The creators behind Unoia, a Black- and LGBTQ-owned cannabidiol (CBD) lifestyle brand, had a different mission from the very beginning.
For Brandé Elise and Danielle Gray, it wasn’t enough to just start another CBD company — they wanted to create a brand with soul. And it wasn’t enough to focus on specific issues within their own communities — they were thinking much bigger, to the kinds of things that affect people in all communities, regardless of skin color or sexual orientation.
Today, Brandé and Danielle are on a mission to help people reach a space of what they call “beautiful thinking,” and it’s fitting that, during Pride, they’re celebrating three years of doing just that.
While both Brandé and Danielle were drawn to CBD for different reasons — Brandé to help her ailing dog, and Danielle to help manage anxiety during a difficult time in her life — it would become an instant connection point.
“We met each other and went, ooh, let’s create something! It happened fast,” says Danielle.
She’s not exaggerating. The pair began their relationship in February 2018, and 3 months later, they were officially in business.
From the start, they were doing things differently. Their brand name plays on the Greek word “eunoia,” which translates to beautiful thinking. It was an idea that immediately resonated.
“It’s saying, you are your best self. And people would claim that, they could find themselves in the brand,” explains Danielle. “We feel like this is a place that anybody could be a part of.”
That “everyone is welcome” mentality comes from the heart, with both Brandé and Danielle finding themselves in the position of wanting to educate people — all people — about the wonders of CBD.
“We were like, people need to know about this! They don’t understand,” says Brandé.
And at a time when people were still hesitant to even discuss CBD — when it was still interchangeable with marijuana for many — “we recognized that we had to be open about it,” says Danielle. “It was a big deal for me — I still had my corporate side going on — to come out of the closet. That’s how we say it. We had to come out of the closet with cannabis.”
In the beginning, it felt rebellious, particularly in their home state of Georgia, but Brandé and Danielle did what many successful people do. They saw a need in the market, and they filled it.
“Mental health was where we wanted to be, especially as it relates to our community — all the communities that we belong to,” explains Danielle. With higher rates of suicidal ideation among LGBTQ youth than straight youth, and particularly among LGBTQ youth of color, Danielle continues, “We feel responsible for making it our mission to talk about mental wellness.”
That’s where support like community walks, guided meditations, social media reminders to unclench your shoulders and take the first deep breath of the day come in. It’s why the brand focuses on experiences instead of simply hawking products.
“We want to show people how to be beautiful thinkers,” says Brandé, “and these kinds of things provide ongoing support so people can tap in if they don’t understand or they’re scared to try it by themselves.”
Education is another critical resource at Unoia. In addition to offering printed materials that cover things like the endocannabinoid system and the ins and outs of CBD, the brand leans heavily on social media to connect and check-in with their community of beautiful thinkers.
“We’ve hosted IG Live series on our page that teach people how to integrate CBD into their lives,” shares Danielle. “One of our most popular series was called CBD&SEX in February, showing people how we can overcome anxiety during intimate experiences.”
So, what does it mean to be a beautiful thinker?
For Unoia, it means that by therapeutically and effectively managing anxiety, pain, and insomnia with premium CBD, people are free to enter a space of beautiful thinking where they can be the very best version of themselves.
The idea of being your true, best self aligns beautifully with Pride, but even as an out-and-proud gay couple, Brandé and Danielle are looking at issues that affect everyone. After all, anxiety, insomnia, and chronic pain don’t discriminate, and people of all genders, sexual orientations, and ethnicities are turning to CBD to ease symptoms. That’s something Brandé and Danielle understand implicitly, and why Unoia is really as inclusive as it gets, with the pair of beautiful thinkers at the company’s helm gracefully leading by example.
“We’re Black. We’re female. We’re gay. We represent everywhere we go,” Danielle says. “We are proud to be ourselves, and that alone, being authentically really ourselves — and we did a lot of work to get there — I think that’s a big piece of what we do. Our activism and being out and being unapologetic has helped us get noticed.”
It has, but so has their open invitation to the world at large. “We want to represent and give an opportunity not just to our community, but to beautiful thinkers, whatever they look like, to jump in this and be part of the growth of this huge industry,” says Danielle.
At Unoia, that means ongoing education and being upfront about expectations. “Brandé says this all the time — CBD isn’t the cure. CBD isn’t going to solve everything,” notes Danielle. Rather, it should be seen and used as another part of the wellness tool kit.
Of course, creating premium CBD products is a given. The brand leases a facility in Lafayette, Colorado, to manufacture their signature CBD honey and agave (pro tip — Brandé recommends subbing the agave for simple syrup in cocktails and mocktails), and they also offer a well-curated line of edibles, topicals, oils, and pet products. Detailed certifications of analysis are available for every product, with the exception of the 1,000 mg roll-on product.
As the proud owners of three dogs ranging in size from big to small, their pet treats and pet tinctures are a personal favorite. Still, Brandé swears by the gummies, and her personal go-to is a one-two punch with the roll-on followed by the muscle salve. “Brandé’s good with that combo after a night in heels,” laughs Danielle.
It’s an uncomfortable truth that while white people predominantly profit from the exploding cannabis industry, a disproportionate number of Black people remain incarcerated for marijuana-related charges. It’s a fact of which Brandé and Danielle are well aware, and it makes their success all the more notable.
Black, female, gay — this isn’t the profile of the average CBD company owner, and it makes for a unique voice that stands out in the industry.
Jessica Timmons has been working as a freelance writer since 2007, covering everything from pregnancy and parenting to cannabis, chiropractic, stand-up paddling, fitness, martial arts, home decor, and much more. Her work has appeared in mindbodygreen, Pregnancy & Newborn, Modern Parents Messy Kids, and Coffee + Crumbs. See what she’s up to now at jessicatimmons.com.