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The Recipe: How an Entrepreneurial Power Couple Took Over the Cannabis Industry with Gumbo Brands

For those who aren’t familiar, gumbo is a staple dish of Louisiana culinary culture. It falls somewhere between a thick stew and a hearty soup and can be customized with seafood, poultry, and an assortment of different kinds of meat.

Even though everyone has their own way of making the dish, there are three key ingredients that make up every gumbo stock: veggies (celery, onions, green peppers) roux (made up of flour and fat) and either okra or filé powder.

Similar to the Southern delicacy, the success of Karim “Luka” Butler and Alexis Major‘s Gumbo Brands has three key ingredients of its own.

Ingredient 1: Hustle

Growing up in the Forrest Projects in South Bronx, Butler regularly saw artists like Kool G Rap, Erik B and Rakim and Biz Markie dripped from head to toe in gold chains and diamond rings. This fostered a deep love of luxury that would motivate him to start hustling as young as seven years old.

Luca‘s first gig was working with his grandparents’ who were vendors in Harlem. They sold handmade dashikis and beads and even founded the Harlem Vendors Association.

Butler‘s grandparents taught him the fundamentals of entrepreneurship which led him to sell sodas out of a trashcan that he turned into a makeshift ice cooler.

“My grandmother taught me to take a quarter and turn it into a dollar. Once she taught me that, it was over. I never respected a drug dealer or hustler or nothing because I knew how to turn 25 cents into one dollar bill,”Luka stated during the interview.

The young entrepreneur soon became the go-to man for everything including custom clothes, CDs, water, weed, socks, cell phones, and designer clothing items.

Meanwhile, in New London, CT, Butler’s future wife Alexis had a few hustles of her own.

“I always had to have the best of everything, so I started working at 12 years old,” Major explained. “[Her classmates] thought I came from a rich family. They didn’t know that I was cleaning restaurants in the morning before I came to school and then I flipped the money and started selling bud so that I could have [more] money.”

An avid smoker from age 12, Major credits marijuana for helping her to focus and get good grades in school which would eventually land her at the Fashion Institute of Technology.

After graduating, Major decided to start managing NFL prospects and soon recognized the potential marijuana had for athletes.

“It was easier [to cope with pain] because they were able to smoke cannabis. Even the ailments that they had weren’t plaguing them as much when they became active in the NFL,” Major said.

However, she soon realized how opportunistic the league was with their incessant fines for marijuana usage and the vicious cycle that ensued as a result.

Athletes would get fined, get injured, and then receive painkillers like morphine and percocet that they’d be addicted to well after leaving the league.

She was forced to advise players to just take the fines so that they could continue to play at peak performance without having to resort to addictive painkillers.

Major may not have known it yet but her experience with cannabis in the league would spark the idea for Gumbo.

Ingredient 2: Family

Major and Butler first met in 2017 at a jewelry store for the same exact reason.

“We both had on big diamond chains and we both had the same problem: our locks were stuck,” Alexis remarked. “When I met him and just listening to him talk, I was very intrigued by him so I started flirting with him. I kind of made the first move.” 

The two hit it off quickly and almost as quickly began planning the foundation of what would become Gumbo.

Butleralways loved to smoke the best and have the best” and with Alexis‘ experience in the NFL, they knew that they could build something truly special. 

The couple initially launched the company underneath the Runtz umbrella and quickly found success branding Gumbo as the go-to for athletes and artists alike.

However, even with their newfound acclaim, Alexis in particular found it challenging to balance raising a family and a company at the same time.

“At the beginning of [Gumbo], it was really hard for me because I felt like a bad mom, but I’d talk to other professionals and people with businesses about it and they would be like ‘but you’re doing it’! When we see you we see your kids with you and you guys take time [for them].”

The power couple channeled their love of family, making themselves the face of the brand. While they acknowledge that the public spotlight puts a target on their back, they want to use their platform to uplift the Black community and other marginalized groups.

Ingredient 3: Empowering the Less Fortunate

“One of the reasons I wanted to do Gumbo is because we’re a legitimate cannabis company in a space where people did heavy time and were sentenced to death. I always felt bad for people who had to live a life of crime to survive and just to money for their family because they didn’t come from means.”

Within just a few years, the duo has put together a slew of initiatives to help the recently incarnated cultivate cannabis licenses and open their own dispensaries.

They’ve also donated to impoverished communities, did a toy drive in Times Square with Kodak Black for the holidays, hosted financial literacy programs, and mentored young adults in impoverished communities.

In the same way that gumbos are different based on the chef, Major and Butler‘s Gumbo has plenty of different flavors.

Utilizing the company’s critical three ingredients, Gumbo has partnered with Hot97 for Fly Trap Radio to showcase new and established talent, a 4/20 festival coming to New York, a new strain with Moneybagg Yo, and much more on the way.

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