In this podcast from 2015, I share all the information on why women will be successful at running cannabis businesses and how to get started.
1:25 – What is Women Grow
2:47 – Jazmin talks about how Women Grow came about
4:30 – The different areas in the cannabis industry in which women can get involved
5:41 – Can women get in the industry if cannabis isn’t legal in their state yet
7:03 – Jazmin talks about Lobby Days
9:44 – Jazmin talks about women’s purchasing decisions in cannabis
10:39 – How do you make cannabis products women friendly
13:26 – How will Women Grow evolve over the next few years
14:48 – Jazmin explains what a Women Grow event is like
17:32 – Success story of Women Grow
18:41 – Women Grow sponsorship opportunities
19:59 – Jazmin talks about her key takeaways from her travels around the country
22:34 – Contact details for Women Grow
Matthew: Hi, I’m Matthew Kind. Every Monday and Wednesday look for a fresh episode where I’ll take you behind the scenes and interview the leaders of the rapidly evolving cannabis industry. Learn more at www.cannainsider.com. That’s www.cannainsider.com. Are you looking for a fulfilling and lucrative career in the cannabis industry? Visit www.cannainsider.com/careers. That’s www.cannainsider.com/careers. Now here’s your program.
Women Grow connects, educates and empowers cannabis industry leaders by creating community and events for aspiring and current business executives. I am pleased to welcome Jazmin Hupp, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Women Grow to CannaInsider today. Welcome Jazmin.
Jazmin: Thank you so much for having me.
Matthew: Sure. To give us a sense of geography where are you today?
Jazmin: I am mostly based out of a suitcase. Today I am in New York City. Women Grow was founded in Denver. The majority of our national staff are there, but I have bases in New York City and San Francisco, but I’m mostly on the road. We have chapters operating in 20 cities, and my goal is to visit every city at least once a year.
Matthew: Wow. For listeners that may not have heard of Women Grow in the past, can you just give us a high level overview of what it is?
Jazmin: Sure. Women Grow is a professional networking organization that supports female leaders in all segments of the cannabis industry. Our goal, as you said, is to connect, educate and empower women to lead America’s fastest growing industry. Our largest program is the signature networking events which our held on the first Thursday of every month in 20 cities across the country. We also hold cooperative events with the top conferences, host webinars, publish a lot of content. And on February 12th we recently brought together 76 women in cannabis in Washington, D.C. Then I flew to San Francisco, held an event for 200 entrepreneurs and investors called Creating Cannabis Products for Women featuring 6 of the top female cannabis business owners in the Bay Area. And then I went to the Emerald Triangle and met with women organizing in Humboldt. That’s a pretty typical month for me in Women Grow.
Matthew: Jazmin you’re so lazy. We’re going to have to talk to somebody about that.
Jazmin: Of course.
Matthew: Now I want to rewind a little bit. I want to talk about the, you know, making cannabis products more friendly to women, but I want to rewind a little bit to back in the very beginning with you and Jane. What was the impetus to start Women Grow? What was the conversation you were having with Jane, and how did women grow spark? What was the first spark where you said we got to do this?
Jazmin: Sure. And you’ve interviewed Jane before so I will have to reference your listeners to her edition to get her perspective on it because of course it’s a little different from mine. But Women Grow was announced at NCIA’s national conference last June by Jane, and I was sitting in the audience. Jane had organized the top women business owners in Colorado who wanted more women to join the industry but had run out of steam to do it in their spare time.
She had been producing events for international organizations like UNICEF and G Medical. I had launched six businesses before this and had about a decade of practice in branding and communications. And I had been working with an organization called Women 2.0 based in the Bay Area. And Women 2.0’s mission was to get an equal amount of venture capital funding for women in technology, and I had helped Women 2.0 from grow from the Bay Area to do events in 6 countries for about 100,000 entrepreneurs. But even after 9 years of Women 2.0 only about 4% to 6% of venture capital funding goes to women which severely limits the types of technology products we see on the market. The script for how technology funding worked had already been written and it wasn’t inclusive. Coincidentally Jane had fashioned the Women Grow launch after Women 2.0. So we decided it was meant to be and started collaborating right away.
Matthew: Great idea. Now there are a lot of different areas under the cannabis umbrella where women can get involved, but they may not be aware of all the different ways they can get involved in the cannabis industry. Could you name a few to help add some color around that?
Jazmin: Sure. Well your audience is probably a lot more sophisticated about the types of cannabis businesses out there because you’re interviewing all these great people. But a lot of people start out thinking that there’s only two jobs in cannabis. Either you’re producing cannabis products or you’re selling them. And the truth is that this is a multibillion dollar industry with dozens of different specialties.
Some of the areas that I don’t see a lot of competition in, but I think women are particularly great at are cloning banks, trim crew services, HR services, marketing and training. We have a webinar that should be available by the time this podcast is released. It goes into depth about all the different industry opportunities and how to decide which one might be right for you.
Matthew: Great point. We also interviewed one of the founding members of Women Grow from Cannabis Trainers, Maureen McNamara. And she’s an excellent trainer. So that’s to your point, you know, there is a lot of opportunities in training as the other aspects you mentioned. Now for women that are in states where cannabis is currently not legal, what should they do? Should they just wait or is there any opportunities to get started doing something now?
Jazmin: Yeah, you’ll notice that a lot of the successful business owners in cannabis actually came from the legalization movement. Working to legalize in your state will instantly connect you with other like minded people, educate you on all the issues and give you the confidence to move forward. Additionally having women help write this legislation make it more likely that the final results appeal to women who are often cited as the swing vote in legalization. And it helps make sure that the final results are fair and inclusive.
So if you’re in a prohibition state, find the legalization organizations near your and volunteer. Some of the groups that we partner with are NORML, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, Marijuana Policy Project, MAPS which is the Multidisciplinary Associate for Psychedelic Studies and so on. And so get connected with those folks and start volunteering and start making a difference.
Matthew: That’s an excellent point about the volunteering and activism because you are dead right. There is so many people I’ve met that are really leaders in the space from a commercial side that have their origin story in the activism. So it was a natural progression. So a lot of people out there what are listening that are wondering how to get in that is an excellent suggestion. Now you were recently at Lobby Days, what is that and why is it important?
Jazmin: We just had our first annual Lobby Day event, and it was a fantastic experience for everybody that attended. To steal a line from my friend Joe Brezny, “If you’re in the marijuana business, you are now also in the policy business”. And the cannabis industry is one of the most closely regulated, and we don’t expect that to change any time soon. Unlike most developed industries where multibillion dollar companies pay hoards of lobbyists, there are actually few lobbyists involved in cannabis. So each individual person can actually make a big impact on how we get to serve patients. After 80 years of Reefer Madness, the staffers creating marijuana policy may know very little about what we do and why we do it. So we have to show up and tell them.
As you would expect from an industry that is legal at the state level but illegal federally, there are a lot of conflicts to be resolved in a short term. So as your listeners probably know, access to banking for cannabis businesses is spotty at best. One of our founding members,Brook leads the Live Green Group in Colorado, and they’ve lost 34 bank accounts over the last five years. Last year they did over $10 million in revenue and didn’t have banking services for half of that. So forcing these cannabis businesses to be conducted in cash benefits no one, and that’s why we were there supporting HR 2652 which is the Marijuana Business Access to Banking Act of 2013. Notice it’s of 2013 because we’re still trying to get this passed.
The second major conflict that we were working on is the section of the tax code called 280E. I don’t know if your listeners are familiar with 280E.
Matthew: Sure, you can cover that briefly.
Jazmin: Well so 280E prohibits businesses involved with drug trafficking from deducting normal business expenses from their income. This was written so that drug cartels couldn’t write off their speed boats for example. Unfortunately the IRS has interpreted that to apply to our state legal cannabis businesses. So many dispensaries pay 50% to 70% of their net income, not profit, income in federal taxes because they can’t write off salaries, health insurance, retirement benefits, business equipment, rent, marketing, utilities, so on. Cannabis business owners want to pay their fair share of taxes, but we need to make it fair.
Matthew: Gosh that is totally unfair. You’re right. Now you have somewhat of a controversial position on women’s purchasing decisions of cannabis. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Jazmin: Yes. Women are going to be the dominant cannabis product buyers after national legalization. Right now it appears that more men than women consume cannabis, but that’s mostly related to its illegal status and the types of products on the market, not because there’s anything about cannabis that’s better for men versus women. Once prohibition is lifted cannabis products become just like any other household good, and we know women already control the majority of household spending. On top of that women are more likely to be diagnosed with a chronic illness, more like to try alternative health therapy, and are more likely to be in charge of the wellness decisions for their families. One on five women will face depression. One in eight will face breast cancer. There is no scenario where I can imagine where women don’t become the dominant buyers of cannabis products.
Matthew: Right so make your cannabis products very women friendly and how do they do that?
Jazmin: Well the first step is to get more diversity on your leadership and marketing teams. Having an inclusive team where people of all genders and colors are heard are going to help you make the best decisions day in and day out for your brand to attract an inclusive audience. I especially encourage you to pick a woman to run your social media marketing. We’re seeing a ton of brands take the easy route for quick attention by posting bikini babes with bongs. If you’re treating women like decoration to attract men instead of serious customers, you’re missing out on a loyal audience. A loyal audience that very few brands are actively serving. I think anyone who probably picked up a podcast with Women Grow on it gets this, and I can’t wait to see the new products and services you come up with. The guys with their heads stuck in the sand will be quickly surpassed.
Matthew: Now is there any examples you’ve seen recently of companies that have put out in the market women friendly cannabis products that you were impressed with?
Jazmin: Absolutely. We’re seeing a lot of great work being done on the edibles front to serve a more diverse customer than just candies or cookies. So in Colorado one of our founding members is Julie Dooley, and Julie’s Baked Goods specializes in gluten free edibles with no refined sugar. Which honestly she was just a patient on the market who had to be gluten free herself due to a health concern, and there were no products available on the market for her. And so she brought those products out to the market and they’re wildly popular. We have another brand called Auntie Delores out of California who sponsors Women Grow who is going to rapidly expand into multistate operations because they’re creating products that just nobody else was in a brand that’s friendly to both men and women.
Matthew: You know one other thing that Julie Dooley is doing that’s interesting is she actually names the strain too on her edibles so you know exactly, it allows you to dial in your experience which is very helpful which I don’t see a lot of edibles doing. I know Julianna and Lauren at Auntie Delores, you know, they talk a lot about their ingredients and being very transparent with the ingredients and that’s helpful. And they also talk about, you know, doing things that other people aren’t doing. They’re like hey there’s a lot of chocolate bars out there, we’re not going to make a chocolate bar. So being innovative in that way I think really helps you stand out. So great points. Now Women Grow is still a young organization. Where do you see it going? I mean even since we had Jane on, maybe Q3 of last year, it’s changed. The scope has changed. How are things evolving? Where do you see it going in the next few years?
Jazmin: I mean it was just since you’ve interviewed her we really seen what an amazing opportunity we have to create a new industry with a new script that’s diverse from the very very beginning. This is an industry that’s going to serve people of all colors, of all genders, of all ages, and the best way to do that is to invite all of those people into the industry. So from our humble beginnings as a professional networking organization we’re now working to create programs to push women into the cannabis and up to the top.
Our monthly events in 20 cities are a great introduction to the cannabis industry for women. They can learn a bit about the industry in a supportive environment without quitting their day job or investing $1,000 up front. We hope that our events and content online are part of a very successful research phase that convinces them to get their first job or launch their first company in cannabis. From there we hope they attend one of our national events like our leadership summit which teaches women how to grow and expand their businesses to rise to the top of the market. And we’re just going to keep going from there.
Matthew: So walk me through what it’s like to attend a Women Grow event. For someone that’s walking in for the first time, what can they experience? What’s it like? What do they do? How long do they last? What’s the vibe like?
Jazmin: So our monthly networking events in these 20 cities across the United States are the first Thursday of every month. So you have a consistent time and place that you can plan to, you know, make your first entry or your fifth entry into the cannabis market. And that was something that no other organization across the country was offering was a consistent, pre-planned time to meet which seems so simple, but consistency is one of the things that this industry is lacking on many levels.
So when you arrive we hope that you will be greeted with a crowd that is the exact opposite in ratio from what you would see at a typical cannabis industry event. The majority of cannabis industry events are about 80% men and 20% women, and our events are the exact flip of that. So you’re going to have 80% women and about 20% men at our events. You’re going to have time to mix and mingle. And again these people tend to be very open and welcoming. The marijuana industry is blue ocean right now, blue sky. There’s no reason for us to even treat each other like competition because the market is going to be large enough that there is room for everyone right now. And then we listen to an industry speaker and get a current perspective on what’s going on in the market.
This is an industry that’s difficult to research online. Remember it was illegal not too long ago, and it’s still illegal in a lot of states. So there’s not a ton of information available online. You really do have to show up in person and talk to the folks doing this and do the research on your feet to really get a sense of where the market’s going and where you might belong in it. So you’ll get some great information from an industry speaker. And then we do some sort of activity at almost every meeting that will force you to introduce yourself to as many people as possible. So for example my meeting here in New York, we go around the room and everyone gets up for 15 seconds and just says who they are and what they’re interested in so that after we have the speaker people can just jet over to meeting new people. When is the last time you went to a networking event and knew all 50 people in the room, that’s the type of event that we hope to create.
Matthew: Do you have an example of a woman that came to Women Grow and didn’t have any background or history in the cannabis industry and was successful in kind of breaking into it, because I want to leave listeners with actionable information or examples on how they can get into it. You mentioned a little bit about the social media and women tend to gravitate to that because they’re good at it. That’s an excellent way you can provide value I think out of the gate. Do you have any other examples of how women kind of busted into the industry with no previous background into it?
Jazmin: Sure. I think a lot of people think that you know you had to be an underground grower for the last 20 years to be a part of this industry, but the truth is the vast majority of people getting into this industry are new to the industry. They’ve got great professional backgrounds in maybe related fields, but being new doesn’t make you unqualified. It just makes you kind of like everybody else. And so one example is we had a member come out to our Denver chapter named Lauren Gibbs, and she runs a business that does social media strategy and was able to very quickly assess what the cannabis industry needed in comparison to our other clients, and now has cannabis clients within her larger social media strategy business.
Matthew: Now there’s a lot of cannabis companies out there that are looking to get their brand out there in a national way, and you offer some sponsorship opportunities that I think do this well because everything is so compartmentalized in states or cities. Can you talk a little bit about the sponsorship opportunities you have?
Jazmin: Absolutely. Like you said there are very few national organizations in cannabis. I actually was just in Humboldt County last week, and the women there asked me well what are the women doing at a national level. How are the women organizing at a national level? And I kind of looked over my shoulder and I was like oh shoot we are the women organized at a national level. There really isn’t anybody else. And that applies to the industry in general is that there’s only a very few organizations working on a national, and we’re lucky enough to be one of those.
We’ve been really fortunate to have nearly 50 companies come out to support making cannabis an inclusive industry, and in order to make our events as affordable as possible we depend on this companies who want to be known for attracting female customers and female employees to sponsor us, and that covers the majority of our expenses. So if anything I’ve said resonates with you and you want to be part of creating something awesome, email [email protected] to talk about those sponsorship options. The cannabis industry will never be this small again. And so your small gesture now can make a big change to our collective future.
Matthew: And before we close, you were just on a bunch of trips all around the country. Can you just give us a few nuggets of what you learned or key takeaways, you know, visiting different people in different parts of the country?
Jazmin: Oh wow. I mean I think the thing that you learn the most is that this is a very very local industry, and what is so stunning to me is how different everything is, you know, in Colorado versus Washington and Washington versus California. And then once you get within California the difference between Humboldt and L.A. they’re just different planets. So I guess my first advice is to recognize that to the outside world we may look like one cohesive industry, but there is actually so much happening and so much that varies depending on the local level, and that’s why we do have these local chapters that can talk to people about what’s happening locally in their state because a program that I might give in San Francisco that generates a ton of interest… so for example we did Creating Cannabis Products for Women for 200 in San Francisco and we got great feedback from people who said yes I’m going to start my business now, yes that really encouraged me to start fundraising, yes that was exactly what I wanted to hear. And then I drove up to Humboldt and started talking to women there about becoming executives and leaving the industry and they were like hold the phone, we don’t think of ourselves as executives. We think of ourselves as farmers. We don’t think of, you know, we’re not out here to lead an industry. We’re out here to protect our families and to protect our livelihood. It’s just a whole different mindset and a whole different set of priorities. So I think the first tip is just to remember just how actually diverse the industry is.
Matthew: Now for women listening right now, you said 20% of the people that come to you, the different chapters are men, do men come? What are the reasons that men come?
Jazmin: Men come because they are very smart and they know that what we’ve got going on is pretty powerful. Many come just as a support or maybe they’re business partner is often very common, but the other guys who come on their own without a female friend, you know come because they tell me that they understand how well connected and how fiercely intelligent the women are that are a part of this industry, and they want to be a part of that. They’re looking for female cofounders. They’re looking to add women to their team, and we’re a great event for that.
Matthew: Now as we close how can listeners learn more about Women Grow online?
Jazmin: Definitely go to www.womengrow.com and sign up for our list. That’s how we publish all of our future events, all of our content. Go to our blog and just read everything I’ve ever written about how to research the industry, how to figure out what event is right for you in the industry. We also encourage you to make a plan to attend a national conference this year if you haven’t already attended a national conference. It’s a great way to give you a good picture of the industry, and we host kick off events for the largest of the national conferences. So you can join us in May in Chicago. In June we’ll be in both New York City and Denver, and in November we’ll be in Las Vegas, and we do these kick off events to set you up to be more successful and make connections there. You can also follow Women Grow on Facebook and on Twitter.
Matthew: Jazmin thanks so much for being on CannaInsider today. We really appreciate it.
Jazmin: Absolutely. Thank you Matt.
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