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On an overcast morning this past Monday, Tee Tee Brown and her son Bryce Savoy paid a visit to a recently painted mural adorning the side of a West Oakland home that is a tribute to women of the Black Panther Party. Brown and Savoy, who are from the East Bay, looked in awe upon the images of the three Black women pictured—each symbolizing a different tenet of the Party: voting rights, self-defense, and health care. It was their first time seeing the mural, which was unveiled in February.
“This still kind of represents what we know Oakland to be, even with the gentrification going on,” said Savoy, an independent rap artist who now lives in Los Angeles.
“I think about the legacy I come from as a Black single mother,” Brown added. “I’ve had great fathers for my children but the inner strength in me is what has kept us afloat as a family.”
Brown and Savoy see their cannabis and CBD delivery service, Euphorium Oakland, as a continuation of the movement for economic self determination for Black people championed by the Panthers and others. The pair founded their business in 2018 through the city’s Cannabis Equity Program, which was established to lower the barriers of entry to the cannabis industry for people with past marijuana-related arrests and residents living in neighborhoods disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs.
Brown, a graduate of Howard University, spent time over the years selling cannabis, before it was legal. “I hadn’t smoked in a long time since Bryce was a small child and I had to have a real good conversation with myself about the stigma of cannabis,” Brown said. “Once I decided it wasn’t a problem for me now that it’s legal, I was really able to hit the ground running.”
Brown said hearing that celebrities were investing in legal weed inspired her to get into the business. In 2016, she said watched an interview with L.A. rapper The Game, who said he was getting into recreational cannabis sales because it would soon be legal. “I had no idea we were close to legality,” said Brown. “But I knew I could do that.”
In the early days of their business, Savoy helped his mother by making deliveries to customers. Before long, he was overseeing distribution routes and keeping track of inventory. “I’m the face and personality of the business, and he handles operations,” Brown said.
A civic-minded cannabis delivery service
Brown and her son also do community work through The Black Neighborhood, a nonprofit co-founded by Savoy in 2016.
Savoy, who leads the organization’s Los Angeles chapter, teamed up this year with his mother to launch the The Black Neighborhood Scholarship Fund. The $2,000 scholarship was supported by donations from Oakland and L.A. community members and was awarded to three incoming college students this summer; each student received $2,000.
In addition to the scholarships, The Black Neighborhood organizes community activities such as group hikes, a book club, and a youth program (currently on pause due to COVID concerns). “With COVID happening, we had to find a way to be effective without physically being present so we figured the best way to do that was through a scholarship,” Savoy said.
Brown raised her son in East Oakland, and Savoy said the house he grew up in was a “place of refuge not just for me but many of my friends and family members; ours was the home that everybody came to.” Savoy and Brown also experienced that sense of community during Brown’s time at Howard, where Savoy was born. “I had Bryce my senior year of college,” Brown said, “and it changed my life for the better.”
Savoy later attended Howard University himself, and credits both Oakland and the Historically Black College/University in Washington D.C. for instilling his desire to give back. Euphorium and TBN are both in their early years, but the mother and son duo are adamant about using their platforms to help others now. “Friends and other people ask, ‘How did you guys start this, what’s the first step?’ And my answer is always, start where you’re at and God will lead and move you from there,” Savoy said.
Running the business as a family has been key to success
Brown and Savoy have the playful relationship you’d expect a mother and son to have. When asked what running a business together is like, Savoy responded, “It’s horrible.” Brown countered, saying, “He’s the mean one.”
In reality, Brown believes having her son handle operations has made a major difference in Euphorium’s growth. “I don’t trust many and I trust him implicitly,” she said, “so it makes me feel very safe having him here.”
Trust is a vital component to have when working in Oakland’s cannabis industry, said Brown, because delivering cannabis products comes at the risk of being robbed. “We’ve only been robbed three times but that’s three time too many,” Brown said. “You can’t get too comfortable because you don’t know who’s watching your [delivery] routines.”
Euphorium does not have a brick and mortar location and instead stores its merchandise at an undisclosed secure compound. “When you’re in the compound your roads will be safe but when you’re out of the compound, you have to keep your head on a swivel,” Brown said.
Robberies against cannabis businesses aren’t new. Last year, a number of Oakland’s equity cannabis dispensaries were broken into and cleared of their merchandise, and delivery services like Euphorium have been targeted as well.
The mother and son duo have so far relied on hiring friends and relatives to handle deliveries. “This is probably the best space that we’ve been in regarding the staff we have, but it’s taken a lot to get to this point,” Savoy said. “Hiring is probably the hardest part.”
Brown said she sometimes opts to make the deliveries herself, when she feels she is better suited to talk to a customer. Other times, she’ll call off a delivery altogether. “If I feel a [weird] vibe, I’m not going at all now,” she said. “One of the big things for me is that I don’t want anybody working for me to get hurt on my watch.”
Despite the safety challenges, Euphorium has managed to create a loyal customer base through their commitment to treating clients as if they were family. “You can look at our Google reviews and see that what we’re doing is really resonating with people,” Brown said. “My whole philosophy is to go above and beyond for the client.”
Note: Brown prefers to only go by her nickname “Tee Tee” for security reasons. Bryce prefers his middle name, Savoy, for security reasons as well.