You’ve been active in the cannabis market for some time—what was it like when you first started?
The industry was so small in 2013. There were fewer than 100 people on LinkedIn who even used the word cannabis in their profile, and there weren’t large conferences or professional groups. To make your mark, you had to create your own opportunities and one-by-one find real players to grow a lasting business network.
You were forced out of your corporate job after publicly talking about cannabis use. What was that like?
An NBC National Nightly News story aired in February of 2014 in which I appeared to be vaping and I was immediately asked to resign from an Event Director position I had held for eight years. I loved my job and was crushed. I immediately tried to find a similar role in cannabis.
Engaging with endless cannabis startups in 2014 showed me that there were no experts nor a playbook for success. Everyone was just trying to make it work. I realized I had potential as a CEO. Instead of trying to find a job in the cannabis industry, I started founding companies instead.
You’ve had to face some major political challenges, including having a SWAT team shut down an event. How did you handle this? What motivated you to keep going?
My “On a High Note” concert with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra at the famed Red Rocks amphitheatre drew international attention. The concert was a spin-off of my popular cannabis friendly cocktail parties, Edible Events, staged in art galleries.
The social consumption laws in Denver were grey, but I believed I was following legal requirements. However, the city wanted to put an end to consumption events and busted my lovely 4/20 Wake-N-Bacon brunch with a dozen guys with guns. I received misdemeanor charges and one year’s probation during which time I was not allowed to host cannabis events. So I pivoted and focused on founding Women Grow, now the largest network in the industry.
What motivated me to keep going was my wholehearted belief that cannabis is a safer substance and should be a legal option for adults in a social setting. Someday soon I hope to resurrect the event series and be able to outfit it with all of the glassware and pipes in my collection. Social consumption is the next important domino to fall as we put an end to prohibition.
What’s been the most rewarding part of founding Jane West?
The freedom to build my company exactly the way I envisioned it.
If you could go back in time and change anything, what would that be and why?
When it comes to my business decisions, every mistake I have made has led to an important learning, so there is not much I would reconsider.
My regrets always involve choosing my work over family time, and missing out on moments of my children’s lives. I would probably go back and skip a few of the conferences that weren't worth my time.
What’s your advice to other women looking to launch a company?
Whenever possible, build your own game board for success.
The systemic inequity in established networks, especially in finance, is overwhelming. If you can find ways to grow while avoiding those networks, you may find more win-win opportunities. Instead of trying to play their game, find a new path. This is exactly what I did with Republic and the decision led me to find more of my people. I’ve been to Wall Street to raise money and in general, they are not my people.
What is your superpower?
Thick skin. I have an innate ability to be unaffected by how my work is interpreted, by both fans and foes.
I don't dwell on disapproving comments, I truly find no value in allowing the provocations of others to take up a single second of my limited brain space. I am candid and honest about my love of cannabis, the side-eyes I get speak more about the observers than me. At the same time, I also don’t treasure glowing articles; their admiring view is just as skewed regarding what ‘success’ is versus the reality of entrepreneurship.
The only thing that truly matters is what you think of yourself, my internal expectations are what I work to achieve.
What’s your kryptonite?
Time. There simply isn’t enough time to do all the things. I prioritize each day. I also try my best to practice patience, which is a challenge for me.
Do you have any unusual routines or habits?
I am constantly seeking new varietals to add to my flower collection. When I try a brand new cannabis strain, I always go on the same walk and basically listen to the same playlist to see how the effects hit differently over time.
Do you have any other hobbies/things you like to do? What do you geek out about?
Anything that involves my kids.
If I were to look at your phone, what are your top 3-5 favorite apps?
- Zombies, Run! - This gets my sons running faster than I can
- Yoga Studio - Where I find my balance at home, after being chased by zombies
- HBR The Tip - I got an MBA reading HBR
- Voice Notes - I process my ideas into voice notes, forcing yourself to listen to yourself explain your own ideas will lead to impactful brevity in your communications with others
- Astrology Zone - Susan Miller is my spirit guide and I believe in the power of the sun and moon cycles, really
What’s coming up soon that super excites you?
The end of the campaign! We've already surpassed the $189K we raised on Republic in 2018 and have almost tripled the number of investors.