FlowerHire: Cannabis Staffing for a Diverse & Inclusive Industry

As new state-legal cannabis markets come online, companies need to find staff at every level. That is where recruiting firms like FlowerHire can help. David Belsky established FlowerHire in 2017 and since then has built the company to deliver hundreds of leadership hires for clients across North America for companies like Eaze, Terrascend, AYR , and Ascend Wellness.

Ganjapreneur spoke with Director of Business Development Karen Meshkov, or KMesh, about how FlowerHire is doing its part to build a better cannabis industry. “We are the connective tissue of the industry. We work in between founders, funders, and executives, and advocates,” said KMesh.

The company follows four core values: Community, Authenticity, Gratitude, and Execution. They want to be intentional and ethical about how they connect the industry, communicate directly and respectfully, and take action when it’s called for. With those goals in mind, they staff cannabis industry positions with people who will thrive in them. They are also working on diversity initiatives to teach cannabis companies how to build an antiracist workplace.

As of 2022, FlowerHire has placed over 600 people in the industry. The company receives more than 100 organic resumes per week, which serves as a useful pool of candidates when starting a search. Due to the number of emerging markets, the team still goes to tradeshows, networking events, and conducts Linkedin searches to find a wide array of candidates. Hiring specialists place people with jobs based on their industry, experience, and compensation – and they’re successful because they have a finger on the pulse of the space. KMesh will tell you the difference between a salary for a cultivator in Salinas versus Palm Springs, California, or a Director of Operations in Rochester versus Flint, Michigan. She built this skill by digging into what makes the cannabis industry work.

The specialists at FlowerHire take a three-pronged approach to staffing. The core executive search team places mid-level six-figure executives, while FlowerHire Senior Advisors (FHSA) specialize in C-Suite and Board members and FlowerHire X helps companies fill hourly roles. They split the workflow into these three categories because each employment tier requires a different set of skills. “We fill any role of strategic value to a cannabis company. If it’s a role where it’s make or break, whether it’s an extractor, grower, bookkeeper, human resources professional — as long as it’s critical and in a specific nature to cannabis, we’ll find the talent for it,” said KMesh.

FHSA is hands-on and led by Brian Fitzgerald, a skilled executive recruiter with experience in corporate recruiting for big businesses. This branch fills C-Suite and Board-level openings in a strategic, customized, time-intensive process. Placing someone at this level can take anywhere from 6-12 months. Finding candidates for these roles requires a keen understanding of how hypergrowth industries like cannabis differ from established industries. Not every person from retail or consumer packaged goods will thrive in a fast-paced, sometimes unconventional environment like cannabis.

When recruiting from outside of cannabis, FlowerHire looks to other disruptive industries to find someone who will thrive in this type of environment, rather than burn out. KMesh calls this ability the “Cannabis DNA.”

“It doesn’t matter where you came from,” she said. “What matters to us is: do you have this DNA? Do you know how to hustle and be scrappy, and do you respect the passion and the purpose behind this industry?”

While the former two prongs of the business are very hands-on and high-touch, placing hourly workers with FlowerHire X is a high-tech venture. Before this option, hiring managers would often receive hundreds of resumes through platforms like Craigslist, which is time-intensive for people who don’t have days or weeks to spend searching for the perfect candidate. After hearing this complaint from several clients, FlowerHire partnered with engin sciences inc to build a transparent platform. FlowerHire X can place hourly workers based on the experience on their resume, their personality, and other special skills.

Sloan Barbour, CEO of engin sciences inc, gave me a demo of the FlowerHire X platform. The tool uses artificial intelligence and intuitive programming to gamify the hourly job search process. People seeking work input their information and take quizzes to provide future employers with insight for how they might fit into the company. Employers take the same quizzes so that the platform can assess their company culture and present them with compatible candidates. The platform then provides an easy-to-read assessment of how the employer and the candidate will mesh so that the hiring manager can easily find workers who will flourish in their workplace.

Ben Kogelman, engin’s Head of Customer Success, said that companies who switch to the platform receive twice as many qualified candidates in the same amount of time as their previous methods. They have also cut their time-to-hire ratio in half. Building technological applications for this process may also lower the high turnover rate of many hourly cannabis positions like budtending and trimming. For workers who don’t have a resume, engin also offers a resume builder. The tool intentionally highlights educational training, special skills, and creative projects alongside work experience, because experience in cannabis is often more complicated than a list of former jobs. As prospective workers build out their resumes, they’ll get tips on how to include legacy cannabis work in their resumes in a beneficial way.

This resume builder is one way that FlowerHire works to make cannabis employment opportunities more accessible to everyone. They are also building towards diversity initiatives that will continue improving accessibility. KMesh has led the company’s diversity initiatives since she started in February 2020. FlowerHire is aware of the lack of diversity in cannabis and wants to be a bridge between today and a diverse future in the space. The company’s first step towards this future is its partnership with Cannabis Doing Good.

Cannabis is unique in its history. No other hypergrowth industry was born from a prohibition weaponized against communities of color — and there are still hundreds of thousands of people who are suffering from the repercussions of the drug war. Because of this, cannabis businesses must be educated in this history and the antiracist policies that can correct it. Cannabis Doing Good is training FlowerHire staff on antiracism and building antiracist organizations. This training is part of a larger diversity initiative that, according to KMesh, must eventually also include people who identify as women and LGBTQIA+ in order to build the broadest, most inclusive industry possible.

FlowerHire sees that many industry members want to find the solution, but many don’t know what to do. This creates a gap that the company hopes to fill as it continues its internal antiracist education; builds relationships with diversity, equity, and inclusion experts; and dreams up ways to work alongside other stakeholders who are invested in a diverse cannabis industry. “We’re not saying that we have the solution, we’re saying we want to be a part of the solution,” KMesh said. “We need a broad-based movement that brings recruiters into partnership with educational institutions and public workforce development programs. That’s how real change is going to happen.”

These initiatives will play a large role in the company’s future as they grow. FlowerHire offices are becoming divisional, operating both on the West and East Coast, which has allowed the company to match recruiters with each region’s individual cannabis culture. One day, they may even look internationally. For now, FlowerHire is celebrating its first year operating all three prongs – the core executive search team, FlowerHire Senior Advisors, and FlowerHire X – as well as its diversity initiatives. As for tips for getting hired, KMesh gave us her number one piece of advice: sign up on Linkedin and put the word “cannabis” on your profile. Start posting, comment, and get in the conversation.

This article was updated 1/19/2022.


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