Carlondo Mitchell & Mike Mitchell – 5th House Farms
There’s a quote attributed to actor Larenz Tate that says “Never beg for a seat when you can build your own table,” and that is exactly what Carlondo Mitchell did within the Washington cannabis industry.
5th House Farms is a black-owned, family-run Tier 3 Processor-Producer in The Evergreen State of Washington, quickly building a name for itself through its modern vape cartridge technology and pure, terp-filled, cannabinoid-rich oils.
The company’s story is one of recognizing the inequity within the cannabis community for Black people and taking it upon themselves to rise above it through their outstanding brands and products. They are now in 35% of the dispensaries within Washington state, rank within the top 10 in their product category, and have ambitions to take their product national.
“I Wasn’t Meant to be in That Room”
Carlondo is a life-long entrepreneur, running businesses as a child and youth selling beef jerky and candy, with the spirit of trying and building new things being part of his family’s DNA. In 2012, he became a medical cannabis patient in Washington, and began learning all he could about the emergent regulated industry in his state. In 2016, he began his career in the cannabis industry as an entry level sales rep and farm worker. He began cultivating under his own state license in 2018, learning to perfect his craft as a grower, with the goal of producing some of the highest quality crop in Washington.
While bringing his crop to retailers to purchase, Carlondo came to some tough realizations that ultimately led to his biggest opportunity.
At the time, 97% of what was being sold in Washington’s market was flower, meaning that 5th House Farms had a lot of competition from other cultivators who were at an advantage. “I realized that selling flower was hard for Black men; our counterparts already had tight knit circles that were hard to get into.” Dispensaries wouldn’t pay us the same as they would pay others,” he says. Feeling discouraged about the inherent discrimination in the industry, Carlondo quickly turned towards recognizing an opportunity in a different product category. “I wasn’t meant to be in that room,” he says.
Instead, Carlondo began to research THC concentrates with intentions to release a distillate cartridge. With the assistance of peers that turned into family, he conducted market research and sought out imperative relationships to develop his first cannabis brand.
Now, his vape cartridges are within the top ten selling brands within the vaporizer category, having sold 1.2 million vape carts since 2018. The vape carts boast a 99.96% retailer-verified pass rate, among the highest in the state.
Family Values at the Core
The shared family values within 5th House Farms are integral to what makes the company a success.
“When we came together to create this, it was based off of a need to have family at the forefront,” Carlondo explains. He strategically identified individuals from various areas of his life who shared in his vision. His first company was a team of two and he has grown to have over 20 employees and contractors. Carlondo’s passion guided his team’s efforts to expand his company to a level where he looked to his older siblings, Carmen and Mike, who are also successful entrepreneurs, to support and further build out the enterprise.
Mike admits that at first he was hesitant to join his brother in an industry that had been so highly stigmatized. He took time to reflect on how Black people and other people of color had been so disproportionately affected by the War on Drugs, and how too many people who looked like he did had been viewed as criminals. Mike chose to reject those long-standing stigmas and ideas, agreeing to join Carlondo, assuming leadership as 5th House Farms’ CEO.
“We speak the same language. We are on the same wavelength,” says Mike, about working alongside his brother and sister within a common goal. “Here is an opportunity to achieve some equity; we’re not just looking for equity in the cannabis space, we want equity in all things,” he added, “We believe that this cannabis space can be used to achieve equity and reduce the racial wealth gap.”
“Working with family is so cool because you have people that are there not just for the goal of the business being successful, but above that goal, you got people there for your personal well being,” says Carlondo. “Coworkers are our family as well,” adds Mike, “We can’t turn off the family vibe when talking to others; it’s the spark that keeps the rest of the company going.”
What 5th House Farms has achieved for cannabis consumers is a high-quality, low-price product. Carlondo explains that over four years of data on their products is proving that it brings retailers revenue, while earning the company the fair wholesale price that their hard work and intentions rightfully deserve. “We recognize that our product is strong, and others know that too,” adds Mike.
Seeking Prosperity to Help Others Find Success
Anyone close to the Mitchell family will immediately recognize the degree of compassion that they hold for each other and their communities, both individually and as a family unit.
The company has seen tremendous revenue and growth, working together to smartly invest revenues back into the company’s long-term financial health. But, the mission of 5th House Farms is much more than just about making money.
“We want to be financially successful because that gives us the means to do right, take care of our families, and help other people,” says Mike. He explains that each member of the family is involved in their own community endeavors and that they pull together within the company, as a vehicle that helps move their community-based initiatives along. As an example, Carlondo and Mike’s sister and the company’s VP of Marketing, Carmen, is heavily involved in food equity and helping distribute food within underserved communities.
“It’s about living our purpose. Being intentional about what we do,” says Mike.
Carlondo explains that the name of the company “5th House” represents “five generations of legacy post slavery since 1865”. Their motto, “Every generation is a house” reminds them that their unity aids in serving their greater purpose and keeping “the house” in order. Thus, a significant part of what 5th House Farms is working to do is provide opportunities for other Black-owned cannabis businesses to join on their path of success.
The company will be extending the opportunity for fellow licensees to grow their brands within the 5th House Farms acreage. Since Carlondo entered the industry in 2016, a lot has been learned about the predatory practices that can occur from many different players in the cannabis space. Carlondo and Mike want to prevent these predatory practices from happening to others who have had similar experiences as racialized people in America.
Having weathered the storm of inequity and risen above adversity, 5th House Farms is meant to be a safe space to help BIPOC businesses build generational wealth together.
Creating Generational Wealth Through Cannabis as a Collective
The story of how Carlondo’s passion for cannabis and entrepreneurial spirit led to a family coming together to build generational wealth and help others become successful is one of perseverance and overcoming adversity.
What Carlondo did with the help of his brother Mike and other family members was accept that “people that looked like us” did not have the same starting point in the cannabis industry as those who never had to experience growing up Black. “We are being perceived as less or weak because of our hue,” Mike says.
“Diamonds are made through pressure,” Mike adds, “I would rather things be easier. The pathway is not the same for everyone. For some it’s wide and short, and for others, it’s rocky and long.” In spite of this, these brothers believe that the company’s ability to persevere through adversity and predatory industry practices will be of benefit to any fellow BIPOC Washington licensees who choose to align with them.
When asked how everyone within cannabis could work towards dismantling some of the inequities within the industry, Mike offered some poignant advice: “Remove your own bias and be a good person.” These cannabis leaders challenge all within the cannabis industry to recognize the personal and systemic biases that create inequity, see people that look different from them as they see others in the space, and to choose to do businesses with those who have been historically negatively impacted.
“We want to change the conversation into cannabis for equity. Utilize cannabis to create equity,” Mike says.
Carlondo is already blazing the trail in Washington, and he has big plans for using 5th House Farms as a vehicle for change in the cannabis industry. He’s following the inspiration of Black business icon, Tyler Perry, who once famously said, “while others were waiting for a seat at the table, I was building my own.”
“We’re striving to be the model for economic equity in the cannabis industry, ” Carlondo adds, “We’re building a table with seats reserved for others as we brand beyond Washington to go national.”
Learn more about 5th House Farms, their team, their brands and products, and where they can be found in Washington at https://5thhousefarms.com. Follow them on Instagram at @5thhousefarms.