Family Tree: 420 Soul
The words soul and food have been married together for a very long time. It seems safe to say Soul Sauce is the love child produced from that iconic marriage. Hitting the pallet with a very sophisticated, savory, combo of heat and flavor. 420Soul is a cannabis culinary event company but the Soul Sauce is definitely the star of the show. Focusing on creating intimate upscale dining experiences with a touch of soul. showing their audience that cannabis can be displayed a bit more classy contrary to unpopular belief. Owners Will and Brittany saw the lane to bring 420Soul to life from their cultured background coming from Detroit where it was customary to see your neighbors slinging plates out of their kitchens like 1/8ths at the dispensary. Setting out to show people and exemplify that there is more to cannabis than just smoking and laying around and really help bury the stigma placed on this herb. Soul Sauce spices up and tops Season 1 off in a bold way. Being dubbed as the official hot sauce of 448. Coming to a BBQ near you, post covid.
Q: Tell us a little bit about your relationship with cannabis? (i.e. current use or first memories) We always feel like it’s important to let our community know that this [cannabis] is more of a healing medicine than a hurtful one?
Will: Ah man.
Raz (448): Story Time [All laugh]
Will: I think I was like 14-15 at the time when I first tried it. I was all nervous. Then after trying it, I was like “Ah, this isn’t as bad as I thought!” And it kind of took off from there. For me, it’s more of a social thing. You go out with your friends, you come back feeling good. Then you get questioned by your mom.
448: “Why ya eyes red?” [All laugh]
Will: Exactly! You know how you have those certain family members that be like “Let’s go to the store right quick.” So then getting into college it kinda exploded to now, now I smoke every day. If not, almost every day. I prefer that over edibles. That’s my relationship with it. I love to do it. It got to the point where I was like “If I smoke this much and love it this much, I might as well grow it or do something and make money with it.” I got to looking at my checkbook every week and thought “The dispensaries makin’ money! I’m probably keeping one in business by myself” Now we’re putting it in the sauce so I want my piece of the pie now.
Brittany: I’ll say mine was different. I didn’t smoke that much. I didn’t smoke at all in high school. I didn’t start until I got to college. I’ll say it was definitely more medicinal for me. I’m very intentional. I’m very ‘Type A’ personality. I was about my grades, about my work, I’m very ‘get it done’ and can’t sit down, can’t slow down. I have an issue with anxiety because of that. I have anxiety sometimes just because of my life and personality. When I started to smoke it’d be at the end of the day. It’d be just a little bit to get started, it really changed my life. I was able to approach my days a lot calmer and a lot more stress-free. That allowed me to be more productive, to get more done. So for me, it definitely started off as a medicinal thing and now it’s more of a recreational thing and I do it for enjoyment. But when I first started it definitely was to get the edge off suffering from anxiety.
Q: Coming from a legal state(s) when did you know this was the industry you wanted to be in?
Will: So, I dibble and dabble a lot. I do a little of everything. Professionally at the time, I was in sales. I worked a sales job and on the side, I do audio engineering, and I make beats. I’ve actually been doing that longer than the sauce. I’ve been doing that for some years. When I realized I needed to do the sauce, music money wasn’t necessarily slowing up, it was never that fast, to begin with. At least in my opinion. Some people think differently but the way I was moving it wasn’t coming as fast. So when we did events with the sauce, EVERYBODY wanted it. They’d be like “You still got that sauce?!” Texting me, calling me. So I was like maybe I might be on to something. Maybe I should take this a bit more seriously than a couple of extra dollars in my pocket. I put it at the forefront and now we’re out in California with logos, shirts, and passing out samples in Venice. Who knows where we’ll be in 5 years.
Q: Walk us through the thought process of marrying two things we, in our community love, cannabis & hot sauce? More specifically cannabis-infused hot sauce (Soul Sauce) & chicken?
Brittany: Well I don’t know about your neighborhood? But where we’re from in Detroit, one of the biggest things you’ll see people do is sell plates out of their house. That’s just something that happens in the community and you’re used to seeing it. So we saw that and we didn’t really wanna do the whole plate thing. We wanted to take it a step further and do it a bit more upscale. This brought us to the whole dinner thing, but it’s still Soul Food! It’s still the culture, it’s still the community so we didn’t want to take it too far away from that. The fact of the matter is, we’re still marketing to African Americans, black people. So we still wanted to make it tangible and familiar to them. Which is why we’re still going to do our dinner parties and they’re still going to be nice. We’re still going to give you your hot sauce and fried chicken, which you love. I think you can still provide things that are for the culture and black folks and still do it luxury and upscale.
Will: Like she was saying as far as the upscale part, in designing the logo everyone we had working on it kept sending back a logo that had weed on it.
Brittany: We don’t have weed anywhere in our branding.
Will: I’m ok with the weed leaf but I wanna shift that stigma. I always said, like back in the day, look at cigarettes. Realistically they turn your teeth yellow, give you cancer, or whatnot. But if you saw a commercial in the ’70s-’80s, you’d see an elegant white lady with a beautiful dress on smoking a cigarette with a long stick. Weed actually has helpful & health benefits to it so we wanted to highlight that it doesn’t have to be like that, not to come off the wrong way but like, dirty hippy energy. We really focus on making it look nice & taste delicious. You hit it on the head. It’s marrying two ideas. I really love hot sauce, I drown all my food in regular hot sauce and I smoke a lot. So I was like I have to do something I can’t keep spending all my money. And in Detroit, I was growing and I’d take the trim and put it in the sauce and that’s how we started testing it out at first.
The more we build for ourselves, the more other people are going to want to come and see what we have to talk or about or what’s going on for themselves. The more we build our culture the more people are going to want to come and see our culture. It’s a proven fact that over the years centuries even if we build it they’ll want to take it or imitate it. It’s a proven fact throughout history-Brittany
Q: How long was the recipe for your sauce in the family’s arsenal before adding the canna-butter that really made it pop?
Will: It wasn’t. The originator of the recipe is sitting to my right (Brittany). We didn’t always make sauces. My mom makes BBQ sauce. And when we met, she taught her how to make it.
Brittany: Yea, and I’ve always been like a home chef. I love cooking. It’s always been like a side passion. So going to the drawing board and thinking “How can we make an infused sauce?” I was like “Oh fun! This will be fun!” It was just fun to get in the test kitchen and play around. We had a couple of different iterations at first but I’ll say once we moved to California and started really bottling the sauce for sale is when we perfected the recipe.
Will: Yea, it’s always a work in progress.
Brittany: We’re doing this the right way. So we have taken our sauce to a testing facility and had it looked at. Making sure we’re staying compliant on our end to provide the best quality product.
Q: How involved in the cannabutter processing are you guys? Do you get the flower and make the butter yourselves or do you source the butter out? (have you made relationships with distributors?)
Brittany: So that’s actually changing. That’s one of the biggest changes we’re making to the product. We invested in ourselves a little bit. Before we would outsource the butter because it was tested already. It’s was already proven and had COA’s. Before, that really checked one box off for us. That was an added step we didn’t have to do. But thanks to some of the amazing products out there and because cannabis is so accessible here, we’ve actually just invested in an infusing machine so we’ll be infusing our own cannabutter going forward. And it’s not just for butter, it’s a machine we can use for all our products. So it’s not just the cannabutter, it’s the oils, emulsifiers, or whatever we put in the desserts, we can infuse anything now.
Will: It wasn’t a hard price point as far as outsourcing the butter but we really want to keep things in house as much as possible. That’s huge for us. So investing in that machine is a better move for the business going forward. Financially and maybe even taste wise.
Q: Soul Sauce rolls off the tongue perfectly. Are there any other sauces on your radar that you guys are thinking of making?
Brittany: We have a couple. We have a couple, we just haven’t bottled them yet. We have a hot honey. A high honey
Raz (448): Hi honey, bye honey, I’m going to bed!
Brittany: Yep! It’s a high honey. You know, in the south a common condiment for your chicken and biscuits is honey so we have a hot honey for that. We have barbecue sauce too. It’s just not bottled yet, so yea we have a couple.
Will: Yea, we want to master the hot sauce first. From market research, we understand a lot of companies in this lane have multiple products. But for me, I’m a creative. I come from a music background, I’m creative that’s how my mind works. So thinking of things to do for 420 is not hard. Or thinking of new products to introduce isn’t hard. It’s about the execution and how it’s going to get done. That’s where I need to spend more of my time. So like Brittany said, we have the other sauces on the backend. Me, I want to infuse the little packs. What’s the things you squirt in your water bottle? The Crystal Lights! I’m working on doing some Kool-aids like that. So you can take them on the go. We’re working on some sweet potato pies, some deserts. I still believe in the edibles like sweets such as the Rice Krispies work. So we want to have something for that lane as well. Something other than candies. So people can expect little sweet potato pies in mini mason jars with the crust and all. California is so vast so we definitely want to get back to hosting our events. What our events were, they were small plates, you come in and smoke and drink on a little something (bring your own bottle) nobody gets too rowdy obviously. It’s not that kinda energy. It’s more so small settings, sitting at the table kinda feel. More intimate. Our first event was a Valentine’s Day event. So people brought their significant others and we had infused lobster bisque, infused macaroni and cheese, and the sweet potato pie was infused. So a lot of these ideas we’ve done before. We had infused collard greens that were like wrapped in an egg roll.
Brittany: Collard green wontons!
448: AHH MAN!
Will: Yea, that’s the reaction we get, so we definitely want to get back to those.
Brittany: Right now, It’s just about seeing what products we can get out to a wider audience so we can get back to doing the events. That’s really where our passion is. We want to get back to catering events, doing 420 friendly events that are upscale and fun.
Will: Especially when you’re a start-up that money is a lot, you make all that on the front end. That’s a nice piece of change that can go directly back into the business. Throwing 1-2 of those a month is good money for us. When we figure out how to do it safely and how to go about it we will start those back up. You guys will have a ticket.
Q: Given the love of and importance you guys place on social events. What would a 420 Soul community event look like? In what ways do you see yourselves giving back?
Brittany: We think it’s about education and educating people about what cannabis is today what it can mean to them and how it can be accessible to all. I think that’s where it starts we want to pair with other cannabis brands as were growing and be their voice for the community to help cannabis be more tangible for everyone so in a perfect world I think that a community event with 420 included would bring to the table not just our local cannabis brand but other local cannabis brands and it would be in education focused event we’re providing the food and also proving the education people need, to understand the history of what cannabis gone through and where we are today and what that actually means for them.
Will: Paired with education, the knowledge of getting into the industry is a lesson in itself. One of my friends has a pizza spot and I just keep asking him questions and it’s just so much easier to get into regular food than into the cannabis food industry there’s so many regulations and rules and like the milligram count you can have on each serving there’s so many different things so you really have to stay on top of it if you want to be successful in this. I was reading one in three weed businesses are actually legal a lot of brands that you see or buy from daily are probably not legal. Or operating in an on the fence kinda way. Not that they’re bad people or just trying to get by but everything just keeps changing like one month you have everything up-to-date in the next 2-3 months you’re falling behind. So the education is very important and I like what you guys do because as minorities it’s hard for us to get into any industry anywhere let alone one that’s $40B+ industry and it’s not even a quarter legal yet everywhere. My vision for weed products in the cannabis industry is being able to walk into your local Kroger or Walmart and there’s going to be a section for cannabis products and I want us to be in one of those sections. So again the education is very important. When 420 to a certain point and we get opportunities to give back to the community and I’m a little more knowledgeable in the industry. That’s one thing I’d absolutely love to do is help people like myself or that look like me, get into the industry
420 and Soul are so important. At the end of the day, it’s for the culture. We eat this food. We created this cuisine. Not saying white people can’t indulge, obviously that’s not the case. But it’s for the culture. I do music, and it’s the same deal. We’re creating it, we’re making it so we want to keep this money where it’s supposed to be.-Will
Q: Do you have any resources you would recommend?
Will: What’s been my best friend is surprisingly the state site so you get some info from going to your local state site
Brittany: Or even the city website. In California things are so different, there are a lot of laws within city jurisdictions. The state ordinances aren’t really followed as heavily as the city ordinances. so we will look up what’s going on in the city and what their regulations are.
Will: There are city regulations and state regulations so if you’re looking at somewhere like “Oh, you can do this“ but if you’re kinda playing the fence and looking at the state and not the county/city you’re in it could still be illegal for you. We’re in Long Beach, so luckily it’s a little more lax in the LBC.
Brittany: They have opportunities available for people to get into the cannabis industry they have their own ordinances for people to start their own marijuana businesses. They also have grant programs that you can get involved in as well. This is all available for people who want to get involved in marijuana businesses that may have had legal issues in the past or if you’re homeless. It’s becoming a more wide thing and I think if people start in their own backyard you can go a lot farther. I think that people think too big when they start and they should probably look more locally than nationally to start out.
Will: What we’ve noticed in all of our research there’s no handbook to start a weed and business you’re going to have to find people that are doing the same thing. I’ve been on YouTube watching and listening to other edible companies, been on edible websites and talked to other people and businesses and see how they have done it or what their process is and how they started. You have to reach out to the people doing the same things and ask them how they’ve started I would advise conversations with a cannabis lawyer possibly a consultation. What I’ve learned in sales is a lot of people like to talk about themselves and their business. I’m so with 420 I like to ask a lot of questions and I don’t talk a lot. A lot of people are willing to give you answers if you talk less and ask questions. I’ll reach out to business owners and ask them questions and ask them how they did this and that and that’s kind of how you have to educate yourself like I said there’s not gonna be a handbook to get into the marijuana business. There are a lot of different elements that you have to figure out.
Q: Is there anybody specific in the food or cannabis industry you guys would like to collab with in some capacity?
Will: I have one specific that I’ve been going after that’s local here in California. Al Harrington, ballplayer, Owner of Viola. I actually went to a panel before we got 420 sort of off the ground. I was actually looking for a job in the weed industry and it turned out it was not an employment thing but I ended up staying and it was Al Harrington and some lady that sat on some board. This had to be last November or something like that. But it was talking about exactly what you guys do and how he got in the industry and how minorities aren’t getting in the industry right now. Pretty much how California is over and done with now so they’re focusing on a branch in Detroit. That’s one person I really want to reach out to and get an understanding of. I want to pick his brain and get a feel about how he feels about minorities in the cannabis industry and some recommendations. Just really a conversation above anything. One thing that stands out to me is the people you see around his company look like me, some even dress like me, they even have tats. Some would say they might have a little edge but at the same time you’re looking at it and you see that these are young professionals. Young businessmen and owners. They’re doing their thing in the industry, working hard, doing all the things everyone is capable of and it should be accessible to everybody.
Brittany: I think in terms of food or collabs one of the main people we would like to collab with his, well it’s 2 main people; Roy Choy he’s a very famous chef in the LA area, he owns a few restaurants and he also has done a lot of edible work and has cooked with weed and tinctures a lot. But also I’m interested in a lot of the black-owned food trucks around here. There’s one, in particular, that’s kind of widely known, called Pineapple Express. They do almost like teriyaki chicken bowls and it’s platted in pineapples. So they’re black-owned and have been featured in several magazines. And I think that is so big here in California, the food truck culture and I think pairing that with cannabis would be sick that’d be so cool.
Will: She actually brings up a good point. We have been noticing from a lot of our research that even the weed-infused restaurants out here are not weed-infused so you know how we make infused macaroni and cheese a lot of the cafés you go there you can smoke and buy weed there but the food is normal food it’s not infused with cannabis. So what if you set a weed-infused hot sauce to sit there on the table like Cholula or Frank’s. I see a lot of opportunities still in the industry. When people tell me California is locked up. I refuse to believe that there’s no money out here, for me or any other minority. I believe, and I’m sure your parents have told you “You’re black, so you’re going to have to work 10x harder” I just think it’s something WE need to figure out. I’m excited for what’s to come and I’m definitely excited to work with more black brands. So we definitely appreciate you guys for sure.