk, an emotional speaking engagement, and then an actual training because I can't help it.

I'm passionate. I'm a former bud tender, and when I see other bud tenders, I wanna let them know they're valued. I wanna let them know how important they are in this industry, and I wanna let them know that they have a future in this industry if they want it. So I can't help it. It always starts off being a little, a little emotional, a little pep talk.

And and then I go into the brand and I go into talking about the importance of this brand being Latino owned and woman led. And then I talk a little bit about, you know, everything about our strain names. At the end of my budtender trainings, I have seen tears, I have seen standing ovations. I have seen people come up to me and hug me and tell me that they, you know, that this means so much to them.

And so that's really the impact of Humo.

I love to do as many things as I can to get in front of bud tenders because they are the people that are making this industry happen. And just this past weekend we had a budtender event. Out in San Jose with our brand partner, Airfield Supply Co. We, you can find Humo available there, and we just did an amazing takeover for the weekend, but we did a kickoff with a amazing party the day before with all the Bud tenderers.

We had our bong bar, we had catering tacos and Education. And after that bud tender event, the bud tenders were so inspired to talk about Humo and I'm just, that's the way you gotta get him. Tap in with the bud tenders.

Tom Mulhern: I don't doubt you that after your speeches, there's tears and cheering because you're passionate about this. And when someone's passionate about something, it just comes out. And so what advice would you give to other professionals that are looking to kind of pursue their passions? And, and that could be somebody, like you said, that was in PR and marketing, and they're like, ah, just not feeling this.

Or maybe it's, you know, someone in the industry. What, what advice would you say.

Susie Plascencia: I think that one of the most important way things to, to kind of start this off is ask yourself what you would be doing if money was no consideration, what is something that you would do? Just. You would just do, right? I know that for me, when I ask myself that question, I love to write.

I love to be creative. I love to go to events. I love to get dolled up and just talk to people. And what do I do with Humo, I'm writing all day. I'm having meetings all day, I'm going events, and I have to constantly talk to people and do what I do, what I do. I love to do that and I do, and I absolutely feel that I manifested my role in cannabis today, and this is absolutely my dream career.

I think you can do the same thing, but you have to be honest with yourself and think, what do I wanna be doing all day? Do I love talking or do I hate talking to people? Because if you're gonna have a career in communications and you don't like talking to people, you're gonna have a hard time and you're gonna have a hard time finding your passion in it.

So I think my biggest advice is really find out what you love to do and your dream job. Your dream career lies in the intersection between your skills and talents and your passion and your desires. That's your dream job right there. That's how I found Humo and Mota Glass and Latinas, and cannabis. I love to talk, love to smoke.

Yes, and I love branding and pr, and that's what all three are.

Tom Mulhern: And this industry needs really talented people like yourself that are like willing to pursue their passions and not just like, well, I guess, I guess I'll do cannabis. Like I don't, I don't find too many people that just fall. Into cannabis that they're just like, well, guess I'll fall back on my career in cannabis.

Susie Plascencia: I've never heard that sentence ever be edited. I can tell you that the cannabis industry is so difficult, it's so cutthroat that there's nobody in it that's in it because they don't care about it. If they are, they're not gonna survive, and those are the ones that are falling off right now. I had a meeting with another operator that the yesterday and we were talking about how 2023, it's the year.

Of survival and whoever's not in it for the right reasons, those are the ones that have already fallen off or are falling off. Whoever makes it at the end of this year are the real ones, because right now being in the industry is not about being profitable. Being in the industry right now is about who really cares, because if you really care, you're gonna weather this storm.

And so that's what this is right now. If you're in cannabis right now for the money or for the fame, good luck you're gonna be not in it for, for right now. Right now it's for the brands that care about creating change in cannabis, the ones who create, who are wanting to create that generational wealth, but are gonna be doing the work to get there.

Tom Mulhern: And you can see that like going back to bud tenders when you walk into a dispensary, the dispensaries that are passionate about cannabis are the ones that are like, they don't want you to leave. They want to just keep talking to you and talking to you. And they want to like, explore with you what you need and what strain you need and what you know.

And then there's the ones that are open because they're like, oh, well, we'll open a dispensary, it can make money.

Susie Plascencia: I've seen that happen. And you can see the big difference, right? So shout out to Cornerstone Wellness here in Los Angeles. They are a Latina owned dispensary that actually won the Emerald Cup for the best dispensary in SoCal. But when you visit them to pick up your Humo, you are walking into a very homey environment.

You're not stressed out about leaving and you have bud tenders that are so helpful. They will walk you through the terpene expression, you know, board. They will help you find a product for the moment, not just you know, they're selling whatever. And I think that's the big difference. Another one that's a really great dispensary partner for Humo Catalyst Dispensaries.

We are in all Catalyst Dispensaries, but when you walk into Catalyst, you know that they are cannabis consumers. They are about the cannabis community. They care about their community. They have Catalyst Cares, which is a whole branch that's advocating for the community. We've done beach cleanups with them.

And I think that that is a chain that understands cannabis community. And you, you could see why they're thriving. So if you're an operator wanting to join cannabis, understand community, understand who you're serving.

It goes for brands and it goes for retailers. It always starts with the community that you're serving. So if you're looking to be an operator, launch with that in mind. And if you're an operator right now and you're struggling to find out how to continue to serve your community, do community events, focus on what they need and put your brand within that.

Tom Mulhern: How can people find out more about you, how to get connected to you, come to those events?

how can people get connected with you and, and reach out to find out more about, what you guys are doing?

Susie Plascencia: Being in cannabis, one of the things that, you know, unfortunately plagues us is social media, because they'll just knock us down on Instagram. You guys know if you're in, if you're on Instagram and you're a cannabis person. You might get taken down. So as a social media expert for many years, the strategy for cannabis is having multiple accounts.

You have to have many, and you have different focus for all of them. So we have our main Humo account that is get.humo. That's our main Humo channel. That's where you can find our strain drops, our announcements, any kind of big Humo announcements that's happening on our main page.

Separately than that, we have Humo Familia . With no underscore no periods. That's our events page. When you're going to look to find out what promos are gonna be happening in your area, you go follow that page. We post weekly what events we're gonna have for that week, so you can tap in on, get some promos for Humo or visit our bong bar if you're li if you're looking to sample some.

We have events every. Throughout the LA area, throughout the California area as well. So you can go in there and figure out where can I try Humo this week? Or where can I sample Humo Familia? That's your channel for you. We're gonna be launching an apparel channel within the next couple weeks.

That is our look book for all Humo attire. That's gonna be coming very soon, but if you're looking to find out behind the scenes, You're gonna wanna follow Susie Greens, I'm that behind the scenes person that's always letting you know what the latest on Humo is.

If you're looking to find out more about me as an entrepreneur, I have my personal channel, Susie Placencia,

Feel free to check it out. It's a long one. So that's my personal channel.

And if you are a Latina looking to join the cannabis community, if you're looking to grow your career, enter the cannabis community or just. Look for other people to connect with. I invite you to follow us at Latinas underscore Cannabis. That's Latinas in Cannabis or channel there. We have a lot of events.

We're gonna be launching a virtual events as well. It's a community for you. If you're not a Latina and you're just looking to support Latinas, feel free to follow us and share our content as well. But those are all the channels where you can just jump into the ecosystem that I've created.

Tom Mulhern: Well, Susie, thank you so much and yeah, thanks for being on the Kaya Cast Podcast.

Susie Plascencia: Likewise, it'll hit me up anytime. Such a pleasure and thank you again for inviting me.

Tom Mulhern: After that conversation with Susie. I know if you're anything like me, you are amped up. You're excited to elevate voices like hers in this industry. We work in an industry that is so. Focused on repairing the damage that's been done by the war on drugs.

And Susie and other voices like her are really making a difference. They're not just talking about making a difference. They are making a difference. So go check out their Instagram page. Their Facebook will have all of those links in the bio

and I wanna just thank you for listening to the Kaya Cast podcast. We love telling stories like this of people who are passionate about the industry, who have come from a career that wasn't fulfilling and are now fulfilling their passion in this industry.

So keep listening, stay subscribed, and we'll talk to you next week.

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