I had the pleasure of interviewing Gia Moron, Executive Vice President of Women Grow, who oversees the day-to-day operations of the company, its communications and creating a more diverse and inclusive representation of its leaders, members and attendees. Since joining the headquarter team , she has built strong strategic partnerships to create opportunities for women. She does this all while making it her mission to create a fair and well represented space for women in cannabis whether through networking, education or image reflections. Her goal is to create an industry reflective of our society.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
Professionally, I come from a corporate background, with over 25yrs experience. I began my career at an international distribution and production television company of which I was the Director of Promotions & Publicity. Basically the company sold and distributed U.S. shows overseas. From prime time, to award shows to game shows and more. It was an interesting start to my career and thought I was going to remain in entertainment. I enjoyed the travel, trade shows and learning about international broadcast. That journey lasted 6 years until the company merged and downsized. My career took a unique turn and I landed on Wall Street. I truly believed financial services was a pit stop. What I thought would only last a year or two turned into fifteen years. Thus far it has been my best education. I worked in the Media Relations Dept within the Executive Office of a leading Wall Street firm and learned about the revenue and non revenue generating sides of business. I had the opportunity to work with non-profits and public offices. I basically learned how big corporation operate. It also gave me a broader perspective on global finance. I have no regrets spending much of my career on Wall Street. Without those foundational experiences I would not have had the desire to launched my own firm in 2012 after leaving financial services. It really prepared me for just about anything.
What made you fall in love with Cannabis?
I fell in love with the business of Cannabis and the various uses of the plant. Personally yes I have consumed cannabis in college and early in my career, but it really wasn’t my vice. Growing up I only knew one way of consuming cannabis. I didn’t know about the strains or alternative ways to consume. Nothing! But one day in watching CNBC, yes CNBC I watched their documentary series on Marijuana. It blew my mind on many levels. Coming from where I come from people went to jail for selling “weed” and here was a series discussing the legalization and the money these cultivators were making in Colorado and California. I was pissed yet inspired. I didn’t want to be left out of what I saw immediately as a long term successful opportunity. I understood how this industry could create generational wealth and I wanted nothing more than to make sure people who looked like me, people from communities I’m from would have the same chance as these white men I saw in the docu series. I fell in love with the passion of seeing this plate as a way to help my community become healthier and create revenue.
What do you think makes you & your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I often say Women Grow was my “gateway” into the industry. It’s mission spoke to me. Aside from seeing only white men leading the industry I did not see women either and that struck a cord. Upon learning about Women Grow and how they were cultivating cannabis leaders was genius. Here was a way into the industry without touching the plant and supporting entrepreneurs and career transitioners at the same time was familiar to me. I knew this company had a place for me. I live in NYC and my experience has been different from others but I was welcomed from day one with open arms. I attended these meetings. Networking learning about the industry. As a matter of fact my first Women Grow meeting I got my first three cannabis clients. They were small businesses but it was a start for me. I knew this was the community I wanted to be a part of. I did take notice early on of the lack of POC and WOC. Often when I attended these meetings I was one of five if that of POC in the room. This was not unusual given the industries I came from but here was a chance to change a pattern. I started inviting friends of whom I knew would be interested in these business opportunities. Since attending my first meeting in 2015 the faces of the meeting are much more diverse. The women I met at my first meeting are still my friends today. I truly value what Women Grow has offered me as a women in the industry.
What do you wish you knew before entering the cannabis industry? Give us the Good/Bad/Ugly
An unregulated industry is extremely complex. When I first started I could not get my head around this industry needing everything. I could not get my head around the difficulty in opening a simple bank account related to this business. Those were some of my challenges. I’ve seen some businesses take advantage of ancillary services. Truly low down practices and rather disappointing. On the “high” note, this is an industry where I feel people are willing to discuss the learning curves. At this point no one person has it right. The industry itself is still discovering. We are surrounded be some of the most brilliant minds. It’s incredible the talents drawn to this industry. And the passion runs deep. There is a term I heard early on called “cannafamily” and it describes the feeling of seeing the friendly faces and close relationships we are building in this space. I do feel supported in ways I had not felt in other industries.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects?
There is never a dull moment in cannabis in short…YES many exciting projects on the rise!!! The first is a joint organizational partnership initiative with Women Grow, Minorities for Medical Marijuana, Minority Cannabis Business Association, Cannabis Cultural Association, Cannagather and Cannaclusive and Emmanuel Baptist Church in New York City. I don’t recall all of our organizations coming together but here we are. Emmanuel will be opening its doors for the first time for a mini summit on the topic of The Business of Cannabis. We are inviting POC industry leaders from across the country. We are truly excited to have this opportunity. This conversation is long overdue, but we believe the time is right. We look forward to creating a continued dialog and action steps for all. Another project is our annual Leadership Summit. For the first time, summit will be held on the east coast in Washington DC. In prior years it was held in Denver, CO but this year with so many states on the east going legal we felt the time was ripe to bring Women Grow Leadership Summit to the nations capital. This is one of my favorite projects. I’ve met so many incredible women exploring their opportunities one year and by the following year their business is up and flourishing. Our annual event is like a reunion and rebirth in one. I look forward to seeing our cannabosses this year. Separate of Women Grow, my firm GVM Communications is working on a few exciting projects. When I launched my firm in 2012 I focused on public relations, branding and business development. My clients were outside of this industry. It was in 2015 when I expanded my firm to take on cannabis clients. I truly love working with my cannabis clients. I learn something new from each of them. One of the services I offer clients is facilitation. I’ve led dozens of company rebrands and coached team building retreats, there is truth behind having your team on the same page leads to success. Through this work I still felt I was not offering my full potential which led to conversations with a publishing team regarding a few projects. In addition, we are pitching a broadcast opportunity. The demo is completed and response has been great. I believe there are no boundaries in this industry.
What advice would you give to other leaders in the cannabis space to help them thrive?
I learned moving fast does not always mean better. Patience and timing often play a huge part in ones success. Knowing when to keep pushing the needle forward and when to go quiet while perfecting your craft. Creating boundaries is key because saying yes to everything caused me to hit a wall. Now I am careful with my time. And lastly, making sure that as we meet new people entering this industry that we continue to encourage their success. As we thrive they too shall thrive. We are in this together.
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?
Person NO…Persons YESSSSS. And the list is long. I have found such a loving sisterhood it absolutely humbles me. I feel honored to know them. From the CEO of Women Grow to our Market Leaders to the remarkable women across this industry. Truthfully it is the first industry where I greet most people with a hug because of the energy. It’s too difficult to name just one. In 2016, Melissa and Mia welcomed me into Women Grow NYC. Two of the sweetest ladies. I adore them. In 2017 I met Dr. Chanda Macias. From day one we clicked and have been working together ever since. Roz McCarthy of M4MM is my late night check-in partner. We hold each other accountable. Wanda James is just amazing. Talk about passionate and wanting to help women. Each of these women have helped me along the way. We learn from each other. There’s Kay, Arielle, Xena, Tanya Osborne, Jyl, Tangy, Tracey Henry (my rider), Caroline, Shira, Cristina, Kassandra, Dasheeda, The Estrohaze ladies, Marvina, Parisa, Rachel, Shanita, Leah, Christine, Mary, Kebra, Desiree, Maureen, Julie…darn I hate questions like this in fear of forgetting someone. I love how we all help each other as we are climbing. None of us got here alone. I have spent countless hours connecting with these amazing women. Trust me this is not all of them. No matter what I love them all. Oh and I would be at fault if I did not say how honored I am for the men who have helped and supported me in this industry. Again too many to list no matter I am forever grateful.
What are some of your pain points within the cannabis space?
This industry has brought out the activist in me. Until now I’ve never done this work. I learned early on that in order to build this industry we must do our part. It is necessary. It’s been the advocate who have led the way thus far. I fear this industry has the potential of repeating patterns we’ve already seen, but it is up to us to make a difference. That said as I see these major companies building their business there are communities still impacted by the war on drugs. These communities are left out STILL of this industry! This is a pain point for me. Lack of access to capital is another for women and POC is another pain point. We have the most difficulty acquiring backing to set up businesses or second round funding. These unspoken barriers must change.
Can you share the top five trends in the Cannabis in the areas of businesses/product/innovation, technology.
– Create businesses targeted to the Boomer Community, as of today they are one of the top communities consuming. — Intimacy products are a huge interest point. People love sex and sex trumps most. No matter your love interest people want an experience. — Cannatech overall is instrumental to our industry. Whether its an app or data platform. This industry is only going forward and the masterminds who are our forward thinkers are creating solutions to help better support our systems.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?
“You’ve got to learn to leave the table when love’s no longer being served.” — Nina Simone
Is there a person in the world, Past or Present whom you would like to light up with? What would you talk about?
I would totally light up with Oprah. I’m a huge fan of her Super Soul Sundays. The talks are always so deep and meaningful. I would totally do a Toking with Oprah sesh, discuss Mother Maya, Deepak or Paulo or Brene. Have her dish on her proudest Told Ya So moments as we picked veggies from her garden, laughed over food we cooked elevated.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
Jilea Hemmings is the CEO & Co-Founder of Leaf Tyme. She is running a series on Leaders In The Cannabis Industry.