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When you can’t find what you want, build it yourself. That’s what Whitney Beatty and Ebony Andersen have done with Josephine & Billie’s, their new “speakeasy-style” dispensary in Los Angeles. The concept was created specifically for Women of Color — and allies — by Women of Color, the first of its kind in the country.
Josephine & Billie’s
Inspired by “tea pads” that existed in Black communities in the 1920s and 1930s, the South L.A. spot is as much about community and education as it is selling cannabis products. It’s also the first official investment from Jay-Z’s The Parent Company, which launched a social equity corporate venture fund to help discover and develop the industry’s future entrepreneurs of color.
“We aren’t just trying to be different for different sake; we plan to revolutionize cannabis retail,” says Andersen. “We wanted to reclaim our space in the cannabis industry as Black women striving to change the work experience for all women and people of color.”
Image Credit: Josephine & Billie’s
Read on for more about the new location, which opened in October.
By women, for women
It’s not just the concept that’s for people of color — it’s a primarily all-women of color team behind design and construction, too. “It’s like the universe opened and sent every talented, intelligent, and savvy woman of color we needed when we needed them,” Andersen says. “And, as women, we have a unique perspective on consumer behavior that allows us to create cannabis retail spaces that authentically speak to women.”
The goal is to make Josephine & Billie’s more than just another cannabis retailer or dispensary. Andersen and Beatty aim to build a community, a retail environment for Black women that is a little throwback with its speakeasy vibe, but also a safe space where they can explore products and learn about “herbal wellness.”
“We don’t have budtenders; we have Herbal Wellness Advocates We don’t have customers or patients; we have community members,” Andersen adds.
The ‘tea pad’
Along with rich blues and luxe textures, the space feels like a secret Harlem Renaissance hideaway. Not in a “this is illegal and you need to hide” kind of way, however. With hidden doors and secret passages, it plays more on the concept of prohibition and rebellion of the early 1920s and 1930s.
That’s where the tea pads came in. When the U.S. government launched its aggressive campaign against marijuana use that still ripples through Black and brown communities today, these were prohibition-free zones, speakeasies where everyone of all racial and ethnic backgrounds could congregate.
“Anyone can walk into our store and see someone they relate to because we’ve prioritized hiring a uniquely diverse staff. The floor plan allows customers to explore the different areas of the store leisurely and at their own pace,” Anderson says. “And we offer seating areas for connectivity and comfort that encourage extended visits.”
Image Credit: Josephine & Billie’s
Shop by how you want to feel
Instead of organizing products by flower, oil, or edibles, it’s more about terpene profiles and effects like ‘calm’ and ‘relief’. That way customers can browse based on the experience they’re after. “It also offers customers an opportunity to learn more about their preferred products and how best to use them,” says Andersen.
The dispensary offers a wide range of high quality cannabis products from brand partners including Monogram, Cann, Select and Kiva Confections, with special emphasis on POC-owned, queer-owned and women-owned brands including Ball Family Farms, Leune and California Rolls.
“Research shows that women are more anxious than men, and data shows that Black women are facing the most anxiety — and yet we have not seen a dispensary focusing on this demographic,” Beatty says. “Josephine & Billie’s is committed to being an educational space and community where Women of Color, and allies, feel safe and welcomed to learn about the healing benefits of cannabis.”
Point of sale
Selling is a priority — this is a business, after all. But Beatty and Andersen put an emphasis on exploration and browsing.
“Most dispensaries operate by a formulaic equation of dollar spend per customer per min. We believe that allowing customers to shop, explore, and connect creates invaluable customer relationships, resulting in higher sales per visit and increased customer retention,” adds Andersen. “With that goal in mind, we made the ultimate shopping experience for women.