During the pandemic and halt on licensing, Yesenia Diaz-Lopez and Sergio Lopez, who live in Chicago’s Archer Heights neighborhood, have been developing small-batch CBD, CBG and THC infused seltzers with flavors such as blueberry, jamaica (hibiscus), pineapple, strawberry, mango and lime.
Founders of Juanamama Delights, Yesenia and Sergio were going to apply for an infusion license during the first round of Illinois’ process but instead decided to wait until the second round. Then the pandemic hit.
“(We) wanted to take as much time as possible to make sure our application was super solid given it’s a pretty big gamble for us being so small and a family owned entity,” said Sergio. “As a result, we are waiting for the second round in 2021.”
Their goal is to be wholesale to dispensaries in Illinois, then maybe expand to other markets down the line.
“If awarded an infusion license our products will not only be craft by nature,” Sergio said, “but they will open the door for opportunities to work with craft growers and other licenses on ‘farm-featured’ beverages and products.”
The early-thirties married couple is aware of high business costs, especially for marketing, so they started another business to offer low-to-no-cost marketing strategy solutions for other social equity applicants applying for Illinois licensing.
“Our goal is to ensure we remain a Latinx family-owned business that provides opportunities for minorities and impacted communities,” Sergio said. “That’s why we started Norton & Leavitt, the Juanamama Delights marketing arm, to leverage our day jobs in branding/marketing to help current applicants that won’t have an extremely large marketing budget as a result of this Covid-19 situation.”
Yesenia and Sergio met through work in Los Angeles, working for a mid-size advertising agency. Yesenia is a Chicago-native, born and raised in Pilsen. Sergio is a Los Angeles native.
“We take pride in being first generation immigrant children, running a business in the recreational marijuana market,” Sergio said. “One of the key pillars of our business plan has been to scale an internal agency that helps social equity applicants, such as ourselves.”
Yesenia and Sergio’s backgrounds are in the advertising/marketing industry, and they have more than ten years of experience working for in-house and external marketing agencies focused on integrated campaigns, brand strategy and creative development.
“My professional experience with marijuana was first introduced when I served as a Senior Art Director for Advanced Nutrients, an international cannabis company, Sergio said. “My experience working for Advanced Nutrients opened the door to learn about the industry and collaborate with my wife to acquire freelance work with small-scale growers. Ultimately, it’s important for us to ensure there is equal representation in an industry that does not tailor to the needs of grassroot businesses.”
Yesenia and Sergio expect Norton& Leavitt to gain traction when they open to other adult-use markets working with social equity applicants in other states but want to give initial priority to those in Illinois.
Norton& Leavitt’s Creative Care Packages application for social equity applicants can be filled out here.