I had the pleasure of interviewing Aliza Sherman, CEO of Ellementa and publisher of HerCannaLife.com. Aliza is a Latina web pioneer who helped pave the way for women to get online and benefit from the Internet. Today, she connects women to better information about cannabis for health and wellness through Ellementa, a global network for events, education and product discovery.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you share with us the story of what first introduced you into this business or helped you get interested in the business?
It was a pain in the neck, literally. I had been suffering from chronic pain from arthritis in my neck caused by years of computer use. On top of that, I had insomnia from both the pain and going through menopause. As I researched the cannabis industry to expand my digital marketing firm, I quickly realized that cannabis and CBD could address both my chronic pain and insomnia.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
The best thing that happened to me since starting Ellementa is benefiting from the information I was researching and compiling for other women. The more I learned, the more I was able to face my own fears about cannabis from decades of stigma and the damage of “Just Say No.” I was able to embrace cannabis as an ancient healing medicinal plant and address my chronic pain and insomnia, vastly improving my quality of life.
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 remember “pot” from the 1980s when the accessories were pipes, bongs, or one-hitters. As I was exploring new products and tools, I received a cartridge battery with a cartridge. I was interested in the concept of vaping to microdose, take in small amounts to get the benefits of cannabinoids and terpenes to boost my Endocannabinoid System without the high. No matter how many times I tried to figure out the device, I couldn’t get it to work. Finally, I confessed to the company co-owner that it wasn’t working.
“Did you use the metal ring?” She asked.
So THAT was what the metal ring was for. I saw the metal ring in the box but just left it in there and failed to read the instructions on how to use it that were written right on the box!
What this taught me was that we each approach products with different mindsets and different ways of learning. I needed someone to show me so video demonstrations are ideal for me as a consumer. Instruction is so important, particularly for women who are seeking specific benefits from cannabis and CBD and are confused by the products and paraphernalia out there.
Education is the key. That is why Ellementa exists and is growing so rapidly. Women are learning from one another and experts and can see and ask questions about products in person.
Are you working on any exciting projects now?
We’ve got a book coming out in June 2019! Cannabis and CBD for Health and Wellness: An Essential Guide to Using Nature’s Medicine (FYI, this is the new title — old one still shows up on Amazon).
This is an introductory guide for anyone looking for less confusing information about cannabis and CBD for health and wellness. My co-author is Dr. Junella Chin, an MD in New York City, and we’ve listed scientific studies in the back of the book to support statements we make to give our readers more confidence in the information.
We’re planning a book tour in June and appearances at some of the Ellementa monthly Gatherings.
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’m grateful to my mentors, namely Jeanne Sullivan at Arcview who I’ve known since my Cybergrrl days and Terry Wheatley who I helped launch the social media presence for the Wine Sisterhood almost 10 years ago. Both women support and challenge me.
Terry’s favorite line any time I bring her an idea is “how will you make money?” Clarity and creativity. She really keeps me focused on revenue generation and growth.
I remember when I was just getting Ellementa off the ground, I was in NYC for a short period of time, and the morning I was meeting with Jeanne to fill her in on Ellementa, there was a huge snowstorm. Jeanne put on her snow boots and trudged many city blocks through deep snow to get to the diner to meet me. Tenacity and grit.
I admire both of these women and am grateful for their mentorship.
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?
We do, but if I told you, I’d have to kill you.
The biggest innovative marketing strategy we employ is getting women together in a room with experts and brands. Face-to-Face. It’s the new trend and the antidote to social media overload.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the Cannabis industry? Can you share 3 things that most concern you?
I’m most excited about:
1. The wide-open landscape that welcomes creativity and innovation. The door is still open, but there are signs it is closing soon so there’s a sense of urgency to it all.
2. The strong community among women in the industry and the genuine awareness of including women of color in the picture. We don’t always get it right, but as a Latina entrepreneur, it is constantly on my radar and is part of the lens through which I view my business.
3. The fact that at the core of what we are “selling” is something that can truly transform people’s lives for the better and promote better health and wellness. Having a positive impact on others is part of our values-based business.
Can you share your top “5 Things You Need To Know In Order To Run a Successful Cannabis Ancillary Company”? Please share a story or example for each.
Top 5 things you need to know to run a successful ancillary company:
1. Play in Familiar Waters. The beauty of being an ancillary cannabis company is that you’re often starting a company around your current talents and abilities. If you’re an accountant or a graphic designer or an event planner, you can be that in this industry and your core knowledge is welcome here. You can learn about cannabis quickly. You can’t quickly learn a career’s worth of experience that you already have.
2. Play Nice. There are already too many scammers in this industry looking to make a quick buck and burning bridges in the process. Don’t be that asshole.
3. Play by the Rules. There are a lot of compliance issues from state to state or province to province and country to country that even ancillary companies must at least be aware of if not follow. Do your homework and don’t cheat or fudge when it comes to rules and regulations. Don’t try workarounds because you not only jeopardize your own company, you jeopardize those with hard-earned licenses.
4. Play with the Dolphins. Just continuing the metaphor here! By this I mean find the good people, the smart people, the nice people to work with and support. Watch out for the sharks, and don’t align yourself with them or it could destroy your reputation and get you in trouble.
5. Play for Keeps. Don’t look at the cannabis industry as a Get Rich Quick scheme. Be in it for the long haul, work to build your brand and reputation, and become a valuable asset in the cannabis industry. Gaining people’s trust in this industry can take time. Work hard to prove your integrity and your worth.
Aside from your particular vertical, which other cannabis ancillary industries do you think have very strong potential in the next few years? Can you explain why?
We’re in MarCom and Market Research, which is finally gaining traction and companies are more likely now to have marketing budgets were a few years ago they didn’t.
Other ancillary industries with strong potential in the cannabis industry include all the support business services — back office like accounting, compliance, human resources. Many cannabis companies are outsourcing these services.
Branding, design, social media, and other marketing services — specializing in cannabis because it is so specialized, limited, regulated, and varies from location to location.
Accessories and tools such as stash bags, storage, batteries, and pipes that are less stoner, more elegant, discrete, useful, and attractive as the cannabis consumer becomes more discerning.
Concierge services as new higher-end consumers come on board and don’t know what products to select for specific needs and effects.
Travel planning/tourism services as more states become legal and people want to travel where they can get access or have experience around cannabis.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
Take into account the entire person working for you. They are multi-faceted and those different parts should be acknowledged at the very least and supported where possible. Let team members work to their strengths. Provide room to learn, grow, and advance.
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 hope I’m inspiring the Cannabis in Every Medicine Chest Movement! The goal is to educate and empower consumers to understand the cannabis plant and make sure they have easy, legal access to the medicine they need or the freedom to enjoy the plant for relaxation, recreation, and even spiritual pursuits.
I believe women are the force to move us into an age of enlightenment around cannabis because we are at the Epicenter of Care, self-care, and caring for our children, our parents, our friends, our community. If you put better information about cannabis into the hands of women, everyone wins.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
@ellementawoman on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter
@alizasherman on Instagram and Twitter
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.