G22: Tanisha Robinson

Creating a World of Wonder: How a CBD Beverage Wages War for Equality | with Tanisha Robinson

Tanisha Robinson has truly led a wonderful life. She worked as the Chief Disruption Officer of BrewDog globally and was the first CEO of BrewDog USA, where she built the USA division from scratch. She served in the US Army as an Arabic linguist and worked in women’s rights in Syria for two years. She’s also a featured international speaker on entrepreneurship, conscious capitalism, innovation, disruption, and leadership, and currently serves on the board of the Columbus College of Art & Design. And like most wonderful things, the story of leading up to it is powerful.

Tanisha lived in England until she was five, when her dad decided to move to the US and become a police officer in Texas. This led to a massive culture shock and the realization of how different the color of her skin made her — and the inherent hatred that came along with that. Her family is also Mormon, which comes with its own very strong traditional roles: that a woman’s place is in the home, and her highest calling is to become a wife and mother. These were the messages that she grew up with as a kid, and she strongly resisted those.

At 17, Tanisha was sent off to college and told to find a husband. She looked and felt different than everyone else there, and didn’t really subscribe to the beliefs that her parents had. Feeling deeply unhappy, she decided to join the army so she could take control of her own education. She signed up to become a linguist and went to Monterey, California, to study Arabic.

The army was a very achievement-oriented environment, which helped to reset some of the biases she had based on her race, religion, and gender. She was tested against some of the best in the world and proved that she could work among them — and that showed her that she was more capable and more resilient than she ever thought. After leaving the army, Tanisha went to Columbus to finish up her degree, and then traveled to Syria to work in women’s rights.

Tanisha has felt confident in herself and her resilience to know that, whatever she does in the future, she will be fine. With no clear plan and no clear path, she has managed to survive and remains ready to seize opportunities as they come up.

After returning from Syria, Tanisha was trying to figure out what she wanted to do. While doing freelance writing for some people who were building a startup, she noticed their business model was just affiliate marketing, and she ended up building her own blog and dipping her toe into it as well. What started as 50 cents a day grew into 50 dollars a day and more. She wanted to do something more consumer-facing, though, so she started exploring other companies.

She saw a company called Groupon, but she didn’t really understand the business model. Most people only have one dentist or go to one yoga studio, but they do go to multiple restaurants. She started a company called Fudha, which sells restaurant coupons and donates a portion of the proceeds to the Ohio foodbank.

From there, Tanisha jumped from startup to startup. She liked the thrill of building a company from the ground up. She liked the creative control. Once the wheels were built, she would start to get antsy, and she knew it was time to move on. Some people want some stability and consistent expectations in their work — Tanisha wants the opposite.

For her latest venture, Tanisha had a hunch that cannabis beverages were going to be bigger than craft beer — either CBD or THC. With W*nder, she saw an opportunity to provide great flavor and great function in a way that people can enjoy. It is still really early, and she believes she can carve out her version of what cannabis beverages should look like.

Another challenge with the cannabis industry today, one that you may not immediately think of, is that it’s almost entirely wealthy white men that stand to make billions off of the industry. With cannabis, the original entrepreneurs are all in prison and their communities have been devastated by the war on drugs. If there was one industry to wage a war for equity, it is cannabis.

The path from beginning to end seems so certain and confident, but rarely did Tanisha know what her end goal was — she just knew what she wanted to do next. She had to become very comfortable with uncertainty, or rather, certain that whatever happened next would work out in the end. This mindset led her on a path that’s allowed her to really invest in what matters most to her: making an impact.

What Brett asks:

  • [02:49] Talk to me about your early childhood and the dynamic you grew up in.
  • [08:40] How did your upbringing continue to shape you as you move forward?
  • [12:38] Talk about your decision to go into the army.
  • [13:42] Why did you decide to become a linguist and study Arabic?
  • [15:58] What was it like being in the army when 9/11 happened?
  • [19:16] What was your experience in Syria like?
  • [27:39] Can you tell me about how you started your business career?
  • [33:02] How did you settle on the idea that you would become an entrepreneur?
  • [47:10] Do you feel pressure to fit into your expected identity?
  • [53:11] How are doing in your new business, W*nder?
  • [01:00:20] How has the coronavirus forced you to reevaluate how you are moving forward?
  • [01:05:17] How do your parents view you today?

Lessons for intentional living:

  • Nothing in life is certain. We create life plans but the reality of life doesn’t always allow us to stick to them. If you become comfortable with uncertainty and learn to embrace it, you will be able to move forward in life without becoming paralyzed. The one thing to be certain about is that you can always make another move.