As an entrepreneur in the wine industry, I hear a lot of chatter about how the surging cannabis sector is going to eat away at wine's share of "recreational spend," particularly since voters in California legalized non-medical marijuana via Proposition 64 in November 2016.

It's a viable concern, mainly because cannabis is far from limited to the state of California where it grows alongside, and often hand in hand, with wine grapes. Twenty-nine states now allow cannabis for medical or recreational use and sales are projected to reach $75 billion by 2030 from about $6 billion in 2016.

It's steep growth with a lot of business -- new business -- on the table.

How do the challenges of cannabis entrepreneurs compare to the challenges of wine entrepreneurs, particularly at a moment when the spotlight is on the advancement and development of women leaders? Are there similarities, differences, or overlap? What can one industry learn from the other?

Here are four insights from cannabis entrepreneurs that cross industry lines.

Carve your own spot, with integrity.

Today's business of cannabis is light on history and heavy on entrepreneurs, which means there's plenty of room to carve your own spot. The same is true in wine, whose entrepreneurial doors have been opened by the nimble growth and creative opportunities of digital technologies.

Rosie Mattio is the founder of RMPR, one of the first public relations firms servicing the cannabis industry, with clients from every sector including cultivation, manufacturing, finance and technology. As a woman in a heavily male-dominated sector, Mattio recognizes the importance of maintaining intense professionalism, setting boundaries, and seeking out advocates and thought leaders among her client base.

Advocate for diversity.

Wine organizations of every size, from small mom-and-pop shops to major trade associations, are advocating formally and informally for more women in decision-making roles, moreso today than ever before. The cannabis industry seems ahead of the curve in terms of reputable and successful businesses that value women in leadership positions.

Canndescent, for example, is the top-selling cannabis brand in California, and nearly half of its executive leadership team are women. CEO Adrian Sedlin is also known for advocating for the professional advancement of women across the organizations. Mattio also credits High There!, a technology app within the cannabis space, for advocating for her participation on panels at major industry events. The public speaking opportunities have raised her own profile as well as the company's own as it continues to grow.

Your definition of success may not be anyone else's definition of success.

April Pride founded Van der Pop, a cannabis lifestyle brand created for the modern day woman, as a resource beyond what's traditionally accepted or ubiquitous. It's for women who seek out what speaks to them, regardless of expectations.

The same is true for Pride when it comes to defining success. She wasn't described as an entrepreneur, she said, until she sold her second company. Her professional focus, regardless, remained steadily on doing what was right for herself and with her family's best interests in mind.

"Overcoming these 'serious' challenges lies in recognizing the good results of my efforts and choices," she said. "There's great confidence that has come with success on my own terms."

"Fun" industries are real industries too.

Just because we work in "fun" industries (like wine, cannabis, fashion and design), and just because we are often more visibly juggling work and home responsibilities, doesn't mean women entrepreneurs take our business endeavors any less seriously.

Whether the challenge to be taken seriously derives from our gender or from a work-life balancing act that can appear out of balance, it's familiar territory, particularly for self-described creatives who work in "fun" industries.

"Before I was a woman to take seriously," Pride said, "I was a seriously driven girl."

Part of that motivation and drive extends to the advocacy component of cannabis use. Pride's personal evolution from recreational cannabis consumer to advocate, she said, "was born out of being a mother who cannot deny the plight of other mothers; as the 'last resort' medical alternative for a child, desperation leads women to cannabis, not deviance."

Published on: May 16, 2018