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This Cannabis Business Accelerator Puts the Pedal to the Metal for Women

The Inititative aims to empower women and marginalized communities to succeed in the industry.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The Commune is a cavernous, 4,000-square foot gathering space for cannabis businesses in Portland, Oregon. The new co-working site houses a number of cannabis events, business services, workshops [and] incubator opportunities, according to owner Amy T. Margolis, an attorney and the founder of the Oregon Cannabis Association, one of the largest state cannabis trade groups in the U.S. 

Juan Facundo Sierra | EyeEm | Getty Images

While The Commune is intended to welcome everyone, Margolis said its focus is “driven by a commitment to equity, inclusivity, and seeing women and marginalized communities succeed in cannabis.”

This is why The Commune was the natural spot to launch The Initiative, which is said to be the world’s first business accelerator established to help female-founded cannabis businesses access funding and succeed. 

“The Initiative is providing the necessary tools to succeed -- education, mentoring, confidence in raising money, and one of the largest networks in cannabis," said Margolis. "We couple the right tools with access to funding and an unparalleled understanding of cannabis regulatory and market forces.

The Initiative counts on one of the most accomplished boards in the industry including:

  • Mowgli Holmes of Phylos Bioscience
  • Emily Paxhia of Poseidon Asset Management
  • Dr. Janice Knox of American Cannabinoid Clinics
  • AC Braddock of Eden Labs
  • Carlos Perea of iAnthus Capital
  • Rick Turoczy of PIE - Portland Incubator Experiment
  • Glynis Olson of Finger Bang
  • Katie Kiernan of TWYLA
  • Amanda Reiman of Flow Kana
  • Josh Goldstein, Attorney at Law
  • April Pride of Van der Pop

Related Article: How To Convince Cannabis Investors to Give You Money

Is The Hype Real?

People in the cannabis industry often take pride in how inclusive the space is. I asked Amy if she agreed with this assessment.

“I think that the cannabis industry wants to be inclusive and is cognizant of the fact that we are building an entire industry on the backs of people disproportionately impacted by the drug war,” she said. But she cautioned that "this industry has a long way to go to make sure that we are an opportunity inflection point for women and people of color. And, even people who claim to care about creating a space for marginalized communities don’t always put those feelings into practice.

Recently, I was trying to convince a colleague, who had depended on me for advice and counsel for many years, that they need diversity on their board of directors and I was told they just could not find any qualified women. We know there are just as many qualified women as men, but what I really think they were saying is, they did not want anyone who was not like them serving. Research shows that the proportion of women executives in the U.S. cannabis industry have declined—from 36 percent in 2015 to 27 percent in 2017. This is a big hurdle for women to overcome.”

Does Margolis have any advice for women looking to get into the cannabis industry?

My advice is that you can do this," she said. "But, you need to be better, faster and smarter than the men in the room. You also really need to understand the funding and financial components of your business, so you are not left relying on someone else to support these pieces. Women are doing some of the most innovative and interesting work in this space and I do not want women to feel discouraged and to know they can, absolutely, ask for help."

Readers can visit the website to sign up for newsletters, submit applications when they open on September 1st, and contact Amy. You can also follow Amy’s projects on Instagram @thecommunepdx and #intheinitiative.