The Cannabis Business Office's Social Equity Licensee Highlight series dives into the stories of social equity licensees currently in operation in the cannabis space. By exploring the individual backgrounds, challenges, and opportunities of these business owners, our case studies serve as a unique window into the cannabis industry and a way for businesses to learn from one another.
For the first edition in the series, we interviewed Michael Diaz-Rivera, founder of Better Days Delivery. The company provides cannabis delivery services by collaborating with leading Colorado dispensaries. Better Days Delivery eases the transaction process, providing convenient options for clients and customers. Their main focus is helping the community grow through their operations.
What sparked your interest in the cannabis industry?
Before this social equity in cannabis initiative, I couldn't participate in the industry because of my felony for cannabis, lack of capital, and other factors. Since being given this opportunity, I have been geeking out over the possibilities. Although risky and no one in my family has had the opportunity to start a business, I left my career as a teacher to try something new. I dream of being integrated from seed to stock, but even more so, I'm committed to using this plant to bring equity to my community.
How will your work impact the community?
I plan to completely radicalize this industry by putting community at the center. When legalization efforts began, those affected by the war on drugs were left out of the conversation. I hope to heal that by including the community in my business. I've already begun hosting focus groups to understand exactly what the community would like to see from my delivery company. Through community, I was reminded that delivery is how we've always gotten our cannabis. In the spirit of Sankofa, I plan to use my platform to help the community through expungement services, creating gainful employment, and contributing to community empowerment events by collaborating with community stakeholders.
What is something interesting about your backstory that you’d like to share?
I believe my story is compelling because I grew up on the south side of Colorado Springs. I have risen from extreme poverty, a cannabis conviction at 19 and subsequent jail time, to become a father of two and former elementary school teacher, who is committed to meaningful positive change. My mom worked multiple jobs while finding ways to keep us busy and off the streets. It was with community support that we were able to overcome our troubles. The team I've hired share similar stories of overcoming adversity. That is one of the reasons why my delivery business will be committed to giving back much in the way others gave to me. My commitment to bringing “Better Days” to my community is unmatched. My natural skills for leadership and need for sustainability has created a company that will accomplish true social good.
Please share something unique about your company.
We are licensed for both recreational and medical transport and delivery in Denver and Aurora with plans to expand into other jurisdictions in the future. With sustainability being a value of ours, we currently have two compliant electrical vehicles that are ready to deliver. Although my experience and our focus on sustainability differentiate us from others, we’re more interested in creating community than competition.
What challenges do you face as a small business and social equity licensee?
My biggest challenges have been lack of access to both financial and social capital. I have used my personal savings to fund my startup and it has gotten me far but it isn't enough to create a sustainable business. Bootstrapping is admirable but it's near impossible. Because of that, I'm now looking into grants, sponsors, and investors. With the cannabis industry still being in its infancy stage, relationships are critical. To overcome this, I've worked hard to network and show my value to stakeholders in the industry, thus creating the social capital needed to establish dispensary partnerships.
What would you change about the Colorado cannabis industry if you could?
Descheduling the plant and healing the trauma that the war on drugs has left in our communities could be world changing. Whatever we can do to decriminalize the use of cannabis and free those locked away for nonviolent cannabis charges should be our duty. [For the Colorado cannabis industry] I see the ice cream truck business model that delivery companies are able to operate in other states and I can't help but be jealous. Being able to own my own product would be a tremendous leg up for my business. [Regardless of the changes I wish to see] I am a dreamer and I see the potential for this in the future and I appreciate all that's been done to get here.
If you are an operational social equity licensed cannabis business, please complete our form so we may consider you for a future edition. The next two questions are screening questions. Additional questions will appear if you are eligible.