TREC’s Trang Trinh Elevates Gender Equality and Philanthropy in Canada’s Cannabis Industry
From startups to restaurants to high-tech corporations, women are taking the business world by storm and leaving their mark. Trang Trinh, CEO and Founding Director of TREC, talks about taking a bold step into the cannabis industry, by building it with purpose.
Trang Trinh grew up as the oldest of six kids, with her parents telling her to work hard and be nice to people. Trinh is not only the first person in her family to go to university, but she also worked at Deloitte Canada in M&A Advisory and led Deloitte’s women employee resource group (canWIN). She focused on changing the way they recruited, developed and retained top talent women.
Today, Trinh is the CEO of premium cannabis brand house TREC. The Toronto-based company holds trust, respect, equality, and compassion as their core values, and donates ten percent back into the communities they operate in.
TREC also celebrates achieving a 50/50 split gender balance in their non-hierarchical workplace, responsibly avoiding wasteful packaging by using glass bottles, and releasing products under cannabis brands Wink and Blissed in June. Wink will have a package of two pre-rolled joints and “is a VIP at the red carpet experience,” Trinh says. The package can be easily picked up a retail store on the way out to dinner or the club.
Blissed is an educational hub for the “canna-curious” woman and will carry CBD oils that can be added to salad dressings, tuna tartare, or simply into a glass of water, Trinh suggests. The female-friendly brand is “all about uplifting the unapologetic modern day woman,” Trinh says.
Alongside TREC, she also advises young girls through Girls E-Mentorship (GEM). GEM provides opportunities and mentorship to high school girls, as they take their next step into post-secondary and career planning.
As for TREC’s philanthropic approach, choosing to donate ten percent “was an arbitrary number—five percent is little and if we go north of five percent let’s just pick something as bold as ten.”
“We thought our shareholders wouldn’t be okay with it but everyone was on board. It’s so important to start with that mindset when you’re starting versus trying to instill it later on. It was about picking a bold number and truly walking the talk,” Trinh says.
Here, a conversation with Trinh.
What sparked you to go into the cannabis industry?
I had preconceived notions cannabis made others judge that you’re lazy or had a lack of intelligence but I thought it was cool at the same time. I had many friends who were doctors and successful bankers using it.
I’m really here for two reasons. One, this is a leading industry in Canada and it’s an ability to make an impact on the rest of the world. The other reason is it’s already male-dominated. I thought it’s 2019. If I could take a risk and do it successfully, hopefully I pave the way for others to do the same—achieving gender equality earlier in this industry.
What does having a philanthropic approach to TREC mean to you?
It’s all about doing good first. I’ve always been a believer that do good first and whatever your next mission is, the money or the profits will come.
I think as human beings, we all have a responsibility to be able to give back. I’ve realized we can’t continue to operate in the corporate world because our world is not built to last another generation of the way we’re doing things. To me, being able to leave a legacy that my kids and my grand kids are proud of.
You recently wrote about TREC’s first equity raise and deadlines gave you a sense of urgency. What were the key things to keep your team composed during that anxious time?
There’s always a light at the end of the tunnel — that this isn’t going to last forever.
In every business, there’s always a sprint for a product to be launched or a product hitting the shelves. Going through an equity raise, it’s the next step to get where we want to.
It may be a bumpy road but if we can work collaboratively as a team and adhere to the timelines that have been set out with a proper plan, then the execution will be that much more smooth.
Out of the four values for TREC, which one sticks out to you the most?
I view them all equally but if I had to pick one, I would say trust. I think for any type of relationship — a business relationship or a personal relationship — if you don’t have trust you have nothing else. It’s harder to move on.
For us, it’s trust within our company, trust within our consumer base, trust with our partners and shareholders. That’s very important to move with any business.
When TREC reaches a global scale, the amount of donations will grow too which is great.
Imagine if Coca-Cola, Diageo and Procter & Gamble all donated ten percent back to the communities they operated in? How amazing would that be? Even if they wanted to though, I’m not sure that truly can because you have to start at the inception.
Not to say that they don’t have a social responsibility part of their corporate arm—of course they do. Right off the bat, that’s what we pledged to do and that’s how we’ll make our impact on the world.