Born into a large Mormon family in a small town in Missouri, Tanisha Robinson never felt as though she belonged. She described herself as a misfit in her church and in her hometown, which was comprised mostly of white people, and was highly religious.
Robinson later went on to join the U.S. Army as an Arabic linguist. Afterward, she went to Ohio State University, where she was met with the opportunity to participate in a fellowship that would send her to Damascus, Syria, to advocate for women and human rights.
It was then when Robinson had to face her quarter-life crisis, unsure of what to do with her life.
“Here in the United States … we have a lot of issues yet to be resolved,” Robinson said. “And a lot of injustices for Black people and for women to this day. And so, from the time when I was really young, I really wanted to have an impact, and I always believed I could change the world and make a difference.”
She decided to move back to the U.S. to try to make a change. She started working as a dishwasher while waiting for her next big opportunity.
Robinson received an opportunity to work with people who were running an affiliated marketing company. She then decided to teach herself marketing and code, which would pave the way for her first start-up company.
Once the company began making money, she quit her job as a dishwasher. She later sold that company and went on to start others such as Fooda and Print Syndicate.
Through her business ventures, Robinson learned where she could make an impact on the lives of others. While she ran Fooda, the company was able to donate over $15,000 to local food banks, which provided more than 75,000 meals to those in need.
“It doesn’t matter what business you are in,” Robinson said. “Any business can be a lever for positive impact.”
She makes it a priority to also provide benefits to her employees that improve their quality of life, such as paid time off and affordable health insurance. It’s her goal as an employer to not perpetuate the cycles of poverty.
“Another area where I learned a lot about impact is really on how you treat your own people,” Robinson said. “You know, there’s a lot of employers that pay their people minimum wage or not living wages, and then go get awards for philanthropy. And so that was where I really arrived at this idea and this conclusion that your community impact as a business leader starts with how you treat your people and their people.”
Robinson was also hired to be the first CEO of BrewDog; she appreciated the challenge of exiting her comfort zone (technology), and trying her hand at beverage consumption. While working for BrewDog, Robinson discovered what her next company would be.
“In that role, I arrived at the conclusion that cannabis beverages are going to be bigger than craft beer in a more compressed time frame, or beer, really,” Robinson said. “The founders [of BrewDog] totally agreed, but that’s not something you can do in an alcohol company, so I left BrewDog in the summer of 2019.”
She then went on to create W*nder, a low-calorie cannabidiol (CBD) beverage, using the investment capital she put into BrewDog. W*nder products hit shelves in February 2020.
Currently, there are four flavors, each with a different health benefit: Breakfast Club, Born to Run, Fast Times and Night Moves. Each can contains 20 milligrams of CBD and is about 25 calories. The beverages are good for mocktails, mixers, or on their own, and the flavors have been created by chefs to include ingredients optimal for both taste and functionality.
“For example, [the flavor] ‘Night Moves’ has 20 mg of CBD, plus chamomile and ashwagandha for relaxation and brain function,” Robinson said. “I think for us, we wanted to make our products really intuitive, so that you pick up a can [and] you sort of understand what to expect.”
A June Forbes Health article lists some of the health benefits of consuming CBD, such as combatting anxiety and depression, epilepsy and PTSD. In 2018, the Food and Drug Administration approved the use of CBD in an anti-seizure drug named Epidiolex.
According to Harvard Health Publishing, some potential side effects of CBD include nausea, fatigue and irritability.
Something that makes W*nder stand out from its competitors is being partnered with SōRSE emulsion technology. CBD can be extracted either from marijuana or hemp and is extracted as an oil.
“You just can’t put oil in a drink,” Robinson said. “So, it takes tech to turn it into something that can be suspended in water. Nano-emulsification [allows oil to] effectively … bond in water. [In] some CBD [drinks], the tech isn’t great, so the CBD gets stuck in a layer of the can or on the side of the can.”
Similar to her other companies, Robinson wanted to include an opportunity for social impact with W*nder. The company has what they call their 4/20 rule, which dictates that 4.20% of company’s profit is invested in entrepreneurs who have been harmed by the war on drugs.
“I think that it’s really important to acknowledge that Black participation in this industry is really, really important,” Robinson said. “If you think of any other industry, Black folks and women have generally been pretty excluded from the opportunities to build wealth or even just build a sustainable business. So, I think that cannabis represents probably the only chance in my lifetime for Black people to have a meaningful opportunity in an industry.”
One thing Robinson hopes to achieve with W*nder is clearing up misconceptions about the use of CBD, and to also improve people’s functionality to get them through the day.
“For CBD, a lot of people think CBD might get you high, which it doesn’t,” Robinson said. “It is not psychoactive like its cousin THC. CBD will not make you fail a drug test.”
However, depending on how the CBD is extracted and processed, it can contain trace amounts of THC. Each batch of W*nder’s CBD is lab-tested to ensure that their product doesn’t contain any THC.
The beverage’s packaging includes QR codes that take the consumer to the product website and allows them to see the lab results from the batch that their particular can came from.
In the future, Robinson wants to keep W*nder as a beverage company and doesn’t plan on expanding into food.
“I think, in the long game, when I think about how humans convene, beverages are really social,” Robinson said. “Since the beginning of humans, we have convened around food and beverage. Cannabis beverages are a pretty small category relative to the broader cannabis industry, but I think as federal legalization happens hopefully in the next few years, I think cannabis beverages will replace alcohol for a lot of people.”
Robinson is also working on creating a line of THC beverages. A prototype is currently being worked on in Colorado and should be on shelves by the end of the year. She’ll have to approach the distribution of the THC products on a state-by-state basis, as THC is not legal in all 50 states.
However, for the CBD beverages, they are currently being heavily distributed in New Jersey, the D.C. area, Chicago, Ohio and will soon, Michigan and Colorado. They can also be shipped out across the country via the company’s website.