Get out of your comfort zone. All I can say is that we grow more when we are out of our comfort zone. This such a dynamic new industry that we are all growing together so unless you are willing to take chances, risk your certainty, and learn and grow than this industry isn’t for you.
As a part of my series about strong women leaders in the cannabis industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Elizabeth Becker.
Elizabeth Becker is the visionary and co-founder of the innovative new startup HiBnb, exciting industry watchers in travel / tourism and tech as well as in the world of cannabis. Before working in cannabis, Elizabeth enjoyed a rich career writing and directing in film and television. Always a cannabis advocate, Elizabeth’s Master’s thesis at the American Film Institute in 1999 addressed the absurdity of the illegality of marijuana at a time when few people were discussing the topic. After engaging in film production in Los Angeles, Vancouver and Toronto and racking up credits as a director in kids TV, Elizabeth moved down a different path and directly into the cannabis space. In cannabis, Elizabeth started in payment processing and moved to work for a series of cannabis entrepreneurs including Head of Business Development in Canna-tourism. Over the past three and a half years she has immersed within a network of cannabis professionals to emerge a robust player on the Canadian cannabis landscape. Elizabeth is a passionate entrepreneur developing a platform that will galvanize a global community.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the cannabis industry?
I had been working in film and television for decades and was not satisfied with where I was at. When considering how to cross over into another industry, a good friend advised me to follow your passion. For me, I am passionate about cannabis. I had been silently participating in the collective movement towards legalization, and maybe not so silently since I made a film for my master’s thesis at the American Film Institute which is quite outspoken. It’s about the absurdity of the propaganda that came out in the 1930’s claiming that smoking marijuana will make you lose your mind and want to kill your best friend, and comparing the stigma against cannabis to the complete acceptance of alcohol use which is proven to have more violent and destructive effects on people. So, the passion has always been there.
When Canada was preparing to legalize, I knew I wanted to seize the opportunity of a business advantage on a global level. I just had to figure out if there was a path that was right for me. In the end I crept in through payment processing and insurance into the cannabis industry. Then I segued to working for a few different entrepreneurs and I learned many things from them. Finally when I heard lots of people talking about the need for a travel and tourism site dedicated to cannabis enthusiasts, and I saw how passionate they were about using a site like that, I became dedicated to figure out how to create and present it to the public for their use and enjoyment.
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’d say the most interesting story that happened to me — and has been part of my learning curve — is when I commissioned a service provider to create the website. I had been working with the designers and developers for months and when it came time to deliver the product for our launch date, what I got was very different than what I was expecting and I had to call off the launch. That was devastating because I had worked very hard to drum up some excitement about the delivery of the site.
So, I learned that communication is crucial and never to assume that the other party is going to meet your expectations. Unfortunately, it’s created the need for me to micromanage every step of the way and many people I am working with don’t enjoy that process from my side. But the lesson hit me hard and it’s better to have to take a chance that you’ll hurt someone’s feelings by clarifying every detail with them than to have the work completed wrong, miss deadlines, and have to re-do work that has already been completed which is costly in time and resources.
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’m not really proud to admit this but this is a glaring mistake in my opinion. I went to a cannabis trade show and conference looking to network. Being passionate about cannabis, and treasuring the way that cannabis assists in a bonding experience with others when ingested together, I ended up getting high with a bunch of other industry professionals.
But I think I got a little out of hand since the nature of the conference had lots of different events and interactions and unfortunately, I got a little too high. Because of this I was less able to be effective in my work — so I am going to have to be a little more careful about that next time.
Do you have a funny story about how someone you knew reacted when they first heard you were getting into the cannabis industry?
I don’t have a funny story about how someone reacted when I said I was working in cannabis because I don’t surround myself with anybody that has a stigma about cannabis. I am a transparent person. All the people who know me, know I love cannabis, so they all think it’s a good fit.
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?
Absolutely. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for my mother, Rose Becker. I grew up watching my mother create and run her sales and marketing company. In fact, I grew up working in her business. She’s always been my role model as an entrepreneur, and she has always believed in my ability as a business person. When she saw that I was so passionate about HiBnb, and knowing what I was capable of, she did everything she could do to assist me on the path to get the business off the ground. I am forever grateful for her support and confidence in me.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?
HiBnb is taking a LOT of hours to get off the ground so I literally work 18 hours a day. We’ve hit a few milestones but there are many more to go. So to answer the question, HiBnb is my new and exciting project. We just completed our soft launch and are open to the public — focusing on onboarding hosts and we will be undertaking a big media launch in late April. Check it out: https://www.hibnb.ca/
But there are some side projects connected to HiBnb I am working on. For example, we just created three webseries to help with promotion and this is really exciting, because it allows me to fold in my past experience creating film and television but within the HiBnb framework. I can’t wait to bring these series to the public because my driving passion isn’t just to create a business — it’s to assist in the de-stigmatization of cannabis. Now that cannabis is legal in Canada, things are starting to change. The time of keeping our cannabis use hush hush is over, and with that comes a responsibility to be educated about cannabis and to educate others. I believe that cannabis users should be able to enjoy a safe, legal, socially accepted cannabis-inclusive lifestyle that is integrated into our day to day lives. That is really what HiBnb is about, so the paths for me to support this initiative are endless.
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 am very grateful to some women who have gone out of their way to introduce me to other strong female business professionals and this has really helped strengthen HiBnb. Normally I wouldn’t want anyone to treat me differently because I am a female — in a negative way or in a positive way — but because the playing field is so heavily occupied by men and some men see right past a woman in business, women really need the extra support right now.
If you are an individual or a business, when you come across a female entrepreneur who is on a mission and who has — what I call, the fire in her belly — just ask that individual how you can help her. That simple question, “How can I help? goes a long way.
For society, I think it’s important to recognize women run businesses. The media can play a big part in this. The more it is brought to the public awareness that companies are female led, the more the public can support them.
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.
I can’t say I can advise anyone how to succeed in the cannabis industry. Just because I had a vision and acted on it doesn’t mean I have succeeded. Who has succeeded anyway? How do you measure success? The entire industry is struggling to find itself and find its revenue. I don’t think the LP’s are earning more than their expenses right now and neither are we. So based on that, I can offer advice on what it takes to get to where I am right now.
- Be patient. Don’t expect immediate results. The cannabis industry is young and being able to evolve with it is crucial.
- Help others around you. I am finding that if you go out of your way to help the people around you in this business — even if it doesn’t directly affect your own business — you are embodying the positive aspects of the cannabis plant and these gestures contribute to the integrity of our unique industry. And in the end, it always comes back to you in one way or another.
- You are not an outsider. Because this industry is so new, everyone is new to it. That means that you shouldn’t feel like an outsider trying to break in. All of us were in your shoes just a few years, or even months ago. It’s not too hard to get inside, but it does require persistence, tenacity, and something to bring to the table.
- Get good at sending calendar invites. Seriously. That’s the way everyone communicates with each other. Send a calendar invite and book time to talk and connect.
- Get out of your comfort zone. All I can say is that we grow more when we are out of our comfort zone. This such a dynamic new industry that we are all growing together so unless you are willing to take chances, risk your certainty, and learn and grow than this industry isn’t for you.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the cannabis industry?
- There is a lot that excites me — to start with, it is a brand new emerging industry growing at a quick rate and that is really exciting to me because there are no preconceived ideas of what’s going to work and what’s not. This leaves so many possibilities open. You have to expect the unexpected, and to do this you are forced to stay awake and aware at all times. Living in this hyper aware state, knowing that accelerated growth could be right around the corner — this is invigorating to me.
- Being a new industry, there are people coming into it from all other industries and these people are sincere, grounded, kind, generous and accepting people. It’s so interesting to see the different backgrounds from where all these people have come — and what they have in common for the most part is an appreciation of cannabis. As the properties of the plant are benevolent, so are the people coming together to work in the industry around it. For me, these are the people that I want to work with, and with whom I feel at home.
- I am fueled by the jump start that Canada has gotten on this new emerging global industry. There is no denying we are at the beginning of a global shift to accept and appreciate the healing qualities of cannabis and I feel privileged to be able to contribute to the foundation of what could become a global enterprise.
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?
1.) I am most concerned about the battles between the legal industry and the legacy markets, who are both out to get blood from the other. They are both wanting to, and capable of, annihilating each other and that is so sad to me. Look how far we’ve come and how much we’ve fought to legalize cannabis. I am very excited we are legal, and we wouldn’t be here without the legacy market without people sacrificing what they had to move the pendulum and create legalization. It is a touchy subject, though, and not one which I want to choose since it’s so political and diametrically opposed. I do believe we should be supporting the legal industry which is why I created HiBnb. I want HiBnb to normalize the conversation about cannabis so that cannabis enthusiasts can step away from shame and guilt, we can all come out of the closet and get educated about cannabis, and study and utilize it for all it has to offer. The legacy market has to understand that times change, this is a time of growth and for the benefit of bringing the plant to all, they have to try to find themselves a place in the legal framework.
That said, I know the legacy market feels slighted by the suits who have walked into the cannabis industry and are trying to extract as much revenue from it as possible without acknowledging the values of the plant and the people. At HiBnb we really try to appeal to straddle the line. We offer the general public an opportunity to make money by passing on their experiences, expertise, and other ways to make money even if they do not have licenses to sell., we also give an opportunity for people who legally grow their own cannabis plants to share their cannabis with their guests, and offer them a page that showcases their grow. On the other hand, we also offer assistance to Licensed Producers who are limited in their ability to market properly, because a HiBnb host can also choose to list the LPs name brand products and increase exposure and awareness of those products!
2.) A second concern I have for the cannabis industry is the opposition of some international countries. Because some of these countries take cannabis use so seriously, it means that travelers, or even people who want to travel, have to be careful if they don’t want to be officially associated with or traceable to cannabis in any way — for fear of safety in their home country or ease of their travels. Because of this, I think the legal cannabis industry will grow slower and the legacy market will continue to stay strong, and if this is the case, will the legal industry survive?
3.) My last concern is the stigma against cannabis. We still have so far to go in the acceptance of cannabis in the normalization of our day to day lives right now the only place to get high is on your coach if you want to do it with friends. Or outside in desolate areas. With alcohol, you can have a glass of wine at lunch or at dinner — there are so many touch points in your day to day life where you can integrate alcohol in your life in a safe, legal and responsible way but cannabis, we are still blacklisted. I will continue to fight so that people can enjoy cannabis together in public settings and social environments, rather than having to get high on their own or hide their use from each other.
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?
I can see that people are trying to figure out how to consider cannabis, but it really can’t be pigeon-holed into a category that already exists. Cigarettes are socially marginalized because they are proven to kill people. Cannabis has healing effects. How can they be considered to be the same status? It’s sad that so many people still compare the two. It’s clear that some people aren’t realizing that unlike tobacco, cannabis has so many benevolent and healing properties.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
The life lesson that Ii learned many years ago is that humans have a natural tendency to judge experiences in their lives as good or bad. When someone cancels out on you — your mind races to categorize it as positive or negative. It’s almost like this is the way our human brain needs to filter data. But the truth is that we can’t see what’s coming next so it’s really impossible to say if something is good and something else is bad because we don’t know how it fits in the bigger picture. So if we are judging and reacting to all the things that happen to us we go around and around in an endless cycle without much benefit other than wasted emotions.
At this stage in my life I have learned a lot about who I am and being able to isolate and identify my emotions. I have the wisdom and the confidence to see as clearly as I can — to be aware of my own limitations and tap into my potential. This has led me to create HiBnb. I can recognize that HIBnb is a gift to other people to use as a way to make income or a way to meet other people or a way to travel more comfortably — it’s greater than me and I am grateful that I am wise enough to not get in the way of it.
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 am passionate about cannabis. It has affected me in a positive way — helping me to relax, to be more self aware, more comfortable with myself, and even to laugh more. I have created HiBnb because I want to share that positive and benevolent experience with others so that they can enjoy the benefits as I have — and maybe they can even pass it forward again! So yes! I am trying to inspire a movement that brings the greatest amount of good to the greatest amount of people. HiBnb is designed for exactly that. Our motto is “Sharing what we love”.
Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you only continued success!