WOMEN IN CBD | Guess who’s leading the charge in cannabis wellness

Sandy Cohen
Mar 5, 2019

A growth industry.

With an ever-expanding customer base, hemp legalized, and more growth on the horizon, cannabis is an industry of bountiful opportunity.

CBD, in particular, is skyrocketing in both popularity and market presence: analysts predict the industry will be worth $5.7 billion this year, and more than $20 billion by 2022. And it’s no coincidence that Eaze Insights found that women were the fastest-growing consumer demographic as CBD was having its breakout year.

And of all the brands on Eaze Wellness, 75% are female founded or led.

[SEE ALSO: I tried CBD every day for a week. Here’s what happened]

Because the industry is still taking shape, its power structures aren’t as rigid as in the corporate world, allowing diverse leaders from a range of backgrounds to find success. There’s still plenty of room for more women at the top, experts say, noting the initial boom of female entrepreneurs and executives in cannabis has slowed as large-scale investment has grown.

But the progressive, holistic nature of the CBD business also means companies are more aware of inequities, and some, like Bloom Farms and Mary’s Nutritionals, are prioritizing gender inclusion.

A female plant.

“The plant is female, right?” says Lynn Honderd, founder and chief executive of Mary’s Nutritionals. “It’s Mother Nature. It’s Mother Earth. It’s a female-driven thought process around the plant … of course women should be in this industry.”

Click the image below to shop Mary’s Nutritionals.

Honderd came into cannabis as an investor and business leader, cofounding Mary’s Medicinals in 2013. Two years later, the company expanded to include Mary’s Nutritionals, a division devoted entirely to medicinal-grade CBD tinctures, creams and groundbreaking transdermal patches and gel pens.

“It’s exciting for us for us for so many different reasons,” she says. “But primarily because we know we’re at the forefront of good quality medicine.”

Though Honderd works with many women, she’d like to see more throughout the industry, especially in executive and management levels. Women make excellent leaders in cannabis because they naturally bring altruism to their work, she says: “You have to have capitalism and altruism to make sure that you can continue to grow.”

Blossoming into CBD.

Like Mary’s, Bloom Farms blossomed into needing a separate CBD division. And like Honderd, Sallyann Nichols, the head of that division, came into cannabis as an investor.

Click the image below to shop Bloom Farms.

Nichols got into the industry in Colorado and now backs several California companies. In 2016, one of those enterprises, Bloom Farms, invited her to join its leadership team. Nichols took over as president of Bloom Farms CBD late last year, just before it launched its new USDA Certified 100% Organic CBD tinctures.

“I’m incredibly proud of them,” Nichols says. “They’re a very, very high-quality product.”

Both Nichols and Honderd say they’ve seen fewer female entrepreneurs and executives in cannabis since bigger investments have come in.

“As the market grows, a lot of venture money comes in from other industries, and they bring their friends with them and their go-to people and their turnaround executives,” Nichols says. “Those coming from other industries tend to represent a different demographic.”

A pledge for equality.

Bloom Farms, already known for its 1-for-1 mission, which donates a healthy meal for every product sold, recently announced a new Diversity Initiative. Company chief Michael Ray promised that by 2020, half its suppliers will be businesses owned or run by women.

He agrees that the cannabis industry is uniquely positioned to build inclusivity into its roots without having to perpetuate the “long-established prejudices” common to other businesses.

“Just as we are working to close the food gap for those in need in our communities, Bloom Farms wants to ensure an opportunity gap isn’t created for talented and diverse business owners who have been essential to the California cannabis community for many years,” Ray says.

Bringing women up.

Executives like Honderd, Nichols and Ray and events like Eaze’s recent SheCann Summit are working to create a more gender-balanced landscape in cannabis.

That’s just how it should be in an industry that’s all about nature and flowers, Honderd says: “We can’t lose sight of how the nurturing component of women plays well with the plant.”

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