Founder: one who establishes something or formulates the basis for something. President: the leader of the company's executive group. CEO: the highest-ranking executive of a firm and acts as the company's public face, making major corporate decisions.
Do a Google search for “women in cannabis leadership statistics”, and the headlines are less than pleasing:
- Female, minority executives lose ground in marijuana industry.
- Report Shows Decreased Percentage of Women and Minority.
- Why Are Only 8% Of Cannabis CEOs Women?
- Globally, women hold just 24% of senior leadership positions. The U.S. lags behind the global average at 21%, compared to China, where women hold 51% of senior leadership slots.
- Women represent 45% of the S&P 500 workforce but only 4% of the CEOs.
- In a study of nearly 22,000 publicly traded organizations worldwide, 60% have no female board members.
As an emerging industry, cannabis has to do better. In my search for women Founders/CEOs/Presidents to feature for this piece, I found it quite difficult to locate features. The initial intent of the piece was women CEOs in cannabis, but because that title isn’t one that many women have in cannabis, I changed the focus to cover Founders and Presidents as well.
Below is a Q&A with 3 women in the cannabis industry that hold the title of: CEO, President, or Founder. They share their stories, their hardship, and advice for women aspiring to launch and lead businesses.
Women in the Cannabis Industry: a Q&A with Founders, CEOs, and Presidents
Photo Credit: MassChallenge
Andrea Walker- Leidy is the Founder and CEO of 420 Publicity; a Michigan-based public relations agency focused on brand development, public relations, social media, and reputation management for businesses in the cannabis industry.
Diana Krach is the Founder of Your Highness Podcast; a podcast focused on getting comfortable with the uncomfortable, having conversations not widely discussed, and honoring those who are making this space and plant available to everyone in a fair and equitable way.
Erin Koch is the President of Greencore Speciality Insurance; an independent cannabis insurance agency offering a wide range of insurance policies for every type of cannabis business.
Please give me a little insight into your daily role as a Founder/CEO/President.
Andrea Walker-Leidy: “In the communication and publicity world, no two days look the same. As CEO and founder of 420 Publicity, I have the opportunity to connect with clients and share stories every day. I am passionate about educating communities about the benefits and sustainability of the cannabis industry. I believe that can only happen through sharing the unique stories behind each product, brand, and company.”
Diana Krach: “As a founder of a podcast and media platform, I spend a lot of time emailing people. A lot of my days are spent interviewing guests, sourcing ideas for episodes, and collaborating with other creatives.”
Erin Koch: “My day is primarily spent at my desk emailing and talking with our clients and carrier partners. Our job as insurance brokers is to take the headache of insurance out of the hands of the individuals that are running cannabis operations – they have enough on their plate! We know insurance, we know the cannabis space, we work as advisors to guide our clients through the insurance process.”
Tell me about the moment you realized that the title Founder/CEO/President was in your thoughts/visions?
Andrea Walker-Leidy: “I have wanted to be a business owner since I was a girl. As most business owners and leaders will tell you, it’s often not about the title. My role as CEO or Founder are all great titles, but truly the work is the work! My vision was to work for myself, create a company where we’re able to collaborate and do great things.”
Diana Krach: “I have been self-employed for almost a decade, and I’m constantly pivoting to match marketing and media trends. My professional title changes often, but I am always doing what I need to stay in this position. So, on some level, I’ve always known I would have to be my own boss to thrive.”
Erin Koch: “I always wanted a career that I connected with. It wasn’t until I found myself in the cannabis insurance world that I really realized how much I wanted to be a leader in this niche space. I want this industry to succeed. Insurance is the way I can help the industry succeed.”
Is this your first time as Founder/CEO/President or did you have this title in other industries?
Andrea Walker-Leidy: “I founded Walker Publicity in 2007 and have been President of that company for more than 15 years.”
Diana Krach: “I tried my hand at being a founder before, but due to clients not paying invoices and a general lack of funding, it didn’t last long. I put the cart way before the horse, so to speak, and it didn’t work out.”
Erin Koch: “This is my first time as President and I am so proud to be.”
What was the hardest part in your journey as Founder/CEO/President in the cannabis industry?
Andrea Walker-Leidy: “The hardest part about the cannabis industry and being a business-owner or CEO is the stigma that this industry still faces. It will take all of us as leaders committing to education, sharing success, and giving back to continue to change the face and reputation of cannabis. It’s important for me to work with companies that understand that struggle, and who also understand that so many are incarcerated or recovering from a time when this industry wasn’t legal. It is our job as leaders to continue to create change, educate our communities.”
Diana Krach: “The hardest part always has been and always will be clients not paying on time. Chasing after money not only ruins forward momentum, it deflates determination and inspiration.”
Erin Koch: “The journey. I fought being in the insurance industry for a long time. When I first started out and for many years after, I kept telling myself it was a means to an end. To what end I did not know. One day, while working as an insurance broker for fortune 1000 companies I realized that I loved what I was doing. I loved spreadsheets and policy forms and all aspects of the property & casualty insurance world. I still felt that I hadn’t found my “dream job” quite yet. In my personal time, I was an advocate for the cannabis industry. Combining my insurance knowledge with my desire to help the cannabis industry grow turned into my dream job. There is a lesson in this for all that want to hold titles like President, CEO, Founder, if you can add passion to what you do, success is easier to find!”
What are 3 pieces of advice you’d like to give women aspiring to land the title, Founder/CEO/President in the cannabis industry?
Photo Credit: Dorm Room Fund- Medium
Andrea Walker-Leidy: “Just 3!? There is so much I want to share with other women who want to be in business or leadership:
- Trust yourself and your abilities. You are unique because of who you are, not what you can do. When we trust ourselves, we are able to find our own path and achieve whatever our goals might be.
- Get uncomfortable. This industry is changing all the time, you have to be willing to learn and get out of your comfort zone to move ahead in any career, but especially in cannabis.
- You are enough. This industry is tough. Remember that what people need is WHO you are, not WHAT you do. If you’re passionate about being in leadership, trust that passion and know that is what makes you unique.”
Diana Krach: “My advice is:
- Be transparent about the process. Don’t fake it until you make it - let others know when you need help and why. It will foster more connections for long-term collaborations.
- Obsessively research, and do what you must to understand the gig. Do as much recon as humanly possible.
- Open your mind to constructive criticism, without being defensive. That’s where true collaboration lives.”
Erin Koch: “Aside from the above:
- Believe in yourself and your knowledge.
- Trust your process – No one has the same path to their success, and no one has the same definition of success. Be true to yourself and your path.
- Persevere – A woman in any business setting has to work harder and be louder than our male counterparts. It is not always easy to be seen and heard for our true value and that is very disheartening. Know you are not alone in this and do what you can to support other women.”
Women outnumber men in America and yet, our voices aren’t elevated with the same urgency. That needs to change. If you found any sentence in this piece inspiring, eye opening, heartwarming, and/or made you think of something that can benefit from reading that sentence, please share this with them.