Kevin Ahaesy

Silicon Valley - Founder and CEO of ECO Cannabis

Kevin Ahaesy is taking the cannabis industry in Oakland, California into a new environment that not only promotes Oakland’s workforce but also those who have been affected by older, more stringent cannabis laws that, in the past, targeted minority individuals. Ahaesy’s cannabis company, ECO (Equity Cannabis Oakland), hires 100% Oakland residents, half of which have been incarcerated, in attempts to promote Oakland’s “ECO-system” as well as showing that just because an individual has been incarcerated, doesn’t mean they don’t deserve a second chance. Whether helping his community or spending time with his family, Ahaesy is dedicated to making change in Oakland, and beyond.

Q&A:

Hometown?

Alamo, CA.

Place you call home now (neighborhood etc)?

Orinda, CA.

Any notes on your education?

I'm a graduate University of California, Berkeley (Cal), where I was a scholarship athlete and team captain of the Division I men's Water Polo team.

Favorite sport to watch?

Basketball when the Golden State Warriors are playing.

Favorite sport to play?

Anything involving being in or around a body of water with my 3 boys.

Best vacation ever?

Hawaii. Specifically, Ko Olina beach in the southwestern tip of Oahu island.

Favorite dinner?

Like a true California kid, a burrito always does the trick!

Favorite dessert?

Ice Cream of any kind!

Dish you’re best at cooking?

Anything in my green egg.

Best meal you've had at a restaurant?

Cioppino from Scoma’s at Pier 39.

Road trip -- three in the car with you. Living or dead. Who are they? Why?

Elon Musk - I feel his ideas will shape our future.
Albert Einstein - I’ve always been fascinated with his life's journey and concepts.
Jim Rohn - His views on life and business were something that I would have liked to have a one-on-one conversation with him about.

Favorite TV show as a kid?

Voltron.

Favorite movies?

Braveheart.

Favorite actress and or actor?

Chris Pratt
Bradley Cooper

Favorite bands?

Sturgill Simpson
Temper Trap
Pacific Air

Most impressive live performance you ever saw?

I recently saw Metallica with the San Francisco symphony and those guys are still killing it.

Car you drive now?

Tesla Model S.

Best car you've owned?

We have 3 young boys, and we have this great 8 seater vehicle we go on road trips with.

Summer drink of choice?

At ECO we carry this great non-alcoholic, sparkling cooler that's infused with cannabis. It's hand-crafted and sweetened with agave nectar. I put a splash of that over some soda water, and it's a great cocktail alternative at the BBQ.

Winter drink of choice?

Any kind of tea.

Bourbon or Scotch?

I actually don’t drink any alcohol.

On a Saturday, your favorite errand to run is?

Going to one of my kid’s swim meets or soccer games.

Otherwise, you’ll be busy doing what?

Honestly, probably working :) At this stage of business growth at a vertically-integrated cannabis company, there's always something that needs my attention. We're building and scaling from all angles.

Best work advice you ever got?

I'm a big fan of Richard Bronson, and a couple of his quotes comes to mind:

"There is no greater thing you can do with your life and your work than follow your passions - in a way that serves the world and you"

"Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don't want to."

Best thing about your career?

I'm building something from the ground up, and we're using a never-done-before model to do it. Oh, and we're the first company to be granted a recreational cannabis license in Oakland since the law passed in 2018. That's pretty exciting.

What do you do now for work? Tell us something about your work and career path.

I'm the founder and CEO of ECO Cannabis, a vertically integrated cannabis company that launched in January 2019. I grew up in the Bay Area, not ever thinking that cannabis would be legal, and when it did I had a long chat with my wife about transitioning away from commercial real estate and into cannabis.

Do you have any philanthropic interests/endeavors?

Apart from cannabis education and normalization, I've made it a goal to address social inequity and discrimination spurred by the War on Drugs. It produced profoundly unequal outcomes across race groups, with the most egregious disparities among Black and Latino Americans, who were 4 times as likely to be arrested for a cannabis-related crime compared to White Americans.

Decriminalization and the regulation of cannabis mean there's this green rush. It's a great opportunity for me, but I recognize that not everyone can participate equally. I have made it a priority to dedicate resources to pay it forward, and do my part in equalizing the playing field. At ECO Cannabis, we've gone the distance to incubate 8 start-ups businesses, all of whom have founders of color, and are considered Equity applicants by the City of Oakland. By doing so, we've provided businesses guidance and mentorship through the licensing process and giving each business 1,000 square feet of exclusive access on our campus (basically, office and workspace), rent-free for 3 years.

We also hire 100% Oakland staff at our retail space, where 50% or more are formerly incarcerated, often for a cannabis-related crime. Embedded in our model, is a theory of change. As a team, we participate in a lot of community development projects like public clean-up initiatives, and we're planning to host a Holiday dinner giveaway on our site for everyone in the community, including the homeless.