Eaze Teams Up with NBA Champion Matt Barnes to Scale Social Equity Accelerator
Matt Barnes spent 15 years playing in the NBA, but he’s been a cannabis user and advocate for much longer than that.
Barnes, 40, regularly used cannabis throughout his career as a way of managing pain and relaxing after games.
After he retired from professional basketball in 2017, Matt Barnes invested in a cannabis company called Seven Leaves out of Sacramento, California and began speaking publicly about his cannabis use.
Now the former NBA star who won a championship with the Golden State Warriors in 2017 has partnered with California-based online cannabis marketplace and delivery service Eaze to advise their board of directors on “cannabis policy, social impact, and industry relations,” according to a news release.
In his role as a senior advisor to the Eaze board, Barnes will help the company launch its Momentum accelerator program for minority entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry at a national level.
Previously limited to only cannabis entrepreneurs based in California, the Momentum accelerator is now accepting applications from businesses across the U.S.
Launched in 2019, the program provides grant money and business education to Black, POC, Indigenous, LGBTQ, female, and veteran cannabis entrepreneurs.
In a statement, Eaze’s director of social impact, Jennifer Lujan, said “underrepresented entrepreneurs are creating massively popular brands that uplift the industry while giving back to communities hurt by the War on Drugs. They are a great investment by any measure.”
Speaking to THCnet, Lujan explained that businesses accepted into the accelerator will receive $50,000 in grant funding and be able to access a 12-week curriculum that includes mentorship from other cannabis entrepreneurs, executives, investors and Eaze employees.
“We have almost 80 mentors who are involved, and each Momentum participant will be paired with an investor mentor who will help with their pitch decks and fundraising,” she said.
The 12-week program concludes with a pitch day, where Momentum participants will be offered the chance to showcase their brands to investors, dispensary owners, and other retailers.
“They get to learn from industry experts on everything from legal and compliance, to policy, to how to market their businesses, as well as media training, analytics, sales and HR,” Lujan added.
With Barnes on board, Eaze will be able to bring broader awareness to the Momentum program and help advance conversations around social equity and marijuana normalization, Lujan said.
In an interview with THCnet, Barnes discussed his relationship with cannabis — which dates back to his high school years — and shared why he’s so passionate about destigmatizing cannabis use.
“There’s a lot of us in this space that are really trying to change the narrative behind cannabis and make these professional sports leagues realize that they are pumping us full of opioids that mask one problem but cause other long-term problems,” he said. “This plant has done nothing but help us. Slowly but surely, we are starting to change minds, and I think that’s important for the next generation.”
That’s a message he hopes to amplify now that he’s advising Eaze’s board of directors. He also plans to tap into his network of athletes and celebrities to help bring awareness to the Momentum initiative.
“I’m just trying to elevate the conversation, continue educating, and help people get a footing in this space,” he said.
Additional information about the Momentum accelerator is includes in the news release below.
Those interested in applying for Momentum are encouraged to apply before December 15, 2021.
NBA Champion, Entrepreneur, and Cannabis Advocate Matt Barnes Joins Eaze as Senior Advisor to the Board
SAN FRANCISCO -- Eaze, California’s largest marketplace for legal cannabis, today welcomed NBA champion, entrepreneur, and nationally-recognized cannabis advocate Matt Barnes as an advisor to the Board of Directors and the company on cannabis policy, social impact, and industry relations. Barnes’ first project will be to support the national launch of the second year of Eaze’s award-winning Momentum business accelerator.
Eaze’s Momentum program is an industry-defining resource that cultivates the success of underrepresented cannabis founders.
“As an advocate and athlete, Matt changed the game by normalizing cannabis in professional sports and inspiring others to be authentic about their use of the plant,” said Eaze CEO Ro Choy. “Matt’s vision aligns with our efforts to take these programs national, so I’m thrilled to welcome him as a senior advisor to our team.”
“In this election even more voters said Yes to cannabis, but that’s only meaningful if new markets elevate minority-owned businesses,” said Barnes, “I’m here to support real, tangible gains for Black and brown entrepreneurs nationally through Eaze’s groundbreaking equity programs.”
Eaze launched Momentum in 2019 and its Social Equity Menu in 2020. In September, Eaze announced its Social Equity Partners Program, a multi-point initiative to assist equity license holders. To-date, Eaze customers have purchased nearly $2 million in products made by social equity partners.
Eaze also announced today that industry leaders Kristi Palmer, co-founder of Kiva Confections, and VERTOSA Chief Innovation Officer Austin Stevenson have joined the Momentum advisory board, a world class team that also includes:
- Malaki Amen, President and CEO, California Urban Partnership
- Ramon Garcia, Co-founder, OEG, Padre Mu Delivery and Distribution, Sanctuary Farms LLC
- Steven Hawkins, Executive Director, Marijuana Policy Project
- LaWanda Knox, CEO, Make Green Go; Cannabis Technical Assistance Consultant; and President of The Allyance
- Mary Pryor, Co-founder, Cannaclusive; Chief Marketing Officer, Tonic CBD
“Underrepresented entrepreneurs are creating massively popular brands that uplift the industry while giving back to communities hurt by the War on Drugs,” said Jennifer Lujan, Eaze’s Director of Social Impact. “They are a great investment by any measure, and that’s why we’re thrilled to launch Momentum nationwide.”
In a recent survey, 100% of last year’s Momentum participants said they’d recommend the program to other equity businesses. "Momentum has given us a tremendous amount of brand recognition across the state,” said Momentum alumnus Wassef Tawachi, chief executive officer and co-founder of Dreamt. “We were able to grow our sales by almost 40% our second month on the menu. Eaze has quickly become one of our primary retail outlets in California."
Applications for Momentum’s 2021 class open today. Black, POC, indigenous, female, veteran and LGBTQ+ founders are encouraged to apply. Interested applicants can find more information at Eaze.com/momentum.
- Ten businesses will be selected to receive $50,000 grants; participate in a 12-week curriculum; and access Eaze’s development, marketing, and retailer resources.
- Participants will pitch to leading cannabis investors for the opportunity to raise additional funds.
- The deadline for submissions is December 15.
- 2020 Momentum sponsors include Playboy, Leune, Cann, and Vertosa.
Eaze delivers good with the goods. As California’s largest legal cannabis marketplace, we bring enjoyment and convenience to our customers, break down barriers to access, and cultivate community in everything we do. With over six million cannabis deliveries to-date, we are committed to creating a more diverse and sustainable industry through our Momentum business accelerator and Social Equity Partners Program. Learn more at eaze.com.