It took a naked woman dressed as a charcuterie plate for Kate Reyes of WomenCann to realize there was a lack of appreciation for female professionals in the cannabis industry. Now, she’s helping women in cannabis get the recognition they deserve with WomenCann, a free public directory of women cannabis professionals.
WomenCann brings together cannabis entrepreneurs, activists, healers, and educators to create a shared, community-driven environment where women can promote and encourage one another.
Read more from Kate below:
What’s the spark that inspired you to start WomenCann? My professional involvement in the cannabis industry began in December 2014. When I started my business, Tr3s Creative, I specifically wanted to work with Cannabis businesses. I lived in the state of Washington at the time, where medical cannabis had been legal since 1998 (In addition to Oregon and Alaska). In 2014, I-502 passed, and recreational cannabis in the state of Washington became legalized. Washington has a thriving technology economy, and I found no better time to jump back into entrepreneurship. I wanted to work with cannabis businesses, local breweries, and street food businesses – markets that influenced the cultures in cities where these new economies were emerging.
There are lots of professional networking organizations, and being new to the industry I opted to join one of them. I learned a lot from this experience, the most valuable being that I did not need to buy-in to succeed in this industry. Association, trade show, and advertising fees can seem like useful investments, but as a first step into an industry you don’t know about, it is a quick way to lose a lot of money. It’s really tough to know where to invest, and how to get started. I wanted professional networking to be something positive and beneficial, not something as a product in our industry. It’s still challenging to figure out how many or which professional associations to join. They all have fees, as do conferences. A fledgling company or entrepreneur really needs support, and I feel like the high cost of networking can be prohibitive to many. I can’t be the first person to have experienced the disappointment of a bad investment.
During a cannabis trade show in Las Vegas in 2016, someone snapped a photo of a female at an industry event serving charcuterie on her body (which was nearly nude, save for some strategically placed accouterments). While this is nothing new at an industry gathering, some women spoke out against it and reached out to the sponsoring company. A public apology was called for, and a post on Facebook was added mentioning scores of women owned cannabis businesses and female cannabis professionals.
I was amazed at the variety of roles these female entrepreneurs filled, as well as the diversity of business types. “This is great!” I thought, but we need this information in one place. I thought how great it would be to have a directory of these female cannabis professionals to support and celebrate their professional accomplishments and aspirations. I began collecting information on a spreadsheet, and enjoyed seeing a growing list of names, websites, and email addresses. I could build a resource to help promote these businesses and create a space for these women to promote and encourage one another. Even better, there would not need to be a large annual fee to be considered a professional or taken seriously in the cannabis industry.
What are the most notable news stories and/or trends emerging right now when it comes to women-owned cannabis businesses? The cannabis landscape is changing so much and trends evolve differently in this industry. It’s a young industry, so many of its consumers are new to cannabis. Dosage, safety, and therapeutic effects should be part of the every day conversation.
The central role that women play in this industry is not a coincidence. There is a lot of opportunity for individuals and companies who are willing to put in the time and effort needed to create a viable business. Women are proving to be effective and dynamic in this market. Many of the women in this industry, like myself, have professional experience that they contribute to this industry. The more decisive, intelligent women that enter cannabis, the more doors are being opened to a new breed of entrepreneur – The Cannabis Woman. Cannabis has more women in positions of leadership than other industries, women-owned cannabis businesses are setting the change in pay equity, and they are directing the conversation to an ethical industry and workplace that celebrates women respectfully.
What is the biggest challenge women in cannabis face? Women in cannabis face the same challenges men do – financial pressure, family obligations, career changes, and more. It’s important to give focus to a career, much like you would give to attaining a college degree (it takes almost that long to get traction in this industry). You need to be able to invest time to hone your craft, learn the industry, and figure out where you fit in. Sometimes it can seem like too much to handle, but the investment return is rewarding on many levels. I have seen women’s lives transformed by their time in this industry, just like mine has. Many large cannabis events and panels are still male-centric. It’s a challenge and our unique opportunity to share our expertise, and grow our strength and place as business leaders.
What’s your long-term vision when it comes to supporting women in the cannabis industry? I’m committed to making WomenCann a sustainable resource that is community-driven. A platform for all voices is a way to build on our collective success as entrepreneurs, activists, healers, and educators. I established the WomenCann directory in a short time, using my own resources to launch it. WomenCann is capable of so much more with a coordinated effort. I ask motivated women that are willing to take up the charge to help grow this resource. We are relaunching our website this month, and are celebrating International Women’s Day with an awareness campaign on Facebook.
What’s your #1 piece of advice for a female cannabis entrepreneur who is just starting out? From my previous experience working in technology, I’ve learned that you need to bring all of your experience to bear in every situation. Be discriminating with your time, money, and efforts. Build relationships based on trust, not personal gain. No matter how much experience you bring to the table, there will still be situations that will challenge you emotionally and professionally. I can’t overestimate the importance of keeping your cool, and maintaining a professional image. Be confident. Be decisive. Don’t hesitate to say no. Use your gut. Look within to improve. The essential goal of any business is survive. You will need flexibility to be OK with your business not making it in the first year as you figure things out. By year four, as is the length my business has been around, you’ll be one of the established players in the industry if you manage to stick with it long enough to turn a profit.
When it comes to WomenCann, what is your most critical need? Publicity for the businesses on the directory and donations, as the directory is self-funded with a low annual listing fee and donations. Share our website, and hire women cannabis professionals! If you know of a woman cannabis professional, invite them to our re-launch: http://bit.ly/facebook-womencann-relaunch
WomanCann Press Release: file:///C:/Users/intern/Downloads/WomenCann31808_Press_Release.pdf