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January 31, 2020
"Unlike other big industries that put their name on the board, the cannabis industry should ignite not just the economy, but also ignite learning and ethics." – John Montague, Maku Inc.
February 2, 2020

"What excites me most about the cannabis industry is the opportunity to create a new way of doing business as the new normal, meaning empowering women, diversity, equality, new jobs, new businesses, and new standards." – Erin Gore, Garden Society

As part of my series about “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started Leading a Cannabis Business” I had the pleasure of interviewing Erin Gore, founder and CEO of Garden Society, a California-based, cannabis-focused benefit corporation serving women in search of new, more holistic ways to rejuvenate from the rigors of their daily lives.  Garden Society offers high quality, low dose artisanal confections and sun-grown pre-rolls that connect biodynamic farming, sustainable ingredients and strain-specific cannabis in a variety of products.  Erin is an active member of the Northern California cannabis community, and frequently speaks on the topics of cannabis and entrepreneurship. She’s a fearless advocate for women-owned cannabis businesses, and equally dedicated to breaking the stigma and rewriting the script around the plant. With a degree in Chemical and Biological Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Erin is also fluent in the science-based talk of cannabis and production.
 
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
This is a tough one, we’re in the cannabis industry so we have interesting stories every week. 
 
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
As I first began to build Garden Society, before it was even launched, I was networking with industry veterans in the Emerald Triangle (a region in Northern California, named for being the largest cannabis-producing region in the U.S.) for research. I booked a meeting with a fellow to whom I had been introduced, and set about on my way to the address provided. I ended up on a lot in what was essentially the middle of nowhere, wondering where I had made a wrong turn. Just as I was preparing to get back on the road, an RV pulled up. THAT was my meeting. Such were the earliest phases of the industry and in some cases even today.
 
Are you working on any exciting projects now? 
Why, yes. So many projects!  First, we’re fundraising to scale our business and propel us to the next level of growth.  While it’s extremely challenging to be fundraising as women in cannabis, working with investors who believe in our vision is exhilarating.  We’re also excited to be working with executives from other industries who see the future in Garden Society and are helping propel us into our full potential.  We’re also launching new products– High CBD Rosette mini-prerolls, and our Fruit Gelees in CBD and THC, and preparing for statewide delivery from our online shop. The life of a startup is never boring. Add to that a burgeoning industry that changes and evolves daily, and we are constantly on our toes. The cannabis industry is, to us, one big exciting project.
 
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Garden Society Co-Founder Karli Warner and I have worked very hard to identify mentors and advisers to help us build businesses.  We once heard that every founder needs a pillow and a mirror.  This can be your co-founder, but this can also be your adviser.  We have had two advisers specifically, Kevin McGee and Carm Lyman, who have really helped us stay laser focused, propelled us when we needed a push, helped us figure out the hard answers to questions we were struggling with, and are committed to our shared vision for the potential of Garden Society.  Without both of their support, it would have definitely taken us a lot longer to get to where we are today.
Female Entrepreneurs Growing a Cannabis Business - CBD - Erin Gore, Garden Society
This industry is young dynamic and creative. Do you use any clever and innovative marketing strategies that you think large legacy companies should consider adopting?
We have built an innovative direct-to-consumer sales and education model, which we call our Gardeners. Working with women in communities with little access to safe, regulated cannabis, we host educational events for the canna-curious to join and ask questions in the comfort of a girlfriend’s home. While this model wouldn’t work for many legacy operators, I think it’s an example of thinking beyond the three-tier distribution channel. Thinking beyond what can be done in brickand-mortar dispensaries.
 
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the Cannabis industry? Can you share 3 things that most concern you?
Excite:
 

  •  The power of the plant in helping people feel better.
  • The opportunity to create a new way of doing business as the new normal (meaning empowering women, diversity, equality, new jobs, new businesses, new standards).
  • The opportunity to create a meaningful and lasting company that creates products and education that matter to our customers and our partners.

 
Concern:
 

  • The lack of opportunity for the craft or legacy participation to transition to the regulated market place due to over regulation at every level.
  • The lack of access to capital for all stages of the cannabis ecosystem, and the capital that is flowing into the industry, is flowing to the “traditional” subset of the industry who “traditionally” receive venture funding, thus creating the new industry to look like every other industry.
  • The lack of opportunity for diversity to thrive in ownership and leadership roles due to the “corporatization” of the industry.

 
 
(Primary question) Can you share the 5 questions you should ask in order to successfully invest in the cannabis industry”? Please share a story or example for each. 
 

  • Can I see your financials?  (Make sure they can produce financials, because if they can’t, they may not take good care of your investment)
  • Where can I go buy your product?  (Make sure they really exist).  
  • Who is your customer and what pain are you solving for them? (Make sure there is a real need and customer, otherwise it’s just an idea)
  • What is your differentiation in the market?  How will you not be copy-cated by the next company?
  • What is your 1-3-5 year strategy?  (Do you have a vision for where the company is going?  Will there be an exit in your future?  What does that look like?)

 
Female Entrepreneurs Growing a Cannabis Business - CBD - Erin Gore, Garden Society
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
As you’re scaling your company, making sure you’re spending time to create the right culture for your business and hiring the right staff for your team to lead the company into the next phase of growth.  Starting is very different than scaling a company. Save time, money, and don’t delay your success by making the wrong hire or letting the company culture go askue. It’s such an exciting opportunity, we have the luxury of creating the vision of what we want and there is no shortage of top talent to help execute and join along for the ride.
 
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement  that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would love to inspire more consumer consciousness around cannabis purchases.  We’re at such a unique and fragile opportunity, where consumers can directly impact the success of cannabis businesses. I would love to activate consumers to purchase based on values (of course the quality must be good!).  Do you support women owned companies?  Do you support companies that have a philanthropic purpose to veterans, lgbtq, or compassion programs? Do you support equity brands to enable the communities most impacted by the war on drugs to realize success with regulation?  None of this will happen without consumers intentional awareness. With the flow of capital into the market, it’s getting much harder for small brands and businesses to thrive.  Consumers can change that by demanding that retailers have products and businesses that align to the values they want to support.
 
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
https://www.facebook.com/GrdnSociety/
https://twitter.com/grdnsociety
https://www.instagram.com/grdnsociety/
 
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!