I had the pleasure to interview Krista Whitley, CEO of Altitude Products and Social Media Unicorn.
What is your “backstory”?
Born and raised in small town Central Washington, I didn’t know that “entrepreneur” was something you could do as a job. Growing up my dad was a teacher and high school football coach for a terrible football team, so the best training I had for the challenges of entrepreneurship came from my time as a cheerleader for our hometown team. Nothing teaches you about the importance of a positive attitude against all odds like being down by 50 points while it’s snowing. As an adult I relocated to the big city of Las Vegas to work in commercial and residential finance before I bet on myself and bet big to become an entrepreneur. My entrepreneurial career over the last decade has been a busy one! I was pregnant 18 of the first 24 months of my first company and I’ve been on three very different reality TV shows. I’ve spent the last two years growing Altitude Products, the cannabis industry’s premier marketing and sales agency. Today we are building, growing, and supporting the cannabis industry’s biggest brands as they work to achieve their goals.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?
When I first made the decision to focus exclusively on working in the cannabis industry I was really concerned about the potential collateral damage for my daughters, who are both still in elementary school. As an active PTA member I really worried that they could suffer from the negative judgement of teachers or other parents. I finally came out of the shadows at the fall festival a couple of years ago and the negative consequences I imagined were entirely unfounded. Instead of being judged I’m hit up for free samples and information, so I’ve become the unofficial PTA cannabis consultant in our school. I believe the majority of people are really curious about cannabis. The cannabis they knew in the 70s and 80s growing up isn’t the regulated cannabis industry we have today. Thanks to improved technology, common sense regulations, and a community of cannabis leaders who are committed to innovation we are working to bring cannabis out of the shadows and into the light.
Are you working on any meaningful non-profit projects? How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
My personal mission statement is ‘the world needs more people doing what they do best.’ I believe that when we are all empowered to do that one thing that we do better than anyone else the world is just a better place. Giving back is such a fundamental belief for my organization and I because we believe that we are doing our best when we are in service to others. Every month we host the Las Vegas Medical Marijuana Association’s Monthly Market Trends in Marijuana panel for our community. We sponsor an open bar, delicious food, daycare, and bring together global cannabis leaders like Leslie Bocskor and Dr Niccolo Aieta to share their knowledge. I believe that budget should never stand in the way of education, inspiration, or community connection. Just last week we had the honor of hosting the Amazing Whoopi Goldberg for a conversation over lunch for 150 cannabis community leaders. It was an incredible experience to be able to hear Whoopi’s passion for the cannabis community and her belief in the power of the plant as medicine. I serve on several charitable organization boards, but the work my team and I do every month to share the stories of others fuels my soul.
Can you tell me a story about a person who was impacted by your cause?
So many lives have been transformed by cannabis, but what I find the most impactful is children with epilepsy. I have seen exasperated fathers and mothers who have tried everything to help their epileptic children to preserve their brain health. I have personally seen children who were only able to manage their seizures with strong pharmaceuticals, living lives like vegetables, who were able to become more alert thanks to high CBD Low THC premium cannabis. The relief on the faces of these parents because their children are able to live healthy, conscious lives because of cannabis fuels my soul.
What are 5 things you wish someone had told you when you first started out and why?
1. If you’re the whale in the room, you’re in the wrong room. Growth comes from pushing your personal boundaries and if you’re always the smartest person in the room you’re not learning. As a leader your organization can only grow to your leadership ability, so it is important to surround yourself with leaders with diverse backgrounds in different industries. I seek out opportunities to make myself uncomfortable with new people.
2. Listen more than speak. I was that kid all through school who was constantly in trouble for talking too much and never listening. It worked to give me plenty of leadership opportunities since I was always the loudest, but it led to a lot of plans that only represented my opinions and vision. The explosive growth success that our organization has experienced is directly a result of collaboration. When I stopped speaking and began listening to the people in my industry, my Advisors, and my team I experienced achievements I never dreamed imaginable. Today I consciously focus on speaking the least in all meetings.
3. Failure will get you further. I built my first company as a new immigrant to Canada by cashing out my 401k and creating Canada’s #9 fastest growing company, all while being pregnant 18 of the first 24 months. The company eventually collapsed due to a toxic culture of profit over values, but I learned priceless lessons that aren’t taught in business school. Being fearless in the face of daunting odds has helped me to bounce back and to rebuild with complete faith that I am improving. I always worry that entrepreneurs who experience success without failure will miss out on the character building that comes from falling flat on your face and rebuilding. Who I am today as a leader is a direct result of that first venture falling apart and I wouldn’t change it for the world.
4. Ideas are pawns. Execution is king. Everywhere I look everyone has a million dollar idea. Some business or product that is going to change the world. I appreciate the optimism of these entrepreneurs, but executing on a game changing idea is a monumental task. We could not have experienced the success we have had with The Weekend Box without flawless execution because the devil really is in the Details.
5. Own it! During various times in my youth I wanted to be skinny like someone else or have dimples like that other girl. It is sad to me how we can be paralyzed by comparison. Rather than comparing who you are or what you’re doing to other people, own it. When I began owning my identity, my values, and what I was doing my confidence grew and opportunities appeared from nowhere. Authenticity is a really powerful thing. When you live your best life you inspire others to do the same.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?
Oprah. I admire her ability to overcome so much in her life and use her platform to improve the lives of others.