It’s not a new concept. Finding the crème de la crème of an industry and collaborating to generate an insuppressible force. Collaboration, they say, is the new competition, and never has that been more imperative than in an industry as multifaceted as cannabis.
In the case of Industry Power Women (IPW), the cream has certainly risen to the top.
Industry Power Women was created to help recognize and advance female business leaders, owners, CEO’s, all around entrepreneurs, and trailblazers by providing strategic partnerships and leadership development opportunities. The focus of IPW is to propel women business owners into greater economic, social and political spheres of power throughout the industry.
Industry Power Women recently honored several women for their exceptional contributions to the industry, including Yvonne DeLaRosa Green, awarded “Business Woman of the Year”, Amber E. Senter, who was presented with the “Leadership Award”, and Amanda Reiman, who was named “Influencer of the Year”.
If 2017 was dubbed the Year of the Woman, 2018 may go down as the Year of the CannaWoman.
A widely-respected mouthpiece for the industry, sharing deep insight into the financial views of the rapidly growing cannabis industry. A high-powered LA exec, Ivy League alum, and entrepreneur who tragically lost her brother to the opioid epidemic. A North Carolina mom leading her successful public relations company by day and searching for answers for her chronically ill daughter by night. A former process engineer to Fortune 500 companies, now using her experience with helping large companies create intelligent software to take a detailed and scientific approach to medical cannabis.
These are just a few of the women who are advocating, cultivating and propelling this burgeoning space.
“Women have had to fight for their place in science, medicine, and technology while making countless contributions that have advanced humanity,” said Mara Gordon, co-founder of Aunt Zelda’s. “Cannabis, too, fights to secure its place as a medicine. Today, women are leveraging their skills, leading the movement, and proving the value of cannabis as a medicine. United we are unstoppable.”
These women all have one common goal in mind - to rise above and continue to advance the cannabis conversation in a professional and collaborative manner.
“Being a woman business owner in cannabis is freeing,” said Devika Maskey, co-founder of IPW and founder of Tso Sonoma and Ellipsis Wine Company. “Because this is a newly evolving industry, I finally feel the ability and space to stretch my creativity further than in any other career. Through elegant design and collaboration, women in the industry are reaching a broader demographic by elevating the cannabis experience for the consumer.”
Women Placing Collaboration Over Competition
According to a 2015 survey from Marijuana Business Daily, women make up a substantial portion of the executive leadership in the marijuana industry, including 63% of high-level positions at testing labs, 48% processor or infused product makers and 40% at ancillary services. This is staggering when compared to the U.S. high-tech industry where in 2014, women accounted for just 20% of executives, senior officers, and management.
IPW was initiated to provide an additional avenue to advance the goals of women entrepreneurs to help advance overall interests in the cannabis industry.
“In navigating the cannabis industry for many years, it became increasingly obvious that there was a gaping void in the space for women who needed help advancing with precision and results,” said Cynthia Salarizadeh, CEO of Salar Media Group and co-founder of Industry Power Women. “After assisting with the launch of many brands in the space, as well as a few of my own companies, I was able to identify the exact pain points and areas that could benefit from the tutelage of women who had already founded startups, run corporate executive level offices, managed game changing projects, and had scaled numerous pitfalls along the way. Together with a few equally motivated women, we decided to launch a network to accomplish this.”
Women-focused organizations aren’t new to the cannabis space. Ellementa, Supernova Women, NORML Women’s Alliance, Women Abuv Ground, Women Grow, and Sisters of the Valley are some of the more recognized groups throughout the industry.
“There are women’s groups in the cannabis space that at the 10,000-foot level appear to be all encompassing, but in reality, they are focused on specific jurisdictions and segments of the industry, and some are motivated by financial gain as opposed to facilitating collaboration and advancement of the industry as a whole,” said Jennifer Price, Founder of Potnt and a Co-founder of Industry Power Women.
Jamie Cooper, Co-founder of Industry Power Women and the Founder of Cannabiz Connection, agrees. “As I developed my business, I saw a huge need for business owners to be able to connect with the service providers they need to build a successful business in the cannabis industry.” Cooper continued, “My goal is to do everything I can to create more opportunity for women in this industry. Statistics show that women truly want to be a part of this movement. I want to be the person that encourages and helps them along the way.”
A New Industry Riddled with Timeworn Challenges
While the industry certainly has attracted a good number of outstanding female founders who are leading the charge, these women are not exempt from having to negotiate challenges like those found in traditionally male dominated industries like finance, accounting and technology.
“The majority of investors in cannabis are still men,” said Emily Paxhia, Founding Partner and Director of Relations for Poseidon Asset Management. “Women still face the same challenges as those in other industries when it comes to raising capital in terms of the size of the raise, the terms of the raise, the valuation, etc.”
Paxhia continued, “While some investors are more progressive and are definitely interested in seeing women founders, there are others who seem to hold a bias, (implicit or not), toward women founders. There are many brilliant and driven women in the industry and it is our goal to see more in leadership or upper management positions, if they are not the founders themselves.”
The Future is Green
In its short existence, IPW has provided tremendous value to the industry by introducing several women to investment capital opportunities, brokering lucrative and exclusive partnerships, and providing invaluable PR and marketing support all with the aim of advancing women who can benefit most from strategic relationships and positioning.
The community of women leading IPW, and the cannabis industry as a whole, have made it clear that they are forging forward together while building a new domain in an emerging industry where infrastructure remains largely undeveloped.
“This modern-day industry is ruled by courage, determination and moxie with a backbone built on the idea that we can make this world a better place...that natural alternatives to opiates and other pharmaceuticals shouldn’t be something we have to fight for or be criminalized over,” said Jennifer Price.
“It is in our DNA to bring the community together as a whole and to look after others before ourselves,” said Ophelia Chong, Co-founder of IPW and founder of Stock Pot Images. “As natural caregivers, we are drawn to cannabis for its healing qualities. Through IPW we will harness our collective voices to bring this curative plant and its immeasurable benefits to the people who need it the most.”
Debra Borchardt, co-founder of IPW and CEO and co-founder of Green Market Report, concurs. “The cannabis industry gave women the green light for opportunity. We are at full throttle and seizing this moment.”
There are many uncertainties in the cannabis industry, but one thing is for sure, the women of IPW have clear, measurable goals, and plans to continue to grow and ultimately solidify the foundation that the industry stands upon.