Hundreds of established and up-and-coming cannabis industry leaders came together to share stories and insights in Denver, Colorado, on February 1-2, 2018, at the Women Grow Leadership Summit (WGLS). During two intense days of learning and networking, they connected, educated, and empowered each other at the largest industry gathering focused primarily on women. I’m also sure that deals were being made because finding capital is an important element of all business verticals, and Women Grow (WG) helps connect ideas with funding.
As a non-traditional impact investment vehicle, WG fulfills a social mission using a for-profit structure. This is an increasingly important branding strategy in both cannabis and the at-large business world.
Women Grow was created in Denver, Colo., in 2014, and serves as a catalyst for women to influence and succeed in the cannabis industry. As the end of marijuana prohibition in the U.S. comes into clearer focus, WG connects, educates, inspires, and empowers the next generation of leaders by creating programs, community, and events for a diverse set of business executives and leaders in all segments of the cannabis industry.
Related Story: How Women Are Breaking New Ground In Marijuana
Together, members have started more than 1,000 women-owned businesses in the marijuana industry, and there are monthly events in 35 cities across the U.S. and Canada. A popular Speakers Bureau ensures diversity at industry events and in media coverage, and an online Video Education series creates timely access to relevant content.
Women control 85 percent of consumer spending, so it isn’t a stretch to say that female consumers will also come to dominate cannabis purchasing decisions. Therefore, marijuana products and services that women love are bound to rise to the top. But women and minorities are substantially underrepresented in cannabis leadership roles. Hence the need for WGLS.
There were several overlapping threads to this year’s Summit, including equality (women and minorities are underrepresented in cannabis, especially in positions of power), leadership (including the benefits of being together for the Summit), diversity, and navigating the legal issues of cannabis as a mainstream business.
While there was some content distributed on Wednesday, January 31, it was confined to Women Grow Market Leadership and Women Grow Members and consisted primarily of a special workshop, a welcome reception, and a professional development session. Thursday kicked off bright and early with a series of lightning talks. All sorts of topics were covered in short order, including such notables as Climbing in Heels – The Art of Exceeding Self-Expectation, From Target to THC: Confessions of a Corporate-to-Cannabis Crossover, Diversity in Cannabis Report, How-To For Women (Cannabis 101), The Intercultural Conversation – Cannabis Between Cultures, and Why Science Matters.
Friday was devoted to breakout sessions, small panels that included topics such as Addressing Sexual Harassment in The Workplace, Big Brand Insights to Guide Your Canna-business Marketing, Know The Law, Cannabis & the Feminine, Careers in Cannabis After 50 – How to Market Yourself, Investing in the Cannabis Industry, and How Women Grow.
Was It Worth It?
Sister Kate of Sisters of the Valley, an organization that sustains farm operations and compassionate activism by making products for people in a spiritual environment, described the spiritual healing environment of WGLS: “The entire two days were a euphoric walk in the clouds with angels on angel-missions. Except these angels are of the bad-ass-warrior variety, carrying the most beautiful combination of femininity and strength. Here I found women who do not deny their scars, nor make excuses for their victimizers. Here I met women who re-purpose their own suffering in order to better help and understand others – to better connect and heal others.”
As for her thoughts on how WG approaches empowering underrepresented groups, Sister Kate is not sure what they are doing, but believes they are doing it well. She related, “we were so pleased to see the mix of colors and genders and ethnicities and religious beliefs. It was a beautiful tapestry of color in the conference. The women of color that we spoke with – many have had terrible hardship to overcome. Amazing stories that made my life look like a cake-walk. Their pure-bred warrior strength and courage is something to salute and something that brought tears to my eyes. We will definitely be back every year.”
Just Show Up
Sister Kate further advises newbies to “Show up. Just show up. You will heal from the experience. You will be healed, you will be strengthened, you will leave a Viking Warrioress intent on claiming her own bliss. Just show up. That’s all you have to do. The energy bath is incredible and might remain with you the rest of your life.”
Toward that end, this year’s Women Grow Leadership Summit focused on transforming careers in the cannabis industry. At the end, attendees left with a plethora of meaningful connections and vital industry knowledge that should ignite much success.
While there were some significant changes in the command structure of Women Grow that were announced at the Summit (Dr. Chanda Macias, CEO of National Holistic Center, has been named as Women Grow’s new Chairwoman of the Board of Managers, and Garcia’s second-in-command, Director of Communications Gia Morón, will be assuming a new position as Executive Vice President), the organization’s mission remains the same – to empower women and others who want to make a difference in the world of legal cannabis. It’s a textbook example of how an impact investment approach can be a highly successful branding strategy while also doing good in the world.