Valda Coryat, Chief Marketing Officer, Trulieve (OTC: TCNNF)
When did you formally enter the cannabis space?
I formally joined the cannabis industry in December 2019 after spending over 25 years in marketing, building brands at both Fortune 500 companies and private-equity-backed ventures. I saw so many new growth opportunities in cannabis – and what better way to cut my teeth in this emerging industry than to lead marketing at one of the largest MSOs in the country?
Before joining Trulieve, I served as the Director of Marketing at the National Mango Board and spoke at many food-and-beverage industry conferences. There, I noticed several cannabis entrepreneurs presenting how cannabis fits into the sector’s future. This piqued my interest, and the more I looked into the cannabis industry, the more I realized how I could apply my skills to add value within this space. Now, I’ve been a part of this industry for just over two years, and it’s been incredibly rewarding to create a positive impact within so many local communities through this plant.
What made you decide to work in the cannabis industry?
I saw the opportunity to channel my skills towards a greater cause and help companies make purpose-driven business decisions. Cannabis has been used as a healing modality for thousands of years by providing real relief for millions of people, and I believe in the natural benefits of the plant. It’s rewarding to know that I’m helping destigmatize the plant, change misperceptions and fight injustices brought on by the disastrous War on Drugs.
Since the industry is so new, there isn’t a marketing playbook to follow – and it’s exciting to write it in real-time. Every new market and brand launch is a valuable opportunity to fine-tune Trulieve’s approach to engaging with patients and consumers who come from varying experience levels, preferences, lifestyles and ages. The industry is full of bold, imaginative problem solvers, and it’s inspiring to build this space from the ground up with so many talented professionals.
Do you feel there is more opportunity for Black Americans in the cannabis industry vs a more traditional industry? Yes or no and why?
Cannabis is still a relatively young industry and I believe there are relatively more entry points for Black professionals to become leaders in this space. At the same time, it’s clear that Black Americans need more representation in the regulated industry, and there are numerous opportunities to make this space more equitable and inclusive.
Black Americans played a tremendous role in creating the vibrant cannabis culture that exists today, and established companies have a responsibility to rectify the social and economic disparities created by the War on Drugs by investing resources into initiatives like expungement and partnering with Black-owned brands and suppliers.
While capital remains one of the main barriers to entry on the industry’s plant-touching side, there are still numerous ancillary opportunities that Black entrepreneurs can pursue. I encourage Black professionals to look beyond owning a dispensary – we need marketers, lawyers, coders and a host of other business skills to grow this evolving industry.
What is the most successful social equity effort in your opinion?
There are several nonprofits driving profound industry-wide change, but the Last Prisoner Project stands out. Although the regulated cannabis space is growing at breakneck speed and is now increasingly accepted by the public, there are still thousands of individuals incarcerated for nonviolent cannabis charges.
Last Prisoner Project addresses this head-on by not only providing pro-bono legal services but supporting local expungement efforts and offering critical reentry programs. Trulieve has been a long-time partner of the organization and will continue to donate and raise awareness to support this impactful team.
What is your personal goal for 2022?
I want to create more pathways for Black folks with a variety of skills to enter the cannabis industry and thrive. This means developing deeper relationships with more Black vendors and suppliers and featuring more local Black-owned brands in Trulieve’s dispensaries. As an executive at the largest MSO in the country, I am also personally committed to mentoring and supporting more Black professionals, both within Trulieve and in the industry at large. I hope to utilize my professional circles and resources to foster new connections within the Black business community and create a welcoming environment for aspiring entrepreneurs of color.