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Meet Swan Simpson of Canna Bistro

Today we’d like to introduce you to Swan Simpson.

Hi Swan, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
I’ve been a self-taught Vegan/Vegetarian Chef for more than 30 years. I am also a trained Herbalist. After my mother passed suddenly in 2005 and then my brother in 2007, I wanted to find a way to help people solve their chronic health issues by changing what they put on their plates. So, I created some recipes and my knowledge of CBD and launched my company Canna Bistro. I’ve owned several successful businesses in the past. But Canna Bistro was all about my passion for food and leading the world to wellness. So it was so much bigger than anything I’d ever dreamed of before. After watching my family prematurely wiped from the face of the earth, I knew I had to be the evangelist for better health in our community.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The CBD and Cannabis Industries are white male-dominated. The start-up capital needed is enormous. And the legal pitfalls are often insurmountable for the average person to even get started. Fortunately for me as someone coming from a Corporate Sales and Marketing background, I took everything I knew and mixed it with my passion for innovative plant-based cuisine and my business was able to launch and grow organically. Because of the ignorance around the plant and the confusion about the laws, the struggle has been real. I’ve had a difficult time with every aspect of my business that a traditional business never has to consider. I had to choose my locations carefully. Where I banked was important. How my customers paid me was important. What are the county and city ordinances in the areas where we operate. Because this industry is so new, things are ever-changing.

And if something changes while you are in the process of opening your doors, that is money lost forever. I had that to happen to me while opening our location in Tucker. We secured a long-term lease on a busy highway. Paid for custom signage and build-out of the space. Hired a contractor who ripped me off and did subpar work. Hired employees and staff. Meanwhile, the Tucker City Council has a meeting and changes their ordinances on how they will treat CBD-related businesses and thus would not issue me a business license. It was a complete disaster and we never opened our doors. That is just one of the multitude of things, including having been shut down from expanding our offices that we were renting in a highrise in Buckhead. Very few people understand CBD as a business here in Georgia so the property management companies may not rent to you or won’t renew your lease.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about Canna Bistro?
We are a CBD Infused Food-Based Company. We manufacture packaged foods, run a restaurant, private catering, and offer business coaching and educational training to other aspiring entrepreneurs who want to enter the legal cannabis industry the proper way. I have coached over 2000 entrepreneurs in both cannabis start-up and other industries. What sets me apart is my process which delivers a high rate of success. I started the 1st Black-owned CBD oil company in Georgia. As for the food side, we are the 1st CBD Infused restaurant to open in the Southeast. And we offer a clean, non-gmo, all-natural, organic, vegan menu with a couple of pescatarian offerings at our cafe. In 2019, Canna Bistro won the 1st i2 Accelerator, which catapulted us as one of the fastest-growing minority-owned cannabis companies in the country. And we caught the attention of Merida Capital, a top Cannabis Venture Capital Firm who purchased a minority stake in the company.

One of the things I am most proud of is our work in social equity when it comes to working to balance the scales of inequality. We employ people from marginalized communities, including African Americans, Women, LGBTX. We hire formerly incarcerated individuals and provide economic opportunities. And we pay livable wages while giving back. We oftentimes set up locations in food deserts to help alleviate food insecurites in certain marginalized areas of the city like Atlanta’s West End. We have our roots in the West End.

Alright so before we go can you talk to us a bit about how people can work with you, collaborate with you or support you?
I am always open to new partnerships and possibilities. I offer coaching programs and business accelerators that run year-round. People can connect with me on social media and they can join us for Sunday Brunch from 11 am-3:30 pm at our location in the Nuts N Berries Healthy Market at 2118 N. Decatur Rd, Decatur, GA 30033. We have the best vegan food in Atlanta, where the locals eat. And an amazing menu of infused and non-infused brunch offerings. When you support us, you support an entire ecosystem that works to revitalize and economically empower our community.

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All images are courtesy of Love Her Productions

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