One way NYSCC aims to bring the cannabis community together is to shine a light on some of its leaders and tell their stories. These early leaders are critical to the growth of the cannabis business, paving the way for other New Yorkers to launch careers and businesses in the budding industry. Dr. Brandy Young, PhD, founder of Certainty Labs in Rochester, NY, offers an impressive background and unique perspective for the cannabis industry. We caught up with Dr. Young to get her insight into not only her company's role in the state's growing cannabis industry but also how she transitioned from experienced scientist to business owner.
Born in Virginia, as a child Young was known as the tinkerer in the family–always curious, always inquisitive. If something was broken, the family looked to her to fix it. This, coupled with the inspiration of a particular high school teacher, steered her in the direction of science. This teacher brought Young and other students to visit a university lab class where a female student told Young, "If you know how to cook, you can learn chemistry." Young thought, “I like to cook with my grandma. If these women can do this, so can I.” In her words, it was really that simple.
Young went on to Hampton University, worked in pharmaceuticals for a year, and then pursued her doctorate at Purdue University, going on to enjoy an impressive career. From working in infectious diseases in South Africa with her husband to becoming a faculty member at Hampton, Young couldn’t shake the nagging entrepreneurial spirit. Always business-minded and forward-thinking, her unique solutions to issues she encountered in the world steered her towards opening her own business.
Well experienced with years of mentorship and leadership, Young came to Rochester, New York, in 2018 and made the decision to just go for it. In 2019, Certainty Labs was born. A team with years of experience in laboratory operations, laboratory management, education, and research & development, Certainty Labs is now a trusted testing partner in the cannabis industry. They provide hemp growers, processors, and product manufactures with accurate and quality-assured data to strategically position their products within the marketplace.
NYSCC: How do you think your path or experience has been impacted by being a Black woman in a male-dominated field? How do you think it inspires others?
YOUNG: You know, I’ve always kept my head down and worked really hard, but I forget that people are watching. I’m comfortable with the responsibility, because seeing women like me in the field inspired me too. I was fortunate enough to get a seat at the table [at Hampton] and gain exposure to some of the highest academia in science.
NYSCC: What are you currently focused on at Certainty Labs?
YOUNG: We’re building capacity and involving new clients as the industry opens up. Our focus is really to be a solid partner for these businesses. We try to operate as a support system, extremely competent but [staying] in the background to let our partners shine. We’re currently working with a THC water and starting to see more variety of products coming our way.
NYSCC: What do you enjoy most about what you do?
YOUNG: I really enjoy building the business and putting all the pieces together, seeing it all come together. I enjoy the exchanges from clients and seeing the infectious energy in this industry.
NYSCC: What do you see for the future of cannabis, maybe for Rochester, New York, in particular?
YOUNG: Rochester has all the right pieces–the manufacturing, the infrastructure, the land, the people. We need the right leadership and government to make this happen. There’s a strong desire to make Western NY succeed.
NYSCC: What advice do you have for anyone looking to get into the cannabis industry?
YOUNG: I would say inform yourself first. Learn before you leap. Hone in your own expertise and bring your unique experience to the table. We’re all charting new territory and figuring it out as we go. I’m always surprised when speaking to colleagues in Colorado and California; they’re still navigating in the dark a bit even though it’s been legalized there much longer.
NYSCC: Outside of your growing business, what do you enjoy doing?
YOUNG: My husband and I have two children–my daughter is fifteen, my son is eleven. My career takes a lot of time, so I’m really focused on family outside of that. My daughter is a musician and I’ve really enjoyed traveling with her and seeing her grow. My son is in that exploratory phase, so he’s been having a lot of new experiences and it’s been fun seeing him through that.
In such a new and fast-evolving industry, it can be hard to know where to look for leadership. Dr. Brandy Young, PhD, is certainly one of the people we’ll be watching. The future of cannabis in New York State has arrived, and Certainty Labs stands out as one of its leaders.