Lilach Mazor Power of Giving Tree Dispensary: “Stay focused on your core business ”

Stay focused on your core business — The industry is growing so rapidly it is easy to get distracted by a multitude of opportunities. It’s essential to stay focused on the task at hand, because this industry has no roadmap and requires a hands-on approach at all times. As a part of my series about strong women leaders […]

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Stay focused on your core business — The industry is growing so rapidly it is easy to get distracted by a multitude of opportunities. It’s essential to stay focused on the task at hand, because this industry has no roadmap and requires a hands-on approach at all times.

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

Lilach Mazor Power is the founder and CEO at Giving Tree Dispensary, an Arizona-licensed, vertically integrated cannabis company. Born and raised in Israel, Power served in the Israeli Defense Forces and graduated from New England College in Tel Aviv before moving to the United States. In 2013, she established Giving Tree Dispensary which remains the only Arizona dispensary with majority female ownership. Beyond her entrepreneurial endeavors, Power is also a brand builder and industry spokesperson. She helped formulate the Kindred and Katatonic cannabis lifestyle lines and has presented at large-scale business conferences stateside and abroad.

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

After moving to the U.S., I was exposed to some of the strains on our healthcare system because my husband is an ER doctor. I learned many people were using emergency care to combat chronic pain and believed there were healthier, alternative solutions. I decided to open a center that combined different wellness methodologies for people seeking pain management. Serendipitously, Arizona passed medical marijuana around this time which opened up another market channel to support this endeavor, so I applied for one of the first licenses in the state and incorporated cannabis into my business model. Though the wellness concept did not survive, my cannabis business has thrived. When Giving Tree originally opened, we had a naturopath on site, yoga classes, reiki, and massage. We stopped offering those services four years ago to focus primarily on our medical cannabis patients, which has allowed us to grow and expand on many different levels.

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?

After winning one of the original Arizona cannabis licenses we had to secure real estate and get it zoned with the city. We decided to rent versus buy a commercial space and found a property where the landlord was willing to lease to us. However, in November of 2012, the landlord decided they didn’t want to rent anymore and gave us the option to buy it . They wanted to sell within 30 days for tax reasons and it became a very expensive and unexpected pivot that we had to make. We personally had to cover it, but in the end, I am so happy to own this property. We put a lot of money into the building to support the Giving Tree operation and it is a relief we were never at the mercy of a landlord.

This all happened ten days into the official start of my cannabis business. The lesson I learned was this was going to be a wild ride. It’s a whack-a-mole lifestyle in this industry and never boring. As crazy as it is, I love it.

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?

Back in 2012, when the industry was still in its nascent stage, it was really difficult to hire professionals in the field. Many candidates only had experience growing in their basements, and few had any degrees to support their cultivation abilities. Our first facility was originally a bakery with no air conditioning. We had to convert it into a commercial space. I like to say I had to kiss a lot of frogs before finding the right talent. I learned the importance of hiring individuals who shared my business values and vision, it was an expensive ride, but it truly shows how the cannabis industry has evolved. Now, every member of my cultivation team has at least a bachelor’s degree in horticulture. Though we are still learning, together we have an endless sense of curiosity and a shared vision for Giving Tree.

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

In the beginning, I only told people I owned a wellness center, because there was still a threat of getting arrested at a federal level. But after a year or two, I became more confident in what I was doing and how I was helping patients. I started telling people and their reactions fell into one of two categories, either it was, “That’s so cool,” or silence. One person at a business meeting even looked at me and said, “So are you a stoner?” People still tend to react this way. As a mom, I find other parents who know about my business feel they can talk to me and ask questions, it’s like they’ve found a friend. Now, nine years later we are entering a recreational market in Arizona and cannabis is moving from wellness into the lifestyle sector.

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 don’t really have one person, I have a tribe of people who have helped me on this journey. My husband Keith has supported me on this crazy ride. One of the hardest moments was facing a challenging corporate divorce with my business partner. Together, we provided payroll from our personal bank accounts. During this time, morale was low and sales were down, but despite all of this I had my amazing team by my side to help me. They deserve credit for getting me where I am today. When things were tough, they still stuck with me.

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

In January 2021, we debuted our new dispensary location with an open retail design concept. Our mission was to create a space that would transform the patient/consumer shopping experience and also allow us the freedom to convert our former dispensary operation into an expanded cultivation facility. This move has helped us meet the new demands of Arizona’s recreational market which went live at the end of January.

Now, Giving Tree is a more versatile retail environment that invites cannabis shoppers to engage, explore, and learn about our trusted products while still providing the same elevated service and patient care. The 2,400 square-foot dispensary is optimized for product exploration and social engagement with interactive and shareable elements. The Giving Tree experience provides a welcoming space where we can help people along their cannabis journey.

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?

Unofficial mentorship opportunities where women can brainstorm and strategize with other colleagues and business owners. I feel men tend to have a steady stream of informal “happy hours”where they receive business support and advice. It’s harder for women to find time and space for these gatherings, because I think we are often balancing dual roles between family and the workplace. Often, I have to initiate these informal networking sessions, because I’m not automatically invited to participate. I don’t take it personally, I stay assertive and invite myself to take part in the conversation.

Risk taking in careers. More men seem willing to leave their mainstream jobs for cannabis right now, which is why we are seeing a gender gap. With risk comes opportunity. As the last woman cannabis owner in Arizona, I want to remind women that taking risks can be incredibly empowering and to not be afraid of failing.

Parity in hiring. Companies and boards need to take responsibility and demand diversity from HR in hiring initiatives. Additionally, companies need to bring greater gender parity to leadership positions. It might take a woman twice as long to ascend the ladder and when she gets there, it can be a hard sell to leave for an entirely new industry, even if the rewards have the potential to be astronomical.

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.

Be Patient — Money doesn’t grow on these trees. The cannabis industry is a longer game than most entrepreneurs expect. It’s like any other business, if you want success and longevity, you need to build a strong foundation.

Enjoy the challenge — Cannabis is never boring, so you need to be the type of business person who thrives in a demanding and ever changing environment. If you’re looking for stability, this industry is not for you.

Stay focused on your core business — The industry is growing so rapidly it is easy to get distracted by a multitude of opportunities. It’s essential to stay focused on the task at hand, because this industry has no roadmap and requires a hands-on approach at all times.

Fuel a diverse industry — More and more cannabis is turning into a white, male-dominated market. As an industry stakeholder it’s important to understand that shift and try to change it.

Educate yourself — Learn about the banking and finance challenges of the industry before starting your business. Cannabis is one of the most heavily regulated industries and state-specific compliance is complex. Know before you go!

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

It is always moving. I’m excited by the journey and hope the dynamic nature of this industry won’t go away.

I love being able to change history and be an ambassador. I love re-educating people on what this plant is and the many benefits it offers.

There are endless opportunities on this entrepreneurial journey. Midway through my career, I realized I really like to build brands and look forward to doing more of that for a recreational market.

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?

Banking and 280e rules are the biggest cloud for this industry. If business owners could have access to loans, credit cards, and other financial services and channels that traditional sectors utilize it would open up this industry to a whole new arena of entrepreneurs.

Diversity is an issue and it is a piece of this industry I see shrinking. However, as business owners we have the power to change that by hiring a diverse pool of talent and donating our time to the next generation of entrepreneurs.

Being able to supply the demand for cannabis is an ever increasing concern. As a small business in an industry of large MSOs it’s hard to imagine how we can win that business competition. Incorporating more support systems for smaller businesses who are community-driven and locally-minded would be a starting point.

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?

Legalize it! Just look at Canada, a very successful country where cannabis has always been used and now it is legal. Residents have access to regulated cannabis, it is being taxed, and there are safety measures. Their model illustrates how to legalize and enjoy the benefits on multiple levels.

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 want cannabis to be regulated, taxed, and available to those 21 and over. I do not want cannabis to continue to be socially marginalized or stigmatized. Cigarettes and tobacco have a status of killing, whereas cannabis, in my mind, has the status of well being and helping.

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

Success is not always what you see. I often remind myself that people who talk a lot, don’t always have the strongest foundation. The entrepreneur journey is a roller coaster. The important thing is to keep believing, keep pushing forward, and don’t let people get in your head.

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. 🙂

That’s a good one! I am always attracted to making a difference and impacting women’s lives in a positive way. I would love to start a movement to change the way girls envision their future by providing career-focused opportunities and supporting female independence. Additionally, as a mother and cannabis entrepreneur, I believe it is critical we start a re-education program on cannabis for our youth. We need to provide space for real and meaningful discussions between teenagers and their parents about the medicinal character of the cannabis plant and how it can be integrated in a responsible way into a healthful lifestyle. The more we can impact people’s lives and well-being, the more opportunity we have to change the stigmas surrounding the cannabis community.

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