LaQuay Juel didn’t just see a problem, he saw a solution.
“The basic problem is the lack of organized capitalization in the African-American and minority communities. So with the cannabis industry coming in as an emerging market, obviously there’s going to be heavy capitalization,” Juel says.
And accessing that market is what drove Juel and his partners to create Obsidian Elite Investment Association.
“We have two choices. We’re either going to try to raise enough money for us to try and get a license and open up an enterprise or we can help other people to do that,” says Juel, an entrepreneur and owner of the Home First Foods, LLC brand and Dansby Business Consulting.
Viewing the licensing process as a long shot, the decision was made to create a fund that would organize, educate and invest and allow small investors to share in the potential profits of what’s being called a $1 billion industry.
“We wanted, not just minorities, but working=class people as a whole – whoever they may be – so that they could participate in these funds and benefit as the industry grows by receiving basically what amounts to a dividend check. Then they would benefit no matter who owns the license,” says Juel, Obsidian’s managing partner, secretary of the executive board and the president of the association.
While Obsidian waits for legislation authorizing adult-use recreational marijuana in New Jersey, it is seeking to grow its membership.
With a minimum investment of $1,000, Obsidian is planning to offer two funds – one large and one small.
And they want to have an impact on the new businesses and the communities in which they will be located.
“If you receive a license, you’re definitely going to have a conversation with us,” he says. “It’s not about a handout. We’re looking to buy into your company. If the industry is going to improve and grow, that means that all of our investors will grow as well.”
Obsidian will invest in any company in the industry, not just minority-owned ones.
“We get that question a lot. We’re investing in the market, but we want minorities to participate,” Juel says.
Juel tells his potential investors that this is a mid- to long-term play. He advises them this is a not a get-rich-quick scheme.
“You want to ride this investment for at least the next 10 years,” he says.
Juel also has a long-range idea that he feels can benefit the communities of color that have been affected by the war on marijuana and give a chance for cannabis businesses to put their money where their mouth is when it comes to social equity. Creating a “social impact fund” in conjunction with organizations such as the NAACP, ACLU and similar type organizations.
“I believe there’s something proactive that industry can do with all license holders,” Juel says. “Would you be willing to commit 1 percent of your profits toward a social impact fund? We would’t run the fund. It’s run by various nonprofits and other advisory boards. It would be a private fund that will pinpoint various areas in the social economy in which the industry can benefit.”