Entrepreneur Spotlight: Aja Allen – Owner/Operator Of Sixty Four & Hope

There’s so much happening in the world of cannabis, especially in Los Angeles. One of the reasons why I live in this city is because I saw it as an important site in the ever evolving world of legal cannabis. There’s always a new product launch, an innovative entrepreneur or chef leaving their mark here. New projects in this landscape excite me because of their potential. This is why when I noticed a new dispensary in my neighborhood a few months ago I had to get familiar. 

A few months ago I was just riding my bicycle in my old neighborhood as I was returning home from a workout. During my ride I noticed a beautiful, clean modern space named Sixth Four & Hope on the corner of La Cienega and Guthrie. 

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LA is flooded with an assortment of dispensaries that can look anywhere between inviting and uninviting so I do appreciate the spacious and modern shops that cater well to shoppers.

I was also delighted to later learn this is a black woman owned and operated cannabis business.

Aja Allen is the visionary behind the brand and upon learning this I really wanted to feature her for this series. I thought she’d be a wonderful fit and I’m grateful for her agreeing to participate in this story. 

I’ve shopped at Sixty Four & Hope a few times and their staff was friendly, knowledgeable and accommodating. I’m a stickler for quality outdoor grown strains and the staff was able to assist me by showing an assortment of items that suit my tastes. So be sure to check them out next time you’re in LA.

Aja Allen Photo

1. Please describe yourself and your work.

I would describe myself as an ambitious black woman determined to make an impact in America. I come from South Central, where not many of us had positive role models, let alone the resources to even dream of making it past Crenshaw and King Blvd. I pride myself on being an advocate for the homeless and the LGBTQ and cannabis communities. I am the CEO of ProjectC3, a non-profit organization geared toward reacclimating the homeless into society as productive citizens with the skills and support needed to sustain themselves independently. Lastly, I am the owner and operator of Sixty Four & Hope, Mid-City, a new enlightened, informed, interactive cannabis store experience in Los Angeles. We promote education, wellness and highlight the holistic benefits of the flower.

2. What qualities shape a person to be a leader in the cannabis space?

Education. I think wanting to learn relentlessly, being passionate about driving results, and loving helping others develop are qualities of a great leader. People don’t want to work just for the money anymore; they want to be fulfilled where they spend most of their time. Getting paid to help rewrite history makes it that much easier to get up every day and make a living. Plus, cannabis is an ever-changing industry regarding policies and regulations, so it’s super important to stay educated and informed on the latest changes. 

I think partnerships that align with your company’s mission are also essential. Things like sustainability, social equity, all-natural products, and leaving a low carbon footprint are all things making up a great leader.

Cannabis continues to become a more normalized aspect of culture in the US and elsewhere. Does anything about this shift excite you? Why?

Absolutely! I like to have a glass of wine sometimes, and it should be my call if I want to enjoy a joint along with it after a long day. Thankfully, many companies have stopped testing for cannabis, which gives people the freedom to use cannabis to decompress or as a creative tool. 

I work long hours, but I can go to my local nail spa and get CBD as an option for my pedicure for pain relief. Consumption lounges and canna-bars are being introduced at concerts, weddings, birthday parties, and more now. Politically the current Congress is the most cannabis-friendly in history. However, there’s still not quite enough support to get legalization through the Senate. That’s where we come in, making our voices heard.

Sixty Four and Hope

3. How did the pandemic affect your business?

The pandemic significantly affected Sixty Four & Hope by pushing our initial opening date by a year and a half. Which also meant paying rent on a commercial lease during that time with zero revenue. And DCR’s reduced staff brought new levels of delay to the licensing process. 

During the pandemic, moderate-to-severe anxiety jumped to 37%, up from 6% in 2019. Moderate-to-severe depression hit 30% percent, four times higher than before the pandemic. And with cannabis stores being designated as “essential businesses,” we would have been able to provide medicine to the community when it was most needed.

4. How has your professional work fostered your personal growth? 

During the training developed for us by our parent company, 4thMVMT, we went through life coaching and several development-based exercises. At this stage, I did some soul searching to rid myself of trauma I didn’t know was present. And I recognized my need for being connected to purpose on a larger scale. 

I worked in luxury retail for several years and excelled in my role, but I was still missing something. I needed culture! Don’t get me wrong, I learned a ton in my career, made companies millions, and knew I was capable. But I lacked resources and came to realize I had a lack of confidence in myself as well. 

I opened my first business last year in the middle of a pandemic, and if that isn’t confidence, I don’t know what is!! I am engaged to be married 2-22-2022, and I take life one day at a time. My store has been open for seven weeks now, and I’m eager to see how my professional work fosters my personal growth over the next few years.

Aja Allen

5. What do you foresee in the future of the cannabis industry?

Attitudes are changing when it comes to cannabis. People are becoming more open-minded about consumption than they have been in the past. CBD has become a favored agent of healing that works, and it’s been hard for some to say no.  Aside from that, I can only hope Federal legalization is next. Access to banking and insurance is a real issue. Many banks and investors think cannabis is too risky for loans and investing. I hope that investors change their minds when cannabis is federally legal because the future of cannabis is bright. It brings income, employment, and investment opportunities that can improve people’s lives.

6. What about your work gives you a sense of fulfillment and/or empowerment?

We need ownership and participation in this industry because we suffered the brunt of the war on drugs. I get to restore hope for those who are or have been incarcerated for cannabis-related offenses. Cannabis is now legal, so it’s only right that we benefit.  And I am doing it for the culture! Our representation in this industry means we have the power to keep and reinvest dollars in our community. I get to change the lives of the people on my team as my life has been changed. They are a part of black history and our future.

7. In what ways can cannabis empower Black women and the rest of the Black community?

Cannabis has long been a resource for people of color to help battle PTSD, anxiety, depression, and more for as long as I can remember. But some of us are scared of what our significant others, boss, or parents may think. Our job at Sixty Four & Hope is to destigmatize false presumptions around cannabis and educate people on the positive aspects of the plant. Let’s get the benefit of the plant instead of a prescription.  Aside from that, the cannabis industry is one of the fastest-growing fields in the US. And it allows us the opportunity to showcase our creativity through cannabis. I encourage entrepreneurs passionate about cannabis to work it into what they are good at and make it lucrative. Think about it…beauty, health, cooking, blogging, pets, pain relief, education, marketing, event planning, art, you name it, cannabis requires it. I could go on forever. We are original, creative, and gifted by nature, so go out and build what you want to see in the world.  I hope you’ve enjoyed this installment of Entrepreneur Spotlight. At best stories like Aja’s can inspire us all and further allow us to see the power of cannabis as a valuable resource.  It is of great importance to see entrepreneurs from underrepresented communities rise prominently in this space. We have truly come a long way yet still have a long way to go.  Is there a cannabis entrepreneur that you’d like to see in a future installment of this series? Let us know in the comments or feel free to reach out via @chefkorby on Instagram.
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Chef Korby

What began as an early childhood curiosity unfolded into a committed career filled with passion for Chef Korby Benoit. Chef Korby specializes in vegan cuisine and has done so for nearly 20 years. Originally hailing from Brooklyn, NY he is the son of Haitian immigrants and a product of various cultural movements stemming from New York in 1980’s to the present. Throughout his journey Chef Korby has traversed the worlds of music production, DJing, journalism, fine art and fashion. He is a diverse and impassioned creative who relentlessly seeks to create exciting and inspired plant based foods. In recent years he has created a base in Los Angeles where he has launched a meal prep service named Kafou Alkaline Foods. Chef Korby also produced a vegan food, art and music festival called The Plant BASS’D Festival. He is also working on the release of his forthcoming cookbook entitled “No Mistakes Allowed”. He is also preparing to launch his culinary educational platform, The Kafou Culinary Academy. Driven by his will to remain curious and resourceful, Chef Korby has been active in educating people about his journey and culinary techniques. He remains insightful, enterprising and optimistic about his purpose and the potential for all of the human family.

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