I’m the youngest of seven for my dad, three for my mom. Both are military veterans. I grew up in Dallas, moved to Pennsylvania for middle school, Germany for high school, and then went to the University of Oklahoma for undergrad. I was in law school for a year—I went at 20, which was so silly. I don’t know what I was racing towards. I graduated high school and college each in three years.

The first time I smoked weed I was 14. I was on an army base, which was a terrible idea. That also meant it wasn’t super accessible to me, so I didn’t smoke that often. One of my friends would have to drive to Amsterdam and bring it back. I started smoking a lot more in high school and college.

I moved to Oklahoma my senior year of high school and the girls had all grown up together and were very tight knit. I didn’t really fit in, especially as one of the only Black people at the school. I found my friends again through weed. We smoked at lunch. I had this badass teacher who taught a class called Film as Literature. That’s where I watched Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Breakfast Club. He taught all the cool stoner classics.

My relationship with weed is like a weighted blanket of wonderful.

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In college, I was an overachiever, super stressed out, and taking Adderall at the time. Weed was a coping mechanism for me and a way for me to recenter myself. I got this little hookah from Turkey and I would smoke bowls in my room—there were so many coal burns in my carpet that we had to replace it after I moved out. My relationship with weed is like a weighted blanket of wonderful. It encourages me to be more introspective and attuned with myself, to get into my body and monitor my thoughts in a different way. I realized that any paranoia I felt while high was attached to insecurities that I hadn’t dealt with yet. So when people are like, “Oh, I can’t smoke weed, it just makes me too paranoid,” I’m like, “Well maybe you should sit and listen to those thoughts and address them.”

When I first started law school, I hung out with one person in particular who used a lot of Adderall, and then cannabis to balance it out. And I was like, Whoa, maybe this isn't such a good idea. I started to pay attention to my own behavior. I noticed Adderall really affected my interpersonal relationships. My mom would ask me, “How are you?” and I’d bite her head off because I was so irritable.

I left law school after a year, and I ended up getting two masters, one in Performance Psych and one in Sports Management. In my first masters program I was like, okay, maybe instead of medication, I just need to establish better habits in time management and time blocking. I tried all of that and it felt like I had narcolepsy. I would wake up at 8:30 in the morning and by like 9:30 I was falling asleep in my book. I couldn’t stay awake.

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That’s when I started learning more about ADHD. I was missing the dopamine release that the Adderall had given me. I started using cannabis more intentionally—which is way easier to do now and in California where you can get strain-specific products for different ailments or different points of your day, versus in Texas where you just get whatever the dealer has. I wish I’d had better access at the time.

It became impossible to get through the day so I then went back on Adderall for a year to finish out my first masters program. But I did a lower dose than I typically would have and was really careful about monitoring myself. I made sure that I was eating a really nutritious breakfast in the morning before I took my medication. It was when I started my second masters that I got completely off Adderall. At that point, I was able to go to Colorado and get the products I needed to help me balance out that lack of dopamine, as well as my anxiety and lack of motivation.

It’s life changing to have someone always in your corner, who always accepts you for who you are no matter what mistakes you make.

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Five years ago, my sister and I started a private tutoring company—she’s a genius. She had a 3.8 GPA as a chemical engineer major while playing Division One college basketball at the University of Oklahoma. She’s 14 years older. She got her MBA and a masters in mathematics.

We cater to most of the Dallas-Fort Worth area’s private schools, as well as SMU students and athletes. My sister is my number one. I really look up to her in a lot of ways and I’m really thankful that we were able to work on this business together because it brought us so much closer. It’s life changing to have someone always in your corner, who always accepts you for who you are no matter what mistakes you make.

I work with a lot of students who have ADHD or other learning differences. Humor is an important tool. I have to find ways to engage them and to make the material entertaining or interesting or funny, because when you have ADHD, it’s not a lack of will or want to do something. It’s more like if it doesn’t interest you, your mind won’t even allow you to focus on it. You’re just going to go find something else to do. And then you have to deal with avoidance.

I went from understanding ADHD as a learning disability to a learning difference because it truly is just taking a different approach than someone else.

People with ADHD often have a lot of shame attached to it because teachers are like, “Oh, well, the student just doesn’t want to work” or, “Oh, they’re so unruly and unmanageable.” I went from understanding it as a learning disability to a learning difference because it truly is just about taking a different approach.

When someone with ADHD finds something that they love and is given the opportunity to operate in that space, they’re going to be amazing. They’re going to do it nonstop. So often the parents of my students would be like, “Why can my child focus on a video game for six hours but not do their homework?” I’m like, “Because the video game is interesting their homework is not.” I think it’s cool that now we have parents who are more open minded to the different paths their kids may take.

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In 2019, I started a CBD skin care line called Taylor & Tess, named after my family. A lot of my motivation about getting into the cannabis industry was to help my parents mitigate pain as they aged. My dad was a government contractor after he left active duty. He has had over 12 major surgeries, everything from metal rods aligning his spine to metal plates in between his discs, elbows, knees, hips, you name it. The German doctor he had when I was in high school used to joke, “Mr. Taylor, you paid for the new wing in my hospital. Thank you.” A lot of that was because he was not doing his physical therapy so he wasn’t building his body back up. He was being pretty passive in his healthcare and using painkillers to get through it.

I would bring them back products from Colorado as well. They were willing to try topicals first, and then eventually they got into edibles. They couldn’t believe how much it helped their pain. My mom is now entirely off pharmaceuticals. My dad has gone down from eight pills a day to four. It’s incredible. What really drives me is the science, plus people’s personal anecdotes of finding alternative ways to manage Crohn’s, epilepsy—all of these severe chronic illnesses.

Taylor & Tess allowed me to get my name out there and meet people in the industry. I had been asking my sister forever, “Please just let me go remote so I can move to California.” Then the pandemic hit and we had to take our business completely virtual and she ended up loving it. We did a lot of skiing, visits to national parks, and hiking. It also helped our bottom line because we downsized our office.

As a young woman of color with such a small budget, for me to have been able to put a product on the shelf at some of the top dispensaries in California and then build this community is amazing.

I eventually moved out to California and I joined this amazing program called Our Academy by This Is Our Dream that was founded by Hilary Yu. It is a 15-week program that teaches the ins and outs of the cannabis industry. I applied the last day because someone shared it with me on social. I looked at the program and was like, Damn, she has everyone from the top software developers in cannabis tech to the top marketers and salespeople in the industry from all over the country hosting these panels for free.

It’s been an invaluable program. I’m such a huge advocate for it now. I’m actually going to do it a second time. I work in education; I don’t ever think we can learn enough. I had two amazing mentors. One was the former CMO of Sweet Flower. They have four locations in LA. I also had a financial advisor because I’m fundraising for the first time. I realized you can’t do this business without capital. It’s not something that you can bootstrap and start with $5,000. On top of that, it’s incredibly hard for people of color, especially women of color, to raise money. I think about it all the time. I am actively seeking accredited angel investors right now.

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Saucy launched on 4/20 at Sweet Flower, a really quick turnaround from ideation to getting onto the shelf. As a young woman of color with such a small budget, for me to have been able to put a product on the shelf at some of the top dispensaries in California and then build this community is amazing. I’ve also worked with a lot of really incredible brands that I admire, like Garden Society, Artet, and Sonoma Hills Farm.

We have a barbecue sauce and a vinaigrette, and we’re launching our hot sauce in December. I know that sauce is what definitely makes a meal! All of our products are vegan, gluten free, and sugar free. What I love about our product is that it’s not intimidating; it’s something that you could easily take to your family dinner. Our goal is to be the Heinz of infused condiments.

Let’s say you’ve been trying to get your mom to try cannabis. You can easily take one of our 5 mg THC single-use pouches to a meal, and offer for her to try it out on top of whatever dish she’s eating. It doesn’t require any cooking. We are also launching multiple dosing options to be able to cater to all customers—the person who’s new or who wants the micro dose at lunch, and also the more experienced. Or someone like my dad, who needs higher doses to feel the effects because he’s six foot four and his level of pain requires more cannabis.

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I’m not afraid to have tough, taboo conversations. My mom’s interested in learning about microdosing simply because I’ve opened up that dialogue within our household. They joke that I’m the one person who will talk back to my dad, not necessarily in a disrespectful way, but because I’m outspoken. The same conversations I would have with friends I have with parents. The most valuable thing I learned from performance psychology is to be your authentic self everywhere because when you are incongruent, when you’re showing up as one person here and another person in another setting, that’s when you start to put yourself in a negative headspace.

Being an entrepreneur is super fucking hard, especially in cannabis. Sometimes I ask myself, Why did I do this? But then I remind myself how much I love it. It’s a mental game more so than anything else. It’s getting yourself out of the gutter and accepting the challenges as they come in. When a problem arises, I try to remind myself, “These are the problems and challenges that you wanted to have a year ago. This gets you to where you’ve been dreaming about. Move forward.”

We bring the culture. If a white dude made our cannabis sauce, it wouldn’t have the black cowgirl on the front. It wouldn’t have that Black Southern heritage attached.

Always easier said than done. There’s so much money coming into cannabis that when you think about legacy brands that have been growing and selling to their communities for decades and who are now trying to get into the market, it’s almost impossible for them to do so because licensing is so expensive. When you think about Black, brown, queer, and other marginalized folks trying to get into the space, it puts an undue hardship on them to even try to get a license to legally sell. The hardest thing is seeing all the ways that this industry needs to evolve. I do have faith that it can, but right now there are so many corporate brands coming in and taking up shelf space and not creating room for the rest of us.

It always comes back to money. We can’t make the same mistakes that corporate brands do. We don’t have access to the same amount of resources so we have to problem solve in a much more creative way. We bring the culture. If a white dude made our cannabis sauce, it wouldn’t have the black cowgirl on the front. It wouldn’t have that Black Southern heritage attached. While it is a struggle, I do think it’s really amazing to see how much we can create and how other brands then want to start emulating us because we bring a new perspective they wish they could have.

I do really believe that this industry can be a model for other industries. Everything from how we build out our companies and what values we have to ensuring impactful social equity and not just performative allyship. I think that this industry is going to change how business is done especially if we can establish the culture and hold true to it in our policies and regulations and how we model our businesses out in the world.

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This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Tess Taylor photographed by Maggie Shannon in Los Angeles. If you like this Conversation, please feel free to share it with friends or enemies. Subscribe to our newsletter here.