Social Equity Program Business Development Outreach

City of LA Department of Cannabis Regulation

NSA was hired by the City of Los Angeles’ Department of Cannabis Regulation to implement a business development and outreach plan that empowers small, minority-owned businesses in the cannabis industry.

City staff at the Cannabis and Capital investing event

Establishing the Los Angeles City Department of Cannabis Regulation’s Social Equity Program as an efficient tool and resource for Social Equity Individuals.

After Measure M passed, the City of Los Angeles established the Department of Cannabis Regulation (DCR), which not only serves as a regulatory office for commercial cannabis licensing, but also as an entity that aims to repair harm caused by past cannabis criminalization in marginalized communities. DCR conducts their equity work through their Social Equity Program, which specifically promotes equitable ownership and employment opportunities in the cannabis industry. The City of Los Angeles is one of the few jurisdictions in the country that has prioritized pairing cannabis policy reform with an equity-driven mission.

In 2021 North Star Alliances began working with DCR to lead the Social Equity Program’s critical business development and outreach services. The department specifically needed support creating and sharing a vast set of business development resources with Social Equity Individuals (SEIs).

  • Who are Social Equity Individuals? SEIs are individuals identified through DCR’s Social Equity Program that are in the process of securing a cannabis business license and starting a business in the City of Los Angeles. To become a SEI one must meet strict eligibility criteria, as DCR’s Social Equity Program is specifically designed to support individuals from disadvantaged communities that have been negatively impacted by past cannabis criminalization policies.

The business development and outreach work was a natural fit for NSA, given the bulk of our work is equity-based and our longstanding commitment to supporting projects that empower Los Angeles’ disadvantaged communities. While the landscape for business development outreach was difficult in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NSA team knew we were well-positioned to support the important work. We moved quickly to put a team and creative strategy together to support and elevate the Social Equity Program’s essential business development services.

Providing DCR with a well-rounded project management team of communications, outreach, and cannabis-industry experts.

A key element of NSA’s strategy was bringing together a collaborative and balanced set of partners that offered a wide range of high level of expertise in the cannabis industry as well as in communications and outreach in the City. Below are the partners that comprise the DCR project management team, as well as details on their roles and responsibilities: 

  • North Star Alliances: NSA serves as the primary project manager on the DCR project. In this role NSA interfaces with the DCR team regarding ongoing work, oversees all programming and strategic partnerships, manages vendor work, and provides high-level thought leadership and strategic counsel to the client. This is a typical role for NSA, as our leadership team offers our clients strong operational integrity and management support, allowing us to effectively oversee projects. Using our extensive experience providing community outreach to clients in both private and public sectors, the NSA team also led the development of the comprehensive, long-term outreach strategy for DCR.
  • Chief Strategies: Chief Strategies is a longstanding partner to NSA and serves as the communications lead on the DCR project. In the role the Chief Strategies team leads the development and distribution of messaging and educational materials for the project’s outreach efforts. Their team excels at this work given their unique ability to develop story-driven messaging that distills and explains complex concepts. The Chief Strategies team also oversees graphic design work for the project, which is conducted by subcontractor Blue State Consulting. 
  • CalAsian Chamber of Commerce: CalAsian Chamber of Commerce serves as an outreach lead on the DCR project. As the largest statewide ethnic chamber and one of the first organizations in California to implement a social equity program focused on cannabis entrepreneurship, they are an invaluable partner on the project, offering a keen understanding of the cannabis industry and key stakeholders within the space. In their role CalAsian Chamber of Commerce primarily secures and manages subject matter expert partnerships, bringing them into the DCR outreach work so they can connect with SEIs about key topics related to business development in the cannabis industry.

Implementing a large-scale outreach plan that prioritized the creation and distribution of numerous business development resources and offered consistent support to Social Equity Individuals.

NSA and our partners led the development and execution of a robust outreach plan to reach SEIs and promote equitable employment opportunities in the City of Los Angeles’ cannabis industry. The plan presented a multi-faceted outreach strategy in an effort to engage SEIs and future cannabis entrepreneurs across an assortment of different communications channels.  Further, the outreach plan was initially very digitally-focused, given the landscape in 2021 with the COVID-19 pandemic. However as in-person outreach became safer, our team shifted our strategy to also engage SEIs face-to-face. 

To date, our team’s business development and outreach efforts have included, but are not limited to: 

Strategic Partnerships & Outreach

  • Conducting extensive outreach to target SEIs across the City via email, social media, digital ads, and call and text programs to ensure they have access to educational resources
  • Building relationships with a wide range of subject matter experts with real-world expertise on cannabis licensing, business services, legal services that can lead or participate in educational events as well as support the City
  • Organizing and executing an extensive series of recorded workshops, webinars, and trainings (~10 per month) that now comprise an online course catalogue, allowing current SEIs and future entrepreneurs the opportunity to learn about how to build and manage a cannabis business at their own pace 
  • Hosting a full-day job and career fair for individuals hoping to find a job or start a business in the cannabis-industry 
  • Organizing 1:1 meetings between SEIs and subject matter experts to discuss topics and questions regarding cannabis licensing and businesses


  • Developing DCR Social Equity Program’s brand, which involved creating a logo and branded outreach materials 
  • Crafting extensive educational resources and materials that educate businesses about commercial cannabis licensing, workforce development, job outreach, and job placement support. The development of commercial cannabis licensing materials often involved reframing complex legal language so that it was more colloquial
  • Developing DCR’s Cannadispatch newsletter, a monthly email offers news and resources to an audience of approximately 3,000 SEIs 
  • Overseeing and managing the DCR Social Equity Program’s communications calendar

Project Management

  • Communicating regularly with DCR staff about project strategy, tactics, and deliverables
  • Managing subcontractors and vendors regularly that support the project management team’s efforts
  • Offering strategic guidance to DCR in regards to the Social Equity Program’s short- and long-term goals

Establishing the largest free cannabis business development resource in the country.

Prior to our onboarding, DCR’s Social Equity Program was just getting off the ground, and the DCR was looking for guidance on how to promote their programming to specifically engage SEIs. With the support of the NSA and its expert team of partners, DCR’s Social Equity Program and its business development efforts have been resoundingly successful. We have engaged thousands of SEIs and future entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry, connecting them with DCR resources and guidance that can help them start a business. This has directly furthered DCR’s mission to ensure the cannabis industry offers equitable ownership and employment opportunities. 

NSA is pleased to share that with our support, DCR now offers the largest Social Equity Business, Licensing and Compliance Assistance Program in the country. To achieve this, over the last two years NSA and our project partners have:

  • Executed over 70 live webinars 
  • Developed over 40 instructional videos
  • Overseen 600+ hours of free business and licensing counsel
  • Created hundreds of graphics for digital outreach content
  • Built strong relationships with 20+ subject matter experts 
  • Outreached to thousands of individuals from disadvantaged communities interested in starting a cannabis business in the City of LA

NSA is proud to have worked directly with Dr. Imani Brown, the Social Equity Program Director for DCR, as she spearheaded the largest free cannabis business development resource in the nation. Her leadership and support was essential to NSA’s outreach work. Through our collaborative work, the process to apply for a cannabis business license in the City of LA has become a less daunting task for entrepreneurs and small business owners from marginalized communities. Our team’s business development outreach work remains ongoing with DCR today. 

Community Engagement
Communications & Public Relations
Event Management
Strategic Partnerships

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