“I'm in a place of such congruence in my life, where I get to just be my authentic self and apply all my passions.”

My favorite quote is: “Freeing yourself was one thing, claiming ownership of that freed self was another.” - Toni Morrison My favorite food is: My parent’s brisket

Tess Melody Taylor

Normalizing cannabis with an inclusive, inter-generational product

CREATING A MODERN BRAND STEEPED IN LEGACY. Tess Melody Taylor knows more than most about breaking down stigmas when it comes to embarking on a startup. As a Black, Queer woman born in Texas and launching a product in the cannabis market, resilience and a strong sense of self-worth are characteristics she had to develop quickly. Fortunately, being a high-achieving student (she went to law school at age 20) and a competitive athlete have equipped her with a mentality to take on such challenges with ease.

Her latest business, Dose of Saucy, is sauces and dressings infused with cannabis designed to elevate any meal (also available non-infused). There’s also a health-conscious aspect to the products; all are and will continue to be sugar free, gluten free, and vegan.

The venture is an evolution of her previous company, CBD skincare line Taylor + tess. The idea was inspired by her parents – both military veterans - with whom Tess introduced THC medicine to alleviate their health issues after experiencing negative side effects from numerous prescribed medications, like opioids. “I first introduced them to topicals for targeted pain, and they couldn't believe how much relief it brought them. They graduated to edibles, and like most non-smokers, they prefer them to combustible products.”

As Tess’ parents grew more convinced of the effects of cannabis, she began her mission to find the intersection where she could normalize and destigmatize the plant on a grand scale. Taylor + tess took off quickly, and she moved to Los Angeles, joined the first cohort of the Our Academy accelerator program for BIPOC cannabis operators, and focused her efforts on THC.

Working with food scientists, she spotted a gap in the market in both sugar-free and savory edible products and developed a BBQ sauce and herbal lemon vinaigrette. Like her previous company, Dose of Saucy is a family-inspired brand that pays homage to her grandfather Jesse James “Granddad” Robinson, “a top chef in the Navy, avid barbecuer, and dedicated member of the Virginia and National NAACP chapters.”

ADVOCATING FOR HERSELF. Although Dose of Saucy is rooted in Tess' heritage, creating the company has also been instrumental in pushing her life forward in a positive way where she now feels comfortable in her own skin. “I really think that I have found my community in this industry. I always felt misunderstood in Texas; it is so conservative with a lot of groupthink. It’s great to finally be able to be my full authentic self in a very public way.”

“I like that people also trust that I'm still a professional and still very intelligent as a cannabis user - there’s also been a period of breaking down that stigma as well. Now, I feel like I'm in a place of such congruence in my life, where I get to just be my authentic self and apply all my passions.”

While navigating the expansion of her infused product line in emerging cannabis markets has been a challenge for Tess, she remains focused on a national rollout with her non-infused product line to fuel (or fund) her brand’s expansion with national brand awareness. “In those emerging markets, my focus is working with local grocers with strong ties to their community, who understand their customers. Having my non-infused sauces on their shelves, maybe even months before the infused product is available there, will build brand familiarity and loyalty for the cannabis products sold at licensed dispensaries.”

In established markets like California, Tess hopes to establish brand loyalty by expanding their single-use pouches and launch pouches and full-sized bottles with a larger dose of cannabis. “The mission is to have healthy, infused condiments. The mission is to be inclusive and to be intergenerational, to normalize cannabis, and to see the Black cowgirl on our packaging on grocery store shelves across the country. We need to stake a claim in the market now because eventually larger corporate brands are going to make it very hard to compete. Time is of the essence.”

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Presented with Pride Here is the first collection of one hundred incredible and inspiring LGBTQIA+ venture-backed entrepreneurs featured in this year's Gaingels 100.