I love everything about the cannabis space. I love the efficacy of it, I love the business of it, I love the smell of it, but more importantly, I love the opportunity of it. And it's a BIG ONE. I'm not the first person to quote stats about the growth of the space by 2025, something like 25 billion dollars, right? Women are flocking to it at a 92% growth over the last few years and all kinds of brands are popping up to capitalize on the CPG (consumer packaged goods) opportunity. I've seen everything from coffee to shampoo with CBD and apparently there are now more dispensaries in Colorado than Starbucks. I sniff a partnership soon between the two.
Why not, grab a scone and some CBD infused coffee on your way to class or work. Sounds merrily to me. I have seen so many types of CBD brands, from the well thought-out companies with pretty packaging to the low-rent marijuana leaf boxes that look like Grandma helped label in the kitchen. This is my favorite part of this gold or ahem 'green rush' is that everyone can have a real shot at the dream. Granted, by next Q1 and Q2 most of these brands won't be around but at least they were able to give it the old college try with some friends and make some money. The reason I was originally attracted to the space was the fact that the plant not only has so many benefits but I saw so many women and people of color getting in on the action.
Victoria Flores, Co-founder of Lux Beauty ClubPhoto by Cody Jacob codyjacobsstories.comWith my previous company it was always so difficult to raise money from all the white men in VC who for the most part back their 'bros' or white women who went to Harvard or other Ivy League schools. Time and time again, I would see these male founders raise huge rounds, blow up these businesses (not in a good way) and then simply go back and get more funding. Out the window went the rational reasoning of actually building a profitable business and getting real paying customers. "Let's put a lemonade stand on Mars!"…"Yes, yes, billion dollar opportunity, here's 2 million dollars pre-seed!" Ok, ok, maybe not that dumb but felt pretty close to that. Nothing was more frustrating than seeing the men get all the capital to launch women-focused products or brands. You mean to tell me, not one woman came to you with this same idea. Not one? Yeah, exactly. Which brings me to why I love the cannabis space.
Weed doesn't see color. Weed doesn't care if you're black, brown, yellow, Snoop Dog or Martha Stewart. Weed is simply the vehicle to make money, and lots of it. From the farms, to the supply chain to the shelves at Sephora. Weed and everything about it is here to stay. I, for one, can't wait for the Napa of Weed to fully develop in Humboldt county in the next few years. It will easily be a top tourist destination, and all those growers and OGs (Original Growers) who have gone legal can truly profit from it without hiding in the shadows. I also love the cannabis space because it's not tech, it's not fintech, it's not travel, it's not SAAS, it's plain ole grass. Don't get me wrong, there is plenty of VC money going into the opportunity but it's not the usual suspects of founders and investors. The people flocking to it are mostly scrappy folks with no VC connections or family money, they're simple folks with good ideas and making them work. We are people that don't fit the mold by any means. We didn't go to the fancy schools, we didn't do the VC rounds, we simply got to work, put our heads down and created incredible products that work and that people want.
Weed doesn't see color. Weed doesn't care if you're black, brown, yellow, Snoop Dog or Martha Stewart.
To be frank, although I had a successful career on Wall Street, I never truly felt accepted by the venture capitalists giving. They would often turn their noses up at me, especially since I wasn't the textbook founder with the pedigree. I wasn't under 35, single, on my 3rd startup or with an Ivy League degree. In the cannabis space I feel truly accepted and valued for the work I have put in and it feels right. And my team, well, it's mostly brown people. Our Chief Scientist, George, is Mexican, my Head of Licensing, Richard, is Venezuelan and the majority of our sales team is also Latino. We are building our company, Lux Beauty Club, on our own terms and scaling rapidly through mostly wholesale distribution since we are still not allowed to advertise on Facebook or Instagram. Why is this great? Because it's cheaper to build real relationships with buyers and wholesalers than spending millions on CA (Customer Acquisition) online. Because we can't advertise online, we've had to go back to basics and battle it on the ground. It's a land grab and most of these snooty dudes have no clue how to do this. All they know is how to spend millions chasing customers online. They don't know how to pick up the phone and make connections or even know which trade shows to attend. Never underestimate the power of face to face sales. It's been our secret weapon on scaling our business fast and furious. These are products that people want to test and try and people want to buy from people they like and trust. You can't always get that from an online website. There's also still a bit of a stigma attached to the industry as a whole, so buyers are starting to get away from the products announcing what they are on the packaging. Subtlety sells. Both my grandma and mother now use our products nightly.. We are a CBD family and household. Gone are the days of the young stoners selling you nickel bags behind the dumpsters. It's a serious and lucrative business with or without THC .
The other great part of this industry is that most VCs cannot invest in this space because their LPs (limited partners) won't allow them to. VCs have LP's to answer to or even larger institutional money so it's not easy for them to invest even when they want to. So that leaves the true cannabis investors that don't care where you are from or look like, as long as you are pushing the product out as fast as possible. Even the big brands are getting in on the action through partnerships and licensing deals. It's an opportunity of a lifetime and history making. And, I, for one, want to be in the forefront of all the possibilities cannabis can bring.
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"Bare down and push like you're taking the biggest dump of your life," were the wise words of my midwife during the last leg of labor.
My husband and I had sat in traffic on the George W. bridge for close to three hours on a Sunday night while I bellowed God-knows-what during erratic contractions. Deepak Chopra whispered sweet nothings into my ear by way of our car's speakers. Side note: if you don't listen to Deepak's meditations, you should. Between bursts of stab-like contractions, I'd say adorable things such as, “honey, the stars look beautiful tonight, don't you think?" and “wow, the new flowers in front of our townhouse are incredible."
Now it was 3 a.m. on Monday morning, and wisps of euphoria had transformed into savage rage.
I'd spent most of the pregnancy crippled by headaches and nausea. By the last trimester, my pelvis had cratered, I could barely walk, and the baby slept upright over my bladder in a permanent ninja kick. This was not an optimal position for my daughter's debut exit from my uterus. Eventually, she turned head-down, but I knew long before her delivery that it would be an arduous back labor. Despite this, I had timidly and thoughtfully committed myself to an all-natural birth. I had determined that our existing medical care system was a little too trigger-happy with its knives. The epiphany to experience boatloads of undesirable pain came with a lot of firsthand research, coupled with the belief that excruciating temporary pain was better than risking preventable permanent damage. This was, of course, out of the ordinary in my geographical location, even amongst mothers whose pregnancies were highly healthy and, for lack of a better word, easy. Many young mothers I spoke with prior to my own newborn's delivery had one horrific labor story after the next, and their opinions echoed the pervasive research indicating that the medical system was failing healthy pregnant mothers as a method to prevent less likely outliers. So, I made a choice. No IV. No epidural. I found a wonderful midwife who studied on the farm with Ina May Gaskin, and had successfully delivered thousands of babies, and I committed to an all-natural birth.
“What? Who sh*ts like this?" I blurted, and clenched my abdominal muscles as though I were about to push out a Ford pickup–a sturdy American car.
“Just touch her head!" my husband instructed, elated. “Feel it. She's almost out."
I clamped my body back against the handicap rails above the toilet. “I can't."
“Honey, come on, feel her head," he said again.
“I can't," I repeated, unprepared for the realness of a child to congeal in my mind. “I want drugs," I pleaded for the umpteenth time to no avail.
My midwife took hold of the reigns. “Honey, open your eyes and look at me now."
“The baby's head is half way through your birth canal. She has twenty minutes or she's going to suffocate."
Suddenly I was confused. “Who sh*ts like this?" I retorted. “Do you sh*t like this? I don't sh*t like this."
We all snickered a little “no," and transferred to the bed. Several more pushes and something warm and smooth slid out of my body.
“Did I do it; is she out?" I asked.
My midwife scrunched her forehead and peeped under the blanket. “No honey, you just sh*t yourself. Let's get you cleaned up."
I cringed, and continued pushing as hard and as frequently as I knew how. With each push, the baby inched out a little further, but I felt as though it would never happen. “I can't!"
My husband and midwife encouraged, “Yes you can! You already are!"
I zoned back in. It was true. I was. “Help me with my legs," I told them. My husband held my legs behind me, and in several more pushes, a creature emerged from my body. Her name is Sydney.
I cried instantly, as did my husband, who recited, “You did it!" in pure bliss.
A few moments later, my midwife pulled out the placenta, which my husband later ate (kidding, kidding).
It was baller. Confetti fell from the ceiling. My makeup artist zoomed over to prepare us for our family photo shoot, and the Paparazzi eagerly stood in line outside waiting for a coveted chance to meet my newborn. I am being sarcastic, of course, but childbirth is no small feat–I was a hero on top of the world.
Yes, there I was holding my little one, thanking the heavens she was all right, but at that same time, I was also looking down at my deflated belly sack, trembling while my midwife stitched together what remained of my lady parts. My breasts filled with milk, a sensation akin to filling an over-stuffed water balloon with a hose, and before I could blink, people were pinching my nipples and trying to explain to me how Sydney was supposed to latch. The room then filled with residents and strangers who watched me in the nude as if I were their third-grade biology experiment. When I rose to pee, so much blood exploded from my nether bits that the cleanup crew had to throw away the mattress. I imagine this isn't unusual. I imagine many women have their own versions of the same story. Why? Because this is real life.
And business, my friends, is real life too. It's messy. It doesn't SWAAY too far one way or another, regardless of how you are wired or, in my case, MISSWIRED (a little homage to the terrific book I wrote in vignettes while cradling my newborn through her early years of life).
Why? Because in business and in creation, there are several truths that overlap. Here they are below. I hope you find them empowering.
1. Like pregnancy, the development of a new product or service is a long and arduous process with bursts of euphoria in between.
There's a saying, “nine women can't make a baby in one month." It's true, so find productive ways to expand the joy, such as meditating.
2. Pain can be temporary, or it can be long-lasting.
Do your research, factor yourself into the equation, and make a choice. Each decision you make in business follows the same formula. “How much temporary pain am I willing to endure today in order to prevent systematic pain later? Is it worth it?" Sometimes you'll get it right; sometimes you won't. But you're better off educating yourself.
3. Yes, you are powerful. But you are not self-sufficient.
You may be able to develop a significant portion of a product or business on your own, but not without quality help. Determine whom you want to have by your side–ideally someone compassionate and credible–particularly when you're in heat and nearing the finish line. They need to be able to help you pick up the slack when you think you just don't have a single iota of strength left.
4. If you can't get sh*t done one way, do it another way; adjust.
And by the way, pushing out crap is good; it allows your ultimate product the space it needs to find its way into reality.
5. Miracles are born in blood and tears. So are new services and products.
6. Once you deliver, the infrastructure you have to support your creation will, at first, be stitched together and deflated.
This is absolutely normal. You might have an idea of what you need, but until the real thing is available to you, you can't have it all figured out. That's when everyone and their mother will try to tell you what to do. They mean well, but you're the CEO. Listen to them, but trust your instincts. After all, it's your baby, and these are your nipples.
May all you mothers out there prosper in business; you're already doing the hardest of life's work.