Empowering Women in Weed: Stories of Entrepreneurship

This is the snappy short paragraph that is SEO optimized which we will use for excerpts in the carousels.Discover the resilience and innovation of women-owned cannabis brands in a challenging industry. Hear from female founders across NYC, VA, OAK, and SEA as they discuss the community they represent and the role of cannabis in women’s culture.

Women Working in Weed

For the women-owned brands in the cannabis industry, capital is hard to come by. But that hasn’t stopped these entrepreneurs from shaking up the space and finding collaborators who align with their visions, while bringing the best of female-focused brands to life.

From NYC to VA to OAK to SEA, there is more than one type of woman who is into weed. On this episode, we hear from three women founders working in weed who discuss the community they rep and the role of cannabis in its culture among women.

Episode Guests

Raeven Duckett | @raeven_elyse
Valarie Sakota | @valarie___
Kimberly Dillon | @kimberlykdillon
Solonje Burnett | @solonjeburnett

Episode Resources & Additional Reading

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Podcast Episode Full Transcription

0:00:00.0 April Pride, host: This podcast discusses cannabis, and is intended for audiences 21 and over.


0:00:09.5 Solonje Burnett, Humble & Bloom: It’s not like I’m just a black woman, we all have intersections, we all have different things that contribute to who we are, but at the base level, we’re human. And this plant, I think really does connect us as humans.

0:00:22.2 April Pride, host: Welcome to The High Guide. I’m your host, April Pride, host. For the women working in the cannabis industry, the space is full of unique challenges and opportunities. But for the rare few of us weaving our way through the world of entrepreneurship, issues of raising capital and finding collaborators are of utmost importance. In yet another industry dominated by white men, resources remain elusive for women and people of color as they strive for an equitable share. Which brings us to our glossary term for this week, legacy market. You’ve likely heard it referred to as the black market, but the term legacy seeks to provide more respect to the individuals and products that have operated in this space prior to this new era of legalization. With the very high financial barrier of entry into the legal space, many of those from the legacy market remain and do so with a very loyal customer base.

0:01:16.4 April Pride, host: On this episode of The High Guide, our conversation includes three women cannabis entrepreneurs: Raeven Duckett, Valerie Sakota and Solonje Burnett, Humble & Bloom, who share the vision of their brands, the reality surrounding funding and capital for these emerging businesses, and the collaborative spirit driving the women in this movement forward.

0:01:35.7 Raeven Duckett, JOHNNIE: In California, we have a really big problem, legal operators have a really big problem, and it’s the legacy market. Because it’s really the customers who still wanna shop in the legacy market. 75% of cannabis consumers still regularly shop in the legacy market, and I think a big reason for that is because the legal market isn’t talking to a diverse group of people, and it’s really black women is where our brand is starting, and who our brand is uplifting most. Before I started my cannabis company, I worked in tech in Oakland, I spent $500 a month on weed, like flower weed. So it’s like I’m coming from a place… I grew up in Oakland, I have hella friends out here, black women friends who just love weed, love weed culture, smoke flower, and it’s just like there are no brands in the legal market intentionally speaking to these women who just wanna have a good time, who wanna have weed. And so it’s like, I think that the fun part of our brand is building this brand for women who love weed and for women who are not being spoken to directly, because we’re not necessarily coming from a wellness place, we’re not really coming from anything like that, which is also… We agree is very important and everything like that, but there are a lot of brands doing that very well.

0:03:00.5 April Pride, host: Here at The High Guide, we know women of all kinds love to smoke weed or consume it in various forms. We have a strong appreciation for wellness as well. But don’t appreciate being pigeon-holed in such ways when it comes to our pod. There is most definitely more than one type of female cannabis consumer. Weed is not the product that you pink and shrink.

0:03:22.8 Valarie Sakota, BARBARI: I’m Valerie Sakota, co-founder of Barbari, and the product concept of herbal spliff started personally for me way back in college, when I realized that I was a low-dose consumer and enjoyed the ritual of smoking, so I looked for different ways to mix my weed with herbs. And that concept sort of stayed with me until after I started my career in advertising and cannabis became legal, recreationally legal in Oregon. I sort of had this inspiration moment to try and create a brand around it, because walking into dispensaries, I wasn’t really seeing low-dose products at that point. And then connected with an old college friend, Meryl Montgomery. Both of us had a very similar vision for the type of product we would wanna bring and the type of brand we would wanna represent within the cannabis industry. Our values were really aligned. And that was in 2016. Since then, we started building the company part-time evenings and weekends while we were both working full-time jobs. And then in 2019 we were accepted into an all-female cannabis accelerator program, and that was really the catalyst for both of us to go full-time and start building the company full-time.

0:04:51.2 Valarie Sakota, BARBARI: So we launched Herbal Smoking Blends to start, botanicals and flowers that you can smoke and mix with hemp or cannabis. And then to a line of low-dose hemp pre-rolls, with the vision of ultimately getting into dispensaries with a low-dose THC spliff, herbal spliff. And now we are in dispensaries with that low-dose THC product in Massachusetts and Oregon, and we are looking at state expansion for that product line as well.

0:05:19.4 April Pride, host: Great, thank you. I’m gonna make you just like go deep for an hour on what Barbari has done, particularly in the last year. The growth that they have had in revenue at a time when cannabis companies have really struggled to figure out how to navigate a rapidly changing and growing space, is nothing short of like… I just want everyone to know what I’ve been able to witness. I do want to introduce Kimberly, because Kimberly is the founder of Plant and Prosper, and that is the club that we host this event every Friday at 1:00 PM. And Kimberly is the founder of Frig, another brand that I invested in after my exit with Van Der Pop, and she is in the CBD beauty space looking to get into THC. And every time I get a voice memo from Kimberly, I know that it’s gonna be a stroke of genius, that have to figure out like, Okay, how can I be part of this too? So Kimberly, can you talk about what… Yeah, what inspired Frigg, and where you saw the opportunity and where you’re seeing the opportunities now?

0:06:24.7 Kimberly Dillon, Frigg, Frigg: Yes, hi everyone. I’m Kimberly Dillon, Frigg, Frigg, I’m the founder of Frigg, and so we stand for stress-less wellness, or stress-less beauty in this context, and what that really means is really making the connection between our mood and emotions and how our physical appearance shows up in real life. And this really came up for me because I was an executive at a company called Clorox, and I was starting to have panic attacks, and it was really impacting obviously my mental well-being, but I started to correlate my outbreaks of like an acne outbreak or like dark eye circles and my hair was starting to get really thin, and I think intellectually we know that there is a connection, but there really is a sort of physiology around the connection between a surge in stress hormones and how that impacts our hair and skin. And so what we’ve done is we’ve launched a couple of products that are built on the topical side to fight the impacts of that stress, the presence of cortisol in the blood, and then we also have ingestibles to really talk about the root of the problem.

0:07:38.3 Kimberly Dillon, Frigg: So a lot of beauty is really sort of like a Band-Aid solution, and the power of cannabis and adaptogens is that you can really hit the root of the problem, and also sort of the secondary effects that we see in our hair and our skin. And then THC is an interesting opportunity, because we really wanna own stress head-to-toe as it relates to self-care and wellness, in a beauty context, and there are some things that the THC cannabinoid does better than CBD.

0:08:10.8 April Pride, host: Clearly, the female perspective is an essential component when brainstorming and building a brand that will speak to women and resonate with her experience. Another essential piece of the puzzle, money. And while women-owned and operated cannabis brands are in existence, the hurdles with funding and raising capital for these companies are higher than those facing males looking to enter the industry. The city of Oakland said, You need to activate this, you don’t have any SKUs that you’ve put out under this, and you need to do that. And she was like, Well, I need funding, I need money in order to be able to get products on shelves. And so this is exactly what happens, whether it’s with a social equity brand that doesn’t have access to the same capital sources as a traditional cannabis brand that’s being funded by VC family, friends, all of that. Or a woman-owned business, right? We still raise an abysmal amount of capital compared to our male counterparts. And white women raise 100 times, or 100 times more likely to raise capital than our black female counterparts. Solonje, you were quoted in an article that I read that I think sums up how…

0:09:29.0 April Pride, host: I mean, I’ve talked to everyone on this panel individually, and I think that we all feel this way, in the way that you have articulated it here. “We know that we cannot rely on a male-dominated and masculine-centered industry to get us to where we need to be with equity. Women have to lead by doing, we have to start our own businesses and lift others as we climb. There is space for all of us, it’s time to shift the narrative, de-colonize our mindsets and work in ways that flip the culture, build each other up, share speaking and press opportunities, talk about our experiences with investors, share your deck, invite each other to networking events, do whatever you can to disrupt the status quo that has oppressed us all. This industry has the opportunity to lead by example. We can craft an industry that shifts and dissolves prohibitive social contracts. We can bake gender and social equity, fairness, inclusion, responsibility, innovation, and sustainability into its core. Let’s lead with the idea that biodiversity is health.” Yeah, that’s pretty powerful. So, Solonje, I would love if you could introduce yourself, co-founder of Humble Bloom, and what your platform is hoping to do within the space, and what you’ve seen it already contribute to a more diverse and equitable industry.

0:10:42.3 Solonje Burnett, Humble & Bloom: Thank you so much, April. And hey, everybody, it’s so good to be in this conversation. So what we do at Humble Bloom, and what we started off at, and I love how you talked about the just dynamic nature of being an entrepreneur and how things shift… When we first started Humble Bloom we were interested in product, but we’re based in New York. And so at that time the hemp bill hadn’t passed yet, like THC now just… Or cannabis has just been legalized, but we’re in that gray space where people are trying… There’s all these land grabs, and people are buying for real estate, and folks from the West Coast are coming out to the East Coast. I’m seeing a lot of friends on the West Coast come out here now, because you know what, New York is where it’s at when it comes to capitalism. This is where people buy things, this is where people travel to from all over the world. Regardless of what history has been, now that cannabis has come to New York, I think there’s gonna be a huge shift here. And what we really have done is create an education and advocacy platform that informs people about the plant in a variety of ways and makes it something so that no matter what your background is, you have access.

0:11:58.2 Solonje Burnett, Humble & Bloom: Or no matter what the topic is. Yes, whether it’s anxiety or social justice, or its sleepless-ness or healing different parts, healing your community, we know that cannabis is a catalyst for broader discussions, and for people to really find a way to connect to each other through the plant. We believe that obviously no plant should be illegal, and that there are reasons why capitalism has prohibited this plant, and we think that biodiversity is health.

0:12:30.4 April Pride, host: Great, thank you so much, Solonje, it’s nice to have someone that’s in New York, to have New York represented on the panel. Because, yes, there is a shift, right, from what’s very much been a West Coast industry to getting set up in a big way. People would say a more legitimate way, that’s one way I’ve heard it described. Which is a little bit irritating, because I think that the markets here on the West Coast have legitimate industries. But I understand the… Yeah, New York is where all of the money… [chuckle] All the money is and has been for so long, and they’re looking to really own this industry and investing a lot of resources, and trying to attract talent into New York from California.

0:13:18.2 Solonje Burnett, Humble & Bloom: I’m just really interested in seeing how many people will come from California or the West Coast that are already established, and find ways into partnerships with folks who are already highly capitalized in New York, and leave those of us who have been working really hard and tirelessly in New York behind, which is what you normally see. The activists, whether you look at Canada or other parts in California, folks who just don’t get the chance. They’re so busy fighting for people that they no longer have opportunity to make profit themselves.

0:13:53.2 April Pride, host: Yeah, money is power, right? And so making sure that we are focused on making money so that we can reinvest in supply chain and make sure that people that, again, don’t have access to capital, that we can be a source of that, whether again it’s more generous terms… Raeven’s brand Johnny will be a national social equity brand, so it’s going into other states and helping to activate social equity licenses by coming in with capital that we can deploy immediately, so that our product can get made and that our partners can… Yeah, can start to make money straight away. So we’re focused on less of, I guess, the soft ways in which we can build an equitable industry and really, really focused on how to make money for everybody, because that’s when things start to really shift, because then you’re putting power in a very, very different group of hands, and that’s gonna be how we change this industry.

0:15:00.8 April Pride, host: Thanks for listening to this episode of The High Guide. Of course, you’ll find a new episode of The High guide every Friday, so tribe and follow wherever you listen to podcast. And if you’re looking to stay in closer contact, give us a follow on Instagram at the High.Guide and subscribe to our newsletter on our website, www.thehigh.guide. This is April Pride, host, and thanks for joining me here as I try to guide your high.

Episode Credits

Producer & Host: April Pride Audio Engineer: Nick Patri, Cloud Studios Theme music: Cheri Dub, Morris Johnson

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