Today we’d like to introduce you to Tess Melody Taylor.
Tess Melody, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I have wanted to be an entrepreneur since I was ten years old. My mother, father, and sister all have their MBA’s, so I grew up playing “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” board games. I started my first company at age 12 making personalized cheerleading and volleyball warm-ups for my middle school teams.
Somehow, I convinced my coaches to allow me to take the orders and convinced my parents to purchase an industrial t-shirt press (and place an order for the artwork transfers with their card), so I could press, organize, and distribute the goods. I have loved business and retail since then, and I have been learning from entrepreneurs since my first job at a local boutique on OU’s campus where I eventually became the manager before heading to law school. Fast forward to now: my sister and I have been running a successful private tutoring business in Highland Park for over three years, and my family birthed a new baby last September: TAYLOR + tess.
TAYLOR + tess is a family-run, Black woman-owned, CBD skincare line that is formulated with effective, plant-based ingredients that our ancestors have been using for hundreds and thousands of years. We are committed to destigmatizing cannabis/hemp and social equity efforts that help our black and brown sisters and brothers who are incarcerated for their use of a plant that people are capitalizing on and denying them access to. [High]-quality products for the conscious consumer. For women, men, neither and both®
Hemp has helped my family heal in so many ways, so we want to do our part in educating others, positively affecting social + economic change, and destigmatizing hemp and cannabis. Intersecting the hemp and beauty industries will allow us to reach more people and introduce them to a perhaps unfamiliar benefit of the plant.
My father is a Vietnam Marine Corps veteran who worked for the military and government for 48 years. In the last decade, he has had over ten major surgeries. This long medical journey began in Germany, where I attended high school. For ten years, he has been prescribed painkillers/ opioids. His chronic pain always comes back, and his interpersonal relationships have deteriorated as a result of the psychological side effects of opioids combined with PTSD. Since trying a more holistic and plant-based approach to his healing with cannabis and hemp, he has been opioid free for nearly a year. My mother is an Army veteran and is nine years younger than my dad. Two years ago, she started to feel the daily, chronic pains of aging but did not want to go down the same road as my dad. I convinced her to try a toptical, then a gummy, then a vape pen. She’s now a self-proclaimed advocate.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Starting a business is hard; starting a CBD business where the regulations are constantly changing, and you’re barred access to necessary tools, is even harder. While you’re trying to build a brand, produce quality products in ethical and sustainable ways, grow and maintain a customer base. Those in the hemp and cannabis industries face unique hardships and barriers to access because of what they’re selling— everything from website hosting, payment processing, banking, social media advertising, etc. You have to pep yourself up every day and celebrate all of your wins, no matter how small, and just keep going and learning.
Being in the state of Texas is difficult in that weed is still taboo here; it is generally a conservative state; and cannabis legislation is only beginning to slowly, but surely, catch up to other states in the union. Texas recently passed bills for industrial hemp cultivation, broader access to medical cannabis, and reduced penalties for cannabis possession. I have hope that our laws will continue to evolve so more individuals can benefit from this plant by being active participants in healing their bodies and minds with natural, plant-based ingredients. I learned self-care from cannabis and hemp and took myself off of all prescription medications; I love sharing my family’s stories with the most conservative of audiences and watching their eyebrows raise in piqued interest when I start breaking down the scientific research and the troubled (albeit controversial) history of cannabis and hemp.
Starting a business forces you to take stock on your own mental and physical health because you’re frequently pushing yourself to the point of exhaustion to get everything done, battling negative self-talk and rejection, and are less available for friends and family. You have to keep reminding yourself that the sacrifice is worth it.
We’d love to hear more about your business.
Nothing irks me more than to have my interest piqued by a brand only to find that they lack representation and visibility of marginalized groups. I was a Journalism-Advertising major at OU, and I learned how impactful advertising and marketing communication is on our social climate and emotional well-being. I trademarked “for women, men, neither and both” because inclusivity is a priority for us. I want to use this platform to invoke social and economic change for the historically marginalized and disenfranchised, which we know are women, people of color, and individuals who identify as LGBTQIA+. Nixon caused irrevocable harm on black and brown communities with the War on Drugs, and decades later there are white men making tens of millions of dollars from cannabis sales when there were 1.6 million arrests for drug possession last year. I want to educate my Texas and southern friends about legalization as a social justice issue, cannabis culture, and to properly use cannabis versus the incorrect “marijuana” term that is rooted in racism against our Latinx friends.
Representation and inclusivity bridges gaps in society, and activism leads to change. My team is comprised of women, men, non-binary individuals, minorities and LGBTQIA+ because the table always has more to offer when the person to the left and the right looks and thinks differently than you. We are stronger together and more alike than we think. My hope is to open up some minds to cannabis/hemp and to help others recognize just how interdependent we are.
What were you like growing up?
I was busy and ambitious as hell! I loved school, competed at the national and international levels in three sports, was a sponsored athlete by the age of 10, and I started my first business at the age of 12. As a kid, I wanted to switch from in-line speed skating to ice speed skating to compete in the Olympics, but by my teens, I knew I wanted to run my own business someday.
I am an overachiever who was, thankfully, born with a lot of intrinsic motivation. I graduated high school at the age of 17, undergrad at the age of 20, completed my 1L year of law school, and obtained two master’s degrees in Education-Sports Management and Performance Psychology. My last degree has helped me optimize how I spend my time and taught me a lot about my own psychology and coping mechanisms.
I have always loved to read and write (I’m an English tutor!), so I’ve enjoyed researching cannabis + hemp and finding creative outlets through branding. I thoroughly enjoy problem-solving, which is what likely keeps me at least somewhat calm when challenges and obstacles arise with the business.
- In the Buff – cleansing bar – $20
- The Quickie – facial toning spray – $28
- The Nightcap – moisturizer – $42
- Website: Taylorandtess.com
- Phone: 2146325808
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: Taylorandtess
- Facebook: Taylorandtess
Image of two lovers in pink + group image of individuals lying down: photographed Jennifer Skog with MJ Lifestyle Magazine, produced + styled by Jessica Cure + Heather Roma; Two images of Jay Jackson/Laganja Estranja: Emily Eizen + Nica Tan (MUA); All other images: Marshall Cox – Secretary Studio (Dallas based)