As a part of my series about strong women leaders in the cannabis industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mohnia Patel.
Mohnia is a representative for women and people of color in the burgeoning CBD and wellness industry, leading by demonstration with her company Shanti Wellness. As a first-generation Indian-American, Patel has chosen to share her personal experience and conveys her truth through her life and her line of products which combine hemp-derived CBD with Ayurvedic herbs of traditional Indian medicine. Mohnia is doing her part to educate people on the wellness benefits of hemp-derived CBD while also helping to elevate the image of the cannabis industry and the cannabis experience. Shanti Wellness is taking a holistic approach to wellness that can be easily incorporated into the lives of modern individuals.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the cannabis industry?
Thank you for having me!
I have loved cannabis since my late teens. I’m sure I’m not the only one who gravitated toward it in rebellion at first, but I stayed with it because I genuinely felt good sparking a joint with friends or smoking a solo bowl after class. However, as I got older, strains that were high in THC became too overwhelming for me and I began to search for more low dose, non-psychotropic options. At this time, around 2017, the rise of CBD began and my life changed for the better. CBD was essential and helped me make it through a very stressful time. After seeing the power of this non-psychotropic plant medicine for my own personal use, I knew that I had to help share it.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Recently, I won $15k in a pitch competition with a pitch deck my husband and I made in 24 hours. It was a big leap and huge learning opportunity for me, as I had never pitched before and I had no practice or formal training. But, I came out of the competition, not just with a check that I used to invest in my own education and learning but more importantly, I gained confidence in myself, in our company and in our product. I encourage everyone to put yourself out there. When I start to think about limiting beliefs, I think of this meme, and it motivates me to take uncomfortable action.
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?
The worst experience, which I’m now able to laugh about is forgetting to put our website on our product labels. We were so new, so excited and naive we completely missed this huge part of the product label! It was painful at the time, but it taught me the lesson of checking everything over and over again.
Do you have a funny story about how someone you knew reacted when they first heard you were getting into the cannabis industry?
Being Indian American, it was quite tricky to get started the space. When we launched, my father shared the news on his social media, he started to get all these messages about him and his daughter “selling marijuana”. All his friends started making jokes and I thought it was just hilarious.
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?
I think it takes a village for sure…and hands down most of the credit goes to my father and husband. Both of whom not only funded my company but also help in many ways from strategy and day to day operations and even just supporting me when I’m feeling lost.
I also have to thank my girl gang; my close community of girl boss friends has been instrumental for me. The support, advice, mentorship, and love that I feel from them helps me every day. I think it’s due time that women stop fighting for that one seat at the table and instead propel each other to rise and I think my friends really exemplify that.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We are currently fundraising our seed round which will propel our company. We’re raising capital to fund new product lines, increase sales, launch amazing campaigns that speak on the intersection of eastern medicine and cannabis. Our goal at Shanti Wellness is to spread Shanti to mind, body, and soul.
Ok. Thank you for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. Despite the great progress that has been made we still have a lot more work to do to achieve gender parity in this industry. According to a report in Entrepreneur, less than 25 percent of cannabis businesses are run by women. In your opinion or experience, what 3 things can be done by a)individuals b)companies and/or c) society to support greater gender parity moving forward?
I think we need to see more products just for women, and that starts with women being funded more. Most people deploying capital are men, particularly caucasian men, and they are really unlikely to fund products that directly serve a female market as they are unable to relate to them. Only 11% of VC’s are women; we need females at the table who have the capabilities to make fundamental decisions.
I also believe that society needs to stop putting so much focus on so-called “safe spaces” and just allow women to feel safe and empowered by working to eliminate ingrained misogyny.
You are a “Cannabis Insider”. If you had to advise someone about 5 nonintuitive things one should know to succeed in the cannabis industry, what would you say? Can you please give a story or an example for each.
-Be nice, it’s a small space and people talk
-Be prepared for any unforeseen challenges. This is a new industry. You’ll lose credit card processing, get shut down from your bank….the list goes on.
-Educate yourself all the time. It’s really important to learn about the plant you’re selling. Learn how it works and keep up to date with all the new data and information.
-Packaging matters, so put effort into that.
-Hire a great lawyer, but that might be a given.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the cannabis industry?
I love getting to work in this space. We’re creating so many new uses, and new ways to integrate this plant into our lives. I think the topical side is so exciting, as well as the wellness intersection.
Can you share 3 things that most concern you about the industry? If you had the ability to implement 3 ways to reform or improve the industry, what would you suggest?
I think the over-inflated evaluations in this industry have done harm to the long term perception of growth. We’re watching it unfold at this very moment and it’s going to be interesting to see how the public sector’s missteps guide future investments. I do think the positive side of this happening at an early stage is that we can correct the market a bit and in the next round, come out with realistic evaluations and benchmarks.
I am also concerned about some health risks as played out by the very current vaping fiasco. I’m genuinely concerned about the potency as well. We have absolutely no idea what long term effects there are to the human body with the concentrated levels of cannabinoids we’re consuming. One of our goals after we acquire funding is to conduct research to gain a better understanding of dosing. We’re seeing a trend in CBD right now, where the consumer thinks that “more is more” and we’re seeing the market respond to that by delivering crazy potencies such as 3000mg tinctures. The average consumer does not need this potency IMO. I would like more data about this.
What are your thoughts about the federal legalization of cannabis? If you could speak to your Senator, what would be your most persuasive argument regarding why they should or should not pursue federal legalization?
I am pro-legalization. I’m personally motivated by how much it would open possibilities in the business sector. We would not have to deal with the everyday issues the cannabis industry faces simply to operate AND we could perform double-blind studies to gather health data that is much needed.
I think to move the needle in government offices, you have to talk about money. Cannabis taxes are providing so much extra cash to legalized states. It’s a missed opportunity for other states to not also be motivated by that.
Today, cigarettes are legal, but they are heavily regulated, highly taxed, and they are somewhat socially marginalized. Would you like cannabis to have a similar status to cigarettes or different? Can you explain?
I think legal cannabis is either a luxury item or medicine. So it is completely different from tobacco.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“If your cup isn’t full you can’t help anyone else” This was really important to me as self-care is something I am not only working on personally but also through Shanti Wellness, a line of Ayurvedic inspired CBD infusions.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I think mainstream and medicinal microdosing with psychedelics is something that can change our world.
Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you only continued success!