Essential Advice from Leading Women in Cannabis

In honor of Women’s History Month, we asked some founding women in cannabis: “What advice do you have for women looking to make an impact in the cannabis space?” Here are their responses.

Full story after the jump.

Current events may have thrown spring 2020 into chaos, but, in recognition of Women’s History Month, we reached out to some of the cannabis industry’s top women founders with a question. Especially in these uncertain times, we can look to and be continually inspired by the bravery and poise shown by leading women in the industry.

The question we posed to them was, “What advice do you have for women looking to make an impact in the cannabis space?”

You can read through their compiled responses below.

“Be true to yourself and don’t be afraid to make waves or start trends. The beautiful thing about the cannabis space is that it has a spirit and is alive – make what you do meaningful and follow your heart. Choose healthful ingredients and remain in the spirit of the plant – inclusive, generous, and unconditionally compassionate. Cultivate your connection with cannabis on an individual level and see what she inspires you to create! Consume and listen. That will make you a better medicine maker for everyone.”

Maya Elisabeth, Founder of Om Edibles

“As a woman in the cannabis industry, you have the power to remind others of their female customers. We are an economic force in this society and we must use it for the benefit of others. Women will eventually exceed men in purchasing cannabis products when there are more products designed for them. The industry is still dominated by white males. You will often be the only non-white male in the room. Make your presence known by contributing a nugget of information at each meeting.  Get to know more than one facet of the industry to make yourself flexible and useful.”

Dr. Genester Wilson-King, Founder and Medical Director of Victory Rejuvenation Center

“For every woman entering the cannabis industry, make it a point to mentor the one behind you. Influence is based on giving people other options for a healthier lifestyle, not you in a bikini smoking a joint. Be Kind and remember to unwind.”

Ophelia Chong, Founder of Stock Pot Images, MOGU.CARE, Asian Americans for Cannabis Education

“My advice is to bring your already established niche or skill set from industry at large and figure out how to transfer those skills into the cannabis industry. My favorite quote is “women who seek to be equal to men lack ambition.” It’s something  I’ve taken to heart, both as a woman and a woman of color. It served me well as an executive in the entertainment industry, and again as I started Apothecarry. Yes, The odds are always against you as an entrepreneur, yes it’s difficult as a female fundraiser — but you have to trust in your ability and capabilities. Some of it becomes a mind game — you  have to shake off anything you hear that tries to consciously or subconsciously limit what you can achieve. That’s also the joy of working in such a new and booming market — You get to blaze a new trail.”

Whitney Beatty, CEO of The Apothecarry Brands, Inc.

“Your ideals should be firmly planted in the terra firma of the origins of this industry while incorporating the science of modern health and wellness with business based in circular economics.  Do not fall into the trap of dog eat dog, buyer beware, profits are everything, “business as usual” outmoded business practices. Modern consumers are and will become more educated on how they spend their money.  They realize their dollars are votes in a new paradigm of social responsibility and community building that includes the planet and everything and everyone on it. In fact, they will spend more to support sustainable businesses who are consciously investing in social equity, quality over quantity, accountability and giving back.   Cannabis businesses that layer modern business practice on top of a foundation in genetic science between people and cannabis will lead the way and remain relevant and prosperous.”

AC Braddock, CEO of Eden Labs LLC

“The greatest advice I have for women in the cannabis industry is the priceless value of being seen. This plant has allowed me to be seen and to pass it on and see others. When you experience the act of seeing others, you cannot lose. Since cannabis is an emerging industry people are so worried about compliance, funding, and marketing their product. All of those things are important, but so are the people who use the product. Other than the 18-35 white male stoner, most people’s cannabis experience has been invisible, not unlike their own personal narrative. When you see all types of people with differing beliefs and life paths seeing themselves in your brand- you have done something more powerful than marketing.”

Olivia Alexander, CEO & Founder of Kush Queen

“Making an impact is a combination of making hundreds of small decisions. My advice is to reflect on what values you want to share with the world. Is it being environmentally friendly? social justice? creating a community? Being focused on your narrative is key to success. Let what you value be the driving force in how you make decisions. We’re all human and only have 24 hours in a day, being intentional with your actions every day creates meaningful impact.”

Mimi Lam, CEO & Founder of Superette

“The cannabis industry is still being created from scratch as we speak, meaning there remains an opportunity to shape exactly how it grows. Cannabis is the vehicle women have been waiting for to smash the glass ceiling, challenge the patriarchal model, and build businesses designed for conscientious capitalism. Don’t just look for work in the cannabis industry. Set your sights higher. Form your own business or collaborate and build companies with other women. Women have a knack for balancing the needs of all stakeholders, including our families, communities, society at large, and the environment. We can change the world with our ideas and successful execution. We are limited only by our own creativity. Embrace the moment, dream big, and rise to the occasion.”

— “The Knox Docs”
Dr. Janice Knox, Co-Founder of the American Cannabinoid Clinics
Dr. Jessica Knox, CEO of the American Cannabinoid Clinics
Dr. Rachel Knox, Co-Founder of the American Cannabinoid Clinics

“Know what business you’re in and be in that business. For example, if you are a teacher, use those skills to teach about cannabis. If you’re an accountant, cannabis businesses need you. If you’re a farmer, grow cannabis. Whatever job held in the non-cannabis sector has a match within cannabis. Getting into cannabis does not mean starting over. It is expensive and hard work, but worth it. Last thing, however much money you think it will take, it takes more. Much more.  Know this upfront because desperate dollars are far more expensive to raise than savvy forecasted amounts.”

— Mara Gordon, Founder of Aunt Zelda’s

“Women and mothers especially are key in cannabis legalization and normalization and stand to have a huge impact on the cannabis space. Collaborating and networking with a wide spectrum of cannabis businesses and drug policy or social justice organizations is critical for success. If those parties aren’t willing to do so, just keep your blinders on, stay focused on your goals and the action items you need to complete to accomplish them.

Leah Maurer, Co-Owner & Editorial Lead of The Weed Blog

“The cannabis industry is still very new! There is an incredible opportunity here for women to get involved now when precedent has not been set – we’re paving the road as we walk on it! The biggest impact can be made by actually following through and turning dreams into reality. This industry is full of powerful females, we’re here to support each other and facilitate the positive development of this industry.”

Lo Friesen, Founder & CEO of Heylo Cannabis

“Be bold and innovative – this industry is still in its early stages to make your mark. To make an impact in the cannabis industry one must honour their reasons for joining,.. we all have our reasons; whether that may be helping patients or raising awareness on the vast medical relief we can offer to making this space more inclusive by offering opportunities to people of colour and diverse backgrounds. Find your true passions in cannabis – the green greed won’t be enough.”

Antuanette Gomez, Founder & CEO of Pleasure Peaks

“Be true to your values and vision. The cannabis industry is incredibly volatile right now, and so many people are jumping in that you need to be careful who you work with and who you trust. Partnerships are absolutely key to success in this industry, and there are a lot of good people out there who would make great strategic partners. Don’t chase the money. Be rooted in a mission, honor your instincts, and keep returning to what you know to be right: integrity, honesty, transparency, generosity, kindness. Find the partners who share your mission, vision and values. Good will prevail and make what you build in this industry more lasting and meaningful.”

Aliza Sherman, Co-Founder of Ellementa

“In my opinion, the greatest impacts come from a deep understanding of the market’s needs. The key is to get exposed as much as possible to the people and products in the cannabis space, be attentive to the existing challenges and understand what needs to be improved. When I speak with our partners, I try to get a deep understanding of what they’re looking for and what the market currently has to offer. Studying this gap allows me to come up with ideas for solutions which Eybna brings into products.”

Lior Chatow MS., R&D Coordinator for Eybna Technologies Ltd.

“Find your tribe! There will be a lot of times where you will find yourself in questionable situations. Having supportive friends and colleagues are invaluable to keeping your sanity and fueling your passion. There will be trials and tribulations, but those situations will help you grow. As the old Mexican proverb goes, “They tried to bury me, but didn’t know that I’m a seed.” All seeds need conducive environments, and as a human seed, your friends and family are your sun and your water. Don’t skimp on the essentials. ;)”

Kristen Yoder, Cannabis Industry BS Detector

“Diversify as much as possible. We must examine our privileges and biases, and work to empower marginalized groups of people across the board. Remember what brought you to this work, and hold that vision. Don’t be derailed by folks that may stand in your way. You fight for the cannabis plant and mother nature, not for the human ego. Be open to having your mind changed and shifts in how you view the world. Stand up and make your voice heard. Go outside your comfort zone and also seek solace with others who share your mission. Find your own unique perspective and gifts you can bring the community. Stay true to yourself and learn all you can. When met with criticism, recalibrate, go forward, and keep moving.”

Sarah Russo, Content Editor & Project Manager of the Society for Cannabis Clinicians

“It’s important to understand what it takes to develop needle-moving business initiatives that foster growth and success. My advice to women looking to break into the space would be to lead through inspiration and a positive attitude, which I’ve seen first hand help with establishing a strong organizational bond that fosters confidence among the entire team. I also think it’s important to not be afraid to take risks and challenge the status quo – you never know where an outlandish idea might get you!”

Ellese Symons, VP of Marketing for Balanced Health Botanicals (BHB)

“Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you and get involved with your local and national grassroots communities. Extremely passionate individuals fought for cannabis regulation by challenging the status quo, and in order to truly make an impact, we must follow in their footsteps. Find what you love and are passionate about within this brand-new regulated industry, whether that’s packaging sustainability, criminal justice reform, branding, marketing and that will ensure you never have to “work” a day in your life.”

Chelsea Johnson, Co-Founder of HUXTON

Photo credit: Kitchensink Studios

“The most crucial thing in the cannabis industry is to find, or create, your community. By having a network of people that you trust, whose values you share, you have the potential to create far greater impact than you would by flying solo. Cannabis is a natural connector, and if you prioritize creating genuine relationships with like-minded people, good things are sure to follow.”

Anja Charbonneau, Founder of Broccoli Mag

We would like to extend a huge thank you to everyone who contributed to this piece. We appreciate the advice you have shared and look forward to seeing more women in leadership roles in our industry!

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