Compared to many other marijuana entrepreneurs, Christine De La Rosa was a huge underdog in an industry that already faces plenty of legal and regulatory hurdles. Her chances of succeeding in cannabis were slim, to put it mildly. Trying to launch a business without insider access to banking, insurance or tax breaks is a challenge. Trying to do it as a Mexican-American woman—a minority in both ethnicity and gender—makes it significantly more difficult.
“Only 1.6 percent of funding in the venture capital world is available to people like me,” De La Rosa says. “You’re at a disadvantage from the very beginning.”
The Oakland, CA-based former owner of restaurants, retail shops and an art gallery, De La Rosa says she’s made it her mission to help people from underrepresented groups access the funding they need to get started in adult-use cannabis.
In 2021, De La Rosa launched The People’s Group, a $50 million fund and accelerator that aims to support 10 to 20 cannabis companies led by women who are Black, Indigenous or people of color (BIPOC) during the next five years. The People’s Group funded its first company, to the tune of $250,000, fellow Bay Area-based Spectrum CannaLabs, a marijuana testing facility in late 2021.
De La Rosa was motivated by her own struggles as a BIPOC entrepreneur trying to find willing investors to raise capital for her dispensary business. But because federal restrictions mostly lock cannabis companies out of banking and investment opportunities, even raising money for The People’s Group Fund presented its own unique challenges.
After giving up on traditional capital sources, De La Rosa instead found private financiers who shared her vision for impact investing. The result? A one-of-a-kind investment fund that aims to help narrow the equity gap in cannabis.
De La Rosa said that as long as she’s in charge of the People’s Group Fund, she’ll help create generational wealth for BIPOC and women cannapreneurs—underdogs just like her.
This story was originally published in the print edition of Cannabis Now.