The Janes. Sarah Tupper, Jessica Lind, and Maya Reading are multi-faceted Midwestern women with experience in finance, digital media, project management, event planning, and sales. Spanning the Midwest with firm friendship roots established in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Hard-working passionate mothers, colleague, friends, and confidants focused on improving the lives of canna-curious women everywhere. Sarah, Jessica, and Maya believe that the collective voice is powerful and has the ability to elevate this industry and encourage all women to live their best lives by the redefinition of self-care.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the cannabis industry?
As a part of our annual friendship retreat, our group of college friends spent a weekend in Northern MN and Maya had some cannabis gummies that were presented during happy hour on our first night. We all partook in various doses/portions and ended up having a great, insightful, and totally present experience void of hangovers or next day embarrassment. We collectively talked about the many positives and how our journey with this plant had changed throughout the years. It was clear to us that there is a white space to be filled. One that spoke to us as responsible, multi-faceted, dynamic women. A LOT of women we speak to of all ages are very interested to learn the benefits of the full spectrum cannabis plant, what it can do for her, how to consume it, and we quickly realized that there was not a product that is designed for her specifically. When we realized we wanted to do that, we got to work. The 3 of us held on to the idea, kept running with it, and specifically identified a gap in the Midwestern market for female focused products and education. There wasn’t anything available that felt on brand to us as multi-faceted and productive women so we went ahead and figured out how to do it ourselves. There was nothing here that felt luxurious but approachable, decadent but also practical. There is a strong voice and presences on the west coast and growing on the east coast, but no voice or brand that spoke to the women in the middle.
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?
We have very quickly learned how important it is for us to trust our instincts and to be honest. That honesty + authentic-self is what we each bring to the table as a co-founder, so it is our job to up our own game and inspire each other to do the same. It’s full circle and we’ve already learned the lesson of the importance of being present and thankful to experience the process. That attitude is what enables us to bring Sarah Jane to fruition in the way we envision. Women together are unstoppable when they set their minds to doing something. The anxiety that some of us first felt when speaking to members of our family, community, neighborhood, and the anticipation with how the conversation would be met has been such a learning curve for us. We’ve been pleasantly surprised not only by the level of acceptance others showed, but their interest and overall excitement for what we were doing. Most importantly, we’ve learned that if you don’t believe in yourself and your mission, then nobody will and it can derail you quickly. It comes into play when speaking confidently and unapologetically about this industry to other women, what we’re doing, and being able to back it up when people ask questions. We’re not making this product for everyone, and if it’s not for you, that’s cool. We keep moving always aligned with our vision and our internal compass.
Another lesson that bubbled to the surface early was the ability to get excited about an idea or concept, but set it aside for the time being because it was not aligned with our strategic plan. The three of us each have individual components of this job that we are passionate and giddy about, but that doesn’t mean that every idea or concept needs immediate attention. Being able to set something aside to focus on a more pressing task is vital to success. The ability to pivot and be flexible while simultaneously staying true to whatever you deem your ‘north star’ has been such an incredible journey for us, personally and professionally. Our gut feeling has guided us from the beginning, and we consistently return to that feeling.
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?
We’re still starting, every single day, only a year in now. And learning constantly. I think one of our funniest ‘mistakes’ we can recall is one particularly long strategic planning session when we were writing our business plan and configuring our company name and mission. As cannabis entrepreneurs do, you partake in some edibles to get those creative juices flowing and open your mind. And, as most know, the effects of edibles can do a slow creep on you until you’re beyond creative and intensely silly. We failed to heed our own advice that we give to women as start low and go slow…and learned a lesson about friendship and productivity and edibles. Allowing time for all of the important parts our relationship is key. To be able to separate business from friendship in order to accomplish goals is a constant balancing act. There are some days we literally have to state “I don’t want to talk about work, I just want to talk to you in friend mode”. Toggling between those two facets of our relationship is hard somedays! This truly has become a family business, encompassing spouses, friends, community support, and mentorship from former colleagues and bosses within our extended network.
Do you have a funny story about how someone you knew reacted when they first heard you were getting into the cannabis industry?
Family! Maya told her husband’s 93-year-old grandpa she was “starting a cannabis company” when he asked what was keeping her busy. “Canada?” he replied? “NO! CANNABIS!” (she had to yell and everyone gathered in his small house heard her.. After Grandpa told her he “didn’t touch it, ever” but wished us well, many came forward to talk to her about it for a number of reasons: Interested to learn how they could sleep better, point us to a potential investor, ask if it is CBD (it’s not!), better understand what Sarah Jane is going, and even ask to get some product. A few of our friend contingency (males, we may add) referred to it as our “mom weed business” and the support and interest from groups of women as well as the doubt and confusion from others kept pushing us to stay the course and hold steady to our ideas. Because either way, people were talking about it. A fellow mom at Sarah’s school leaned over and whispered during Mass one weekend “I heard you can get us some gummies”….a unique but memorable way to being a friendship. One of our tag lines when speaking to women about the benefits and incorporation of cannabis into their lives is “it’s not your college cannabis anymore” and it’s important to know what your audience is interested in and to craft the dialogue according to the group. Women are much more comfortable talking to someone that they feel a connection with, and that’s important to us as well.
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 am beyond grateful to my mentor throughout my career in advertising- Ed Wise. He has always been there for me, taught me the ropes, had my back, challenged and supported me as a smart woman, mother, wife and now- entrepreneur on my own. He’s shown up for me again in this new phase and his confidence in Sarah Jane further proves that we are on the right track with our mission and approach.
I’m lucky to have had many mentors in industries that have shaped my work ethic and approach. My dad’s business acumen and attitude has taught me to not take shit from anyone and to ask for what you want and deserve but with respect and honesty. My lifelong mentor, Linda, from my catering and event planning days in Chicago, has showed me what a strong woman looks like who both owns the space in her home and in her career. Unapologetic, powerful, confident but not cocky, assured and honest and marches to the beat of her own drum while delivering incredible service and advice to her clients and colleagues. She will forever be my matriarch mentor.
My father. He is patient, thoughtful, considerate, and firm. He listens more than he speaks and empowers others around him. Through his example, I have learned to ask for what I believe, questions information before accepting it, and above all to have faith.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?
YES! All of the things! We are working on our very first product line that we are launching early 2020 in Michigan. It Is an introductory line of what we believe are the essentials. A micro-dose spritz for your purse pouch or nighttime bathroom routine line-up. A 5mg edible for weekends, or week-nights and a collection of 5 mini joints which contain strains that are between 10%-15% THC, for a high that doesn’t feel out of control. Perfect for parties, dinner, or a giggly night in with your bestie or love when the work day can shut down and the kids are in bed. We believe it will help people live happier lives and bring a good energy to it. The way the products are packaged and designed are vital to our audience and we’ve worked hard on being intentional with those things, in a space where packaging and marketing of cannabis products doesn’t feel very appealing to our audience. We believe every woman should have the proper products in her ‘tool kit’ to help enhance her mood, ease stress and anxiety, rest well, and be present to participate in her fabulous life. Cannabis is a part of our tool kit and we’re here to show you how it can be included in yours too. Expansion plans for additional collections, merchandise, and other states are a part of our 2020 strategic plan and beyond.
Ok. Thank you for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. Despite great progress that has been made we still have a lot more work to do to achieve gender parity in this industry. According to this 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?
A rising tide lifts all ships. It is vital to society and to this industry that we not only include women in the conversation at ALL levels of the work force, but recognize that there is space for everyone to succeed. As Megan Rapinoe stated recently in her Glamour Magazine’s Woman of the Year speech “So share that platform. Throw your ladders down. It’s our time. We’re ready for this. And it needs to happen. This is such a pivotal movement for us. There’s so much momentum, but we have to move forward and we have to be better. So, everybody: We have to do more. We’re here. We’re ready. Everyone’s ready to do more? Good!”
Companies and investors have a moral and financial responsibility to give women-owned businesses and women entrepreneurs money. Getting more money into the hands of more women from a business development angle is key to closing gender disparity in business. Fund women businesses and ideas and create opportunities and resources for women to seek funding. As a company that is currently entering into a capital raise, we were astounded to read that Female founders got 2.2% of all venture capital dollars in 2018. It really demonstrates the drive, passion, resilience, and work of women entrepreneurs. The fact that they’re succeeding and thriving despite such dismal circumstances is remarkable.
As three Caucasian women, it’s our job and our responsibility to speak up on behalf of all women that this is not ok, we can do better, and we must do better. The wage gap for women of color specifically is disgusting and must change. Women owned businesses now account for about 40% of all US businesses but the revenue gap is currently at about 30 cents to the overall dollar.
You are a “Cannabis Insider”. If you had to advise someone about 5 non intuitive 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.
- Network constantly – Even in a space where you may feel uncomfortable talking about cannabis and what you do, it’s imperative to network and talk about cannabis. It helps destigmatize the topic if you’re able to speak honestly and clearly about how you use it….
- Research beyond the plant – Read about the history of the war on this ‘drug’ in America, the pioneers that have come before us in research, advocacy, activism, and understand how you hold a place in the story.
- Build a support system – By networking and researching and showing respect for the community and the industry, you build your team of advocates and supporters. We are in our building phase and everyone we’ve met in this space thus far has made our work feel worthwhile and inclusive.
- Ask – ask for help, information, advice, seek mentorship within this space. We did this early and came upon a supportive cannabis company that really believed in our mission and thus helped us design specific products to get them to market. Asking for money has been specifically a challenge for us, as it is for many women, but as we learn and evolve, it’s been so important for us to realize that you don’t get what you don’t ask for.
- Don’t get high on your own supply – kidding! (kind of). We love and use cannabis in many different ways but when starting a company and creating a product line, many think it’s just a crazy party all the time. The business strategy, development, and growth are similar to any other entrepreneurial venture. The difference is that we feel that we are on the cusp of major growth, especially here in the Midwest, and that we are focused on building a company of people and investors that believe in us specifically and our vision, and believe in the potential of the industry as it grows and changes. It was also so interesting to learn that some executives at large cannabis companies ‘do not partake’.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the cannabis industry?
Growth, Collaboration, and the feeling of new beginnings.
This is our mid-life transition….no crisis here.
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?
Space in this industry for both small farmers AND larger businesses. It’s sad to see small passionate businesses lose to larger companies. Finding a middle ground where all can be successful is vital.
Bureaucracy when it comes to taxation and legalization. With so much red tape to go through, it makes it particularly tough for businesses to operate in this space.
Equal representation in the industry is crucial. As we’ve stated before, it’s absolutely part of our job to ensure that there is dialogue about social justice and equity. The “war on drugs” affected people of color disproportionally and continues to do so today.
What are your thoughts about 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?
Legalization of cannabis opens up so many doors in research for the plant, to discover other ways that cannabis can benefit our health and well-being. We believe that when cannabis is legal, it creates more opportunities for more people to benefit not only from using the plant but from selling it. It’s important to note that there is much work to do in the social justice space once cannabis is legalized and we owe it to the groups of people that have been most negatively affected by the war on drugs to fix this system and allow equal access to the profits and business side of the cannabis plant.
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?
Cigarettes are not cannabis, and there’s so much that is so different. Nicotine is much more dangerous than cannabis. Cannabis is used as medicine for so many, in lieu of pharmaceuticals, and is consumed in different forms for everyone based on personal preference.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Our three favorites (each Jane has a different one!)
Maya: You are driven by your heart, by your talent, and you’re driven by your instinct, and if you start to look at what people are doing to the left of you and to the right of you, you are going to lose that clarity of thought. Own your decisions. Own who you are, but without apology.
Jessica: Be afraid, and do it anyway
Sarah: Illegitimi non carborundum – Don’t’ let the bastards grind you down.
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. 🙂
Sarah Jane is on a mission to tell women that they are amazing just exactly who they are and to enjoy being present and in the moment. Own your feelings and do what works for you. “Self-care” is a movement that needs a shakeup. Self-care is not always a bath bomb or a glass of wine. Self-care is truly taking care of your soul and do what feeds it, whatever that is. We’re ready to throw our ladders down and show all women a seat at our table.
Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you only continued success!
Thank you for the opportunity to share our journey!