Seven years ago, I migrated to Canada and started my career as a plant scientist developing organic fertilizers. With all the stress and pressure from work, I made the decision to turn to cannabis for health reasons, but coming from a religious and conservative Filipino family, I kept this as a secret out of fear of being judged by them.
This made me realized how the stigma around cannabis is affecting everyone, especially women and women of color. I searched the CBD market, and I couldn’t find a product that’s highly formulated with CBD without any synthetic chemicals. I identified a gap in the cannabis industry, which is the lack of cannabis-infused confections that are carefully formulated with natural ingredients and designed with a modern and playful packaging.
I considered settling for what’s in the market or creating natural CBD infused confections of my own and revealing my secret to my Filipino parents that not only am I using cannabis, but also, I’m starting my own cannabis business.
I chose the latter and followed my mission to create meticulously dosed CBD products formulated without any synthetic ingredients. I founded my company and officially became a “cannapreneur.”
This venture hasn’t been easy, especially when the cannabis industry is 81% dominated by white business owners but only 2.4% of founders are Asian. I know there are a lot of women, especially women of color, who want to inspire this white male dominated industry, so I’m sharing eight things I learned from founding a startup cannabusiness:
1. If you’re from an Asian family or even from a conservative family, don’t be afraid to stick up for yourself.
When I decided to start this venture, I told my parents that I’m quitting my career to start my own CBD company. I have never felt them so disappointed in me, and I can still remember their exact words. “Why are you throwing away 10 years of education to start a marijuana business?”
But you know what? If you show them that cannabis is not just for stoners and explain your mission and vision, they will come around. It might take them quite some time to accept it, but at least you get their blessings.
2. Be passionate about your idea and stand up for your mission.
I pitched my idea to different manufacturers on formulating my own CBD lollipop recipe without any synthetic ingredients. They never got back to me even after following up. But I didn’t lose hope and tried calling 100 other manufacturers. Luckily, I found a woman-owned manufacturer who shares the same vision as me.
Be persuasive and don’t stop even when the world is saying no to you.
3. Prepare for a bro-fest ride
If you think dispensaries are your go-to place to sell your CBD products, think twice. I went to almost all the dispensaries in my city, and at 95%, I got rejected because there’s a hint of feminine touch on my packaging.
Instead, try reaching out to apothecary shops, cannabis-friendly grocery stores and restaurants, or even those chic CBD stores popping up in Los Angeles and New York. They have your target audience, because let’s face it, the stoner image is a thing of a past.
4. Rest but don’t stop.
I’m pretty sure I was going to give up my idea when I saw how I was getting rejected when I reached out to different stores and dispensaries. I invested so much time and savings. I was convinced this was going nowhere.
I may have stopped working on it for a couple of months, but I knew this was just part of a roller coaster ride. So, I got up and start hustling again to follow my passion.
5. Concentrate on your advantages and not the mishaps.
Your advantage is you’re standing up for women to shift to cannabis used as plant-based self-care, and fortunately, they’re very supportive for women-owned businesses. Don’t be shy to sate that you are a woman-owned business and always reach out for support and collaborations to widen your network.
6. Don’t be overwhelmed by other companies that are bigger than you.
When I decided to start my CBD company, I didn’t know what I was in for. I realized I’m just a small fish in a big sea, and no one would know I exist. I realized that if you make consistent actions and target the right audience, people will find you.
Why? Because they’re always on the lookout to try different brands until they find the perfect product that works for them.
7. Be your own influencer.
If you don’t love what you sell, you can’t expect people to buy it from you. I spent so much money and time reaching out to “influencers” who said they can review and market my product for me. But it turns out, you can’t expect to rely on their reviews.
Don’t be afraid to be the face of your brand. People actually appreciate when they know who they’re buying products from because there is more credibility involved.
8. Accept your mistakes and move on.
Most of my mistakes come from relying on other people to do what I’m supposed to do. Being a startup, there’s no one who knows your company more than you. I wasted time and money to realize they didn’t get my brand.
If you think you don’t have the skills to market your brand, think again. I came from no business or marketing background, but as you go deep into it more, you suddenly have these creative juices driven by your passion. Believe me, it’s better to do it yourself and be hands-on when you’re growing your brand.
These are just a few of the things I came across when I started my business. I know there’s still a lot to learn. Do you have any pieces of advice for women entrepreneurs paving their way in the cannabis industry? If so, I’d love to hear them! Let us connect and comment down below.
About the Author
Elena Devanadera is founder of Nova Blis, a CBD products company offering infused edibles and tinctures.