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Danielle Sunberg of AMMA Healing: “We offer a new pathway to wellness for millions of people”

Folks in this industry aren’t here by accident, and everyone here has a really compelling “why.” The people who succeed aren’t just trying to make a buck, their lives have been transformed by cannabis and they want everyone to have the same opportunity for transformation. As part of my series about “5 Things I Wish […]

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Folks in this industry aren’t here by accident, and everyone here has a really compelling “why.” The people who succeed aren’t just trying to make a buck, their lives have been transformed by cannabis and they want everyone to have the same opportunity for transformation.


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 Danielle Sunberg.

Danielle Sunberg is the founder of AMMA Healing, a health and wellness company. Danielle is a serial entrepreneur, former attorney and COO of startups in the tech and wellness spaces. Danielle serves as an advisor to several companies and is a prolific public speaker and writer. She holds a Juris Doctor degree from American University, Washington College of Law.


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?

As a former attorney, I wore the “corporate hat,” and I packaged myself this way during our first round of fundraising. Ironically, the most eager investors wanted to see the authentic me. Once I started speaking from my heart, we started closing checks. It’s a reminder that we experience our greatest successes when we let our authentic self shine.

Once I started speaking from the heart, we started closing funding. I had been wearing my “corporate hat” from my previous life as a litigator because I thought it would woo investors, but I was pleasantly surprised to be wrong. It was the real me that was worthy of investment, and I stay connected to that lesson in authenticity as a conscious entrepreneur.

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?

Early on at AMMA I accidentally turned off emails from being sent to a large segment of our customer list. A running joke is that as a founder, CEO stands for chief everything officer because everything is your responsibility from negotiating deals to designing flyers, you can’t avoid doing things you’re not an expert in, but remember to give yourself grace.

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

Some of my lawyer friends thought I had really unraveled when left the law to work in the cannabis industry and do energy medicine. Aside from AMMA, I’m also a certified reiki master and transformational coach. It’s funny now because law firms ask us to host virtual happy hours with our alcohol alternative, Elevate Elixir, and lead them in Reiki meditations.

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 came home from the firm one day totally deflated, wanting to quit but nervous to sacrifice the stability and salary. My husband sat down next to me and said, “You’ve proven you can climb the professional ivory tower. Don’t let the tower become a prison. Trust that if you made it here, you can navigate whatever comes next.” He was right.

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

More than ever, people need healthy ways to relax. We are all home and closer to our fridge, and it’s too easy to reach for a beer or glass of wine. Our alcohol alternative Elevate has hugely impacted people’s lives because it is relaxing like alcohol, but with a ton of health benefits and none of alcohol’s negative effects.

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

Insight 1:

Company culture has traditionally valued male leadership qualities like competitiveness, competence, and dominance. Only women who exhibit these qualities “make it” as leaders. We are starting to see a shift towards valuing key female leadership attributes like collaboration, creativity, and nurturing relationships. As companies become more receptive to including these qualities in their culture, they will naturally attract incredible female leaders.

Company culture has traditionally valued male leadership qualities like competitiveness, competence, and dominance. Only women exhibiting these qualities “make it” as leaders. We are seeing a shift towards valuing key female leadership attributes like collaboration, creativity, and nurturing relationships. As companies become more receptive to including these qualities in their culture, they will naturally attract incredible female leaders.

Insight 2:

Societal views on what a leader looks like needs to shift. We emphasize working around the clock, but that’s not an option for many women. As a mom to a 9-month old, I’ve had to develop creative strategies to lead AMMA without being glued to my laptop all day. It’s actually sharpened my skills and made me more innovative and efficient.

Societal views norms equating ideal leadership to excessive work-a-holism needs to shift toward celebrating work/life balance. Constant engagement remains revered, but that’s simply unhealthy for everyone. As a mom to a 9-month-old, I’ve developed creative strategies to lead AMMA without being glued to my laptop. Striking that balance has sharpened my skills and made me more innovative and efficient.

Insight 3:

I’ve noticed with female leaders, including myself, that we don’t trust our voice. It’s not enough to sit at the table, we’ve got to speak up and be confident in our opinion. We fear being rejected or dismissed, but when we don’t speak up we never give ourselves the chance to earn the respect we deserve.

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.

Reason 1:

Folks in this industry aren’t here by accident, and everyone here has a really compelling “why.” The people who succeed aren’t just trying to make a buck, their lives have been transformed by cannabis and they want everyone to have the same opportunity for transformation.

Reason 2:

We are sensitive how we present ourselves because of the stigma that cannabis is for stoners. But we can’t let the pendulum swing too far the other way and become like the corporate interests we want to keep out of this industry. We need to stay authentic: we aren’t stoners and we aren’t suits, we are just people driven to empower people’s wellness.

Reason 3:

Unlike traditional industries, it’s built on competition, or collaboration between competitors. We encounter unique problems no other industry has faced like less traditional access to capital, restricted opportunities to advertise, regulatory hurdles, and lack of education, and we work together to solve them. This approach has formed the industry of “we over me,” and we are better and stronger together.

Reason 4:

Our bodies have an innate ability to heal themselves. When we get a cut we don’t think about how to fix it, our bodies just know what to do. It’s important to remember that the hemp plant supports the body’s natural intelligence to balance, restore, and heal itself, and that’s why cannabis has less side effects than pharmaceuticals.

Reason 5:

There will come a time when every cannabis entrepreneur meets a seemingly insurmountable challenge. Remember that no one’s genius moment comes after 8 cups of coffee while banging their head against their laptop at 2 am. And remember that you are part of an industry that supports you — so reach out!

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

Reason 1:

The cannabis industry is one of the most innovative spaces. We are leaning into the future wellness products, and it seems like every day we uncover new benefits of the hemp plant. From anxiety to eczema, we are only beginning to understand its true potential.

Reason 2:

The cannabis industry is paving the future for conscious entrepreneurship. Society values the bottom line, so many leaders focus on how decisions drive revenue and lose sight of their original vision. We are bringing consciousness back to business by staying focused on empowering our wellness, and letting the value of this to society reflect back to us with profits.

Reason 3:

We offer a new pathway to wellness for millions of people. Whether or not folks are consumers, the cannabis industry has brought massive societal change to our perspective that we can take ownership over our own wellness. We are moving beyond the one-size-fits-all approach of the traditional medical industry and taking a more active role in our wellness.

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?

Concern:

There’s no regulatory framework to guide the cannabis industry to offer safe, effective products which means the industry is experiencing this wild west green rush where everyone wants a piece of the profits. To avoid creating confusion and mistrust of cannabis, we need reasonable regulations to keep out the bad actors who are selling fake products and making false claims.

Improvement:

The quality of products would be improved if we focused on extraction standards because they directly impact effectiveness. Products extracted with high heat or harmful chemicals completely degrade the fragile botanical compounds so you lose the benefits. It would be like if you ordered bread and the waiter brought you black burnt toast.

Improvement:

We need better cannabis education in the medical community so that we can work with medical professionals once there is enough research to take action. We have a direct, natural relationship with the hemp plant through our body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is essential to maintaining our health. Sadly, medical students are rarely even taught about the ECS.

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.

Politicians assess regulation in terms of benefit v. harm, and there’s no question that legal substances like alcohol are far more harmful than cannabis, which has powerful benefits. To improve people’s lives, we need to provide access to what works. It’s time to overcome the stigma against cannabis and its historical prohibition, which is rooted in racist policies.

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?

We tax cigarettes as a form of dissuading Americans from purchasing addictive products that have been proven to cause massive harm. Every day new research reveals the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of cannabis, which brings the plant more mainstream acceptance. In an ideal world, the government would subsidize cannabis for greater access and support its responsible use.

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

“The quieter you become, the more you can hear.” — Ram Dass

When I backpacked around the world and couldn’t understand the languages, I became a quiet observer of my surroundings. I learned more about the places I visited than I would have if chatted my way through traveling. I realized I wasn’t always talking to connect, but to fill silence. My world becomes more vibrant — and less silent — when I am quiet.

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.

We’ve fallen into a trap of believing that we must achieve wellness and then sold the solution — the right makeup, the right exercise, the right shampoo. This is a tragic misbelief! Our natural state is wellness. It’s our stress, anxiety, and self-criticism that clouds our connection to wellness. As a conscious entrepreneur, I’d love everyone to connect with this fundamental truth.

Thank you so much for this. This was very inspirational, and we wish you only continued success!

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