Introducing 2019 CannaTank Winner Ayanna Lawson, Front Row Travels

2019 CannaTank finalists and judges. Photo courtesy of Ayanna Lawson.

2019 CannaTank finalists and judges. Photo courtesy of Ayanna Lawson.

One of the highlights of National Cannabis Festival is the annual CannaTank entrepreneur contest that invites aspiring cannabis entrepreneurs to pitch their business ideas in front of a panel of expert judges.

On April 20, 2019, Ayanna Lawson of Front Row Travels presented what would be the winning pitch in the final round of the CannaTank. Front Row Travels is a 5-star rated, full-service cannabis travel agency located in Baltimore, Maryland.

See below to learn what Ayanna has been up to since winning CannaTank and then keep reading for details on her experience applying for CannaTank and her final pitch!

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NCF: Hi Ayanna! What has Front Row Travels been up to since 4/20?

AL: Front Row Travels has been busy over the last few months just getting out and connecting with the community through various trips and events. Locally I've hosted sushi and joint-rolling classes, attended industry networking events/expos bot locally and nationwide.

NCF: Have you traveled anywhere or planned any trips for clients this year that NCF fans should know about?

AL: So far this year…

  • In May I traveled to Denver for a few days and enjoyed a few cannabis-themed tours and met with vendors I plan to partner with in the future.

  • In July Front Row Travels visited the 25th Annual Essence Festival, where I took guests on a CBD Tour of New Orleans, So in addition to the expos, concerts, and parties Essence Festival has become known for we visited CBD shops, where guests learned more about CBD and how to infuse it in their daily lives., enjoyed CBD infused food and drink,.

  • Also in July I joined guest as we spent 5 days in Montego Bay Jamaica, Along with an all-inclusive resort stay(where we partied like rock stars) we visited local dispensaries, went on a guided weed farm tour and cliff dived at Rick's Cafe.

  • In August I hosted my first "LIT" Slumber Party, where a small group of ladies and I had some old school fun with a new school twist. The first half of the day was spent on cannabis education by attending dispensaries and museums. The evening was spent doing classic slumber party activities, games, movies and a brownie bake-off, where guests were split into teams and had to create weed-infused brownies from scratch. The ladies really enjoyed eating their creations.

Full plates on Front Row Travels’ trip to Jamaica

Full plates on Front Row Travels’ trip to Jamaica

NCF: Can you share your top 3 travel destinations for cannabis-lover?

AL:

  1. Jamaica: Jamaica is by far one of my favorite travel destinations. I know it seems like a no brainer, that Jamaica is on my list, but how can you not include Jamaica. It has what every cannabis lover needs. Good food, friendly people, awesome music and some of the best weed in the world. Yup you read that correctly, some of the best weed in the world, there is just something about the naturally grown weed from the mountains of Negril. If spending the day doing little to nothing but lounging by the pool and vibing to Reggae at night sounds like your perfection vacation then definitely add Jamaica to your list.

  2. Las Vegas: I've visited Las Vegas 3 times and each time I do something different. Vegas is so much more than partying and gambling. I've visited the gun range(not under the influence), went ATVing in the desert and visited the Grand Canyon. Vegas has some of the best restaurants in the country which makes for lots of fun when the munchies start to kick in. But over the last few years, it's become quite the weed lovers playground with dispensaries like Planet 13 and tours like Kegs and Kush. When I visit in 2 weeks I plan to zip line down Fremont Street, visit the Cannahibition Museum, stop by the country's largest dispensary and more.

  3. Hawaii: I visited Maui before medical marijuana became legal legal(lol) but that didn't stop me from enjoying some while on vacation. Now Maui is easily one of those places where you can fall in love without ever taking a puff or biting an edible. But visiting your first black sand beach or looking over the cliffs as you ride on the road to Hana when you're infused is a whole other experience.

NCF: You're a finals judge for our 2020 CannaTank Contest. What will you be looking for in applications and can you share any tips from your application/preparation process?

AL: As a judge, I will be looking for originality. Businesses that are big on breaking the stigma, equality and/or cannabis advocacy.

During the application/preparation process, I would say just be yourself. Don't write your essay based on what you think judges like to hear. Be clear on who you are, your mission and why/who you are for.

NCF: What should we be looking out for from Front Row Travels between now and NCF 2020?

AL:

  • In September I am heading to Seth Rogen's Hilarity for Charity 420 friendly Carnival in Los Angeles(9/14/19). I plan to bring followers along on my shenanigans.

  • Also September 23 to 27 I will be in Las Vegas on my Sin city cannabis tour, again just bringing followers and friends along on my shenanigans, we plan to visit the Cannahibtion Musem, a few dispensaries, "Dine in the Dark" and may take a day trip to Portland.

  • Saturday, September 28, Front Row Travels will be at the Maryland Travel Expo at the Maryland State Fairgrounds from 11am to 4pm. We will be the only cannabis travel company in attendance and will have lots of info to give away. Tickets can be purchased at www.mdtravelexpo.com

  • April 19th to 24th we are headed to Amsterdam to celebrate 4/20!! 6 days/5 nights of tours, food, and cannabis. Full details can be found at www.frontrowtravels.com

  • July 2020- July 26th-Aug 2nd, 2020 spend 7 days on this one of a kind cruise with stops to Jamaica, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel. Guest will enjoy cruise amenities, exclusive parties and cannabis activities. Full details can be found at www.frontrowtravels.com

Keep reading below to learn more about Ayanna, Front Row Travels and her journey to the CannaTank Finals. Think you have what it takes to win CannaTank? Stay tuned for our 2020 contest announcements!

Front Row Travels in Hawaii

Front Row Travels in Hawaii

Hey Yall Hey!!!

Ayanna here and before I spill the tea on what it was like to win the Canna Tank contest this past 4/20, allow me to re introduce myself...My name is Ayanna (did you read it like Hov said it? lol it doesnt have quite the same ring but I tried) and I own Front Row Travels, a cannabis travel agency located in Baltimore MD.

I cultivate private and group travel experiences for cannabis and CBD users to marijuana friendly locations so that they may learn about and consume cannabis freely, safely and without judgment. I started Front Row Travels with black women in mind, we suffer from anxiety, depression and stress at alarming rates yet are least likely to seek help. Although cannabis use has been proven to help reduce stress, anxiety and depression it is still a stigma around its use especially in my community. AND THAT NEEDS TO CHANGE. I intend to break this stigma through travel and education.

Front Row Travels in Jamaica

Front Row Travels in Jamaica

Oh yes...the contest.

For those who aren't familiar, the Canna Tank competition is an annual event held at the National Cannabis Festival where aspiring cannabis business owners pitch their canna-biz in front of industry leaders and investors. Judges select ONE winner to win:

$1000.00 in start-up assistance

One-on-One business consultation with Denver Relief Consulting

One-on-One brand consultation with National Cannabis Festival's PR agency, High Street PR

VIP Pass for the NCF on 4/20

And more!

AND. I.WON. but before I get to winning I have to tell you a little more about my journey to the contest.

If you know me then you know I hate speaking in front of crowds. I ABSOLUTELY HATE IT.

But one of my goals in 2019 is to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. And what better way to do that than enter a contest that will potentially have me speak in front of a crowd of strangers. To hold me accountable I shared the contest with a group of colleagues and shared with them my hesitation and doubts.

What if I sound silly? What if I forget everything I practiced? Will I even be interesting?

My colleagues quickly helped me quell any doubts and at least submit an application, after all my over zealous imagination already had me being a bumbling fool on stage in front of strangers and I hadn't even applied. They quickly became some of my biggest cheerleaders, offering to help me however they can(shout out to Cheron, Shanterria, Joni,and so many more for being in my corner).

So I did it, I did the bare minimum and submitted my application in February with time to spare. Then the waiting began, finalist were not due to be notified until April 10th.

Can you believe it just 10 whole days to research and practice?

That sounds like plenty of time but when you have no idea what questions the judges will ask it feels like 10 minutes. I mean I knew what I was going to say regarding my pitch but I didn't know what the judges would say or ask?

And to me the only thing worst than talking in front of a crowd is having no idea what to say while you're in front of a crowd.

So I waited to hear if I made it to the finals or not. The first few weeks were a breeze because I knew I wouldn't find out until April 10th. But the closer April 10th came the more nervous I got and began to rethink everything.

Did I follow the submission rules? I checked three times before submitting but that didn't matter.

Was my essay concise? Too wordy?

Was my business even unique enough?

In the end...it didn't matter. Because I finally received the news I had been waiting for!!

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Me!!! They picked me to be a finalist. NOW IT WAS GO TIME.

Getting ready for this competition was like getting ready for my wedding.

Weeks and hours spent preparing and making sure everything was perfect for an event that was going to fly by in what feels like a blink of the eye.

But I prepped and practiced and practiced until even I was sick of hearing my own voice.

Then the big day arrived... 4/20! My husband, one of my best friends and I piled into the car and headed to D.C. from Baltimore. On the way down I practiced some more.

We arrived at the festival with about 45 minutes to spare

The competition started at 2:00 p.m., the judges took their seats and the emcee took the mic.

There were five of us who made it to the finals.(We had no clue who and how many had actually made it to the finals with us).

I was set to pitch smack dab in the middle of the pack.Whew! Thankfully I wasn't the first. But that didn't stop me from being more nervous than a pregnant nun.

My name was called.

I stood up.

Gave the emcee a smile and "thank you".

Took a deep breath.

And let it flow.

I stuttered a bit and forgot some of the points I wanted to make BUT I made eye contact, spoke clearly and remembered to have stage presence. And see that was my biggest goal...to get more comfortable with speaking in front of an audience.

I killed it! So much so that I was announced...

WINNER OF THE 4TH ANNUAL NATIONAL CANNABIS FESTIVAL'S CANNA TANK CONTEST!!! <Insert happy dance>

….to read Ayanna’s full story, we HIGHLY recommend you visit the Front Row Travels website by clicking here :)

Caroline Phillips