Celebrating 420 with Black Woman in Cannabis: Kema Ogden

Photo Credit: Marijuana Moment

We are celebrating Kema Ogden, the 1st Black woman to own a dispensary in the state of Nevada! Top Notch The Health Center is Kema’s first cannabis venture where she shines brightly as a ground breaker, advocating for the holistic wellness of her community. There is much to glean from this phenomenal woman! Dive in with us and get to know more about Kema and her work!

Kema Ogden: Champion of Wellness

Kema’s journey with community wellness started long before cannabis, when she opened a gym in 2008, that provided fitness and health classes, and nonprofit programs for the area it served. Accessibility to resources and a space to benefit from said resources are the most important aspects of wellness, especially amongst people of color. Kema’s programs, like The Ogden Family Foundation (501 (c)(3)), have reached many families and allowed her a front row seat to make tangible changes around her and beyond. 

“I believe in a healthy body, healthy mind, and healthy spirit. When I saw how fitness positively impacted the people, I wanted to continue with that,” Kema shares.

The segue into cannabis is a choice that further uplifted the mission. Kema radiates when speaking on her work in the cannabis industry:

“It feels exciting to [work in cannabis]! It’s a passion of mine to see people change their lives because of the medicine they have access to.” 

Rolling skills of excellent business management, customer service, education, and compassion from one business to another seems second nature to Kema. Top Notch The Health Center dispensary has become a pillar of the community, after challenges from members who didn’t understand the healing benefits of cannabis and hemp.

Kema Ogden: Top Notch-The Health Center 

Photo credit Top Notch The Health Center

Top Notch is a cannabis dispensary in Las Vegas, standing bright and clean against brown sand and a blue sky. It exudes everything that Kema has poured into it, bringing healing to the people it serves. Top Notch is true to its promise to provide best in class products, particularly flower. Kema expressed the relationship with her consumers as one of trust and consistency. 

Consumers require a level of care that caters to their needs, not just wants. Working the store and being a part of the everyday experience has afforded Kema the opportunity to make relationships with consumers and be a guided help in cannabis therapy. Most consumers prefer flower, so the expanded availability of products at Top Notch is exactly as it boasts. 

While different brands are not at the top of the discussion, Kema ensures that the options are available in the category of healing most requested by consumers. The dispensary has not always been met with open arms. Kema recalls overcoming barriers from neighboring store owners while erecting the center:

“Some of the other shop owners had stigmas about who smokes and consumes cannabis…narrow stereotypes about how they live, that had to be overcome. It’s really been about education and time. Once these people saw the traffic that we drove into the community and the support of the patients, security measures, things started to get better. We have been able to better integrate ourselves into the community,”

Top Notch is in the business of cultivation and also expanding products and space for a lounge where consumers can enjoy a safe and welcoming space. The social aspect of cannabis is just as important as the healing aspect. It all flows together. Top Notch is poised to take over it all.

Kema Ogden: The Journey to Cannabis Dispensary Ownership

Black women have always applied pressure wherever we show up and Kema’s presence in the cannabis industry is no exception. We asked Kema a little about her business experience with partnership and the strengths she believes have propelled her thus far:

“With my first business I didn’t partner with anybody. I started and ran the nonprofit programs by myself as well. But I brought my skills to this partnership and realized that it’s ok to team up with people and give up control in certain areas. My two partners have been in the cannabis space, but have never owned brick and mortar businesses before. I haven’t been in the cannabis industry before this, but I did own my own business with clients and [community presence]. Staying in your lane in this industry is very important. I feel very blessed and fortunate to have the partners that I do.”

When discussing her biggest strengths as an owner/operator of Top Notch: 

“My biggest strengths are my business development skills, marketing and day to day operations. I used the residual format from the gym to keep the wellness model flowing. The experience has definitely been helpful to my partners….

I’ve often worked the register at the dispensary, which has created a unique engagement with my customers. We are tapped into what they really need. It’s truly caring about people and getting in the trenches to learn more about the back end of [serving in] the cannabis industry that helps…”

Kema Ogden: Top Notch Cannabis Dispensary Expansion

Photo Credit: Cannabis Business Times

Kema expressed an interest in expanding the Top Notch brand to other states. New Jersey is on the radar, especially with the Ogden family having roots on the east coast. Kema is sure that her expertise and ground floor experience would be great for connections and future business in the New Jersey cannabis market. As a native and representative of New Jersey, I couldn’t agree more! Kema says:

“We [Top Notch] have applied in other states for cultivation. We are experts at management as well as partnership. We know how to run a cannabis business from the ground up, and come with expertise in all areas. So we are interested in partnerships with people who really want to do this, successful organizations who want to go to the next level.”

We broached the subject of finances and equity, as Kema has done work on the Nevada boards in those regards. As far as funding for Top Notch endeavors is concerned, there is no issue: 

“We are a zero debt company. We worked very hard to ensure we wouldn’t owe anybody. No loans were taken out going into this…”

Kema is well-versed in cannabis and social equity: processes, licenses, finances, etc,; and although Top Notch is not a social equity receiver, their expertise is still available: 

“Social equity is a local matter for businesses interested in getting into the cannabis industry, so we aren’t approaching that matter when we work outside of our state, but we can provide education and our unique skills to partner with others.”

Kema Ogden: Communities and Families Healing with Cannabis 

Established in 2008, the foundation is a further extension of Kema and her family’s belief in a healthy body, healthy mind and healthy spirit. The community benefits from the health program that services families and children. 

“The Ogden Family Foundation is committed to improving the physical and mental wellness of at-risk youth, underserved families, and the community through education, prevention, treatment, and empowerment.” 

Kema provides the same model of care from her community work for any other project she takes on. Just like the integration of health and wellness has spread to cannabis, as a woman working in cannabis, it is expected to see some effects of the industry in personal life. Kema discusses how cannabis has touched the lives of her own family, from her elders:

“My grandmother, who is super religious, now uses different components of cannabis…My father used to be against it and now he consumes edibles at night to help him sleep, and he uses CBD oil for pain and arthritis.”

Kema goes on to say:

“Education [is important in this industry and] definitely starts at home! I have two children, a daughter who’s 10 and a 17 year old son. They know I’m in business so their education started early. I’ve told them [cannabis] is not a drug like you may have heard about. It’s medicine. My son is an athlete so he’s very health conscious and we talk openly about cannabis. We’ve spoken about when to consume,  what age is appropriate…he talks freely with me and my husband about friends that consume…Honestly, we should compare cannabis to alcohol when discussing with our children. Cannabis billboards need to be addressed because it’s right there for our children to see, just as alcohol is. They should hear more from us as parents.”

Kema is living her passion, utilizing her love of health and education to improve the lives of her family and community. This type of energy in cannabis is vital. Treating cannabis as a healing agent instead of a drug, and focusing on helping others understand what it can do is the key to success.

Kema Ogden: Being an Advocate and Supporter

Kema’s take on how to make waves as a wellness advocate in the cannabis industry:

“Be more vocal and support local organizations! [Being an advocate] is about fighting for those that need it the most.” 

Kema serves as board member for Doctors for Cannabis Regulation; she also serves the Nevada Cannabis Compliance Board’s Cannabis Advisory Commission, and the subcommittee for Social Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. She occupies several other prestigious board seats,  but the most beautiful of all is her nonprofit work as the founder of the Ogden Family Foundation, working alongside her husband Jonathan Ogden. 

Regarding the influence of Kema Ogden’s work and success, it is an honor to cover such excellence. Interest in working with Kema or reading more about her extensive service and accomplishments can be directed to Kema’s website.

Interview: Dom Hart and Terry Byas

Written by: Dom Hart

Edited by: Veronica Castillo (slightly for clarity and SEO)

Sponsored by:

Herb of Life Cultivation, LLC

Peacock/ Wunderkind CBD

Ranchera Familia

I Slang Sea Moss   

The Bitchy Hippie


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