Today is International Women's Day!
On this day we stand together, strong as women, in a diverse community. Celebrating our efforts, achievements, but also our differences.
I haven’t worked in all aspects of the hemp industry, and there may be challenges to being a woman in some areas, but I haven’t personally encountered any negativity or challenges myself. It’s actually been very much the opposite. As an example, when I started attending US Hemp Roundtable board meetings on behalf of Barlean’s… I’m not gonna lie – it was definitely a sea of men around the table. There were probably only one or two other women – one of whom was Annie Rouse from Anavii. But the welcome I got – specifically because I am a woman – it was pretty huge. The leadership of the US Hemp Roundtable were really excited to see more involvement by women, particularly at the board level. Overall, I have to say, the organization has been genuinely excited to create more diversity in the industry, including by women.
Right now, there is actually female leadership at the four major hemp industry organizations: Joy Beckerman is president of the Hemp Industries Association, Marielle Wieintraub is president of the US Hemp Authority, is Caren Wilcox is executive director of the US Hemp Growers Association, and this year I’m serving as president of the US Hemp Roundtable. Go women in hemp!
What was it like helping to move Barleans from the supplements into the CBD space? What inspired you to make this change?
Entering into the CBD space wasn’t really a leap for Barlean’s. We’ve been making healthy oils for 30 years now, so CBD is a pretty natural extension of most everything else we do. We’d actually been looking into CBD for several years. The Barlean family needed to get comfortable with CBD – they needed first to understand what CBD was and feel confident that it was something that had the potential to help people’s lives.
Really, once those basic questions were answered and we decided to jump in, it was just another nutritional oil for us. We started out with just two products: an extra strength CBD tincture, and one of the very first USDA certified organic CBD hemp oils to hit the market. Shortly after, we added other tinctures, as well as softgels. This past year, we’ve moved into what Barlean’s is best known for: making CBD oils that are more bioavailable, faster-acting and really yummy. We’re the people who can make fish oil taste great, so you can be sure we can do some pretty great things with CBD.
What has your role been like as the New President of the US Hemp Roundtable? What did this mean to you and what do you hope to accomplish?
I’m really honored to have been chosen for this role, particularly when I think about the incredible expertise of the first two presidents, Steve Bevan of GenCanna and Josh Hendrix from CV Sciences. As colleagues on the Roundtable, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know both of these gentlemen. The depth of their knowledge and expertise is remarkable. I have some rather large shoes to fill.
As you know, 2020 may be yet another truly pivotal year for hemp – and CBD in particular. I’m hopeful I can bring some value to the organization as we work hard to move legislation forward at both the national level and in states around the country. The US Hemp Roundtable board and membership are filled with talented, hardworking people all working toward the same goals. Many of us are competitors, but we also have tremendous respect for one another and recognize that a rising tide raises all ships. If we can continue to set high standards for quality and safety, for example via certification by the US Hemp Authority, the industry as a whole will benefit.
What inspired you to get into the hemp industry? You have a little one who has gown up in the fields of Hemp. What has that experience been like for you and how do you educate her?
I am a little embarrassed to admit this, but a little over four years ago, we were living n Florida and Alex (life partner) came home and started a conversation about hemp and I honestly wasn’t too familiar with it. All I knew was the hemp bracelet I rocked as a kid and the Hempz lotion I used in my teens. Both were hip things to do. Alex talked about moving back to Kentucky and beginning a venture in the hemp industry. I actually was opposed to moving back. I was loving life in Florida and I had moved down there to stay clear from the farm life I knew back home. (The entire reason I moved) But, Alex struck up interest in this plant I knew very little about and I began researching. It actually was a video I came across "Weed", a CNN documentary by Sanjay Gupta that gave the word hemp a new meaning. As I watched this documentary I was filled with all kinds of emotions. Watching how powerful and impactful this plant really was. This plant has the potential to give people hope, give people their life back and just add some normalcy back into peoples lives that most of us take for granted. Maybe it was because I was expecting a new daughter and watching Charlotte’s life change from hemp in this documentary, but that alone was one of the most inspiring and touching things I have ever seen. It had me interested, eager and excited to be involved and active in learning more about this plant. I knew within about 15 minutes of watching, I was moving back home. So, December 24th we received the application approval and February 1st, 2017 we loaded up the U-Haul and headed back home.
Working from home raising a family in this industry is what excites me the most. Some days we can spend 18+ hours in the greenhouse and being able to raise my girls on the farm makes those days a little easier. It would be challenging for me to justify working those long hours and not getting to be around them. My oldest Ryan, 13, typically is in school during most days, however, Rory, 3, is attached at the hip. She usually heads down to the greenhouse in her tutu and boots and ends up losing all of it and bathes in the dirt along with her dolls. I love exposing and teaching her how powerful the plant is and showing her kids her size using hemp to give them a better way of life. I will never forget eating breakfast at a hotel and the news was on talking about CBD and hemp growth. She pointed up and said, "Wook mom, they're talking about hemp." "Wook, wook, there is a wot of green houses." A family came over and was so impressed and I I cannot explain how much joy that brought me being fortunate enough to raise her around a plant that will change the world. My oldest is often teased at times because she “grows marijuana”. I do my best to teach both girls the difference between the two and the beauty in both of these plants. I also encourage Ryan to speak with confidence and teach those kids what it is that we do and explain the simple difference and just ignore them if they ever become too overwhelming. The stigma has been around for several years and educating to normalize cannabis will come with time.
What is it like swimming in a sea of men at the company?
Swimming in a sea of men is correct. For the most part, I absolutely love working with this group of guys. We have been friends with one another since middle school and knew these were great people, lifelong friends and working together just comes easy. I also grew up working in the fields with my dad on the farm and until my sister was born and my three future best friends moved in across the street all in the same year, I was always around males. It was all I knew. Seems familiar with my current situation, although, I won’t lie, I look forward to spring time when we bring on a handful of women. I don’t realize how much I love and miss working with women until the springtime rolls around. Grateful I have two daughters around to balance it out the other times of the year.
What is your favorite part about the industry you’re in? What has your experience been like growing and manufacturing the products and being involved in the whole process?
My favorite part about being in this industry is watching how this new community comes together willing to share new information and help one another grow. The hemp industry is growing daily and the outpour of information and the help and support everyone is willing to give is a beautiful thing to be a part of.
Growing and manufacturing the products as well as being involved in the whole process from start to finish gives a whole new understanding to what and why it is that I am doing what I do. It is always nice to have a change of scenery going from the greenhouse in the morning to creating new products in our FDA certified facility that afternoon. You get to find out what you are good at and learning all sides of the business gives you a great background of how everything works. This process has been a huge learning curve and taught me new things about the business that are enjoyable and fun. Making the move and helping start Greenman Gardens was the hardest and best decision I have ever made.
Have you hit any big hurdles along the way being a woman in the field?
I definitely have hit some hurdles with being a woman in the hemp industry. Overall, I think the biggest hurdle of being a woman has been with myself. Much of this came in the beginning when I would get inside my own head and often times did not recognize the negative internal monologue I was saying over and over again. I lacked the knowledge and confidence about this new industry that I had submerged myself in. I had a newborn baby in the beginning and often times spent long hours with her and didn’t make as much time learning this new venture. I would listen to Alex speak and it was clear how much he had learned and I would get down on myself with the lack thereof.
There was a time early on when I was at a conference and tried to sell myself as more than I was ready to answer to. I lacked the answers and it was evident I needed to spend more time behind the computer. It quickly taught me to own up when clueless and it also taught me that don’t let being a woman get in the way and be aware of the conversations I was having with myself. Having the knowledge and putting in the time and research has given me so much more confidence. It is empowering and I hope my girls learn that women are awesome, just as qualified as men to do jobs and that we are powerful and capable.
What inspired you to create a female focused brand? What was like that coming up with products solely for women?
In 2017, I went through about a year of debilitating anxiety. A friend guided me to CBD, and it was a game-changer for me. The relief I found was immediate—I was sleeping through the night for the first time in a year and my general feelings of constantly being overwhelmed started to ease. I dove into the research and learned how that the body has an endocannabinoid system and by balancing the ESC one could have better stress responses. I also learned that statistically women experience anxiety disorders, depression, insomnia and headaches at twice the rate of men. Talk about unfair! But a lightbulb went off- our bodies have different hormonal responses and surges, life puts different stressors on us etc. We should have products formulated for us! This is where the idea for Winged formed from.
What is your favorite product? What was the process like to perfect your unique gummy flavor for your products?
I am obsessed with our Relaxation gummies. The gummies are really tasty, as our friends at Anavii know. —it’s really hard to eat just one. They are all natural, vegan and packed with relaxation promoting ingredients like CBD, L-Theanine, Lemon Balm and Chamomile. The formula is non-drowsy through so you can really enjoy them any time throughout the day when you need a moment of zen.
It was important to us that the gummy be great tasting, but also natural. Most of the gummies that are on the market, especially the ones that are brightly colored, are made with artificial flavors and colors. Artificial sweeteners like Aspartame or sucralose, maltitol or sorbitol, were all on our “Not Acceptable” list. The challenge become developing a great taste with no chemicals. The process involved a lot of money and time in R & D and I probably ate hundred gummies during taste tests. Through trial and error, we got it. I am so proud of what our gummy R & D team was able to accomplish.
What is it like juggling a business and preparing for motherhood?
It’s been really overwhelming at times and also really empowering. I alternate between feeling scared and alternately, more powerful as a woman than I have ever felt. I’m trying my best to invite it all in and use it to be a better decision maker and leader for Winged and also be better as a future mother because of it. There are some tactical things that I am preparing for like time management! Before the baby comes I have time on weekends and at night to work more. I know that will all change. I am trying to get more comfortable with delegating which is always hard to find that perfect balance but I know we will.
Have you hit any big hurdles along the way being a woman in the field?
I really haven’t. I think being a woman has been an advantage for me. I think some of that is timing because it’s almost like the collective energy of women are synching up, and there is more collaboration and helping one another out. I have found an incredible sisterhood within the hemp community. There are several amazing female-founded and female-led hemp brands that work hard to support and lift one another up. Whether it's group texts, instagram groups, or just socializing at hemp events I've been lucky to be welcomed with open arms and I'm very grateful to all those woman for that. Annie Rouse is a prime example. When I entered the hemp market, I knew very little about quality farmers, processing, female farmers, etc. She has been a sound bar for me to learn from and an inspiration to me with how much she has done for the hemp movement in general. I appreciate her.
“Collaboration over competition” is the motto among women in hemp. That old saying about rising tides lifting all boats holds true, and it’s so refreshing that these women embrace that philosophy. Together we rise!
CEO & Founder of Healing Harbors
I started my journey to Healing Harbors as a helicopter flight mechanic for the US Coast Guard. While serving in remote Alaska, I frequently accompanied rescue missions, bringing the injured and ill back to safety…and by the time I came home to Maine, I had returned with a calling to continue helping people in their time of need. I completed my CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) and CRMA (Certified Residential Medication Aide) training and began a career specializing in hospice and geriatric home health care. It was in that role that I first saw my clients and their families successfully using cannabis for pain relief, stress management, increased mobility and circulation, etc. — and I jumped at the opportunity to study and develop simple, natural plant-based options that have the potential to significantly improve quality of life within my community.
COO & Co-Owner of Healing Harbors
I come from a very different background, as an Atlanta marketer working in the non-profit world and a data analytics startup after that. My career had always been focused on creative problem-solving to make the organizations I was part of more and more profitable, but while caring for and eventually losing my father to Alzheimer’s I started wondering what I could do to actually give back to my community. My mother was an oncology nurse, my father worked in defense — operating without a mission or a calling beyond profitability was no longer good enough. So I moved to Maine, was introduced to Stacy and her products, and quickly began reshaping my business-building skills into creating a movement that I 100% believe in.
Even though we’re both adult women in our 30’s, we’ve definitely been called “girls” and had plenty of things “mansplained” to us. Ashley also fights the stigma against working moms, with people assuming she can’t be both a mom and a businesswoman (and certainly not at the helm of a growing business!). Unfortunately, it isn’t anything that any woman in business hasn’t endured. But overall we’ve had a positive experience within the cannabis community. A few years ago, it was still very counter-culture, male-dominated, with a lot of “sex sells” geared marketing…and it wasn’t always a comfortable place for women to be. But since thriving in the cannabis industry — whether THC rich or strictly hemp and CBD — now requires a strong desire to care for your community, educate your customers and nurture good relationships with the surrounding business community, we’ve seen more and more men and women joining the cause with a shared mission to do good and give everyone a seat at the table. The people we see entering this industry are also usually interested in bucking the system and the status quo, so we get more support for not playing into traditional roles here too.
What steps did you take to grow the company? Do you focus on the aspect that you are a women-owned brand?
Stacy knew early on that she was going to need a partner who had experience with business growth and marketing, so she started looking for that right when her products first hit the market in the Summer of 2017. Once she found me and we knew that we were kindred spirits with very diverse but complementary skills, we spent a lot of long nights creating and then executing a “relaunch plan” for Healing Harbors. It covered everything from honing the business model to totally rebranding the business, retooling the product line, securing IP, acquiring working capital, building out an ecommerce site, introducing and executing sales and marketing plans, hiring, and much more…and to get the mentorship and support we needed we joined The Maine Center for Entrepreneurs’ startup accelerator program Top Gun in 2018. Through weekly workshops with our peers and mentors, it became crystal clear that the fact that we are a Veteran Founded, Women Owned, and Maine Made business that cares deeply about its community is a big differentiator for us — so we try to leverage that in our marketing so that people quickly understand what we’re about and why we need to exist. Being women-owned has definitely opened some doors, especially with fellow women in business. But at the same time, our products are for everyone (and their pets), so we actively try not to alienate men with any of our marketing choices either. It honestly would be a lot easier to create a “gendered” brand in a niche market, but we genuinely want everybody to find relief so that they in turn feel empowered to go out and make the world a better place.
What ways do you want to impact the CBD community?
When we talked to our friends and family about building Healing Harbors, knowing that it would be a lot of long hours with very little payoff for a while, they were really encouraging because they wanted to see a business do it “the right way” — and they felt like we had the right skills and intentions to do that. That means a lot to us, and we’ve sacrificed a lot to see it through. We want to be known as a business that really cares about its community, prioritizes people over profits, and that pivots and operates with business savvy so that we can grow that much more quickly and help that many more people. While it is tempting to give everything away in the spirit of generosity, we know that in order to become a real force for good we need to stick around, so profits matter because we can invest them back into the business and the mission. That’s why we ask customers to round up their purchases so that we can provide products and deep discounts to people who need them with our CARE FOR EVERY BODY™ fund. We want to do this together, with our customers, and be the brand that makes a big impact by encouraging self-care first so that together we can be better caregivers to our loved ones and neighbors. We want people to know that they matter, and that their community is here for them.
Have you hit any big hurdles along the way being a woman in the field?
Given that Stacy’s military service days involved working as a helicopter mechanic with mostly men at a very young age…we haven’t experienced anything we can’t handle with Healing Harbors! And above and beyond being women in business, simply working in CBD and with hemp-derived products is already uniquely challenging because it’s an emergent market, regulated in a very gray area, with persistent stigma, a huge lack of education, shifting laws, and no ability to make any recommendations or medical claims about its benefits! Some days we wonder what we were thinking getting involved in something so complex, but then we get a phone call about someone whose life has been changed by our products, and we keep going. There are no obstacles that will keep us from doing this work. We care about it too much.