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Jessica Mulligan of Winged: “Truly awesome products!”

One of the major things that concerns me about the cannabis industry is the very high barriers to entry, especially for women, especially for minority women. A lot of people are kept out of industry because they can’t get access to capital. My good friend, Amber LittleJohn, who is the Executive Director for Minority Cannabis […]

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One of the major things that concerns me about the cannabis industry is the very high barriers to entry, especially for women, especially for minority women. A lot of people are kept out of industry because they can’t get access to capital. My good friend, Amber LittleJohn, who is the Executive Director for Minority Cannabis Business Association, is working tirelessly to bridge the knowledge and opportunity gap for small minority businesses- things like legal, technical and regulatory advice.


As a part of my series about strong women leaders in the cannabis industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jessica Mulligan.

Jessica is the founder of Winged, a women’s wellness line using cannabinoids and adaptogens for women’s targeted needs like stress, sleep, mood and hormonal balancing.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the cannabis industry?

I found myself working in the natural products industry right out of college and loved working in an industry that promoted a healthy way of living that more and more Americans were adopting. I spent the first twelve years of my career at NeoCell, the first ingestible collagen brand in the US. I started as an entry-level account executive and rose through the ranks eventually leading all of the commercial facing parts of the business (sales, marketing, and innovations). It was a great adventure, and one I felt very blessed to be a part of. To be selling a product that could genuinely help people feel their best, I realized this was what I was determined to do for the rest of my life and my early career experience would lay the groundwork for my future business in the cannabis industry, Winged.

In 2017, seemingly overnight my entire life changed. In a short period of time (three months), the brand I had been leading for over a decade was sold, the owner of the brand (who was my mentor) passed away unexpectedly, and many employees were laid off. My long-time boyfriend and I split up and my dog, Frank the Tank, passed away after 16 years. I was rocked.

Everything that was my identity was rapidly stripped away and that period and all the change that it brought caused debilitating anxiety that lasted for a solid year. It manifested in all aspects of my life — my sleep, my relationships and my ability to perform at work. Through this difficult and uncomfortable time, I found healing with CBD and other adaptogenic herbs. I dove deep into the research and learned how that the body has an endocannabinoid system and by balancing it, one could have better stress responses. The relief I had found was so palpable, I was sleeping through the night for the first time in almost a year and my general feelings of constantly being overwhelmed became a thing of the past. I felt comfortable in my own skin again, which I hadn’t felt in a long time. I wanted to share that relief with other women, and it was from here that Winged was born.

Winged offers formulas that are specific for a woman’s body and our brand is rooted in mood. We believe that when a woman feels good, she is unstoppable.

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?

I had a designer when we were first getting going and we were not seeing eye to eye on the design at all. My hair dresser, who had become a good friend, Tiffany, called me to see how things were going. I told her how excited I was about how everything with Winged was going, except for the packaging, and how I was disappointed the designer and I weren’t syncing. Tiffany knew my aesthetic probably better than anyone; when I remodeled my house 6 months prior she was my sounding board for all decisions made in the house — every color, tile, textile. Tiffany casually said to me maybe her and her new boyfriend could design something and I didn’t think twice about it. Three days later she called me sounding very excited and asked if I was home because she had to come over and show me. Tiff had come up with the designs, color ways and even the Winged animals for our packaging, and with her boyfriend’s technical skills they presented the Winged branding. Amazing, right? The lesson from this is sometimes the best surprises come where you never thought about looking. Don’t close yourself off to possibilities.

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?

I can’t think of anything truly hilarious that has happened with Winged but I do have a funny earlier entrepreneurial story. During grad school I started a stainless-steel water bottle company called UTURN. I decided that in addition to bottles I wanted to design and get manufactured sustainable lunch boxes for kiddos. I decided to call them “Munch Box” which I thought was super cute and had each one engraved with that name. I searched the web to make sure that there weren’t any products similar in name, filed with USPTO, and obtained the trademark. I ordered 10k lunch boxes from India, which was not an insignificant amount of money for me to lay out. As the lunchboxes were about to clear customs, a friend sent me urbandictionary.com definition. Let’s say it was not PG rated. I’ll let you google the meaning, but I still laugh about it to this day.

Do you have a funny story about how someone you knew reacted when they first heard you were getting into the cannabis industry?

Well, my grandmother kept asking me if I was getting into “the pot” business and I explained the difference between legal hemp and marijuana to her about 20 times. She now gets it and thinks Winged should even get into THC products for women. She’s done a 180 and voted YES in NJ for legalization. Go Gram!

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 forever grateful to Al Quadri, the man who founded NeoCell. When I was just 27 he decided I should be the VP of Sales for his company. I was terrified to accept this big role, but his belief in me made me rise to the occasion. A lot of “fake it ’til you make it” in those early days, but slowly grew into the position. I said so many times through the years that he gave me wings before I know I could fly, and how beautiful that my brand is now named Winged. I will always be so grateful to the belief he had in me before I had it in myself. It’s my every day goal to try to be that person for the women on my team.

Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We are working on releasing 5 new products in April of this year which I am incredibly excited for. All of our new products further help women feel good and be the best versions of themselves. I cant say too much about them yet, but I will say they are truly awesome products!

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?

I can’t speak for the industry as a whole but at Winged our current team is almost 80% female. We work to hire and develop talented women so they can grow in their role at Winged and learn as many skills as possible. On a philanthropic side, we work with organizations like MOSTE and Girls for a Change which exist to develop educational and career skills in young women. Winged helped to send 7 women to college in 2020.

Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the cannabis industry?

All of it.

Can you share something that most concerns you about the industry?

One of the major things that concerns me about the cannabis industry is the very high barriers to entry, especially for women, especially for minority women. A lot of people are kept out of industry because they can’t get access to capital. My good friend, Amber LittleJohn, who is the Executive Director for Minority Cannabis Business Association, is working tirelessly to bridge the knowledge and opportunity gap for small minority businesses- things like legal, technical and regulatory advice.

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?

Dear Senator- On the economic front- the tax revenue and job creation that federal legalization would spur is all the reason you should need. From a humanitarian level — access to cannabis could help give access to those in need, and perhaps helps to lessen the opiod crisis by giving access to alternatives. Legalization is a win-win any which way that you split it.

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?

By no measure are cigarettes medicine, like cannabis is. Sensible regulation is good, highly taxed and socially marginalized bad. The reason that cigarettes are so highly taxed is the strain they put on the health care system and human life. Cannabis should not be taxed the way cigarettes are or it will just restrict access to regulated product.

Can you please give us your favorite” Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

One must always be a gentleman (applies to women too). Was a saying my stepfather always said and it sticks with me, always. Basically, just treat people with kindness and don’t be a jerk. Everyone just wants to feel important and if you have the ability to make the people around you feel how special they are, you’ve got the golden ticket.

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. 🙂

I hope with Winged we are creating a movement of women embracing one another, feeling comfortable in vulnerability and dropping the veil of perfection. I believe this release, coupled with a healthy lifestyle, will cause less anxiety, less depression and affect not just the women positively, but everyone in their orbit.

Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you only continued success!

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