Anxiety is at an all-time high right now, as we're all struggling to cope with the uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic, as we seek comfort in virtual human connections and try to maintain any sense of routine. I'm finding a little extra joy in small victories, like putting on pants and baking for the first time in my life.
As the world adjusts to this new sense of stay-at-home normalcy, we're coming around to something else, too. Weed. Yes, good old Mary Jane. The moment is extra perfect for cannabidiol, or CBD, the non-addictive active ingredient in cannabis, which has been touted as a beneficial and natural resources that can help with sleep, anxiety, depression, and exhaustion. (THC is the ingredient that gets you high.) In Canada and states where it's legal in the United States, cannabis dispensaries have been deemed essential and remain open for business. Bringing in more than $7 billion each year (thanks, in no small part, to a slew of legal-savvy entrepreneurs), cannabis is earning its seat at the board table of adults-only fun. And who's leading the charge? Women. As the market becomes increasingly saturated with CBD products in almost every form, women are proving to be leaders in transparency and sustainability, sourcing their ingredients from credible, third-party-tested farms and delivering trusted products to the market. These six women are lighting up the cannabis industry in a big way.
Cary Leitzes and Olivia Combemale of Superflower
With years of experience on the marketing side of established beauty brands, founders Cary Leitzes and Olivia Combemale were passionate about skincare. But they didn't love toxic ingredients and were looking for clean, effective, and easy-to-use products that simplified their skincare routine. In 2016, as CBD was going mainstream, they couldn't find anything on the beauty shelves that took advantage of this emerging and powerful ingredient, one that promised to decrease inflammation, and soothe and hydrate skin, and certainly nothing they were willing to rub on their own faces. Delving into the space, they quickly discovered that all CBD is not created equal. After vetting more than 20 farms, they landed on a broad-spectrum oil extract from an Oregon farm. Taking the extra care on ingredient sourcing, testing and re-testing the formulation, Superflower’s Everyday Serum was born. The one-for-all and all-for-one super serum mixes hyaluronic acid, vitamin C, and jojoba oil in a flowery scent and was designed to yield dewy, moisturized, and relaxed skin. The founders are really committed to transparency, with product packaging that contains a scannable QR code that gives third-party test results proving how clean the ingredients are — no THC, heavy metals, residual solvents, or pesticides. According to Cary, "We believe in the Steve Jobs model of starting with one product and doing it really, really well."
Ana Rosenstein of Kaleidoscope
An avid skier and ballerina growing up, Ana Rosenstein relied on CBD as one of the few things that relieved the beating her body took from vigorous sports. She combined ointments, oils, and tinctures to alleviate her pain, but couldn't find a brand that served other needs in her life, like brain fog, a good night's sleep, energy, and focus. She wanted something functional, "a CBD for type A people," as she likes to call it, "that I could be take every day in a functional manner alongside all of my other vitamins and medications." Thus Kaleidoscope was born — an ingestible, full-spectrum CBD capsule. The five formulas — Wake (beats morning grogginess), Sleep (promotes relaxation), Glow (for skin and nails), Soothe (relieves inflammation), and Boost (extra-concentrated CBD) — are meant to be stacked, mixed, and combined into the right formula for individual wellness. The pill itself is customized: the CBD sitting inside another pill surrounded by MCT oil, a popular brain booster. The theory is that you'll get an immediate release from MCT and more gradual relief from the CBD and other targeted ingredients. Unlike a tincture or cream that can't promise an exact dose, the capsule design ensures you're getting a regular amount.
Since launching Kaleidoscope in July 2019, Ana has quickly become a leader in the CBD space for her inclusivity. Rather than considering other companies her competition, Ana created the Kaleidoscope Gives Foundation, a nonprofit that provides grants to nonprofits and ventures that are doing good work and research in the cannabis space. A percentage of Kaleidoscope sales is allocated towards KGF.
Being a woman in cannabis means being a part of an amazing community of supportive women who are always finding new ways to lift each other up and make sure all our voices are heard.
Melanie Goldsmith of Pollen
Melanie Goldsmith began her entrepreneurial career at 25, as the co-founder and CEO of Smith & Sinclair, the first-ever alcoholic cocktail gummy. While trudging through the day-to-day pressures of running a fast-growing business, Melanie realized that she needed a solution for stress relief and wellness, without having to commit to unrealistic lifestyle changes. She was well aware of the CBD boom, but as she began to search for the perfect intro product, she noticed a gap in the market for quality options that felt approachable, understandable, and exciting. If people could get on board with a boozy gummy, she thought, why not do the same with CBD? In 2019, after several years of research, she launched Pollen, a CBD product designed to fit seamlessly into a daily routine. "Although life is complicated, CBD doesn’t have to be," says Melanie. Pollen's Starter Kit includes all three versions of the 10 mg CBD gummies (for daytime, midday, nighttime) in creative flavors (banana and cinnamon, pear and tumeric, and sour cherry and vanilla). Since there's a small dose of CBD in each, you can take several throughout the day, mixing and matching flavors.
Britany Carbone of Tonic
Brittany Carbone launched Tonic in 2017 while working as a personal trainer on Long Island, New York. Looking for a natural way to manage anxiety and depression with a product that could be used daily, she began combining CBD with the popular Ayurvedic herb ashwagandha root, hopeful that together they could cover more ground, effectively doubling down on each other’s effects to create a stress-relieving, mood-boosting, adaptogenic powerhouse. And that's exactly what they did. Realizing the profound effects it had on her own mental and physical health, Britany seized the opportunity to share high-quality, plant-based healing with the world. She launched Tonic as a side hustle in her parents’ kitchen, and today leads an all-female team. Along the way, she co-founded Tricolla Farms and Bardo Artisanal Extracts with her husband, and was granted one of New York's first hemp licenses for private farmers. Tonic's entire product line, including CBD-infused chocolate, is sourced from full-spectrum oil grown on their farm and third-party tested.
When we spoke about her experience, Britany told me, "When I first started Tonic, there weren’t many CBD companies in the space, let alone woman-owned companies. That has thankfully changed over the past two years. And now being a woman in cannabis means being a part of an amazing community of supportive women who are always finding new ways to lift each other up and make sure all our voices are heard. Unfortunately, once you go beyond the brands and work your way down the supply chain, we see a lot less representation on the farming and extraction sides of the industry. There are a lot of people who could care less about the plant, what it means, and what it can do. They just see money. At the end of the day, this isn’t about being a man or woman in the space. What we all need to work toward is an industry inclusive of all, and keeping power in the hands of people who care about the plant and the healing it provides." To show her support of medical professionals during the coronavirus, Carbone has donated more thaan $15,000 in CBD products and challenges others in the industry to follow.
Brett Heyman of Flower by Edie Parker
Brett Heyman, founder and creative director of the chic handbag company Edie Parker, is now selling stash to carry: cannabis and its accoutrements. Nicknamed "Weedie Parker," the charming, feminine, colorful, high-quality smoking accessories — rolling papers, acrylic trays, glass-blown pipes in fun shapes such as strawberries and cherries, and matching lighters — makes hers the first brand to merge the worlds of fashion and flower. The cannabis is sold in California through the cannabis delivery platform Emjay; everything else is available online and at their pop-up head shop on Madison Avenue in New York City, which should reopen when it's safe.
Nidhi Lucky Handa of Leune
When recreational marijuana use was legalized in California, Nidhi Lucky Handa was excited to explore the dispensaries popping up all over the city. What she found was a boys-only weed club of uninviting, dark smoke shops filled with giant bongs, glass pipes, and posters of scantily-clad women in booty shorts. This sparked the idea for the Leune, a unisex, ecommerce platform that could be a safe, inviting introduction to the lifestyle product, encouraging smart and responsible use. Nidhi uses creative, simple, and millennial-driven messaging and delivers high-quality products (vape pens, pre-rolled joints, and ashtrays) that are transparent and easy to use. Focusing heavily on early customer feedback to grow the brand, she created an entire product line dedicated to micro-dosing, using small amounts of THC. Leune is not just about consumption, but also the culture and lifestyle of cannabis. To that end, Nidhi formed partnerships with other female-founded brands, such as LUX-EROS and Bliss & Mischief, to create chic ceramics and home goods to show off your stash. Leune has also partnered with Eaze, a California-based marijuana delivery service, for those who want pre-rolls and vapes without leaving the house. Was she a mind reader for 2020? We think so.
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