She Was Pasadena's Rose Queen, Now She Champions A Different Kind Of Flower
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Cannabis was once considered a more level playing field for female entrepreneurs, but a recent study surveying women in cannabis shows that only 29 percent agreed there’s the “same opportunity for advancement” for men and women, which pales in comparison to non-cannabis industries.
This Wednesday is Women’s Equality Day, a holiday that commemorates women's suffrage, and the 1970 Strike for Equality. Now is a better time than ever to recognize female CEOs letting their voices be heard.
One of these women is Camille Roistacher, the CEO and Co-Founder of Voyage Distribution, a data-driven cannabis supply chain company, and of Wyllow, an inclusive cannabis flower brand launching on Women’s Equality Day. She first began dipping her toes in the leadership pool by becoming Pasadena’s Rose Queen in 2006 when the media dubbed her as a “natural leader” who was “destined for royalty.” After working her way up through several management roles in the tech field at Fortune 500 companies, Camille brought her expertise to the cannabis space in 2018 by launching Voyage Distribution and quickly began serving some of the top cannabis brands in California. Here she talks about how she rose to the top.
Related: 7 Women To Watch In Cannabis
What brought you into the cannabis industry?
I sought cannabis for medicinal purposes for chronic migraines, which led me to open a boutique dispensary in 2016 so I could help others with their medicinal needs. My husband Josh and I owned the dispensary together and we quickly learned there were some major opportunities ripe for disruption on the supply-chain side of the business. Two years later I launched Voyage Distribution, a fully-integrated licensed cannabis company that provides wholesale and retail products to brands, retailers, distributors, and manufacturers. In addition to distribution, we are a brand incubator. We are a supply chain solution for the California cannabis market.
What was your most successful professional accomplishment before cannabis?
Before I became an entrepreneur, I had the opportunity to travel the world to train people on how to use technology. This experience allowed me to dive into new technology fairly quickly, and master the ability to show others how to use these new platforms to their advantage. It was fascinating to gain so much multicultural experience while traveling across the globe, working closely with major technology companies such as Salesforce and DocuSign.
Related: Don't Ignore Women In Weed
What obstacles and challenges have you experienced in operating within this industry?
The cannabis industry is unlike any industry I have worked in before. The industry is still in its infancy, and we see this daily with our interactions with other distributors, manufacturers, cultivators, and retailers. All of our business partners are trying their best to adhere to regulations while trying to grow their respective businesses. That being said, my experience launching Voyage Distribution in November 2018 while pregnant came with its own set of battles. It’s difficult enough to launch a start-up or putting your body through the roller coaster of having a child, but experiencing both at the same time was a struggle, to say the least. It made me aware of the underlying sexism that’s still very much alive within the cannabis space. Several investors and even potential business partners made snarky comments about my pregnancy, claiming that my commitment to the company would be tested, or that we would flat-out fail as a business. I couldn’t believe it, but it gave me all the more reason to prove them wrong.
How have you overcome these obstacles?
Instead of getting upset about the obstacles I experienced, I used those discouraging comments as fuel to continue to grow my business. I trusted my instinct that we were on the path to somewhere great. I knew we could do it. I stayed true to our mission as a company, and now I have an amazing baby boy and a growing distribution company to prove that while roles of motherhood and entrepreneurship are both overwhelming in their own way, you can kick ass at both if you try hard enough!
As a woman in cannabis, do you feel that you are at an advantage or a disadvantage (or both) and why?
Whenever we’re negotiating a potential deal with a new company, I’ll take a close look at their board to see if there’s some female representation. And it’s not just because I’m a woman. Evidence shows that companies with women leaders are more successful for several reasons. In my eyes, I feel like we’re one step ahead.
Ideally, I wouldn’t be the only woman in the majority of our business meetings, but I am. There aren’t that many of us leading our own companies, so people take notice when a woman is running the show. At the end of the day, I’m running a business that I love and I’m proud of, and to me, that’s what matters.
What is an accomplishment you have achieved in this industry that you are most proud of?
It has to be the new flower brand that our team is launching called Wyllow. Our message of inclusivity and female empowerment is already receiving positive feedback from our current dispensary accounts, and customers are even coming into the shops now asking about us! Sure, we’ve run into some speed bumps and learned some hard lessons along the way, but it’s all been worth it to see Wyllow unfold.
Being a distributor that works with over 250 farmers in California comes with its perks, and I’m proud to say that Wyllow is sharing those advantages with the rest of the cannabis community. The taxes in California are already high, so we’re trying to cut out the middleman in order to keep our flower prices low, and keep consumers coming back to fully licensed dispensaries. If you can get luxury strains from a licensed dispensary at an attainable price, hopefully, you’d be less inclined to spend your money elsewhere.
What was your greatest lesson learned?
A few things come to mind: 1) Always trust your gut. 2) Never underestimate the power of a good old-fashioned list. Each day I start two lists: Today and Tomorrow, and I write down tasks under each column. I’ve come to the conclusion that I can’t always get everything done in a single day, and that’s ok! If I check off 4-5 items each day while running my distribution company, I feel successful.
What trait do you rely on most when making business decisions and why is this useful for you?
I’m pretty good at reading people and trusting my instincts. It’s okay to say no and listen to your gut. Time and time again, my instinct has proven to be correct. Whether it’s as simple as hiring an employee or as complex as leading a round of financing, trust your instinct because you are feeling that hesitation for a reason.
Camille Roistacher is the Founder & CEO of Voyage Distribution, a cannabis supply chain company founded in 2018. In August 2020 Camille launched Wyllow, her consumer-facing cannabis brand designed for the conscious cannabis connoisseur. Wyllow plays on femininity while remaining inclusive and intended for all to enjoy. As a seasoned C-Level Executive in the cannabis industry, Camille is excited to engage with her community as Wyllow grows into a lifestyle brand.
Wyllow is hosting virtual events every night this week at 6 pm PST from Monday, August 24th-Friday, August 28th to celebrate the launch. All events are complimentary, for anyone and everyone to join. Check out https://www.shopwyllow.com/events to see the full lineup and to register for the events.