5 Questions With Antonio Javiniar, Alvaro Wong, & Kika Keith:WebJoint / Social Equity
WebJoint is a METRC-certified eCommerce and inventory management software provider for over ⅓ of California’s cannabis delivery services, providing automated driver dispatching, geofencing, real-time delivery tracking, compliance features and much more.
Social Equity Owners & Workers Association (“SEOWA”) is a collective of Social Equity Applicants that share a passion and commitment to making sure the cannabis industry provides a chance to repair the destruction caused by the War on Drugs to minority communities through inclusion and ownership within the industry.
Warren Bobrow=WB: Please tell me about yourself? What brought you to the cannabis/botany world? Healing? What was your inspiration to do what you do?
The interview was answered by Antonio Javiniar “AJ” (Head of Marketing, WebJoint), Alvaro Wong “AW” (Creative Director, WebJoint) and Kika Keith “KK” (SEOWA).
AJ: I’m the Head of Marketing over at WebJoint. I was introduced to cannabis as a medicinal patient. Over time, I’ve grown into a more conscious consumer and advocate for cannabis as a wellness supplement for mental health. In 2018, I had the opportunity to enter the industry with my best friends and help build WebJoint. The work that I do is inspired by my family, the WebJoint team I’m surrounded by, and my innate desire to innovate through technology and creativity.
AW: I’m a content producer, cinematographer, and Creative Director at WebJoint. I quit my job as a producer at Univision to work in this new industry alongside my closest friends from high school and college. I was naturally drawn to the culture, the people, and the plant. The more I learned about the history of the cannabis industry, the more aware I became of the struggles of communities affected by the War on Drugs. LA’s social equity program would aid in offsetting the fallout and I wanted to cover the story in the way I knew how— film.
KK: I am a serial entrepreneur who has spent the past 25 years seeking a pathway to self-sufficiency through social enterprise. Always believing that I could build a multi-million dollar business that would not only create generational wealth for my three daughters but also re-build the community in South Central Los Angeles that I call home. After taking my mother’s recipe, from the kitchen to a first-to-market beverage (www.gorillalife.com) in Whole Foods, I knew bringing health and wellness to my community would be transformative. With the legalization of cannabis I saw the perfect opportunity to infuse the healing powers of the flower into a holistic beverage brand, GorillaRx. In my pursuit for prioritized cannabis licensing, I realized the Social Equity program offered no technical assistance, training or funding for people in my community. So, I formed Life Development Group (www.lifedevelopmentgroup.org) to educate community members on the regulations and prepare them for licensing. And later, helped form a union for social equity applicants, the Social Equity Owners and Workers Association, to advocate for fairness and equitable policies.
WB: Please tell me about your company? What do you do that’s different, therefore better than your competition? What stigmas do you face?
AJ & AW: WebJoint is California’s leading cannabis delivery software founded by Christopher Dell’Olio (CEO) and Hilart Abrahamian (COO) in 2015. We provide integrated eCommerce, point-of-sale, and METRC-certified inventory management software tools to cannabis delivery operators and direct-to-consumer capabilities for cannabis brands and marketplaces. There are a number of competitors in the cannabis tech space, but what separates us is our delivery-first philosophy and our commitment to solving the problems specific to cannabis delivery operators. Our choice to hyperfocus on the delivery market has allowed us to innovate software solutions like driver kit management, automated order dispatching, and geofenced delivery zones that make delivery services more efficient and keep them compliant with local and state regulations. In doing so, we’ve been able to service over 1⁄3 of the licensed and operating cannabis delivery services in California, who rely on our system daily to manage their operations.
KK: As founder of Life Development Group and Co-Founder of the Social Equity Owners and Workers Association, we specialize in promoting and achieving true social equity for the country’s most marginalized and vulnerable communities. Our activism was instrumental in helping to reform Los Angeles’ cannabis social equity program and secure 100 additional licenses for social equity applicants. I entered this industry expecting that my biggest obstacle would be being black woman, but I can honestly say, the obstacles that we face most are inequitable policies from our local municipalities, the state and federal government. We have to continue educating, organizing and demanding social justice in cannabis to close the economic wealth gap for African Americans. We have an opportunity that only comes once in a generation…a new INDUSTRY. We were left out of the cotton, tobacco, alcohol, automobile…you name it, we as people of color have not been significantly included in any industry established in this country. Economic growth is how we will rebuild our communities. For our children’s sake, for the pain, suffering and blood shed in the streets of our communities, we must demand new cannabis policies and programs. We must fight to ensure that low income communities are not left behind while the rest of the industry braces itself for the Green Rush.
WB: What is your six and twelve month plan? What obstacles exist in your professional world? How do you anticipate removing them?
AJ & AW: In the immediate future, we’re excited to continue to support the social equity community we’ve built alongside Kika and our other social equity partners through every step of LA’s retail licensing process. We’re looking forward to being a community resource for social equity applicants and producing educational materials that prepositions them for success upon receiving their retail licenses. In fact, we’re currently developing an educational curriculum alongside SEOWA to teach applicants about METRC (California’s seed-to-sale tracking software) and best practices for retail operations.
In the long-term, our goal is to continue innovating within the delivery software space and expanding our delivery network. We want to build the best cannabis delivery software possible. We do that by listening to our clients and solving their problems through technology. Our direct-to-consumer technology leverages our delivery infrastructure to enable cannabis brands in California to sell products directly from their website. We can also apply this tech to create cannabis marketplaces with delivery fulfillment for influencers, agencies, and social equity incubators – basically anyone that wants their own cannabis delivery marketplace can use our technology.
KK: I recently raised $1M to open a Retail Dispensary on Crenshaw Blvd and will be opening the doors on our Micro Business in Downtown LA, 4th Qtr 2020. This project has been almost 3 years in the making, holding onto an empty property for 2.5 years at $12K per month… waiting on the City to launch its Social Equity program. Aside from the economic hardship that myself and other applicants faced due to delays and political red tape, the community has banned together to educate themselves on cannabis rules and regulations, raise capital and network with cannabis industry professionals to build a vertically integrated ecosystem of social equity license holders. As a unified group of licensees, we will join hands with equity owners across the nation to build a supply chain that will support minority suppliers and re-invest in our communities.
WB: What is your favorite food memory from childhood? What does your favorite (birthday) meal look like now? Favorite food?
AJ: My favorite childhood food memories are the massive Filipino family gatherings that had more food than you could ever imagine. All homemade, straight from the culinary minds of our grandmothers. Even today, slow-roasted lechon, chicken adobo, sinigang, kare-kare, lumpia, and pancit are some of my favorite Filipino dishes. Can’t beat the flavor of nostalgia.
AW: Like many immigrants, I relate to food in unique ways. Sitting around the dining table with my mom, dad, and sister was one of my favorite memories growing up. My mother’s arroz con pollo was to die for and eating it while spending quality time with the family made my childhood that much more special.
KK: I come from a close knit, God-fearing family, that made Sunday family gatherings a tradition. The good blend of kale smothered in cabbage, with a pan of Nan-Nan’s macaroni and cheese always warms my soul. Nowadays, I do my best to cut out the cheese and focus on the good greens with a nice piece of blackened salmon.
WB: What is your passion?
AJ: I’m a creative at heart. I love creating things that can emotionally connect with people. I’m passionate about my photography and the moments I capture for myself and others. I’m also passionate about people. I apply a human-centered approach to anything that I do and I’d like to think that my passion for people bleeds into the work I do professionally with marketing.
AW: For me, nothing beats filmmaking. Planning every detail in pre-production, making the story come to life on set with cameras and lights, and ultimately, the feeling of accomplishment after exporting the final cut. Creating content that people can relate to is a feeling like no other.
KK: I am driven by my desire to help others, to provide a way out of poverty. I wake up every day asking God to bless me to be a blessing to others, an example to my daughters, and a light to the women and children in my community that just need access and opportunity.