Band of Sisters: These Organizations Help Women in Weed Unite
If a woman wants to get somewhere in business, she's going to have to work twice as hard as a man to get there. Case in point: In 2016, men seeking funding for their business were able to raise approximately $58 billion, while women only received $1.46 billion or approximately 2.5% of what men made.
Because of this imbalance, women in multiple industries have had to band together in an effort to help one another succeed--and the cannabis industry is no different. Over the last several years a whole host of organizations dedicated to helping women in the industry have popped up around the country.
One of the most well-known of these organizations is Women Grow. Founded in 2014 in Denver, Colorado, Women Grow strives to empower and educate women in the industry by providing them with opportunities to connect with other women in the cannabis industry through their monthly Signature Networking Events.
“These networking and education platforms are necessary in our industry,” commented Gia Moron, Executive Vice President of Women Grow. “As women, we look to each other for support and best practices. Women Grow meetings provide the space for those exchanges to happen.”
During these monthly networking events, women at various stages of their career in the cannabis industry come together and share their stories, offering advice on how best to succeed in an industry that is primarily dominated by men.
While some organizations are relegated just one city or state, Women Grow has over 30 chapters in both the US and Canada. In addition to monthly networking events, Women Grow also hosts an annual two-day leadership summit; offering workshops and breakout sessions with topics ranging from using technology to growing your business to combating sexual harassment in the workplace.
“Our company's mission has always been to cultivate the next generation of cannabis leaders. Many of the successful women-led or women-owned businesses have attended or met through our meetings,” added Women Grow CEO Kristina Garcia. “We have seen women come in with an idea and two years later they are leaders in this industry. For us, that is proof our networking system is helping to build businesses in our community.”
Another industry organization aiming to empower women in cannabis is Ellementa. Like Women Grow, Ellementa hosts networking events and workshops in cities across North America, with plans on expanding internationally in the third quarter of 2018.
Ellementa's point of difference is that it brings together women interested in cannabis as a health and wellness product, focusing on CBD and lifestyle brands. Ellementa sees itself as the bridge between cannabis brands and the coveted female consumer.
“We believe an educated woman is a natural advocate and activist who may even be inspired to become a cannabis entrepreneur,” said Ellementa co-founder and CEO, Aliza Sherman. “Women are instrumental in the normalization of cannabis in their communities and can bring cannabis as a health and wellness alternative.”
Industry Power Women
One of the newest and fastest growing women's organizations in the cannabis industry is Industry Power Women (IPW).
Hosting annual awards programs, networking events, and workshops around the country; IPW's goal is to help propel women in the cannabis industry into greater economic, social and political spheres of power throughout the industry. One of the ways IPW does this is to help improve women's access to capital and investment opportunities as well as high profile media for necessary exposure.
Hoping to bridge the gap between women-owned cannabis businesses and investors, IPW recently teamed up with the Information Management Network to host a brunch networking event, featuring some of the highest-ranking women in cannabis and selected women seeking investment, during the Institutional Capital & Cannabis Conference (IC3).
IC3 is a bi-annual, bi-coastal event that brings together some of the biggest names in cannabis and Wall Street. Like many cannabis conferences across the county, the majority of IC3 attendees are men, underscoring the importance of events like the IPW Brunch.
Focusing on supporting women-owned businesses, the brunch featured presentations by some of the cannabis industry's most prominent women-led businesses.
“We wanted to give women an opportunity to speak about their companies in a receptive setting that could lead to real opportunity,” said IPW co-founder Cynthia Salarizadeh.
IPW co-founder Debra Borchardt agreed, adding, “We also wanted to make sure that this event would have great value for everyone. Newer companies can learn from seeing pitches by more established companies and the women pitching can get more practice. Plus, it doesn’t hurt to have several female investors in the room as well.”
One presentation that was particularly well-received was given by Cyo Nostrom, co-founder of Quim Rock. Quim Rock focuses on cannabis-based sexual health products for women and is currently hoping to raise money to scale up its production.
Erin Gore, founder of the Sonoma, California based company Garden Society gave another strong presentation. Garden Society is a high-end cannabis brand that specializes in low-dose edible cannabis products such as gummies and chocolates, as well as other cannabis products like pre-rolls.
Over the last year the company has grown by leaps and bounds; swelling from $100,000 in revenue in 2017 to a projected $1.2 million in 2018. Currently in the fundraising process, Gore hopes to use the funds she raises to expand her operations and ramp up production.
Praising the event, Gore said that gatherings like the IPW brunch are a great way for women in the cannabis space to gain confidence, investment, and exposure. IPW has facilitated media placements and features for women in mainstream publications such as Business Insider, Entrepreneur, CNN Money, Forbes, and MSN.
“I felt supported and inspired by the community in the room and also gained some viable leads on investment,” commented Gore. “It helped my confidence, as a newcomer to raising capital, to look out at an audience that looked like me.”
But those were not the only women who spoke at the event.
Other speakers included Emily Paxhia, Co-Founder, Director of Relations, Poseidon Asset Management who spoke on her experience with investing in female-led cannabis companies, and Gaynell Rogers, Founder of Gaynell Rogers Consulting and Treehouse Global Ventures, who spoke about her decision to start a female-specific fund and its criteria for investments.
“The IPW brunch event in LA at IC3 was a few steps up the ladder,” remarked Rogers. “The group is clearly out to change how business is done with women in the industry. There was a good amount of 'warp speed' energy in the room.”
This was IPW’s third event, which continues to use company support so that the attendees don’t have to pay. Sponsors like MassRoots, Paragon Coin, and CannaLoans were instrumental in underwriting the event. Salarizadeh also announced that the IPW group is planning a pitch event just for women that would come with a generous cash award as well as a valuable toolkit of startup services.
“We want this to be a networking organization that really provides a platform for female entrepreneurs and cannabis companies to access the actual resources necessary to succeed in business,” said Salarizadeh. “It’s been such a welcoming community for female-led businesses and we want to keep it that way.”