As a part of my series about strong women leaders in the cannabis industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tara Wells. Tara is the co-founder of Ganja Goddess, a California-based premium online shopping, delivery and lifestyle brand, which recently launched CBD Goddess, a national, one-stop-shop e-commerce site for cannabis and hemp-derived CBD consumer and pet products. Previously, Tara was an executive producer and writer, winning an Emmy for “The Amazing Race” on CBS. Her background in production, business and marketing has made her adept at understanding the cannabis market.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the cannabis industry?
I came to cannabis a bit later in life. I had a pretty demanding career as a TV producer and writer: very creative, but super stressful. Cannabis seemed like a natural healing modality and I thought I might try it for relaxation, so I threw some cannabis seeds into my garden. They grew like wildfire and before I knew it, I had some beautiful flowers. Since I don’t like to smoke, I created ganja-infused treats from old family recipes like brownies, gingerbread and an assortment of other goodies. All my friends clamored for my ganja treats, but most importantly, I loved them and the way it made me feel! It was helpful for my head in relieving stress, great for my body in reducing inflammation and fabulous for creativity.
In 2006, I started a business making cannabis edibles, Ganja Goddess Food, and the rest is history. In the first week of business, I sold out and had to increase production. I also realized that many cities and towns in California had no dispensaries in which to buy cannabis, or the shops available weren’t that friendly to women. That motivated me to come up with an online platform to make cannabis accessible to everyone. In 2011, Ganja Goddess was born and goddessdelivers.com became our online portal to deliver to everyone in California. We now deliver to customers all over the state, so cannabis is accessible no matter where you live.
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?
When I first started in 2006, legalization was just a distant dream, but through the hard work of many people, including myself and my chief business partner Zach Pitts, we have been able to move the needle forward. Cannabis is now recreationally legal in many states and I know it will soon be legalized nationwide. A goal of Ganja Goddess has been to normalize cannabis use and change its perception to be a plant that is beneficial and helpful to people.
Our delivery company has grown beyond my wildest dreams and I don’t think we have even touched the tip of the iceberg in terms of what the industry will see in terms of growth. The biggest lesson is that change is something you can always count on. No matter what you are doing, if you can easily embrace change, you will be successful and happy.
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?
Me? Make mistakes? Surely you jest! Seriously though, where to start… I firmly believe that making mistakes gives us the opportunity to grow. If you aren’t afraid of making mistakes, you have the chance to succeed beyond your wildest dreams. I’ve made a lot of mistakes but there has always been a lesson afterward.
Do you have a funny story about how someone you knew reacted when they first heard you were getting into the cannabis industry?
When I tell people I meet that I’m the president of Ganja Goddess, a major California cannabis business, a good percentage of them are shocked. I am a basically a mainstream, ‘normal’ person and I believe I represent a big swath of women, many of whom have never tried cannabis. Working moms, executives and a lot of other mainstream demographics now view cannabis use and business as approachable and useful. It really reflects ‘the good life’. It’s a strong, viable industry that helps people with stress, depression and a variety of ailments, so it’s naturally becoming more mainstream.
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’m very grateful for my partners who have a wide variety of experiences in business, technology and cannabis. They have been my greatest supporters. And of course, my mother, a businesswoman who encouraged me to dream big and told me that I could achieve whatever I wanted. It’s important to have people who believe in you.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I just launched CBD Goddess to deliver CBD products everywhere in the U.S. There are suddenly thousands of hemp-based CBD products on the market and it’s a bit overwhelming for people who are just now wading into the world of CBD healing products. We have curated and identified top products like Lord Jones and Uncle Bud’s (Jane Fonda is the spokesperson for Uncle Bud’s product line). We make it easy to find just the right thing, whether it’s a tincture — which I highly recommend for inflammation — or a balm. I have personally used CBD products for a while now because I have very cranky knees, and taking 30mg a day has worked wonders! I’m really excited to deliver premium CBD products to people all across America. We make it easy: just go online to order and it’s delivered right to your doorstep.
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?
At Ganja Goddess, we strive to hire the best person for the job, regardless of gender, race or social orientation. Having said that, I work toward keeping a healthy balance in the workplace by hiring qualified women who have a vision to progress and grow with us. More than half of our managerial staff are female. Just being in the room is important, so I want to make the cannabis room open for everyone. I think it’s important to encourage women, through mentorship and education, to step forward into positions in the cannabis space. As a brand-new industry, it’s crucial to actively make it welcoming to women.
The most highly prized cannabis is the all-female plant: sensimilla. It makes the best buds and flowers — let’s not forget that. The whole industry is steeped in the feminine, which is one reason why I came up with the name Ganja Goddess. I wanted to celebrate the feminine aspects of this industry by using a name that represents a sacred and divine healing culture. Cannabis is a divine herb and Ganja Goddess reflects that.
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.
Cannabis is really no different than any other business. You have to educate yourself about it and its details.
1) Educate yourself on cannabis as a plant and how it affects people, including the basics of its healing qualities.
2) Learn about laws and where the industry is heading so you are prepared for business expansion.
3) Study business in general and how owning a company works — be prepared to work long and hard.
4) Keep an open mind as things are always changing.
5) Have a great attitude and embrace change.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the cannabis industry?
The most exciting thing for me is the potential for growth in this industry. The opportunities seem endless. At Ganja Goddess, we have seen our growth rise 325% in the last quarter. Not many businesses have that potential. I’m excited to be part of the movement to normalize cannabis in everyday life and I know that eventually, ingesting cannabis will be viewed like having a glass of wine at the end of the day. We are already seeing this in our culture with the rise of cannabis lounges and bars.
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?
The greatest threat to the industry is the lack of supportive banking laws and overregulation. I am concerned that the legislation in different states treats cannabis like it is a dangerous chemical that has to be heavily regulated. It is a plant; a plant that helps individuals and all of humanity. The laws surrounding legalization are so heavy-handed that it takes a team of legal experts just to stay in business. The taxation laws alone are a heavy burden on both the consumer and everyone in the business.
Lawmakers still treat cannabis like it is a dangerous item that needs a myriad of laws and licenses to exist, which is hurting many people who are trying to stay in business. Cannabis businesses must be able to access credit and banks, and laws need to change so that taxation doesn’t make it so onerous to survive. This means that Congress has to get on board and support businesses with decent legislation. We should embrace cannabis with a more reasonable and accessible legal pathway.
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?
I believe that federal legalization will happen in the next two-five years. The best argument is the simplest: cannabis is proven to be beneficial for living a healthy life. It should be supported and taxed like other businesses, not condemned or regulated so heavily that the industry can’t sustain itself. Cannabis is a growth industry full of millions of jobs and it supports local, state and federal governments with the enormous taxes it pays.
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?
The cannabis industry should not be subject to overregulation, and high taxes shouldn’t make it difficult for a company to stay in business. Cannabis is proven to be beneficial for the treatment of a wide variety of ailments, which is why lawmakers should make it more accessible for consumers and legally reasonable for business owners.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“It’s a wild, wild world and not many of us get out alive.” Basically, life is short, so have fun while you can. I try not to spend a lot of time doing things I don’t enjoy.
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. 🙂
The normalization of cannabis is my goal. This plant helps people with anxiety, which we all struggle with now and then, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. It calms us, relieves depression and helps with inflammation, something that every disease creates. I don’t think there is anything on the planet that is a better, more natural healer than cannabis, so to me, the movement for national legalization is so important. Universal access would make our industry and the people who enjoy cannabis whole.
Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you only continued success!