Ashley Hill of Winning Coaching and Green Light Project: “Invest in your team’s development!”

Invest in your team’s development! Make sure you have the right people in the right seats. Identify and play to their strengths and support their limitations. Create a common language that is understood by all. Hone in on what is important to them and how you can best support their values while having them support […]

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Invest in your team’s development! Make sure you have the right people in the right seats. Identify and play to their strengths and support their limitations. Create a common language that is understood by all. Hone in on what is important to them and how you can best support their values while having them support your business — it should always be a mutually beneficial agreement.


As part of my series about “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started Leading a Cannabis Business” I had the pleasure of interviewing Ashley Hill.

Ashley Hill is a native Californian who has been in the cannabis industry since 2013. Hill gained 5½ years of experience in cannabis cultivation and shares the behind-the-scenes operations. She has managed several multimillion-dollar commercial indoor and greenhouse facilities and produced a flower product entered into the High Times Awards.

She subsequently has transitioned to the culinary aspect of the industry as a Cannabis Entrepreneur, an International Selling Author, and the Co-Owner of Green Light Project (an infused catering and event service). Ms. Hill continues to advance her scientific research through her enrollment in the Medical Cannabis Science and Therapeutics Master’s Degree program. This is the first and only M.S. program of its kind in the United States of America.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you share with us the story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Arriving in the cannabis industry was a total accident. I graduated with an undergrad degree in hospitality and was working at a hotel in San Jose. The GM of the hotel who hired me left the hotel to become the GM of a wellness dispensary that was down the street.

Around the same time, I got to a point where I was really unhappy working at the hotel. As I started my personal development journey, at the time I was listening to Les Brown, a motivational speaker. He would often share how 95% of people die on Sundays dreading Mondays because of their impending workweek. Because I started to relate and hated that feeling so immensely, I connected with the GM of the wellness dispensary and ended up getting a job there in member services.

When this happened almost ten years ago, I thought the gig was only going to be temporary because it wasn’t at all popular to earn an undergraduate degree to then work at a dispensary. I didn’t see longevity in the job initially because even though I consumed cannabis medicinally, the social stigma was so intensely negative due to the environment that surrounded cannabis.

Fast-forward eight years into the future and I am graduating with my master’s in Medicinal Cannabis Science and Therapeutics.

The interactions with our patients really flipped the script for me. It became quickly clear that this wasn’t your typical dispensary — it wasn’t cramped, dark, and gated, but rather it was bright, designed with an open concept, and offered educational classes in yoga, tai chi, massage therapy, growing marijuana, and cooking with cannabis. The educational aspect added a layer I had never been exposed to.

It became clear that cannabis helps improve people’s day-to-day lives. For some patients facing chronic pain and illness, taking the trip to the dispensary would be their only experience outside of their homes for the entire day. Being exposed to cannabis knowledge and the education behind it was extremely powerful for me.

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?

About a year ago, I was reviewing my most recent DISC personality test assessment results from my company, Winning Coaching, and it hit me like a ton of bricks: up until this point, I had been in the industry for seven years, started two cannabis businesses, and was wrapping up the first year of my cannabis master’s program. I realized the reason I had been struggling to clearly identify my lane in the industry. What I read in the report that day was that due to my behavior tendencies and preferences, one of my limitations was that I tend to seek affirmation from others. I would like for others to approve of the things I’ve done, and only then do I feel the reward or acceptance.

I have hefty years of experience in the industry under my belt, I’m currently investing in the future of the industry by pursuing a master’s, and I’m dedicated to honing in on my advocacy in this plant’s medicinal benefits. But still, I have embodied centuries of social stigma around cannabis. I realized that I had created companies in an industry that is constantly going against my natural tendencies of approval. In that moment of developing my own self-awareness, I learned that I had to stop waiting on other people to approve what I have been assigned to build and create and start finding gratification on my own accord.

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 once tried to sign up for a campaign of Instagram ads and couldn’t figure out why time and time again it wasn’t going through. My requests were denied over and over.

Getting into the industry, I thought that although it was a federally illegal business, it would be treated as a typical legal business by the State. I didn’t realize the implications that trickled down into taxes, advertising, payroll expenses, banking, and other normal advantages that other businesses operate under and leverage.

I realized I wasn’t eligible for digital marketing services on Instagram or any other platform because of the industry I was in. I quickly learned that in the cannabis industry, you’re never eligible. The system is often working against you.

Instead — an interesting byproduct of this issue — you are forced to grow completely organically. Your product stands alone. It doesn’t matter how much money you throw into online marketing or campaigns of any kind — you are forced to expand purely because people like your product, return for it, and spread the word about it completely organically. Only the best can survive.

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

Yes! First off, we’re creating our second cookbook — a CBD, vegan and vegetarian cookbook.

Secondly, a goal of mine is to create an online course similar to “Cannabis 101.” It would align back to one of the core values and main missions of the Green Light Project: to help educate people about cannabis and share the knowledge about cannabis science I have obtained with my degree. We don’t set out to change our students’ perspectives or condition them to think any certain way, but to provide that honest education.

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?

Neil Ruditsky was the GM of the hotel I worked at and is now the COO of Juvalife. He gave me the opportunity to be a part of my first indoor cultivation grow. He would call me at 6 am, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, to make sure I was heading over to go check on the plants.

Straight out of college, 6 am was insanely early for me, but the responsibility was huge and I felt honored to be so deeply entrusted. I showed up day after day. Eight years later, 6 am is now late for me which illustrates the growth and the mindset he helped instill in me early on in my career to get up early, to invest in myself, to trust myself, and to work at it. After all, the early bird gets the worm.

This industry is young dynamic and creative. Do you use any clever and innovative marketing strategies that you think large legacy companies should consider adopting?

You have to have a pioneering mindset and be fearless to make it in this industry. Oftentimes, because the industry itself so new, everything must be innovative. You have to continue to adapt and change on a weekly, daily, or even hourly basis. Developing that spirit of innovation is something that could benefit larger corporations that are stuck in their way of existing.

You shouldn’t be afraid to be the first or create your own path.

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

Things that excite me about cannabis:

  • The possibilities are limitless: there is so much opportunity to be able to do or create anything your mind can fathom. That’s not typical with most industries!
  • None of this is new. Cannabis has been around for centuries. It is so rewarding to see the way people are going back to producing this incredibly old product while researching cannabis both in a historical context and applying modern technology to gain knowledge on newfound benefits from an old plant. It’s incredibly exciting — there’s so much more to be discovered!
  • I love being able to help and positively impact people with this education and provide a new perspective. Having a Master’s Degree in Cannabis Science provides me with a huge opportunity to impact the cannabis educational system which is just developing.

Things that concern me about cannabis: :

  • Social equity; many minorities and people of color are still in prison for cannabis crimes, even in locations where it is now legal.
  • I worry about the limited opportunity that is available for minorities and people of color when it comes to ownership within the industry. All states are different, but oftentimes there are certain entry barriers that involve high capital investments, licensing, and permits in order to secure or gain access to owning a dispensary or distribution/manufacturing facility which often disqualifies minorities due to lack of access to capital. Those aren’t the only entry points into the industry, but all points should have equal access, especially to the communities that were historically targeted during the war on drugs.
  • The quality of the product will be diluted over time and people will look for shortcuts that don’t benefit the consumers in the end; essentially, the prospect that cannabis will come to adopt a profit-over-people business model concerns me. As the industry starts to evolve, I hope that it stays true and authentic to the medicinal components and benefits the plant carries as best as possible.

Can you share your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started Leading a Cannabis Business”? Please share a story or example for each.

1. This will not be easy. (We’re creating the rules as we go, you may be the first one to provide a product or service and that’s okay!)

2. Nor will it be fair. (You will not be treated the same as other businesses.)

3. Adapt/Pivot early. (Things are constantly changing as the industry is developing. What was a rule yesterday may not be a rule today. Accept it and adjust.)

4. Creativity and innovation are key. (Being able to problem solve quickly is extremely valuable.)

5. Cannabis is about community. (Creating products and providing service for your community will get you very far.)

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?

Invest in your team’s development! Make sure you have the right people in the right seats. Identify and play to their strengths and support their limitations. Create a common language that is understood by all. Hone in on what is important to them and how you can best support their values while having them support your business — it should always be a mutually beneficial agreement.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I am a huge advocate for overall wellness and education. Questioning what we have been conditioned to think in health and wellness will always be a part of my life. I am to provide education around nutrition and access to healthy food options in lower-income communities.

I’d like to work towards making workshops and programs like the Food Tribe’s food and science symposium more accessible, providing education around the science of nutrition and what/how to consume to optimum results. A huge part of that is creating equitable opportunities for minorities and people of color in the cannabis business. I want to provide and support success by garnering access to education and resources.

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

Winning Coaching: https://www.winning-1.com/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ashley-hill-012188166/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TBAFITN3SS

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/high3r_education/

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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