Learn to adjust quickly – My original plan is completely different today mainly because I learned to “ not reinvent the wheel”- Subcontracting out certain aspects of this business is OK and very smart. Adapt to this very new and radical industry!
As a part of my series about strong women leaders in the cannabis industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Taylor Giovannini.
Taylor Giovannini comes from a small rural community in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Her journey with cannabis started when she began making baked goods to help a relative transition away from opioids to more natural pain medication. She studied the healing properties of cannabis, and decide to explore growing for medicinal purposes.
She began renovating an old abandoned fish plant in Burin that had once housed the beating heart of the community, hoping to revitalize the community in this iconic building to usher in a new age of prosperity as a production facility.
Taylor landed a promising partnership with a well-known cannabis company, but after they were bought out the deal was nixed and she was effectively pushed from the market by the new cannabis conglomerate. She refused to give up and raised over five million dollars from private investors. Now she is getting ready to open Oceanic ReLeaf’s flagship store, planning further development of her business, and overseeing the renovations of her production facility — all while raising her child. Her creative vision, combined with a whole lot of drive and small-town tenacity has brought her this far. And she doesn’t intend on slowing down any time soon.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the cannabis industry?
Why thank you! It’s very humbling to share my story. I feel like the cannabis industry was brought to me. I witnessed a family member struggle with pain from severe arthritis along with their hate to take opioids. I wanted to help so I started to learn about the medical benefits of cannabis to educate this person- from there that’s when the magic happened. It was truly an ah-ha moment in my life- witnessing how cannabis drastically increased the quality of someone’s life before my eyes…I knew I needed to help more people!
Believe it or not, at this point I did NOT know that recreational cannabis was becoming legal in Canada- haha I laugh because my “cannabis” background” was probably very similar to a lot of people — I accepted people who consumed and had no judgment towards them but rarely would consume personally but really had no view on it. In hindsight, cannabis is a big part of my partner’s life and now I know and understand it is medical. I was always aware it made him better but it’s only now I understand why.
Long story short, I needed to be apart of this industry so through my research and my passion to help people I began the journey of becoming a Licensed Producer for Health Canada. Its been a ride:)
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 I said, it has been a ride! It took me a solid 6 months to open a bank account with one of the major institutions. My application even had to pass the national anti-fraud board. After all that and having my bank account open for 6 months, the day my investment was wired to me was the day they decided to shut down my account with a letter stating that “ they had no appetite for my business” and no explanation. To this day I still have not received an “explanation”.
It was devastating at the moment but the most important lesson I’ve learned from this and all the interesting stories on my journey is to adjust quickly- A good friend once joked to me and said “ Taylor, Fail Fast and Pivot” and this is something that resonated with me — There’s always a solution!
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?
This has been a steep learning curve, that’s for sure!
When my grower started to speak about cannabis — I honestly thought he was making up words- Endocannabinoid system was one- This guy is out to lunch, I thought. Little did I know!
I’ve definitely mispronounced the terms of cannabis and use them incorrectly and probably still do on occasion- I have enough humility to just go with it.
Do you have a funny story about how someone you knew reacted when they first heard you were getting into the cannabis industry?
There are lots but the one that gets me every time is when people either meet me for the first time or speak to me on the phone after emailing back and forth and they are always surprised I’m a female. My name is gender-neutral, My parents were going to name me Taylor if I was a male or female. It’s always fun to see or hear their reaction.
Also- I look nothing like the stigma and it works in my favor. People listen to me rant about it. I think its originally because they don’t understand why I’m talking about it then I catch their interest.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful to who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Absolutely, I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support of my family. This journey has been a tough one and an emotional roller coaster- From signing with a national partner for funding and partnership to losing that deal and starting all over with very little left in the tank, financially and emotionally. Going through that tough time I gained so much gratitude for those who still believed in me and my dream.
My support system, My partner and my parents, are the recipe for my success. Colin works harder everyday-He can do anything….as we like to say, “he’d put an arse in a cat”. My father surprised me with his support especially when the business was at its worst and there was no money any sign of hope…. he’d say things like these “ when you’re at the bottom of the barrel, there’s no place but up” and “ you’re only a 100 meters from the shore… you’re not going to give up now.. so keep swimming!” My mother and my son keep my heart and soul grounded- reminding me of my WHY
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Always- The goal is to help as many people as possible! I’m working on some partnerships with the local university, local farmers and Hemp, Collaborations with micro growers who have a social enterprise, partnerships with a national LP and strategic Partnership with my home province, Newfoundland and Labrador.
Ok. Thank you for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. Despite the 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?
25% and rising! This isn’t just a cannabis problem this is a societal problem but that is changing and evening out.
I almost dislike that I am recognized as a “woman” entrepreneur…last I checked I’m human like the rest of the entrepreneurs. It’s almost 2020 so more emphasis should be made on equal rights in general (gender/sex/race). Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to be recognized as a woman in Cannabis if it helps anyone else in a minority gather up the courage to follow their dreams- recognition should be on the efforts and impact an entrepreneur has on society rather than the gender- Again I’m fighting the fight against society’s norms and understand that it is more difficult as a minority but I choose to move forward assuming people respect me as if I’m a man haha — If I find that’s not the case I just dig my heels in more and push forward;)
One initiative would be equal pay for equal work- ensuring no matter what your sexual orientation/race/unicorn if you do the same work you should get paid the same…That’s a great starting point! That would have a good ripple effect to inspire more CEO’s to come from minority groups.
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.
- Find a partner with experience and expertise
- Be diverse and have back up plans — where you will sell your cannabis and then a plan B and C if A doesn’t work out. I’m positioned to sell medically, recreationally, and diversified into the Hemp business.
- Always trust your gut- learning to trust your own intuition is hard for some reason, ironically. I’ve been burned a few times and had a gut feeling from the get-go and instead of listening I turned a blind eye to it “hoping” it wasn’t the case.
- As nice as you want to be in the industry or trusting or helpful, the reality is you need to look after number one. This was a hard one for me to learn but I manage to do this while staying true to me and Oceanic’s vision.
- Learn to adjust quickly- My original plan is completely different today mainly because I learned to “ not reinvent the wheel”- Subcontracting out certain aspects of this business is OK and very smart. Adapt to this very new and radical industry!
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the cannabis industry?
1-The endless possibilities medically-Legalizing Cannabis recreationally excited me the most because it will rip the stigma and allow more people to be interested in its healing power which will ripple to more studies being funded and ultimately this amazing plant will finally get the recognition it deserves..
2- We will never see a new industry emerge like this again in our lifetime. It’s awesome being at the forefront of it all!
3-Empowering and educating new consumers while ending a stigma — especially women. Even when we “think” of cannabis users it’s not typically a woman- I want to help change that and change the way people view cannabis — instead of “stoner” I want to paint a different picture… active, sexy, healthy, mindful, normal cannabis user.
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?
- I fear cannabis will become a commodity- I think its starting to but I’m hoping strong brands and quality cannabis shine through.
- I fear the medical side of cannabis will be overlooked by the business side of cannabis.
- I fear the education of cannabis will be overlooked. This is a new consumer product so as a Licensed producer, Canadian, Newfoundlander I personally feel the social responsibility to learn and educate people about cannabis and how to properly use cannabis.
Marketing is very limited in Canada which poses a threat that good marketing or education on consumption will take a back seat.
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?
I think federal Legalization is great! It creates one standard for all Licensed producers to abide by. Here in Canada, we all follow the same rule book- it’s simplified.
If I lived in the USA I would persuade the Government to have a federal license rather than State to ensure the standard of quality across the country.
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 never want to compare cannabis to cigarettes but I would like to see the stigma of Cannabis be more widely accepted and “normalized”.
Combustion/smoking cannabis is just one method of consumption which will likely be around for a while- A cannabis user who rolls joints will likely always do that, no matter what fancy technology is born, rolling their joint is therapeutic sort of speak.
I always struggle to compare cannabis to cigarettes or alcohol because even though it’s a recreational drug it also has healing properties — In short, sure, the world would be a better place if Cannabis was socially marginalized and consumers opted for that over cigarettes or alcohol:)
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My life really changed for the positive when I realized that you only move forward with positive thoughts. Sure there will be bumps in the road and if you don’t allow it to derail you rather just find another route you’ll be fine.
“Fail Fast and Pivot”- Learn how to identify the problem quickly, don’t let it get you down, and find another way…move on.
I’ve failed a ton…and also learned a ton from those failures which I am forever grateful for.
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. 🙂
I would “move” everyone to be kind- I have a dream to help groups or minorities in need once my business is stable- Create a social enterprise within Oceanic — helping individuals get back on their feet “The forgotten youth-” and “ Battered women” Both of these minority’s need a second chance and someone to believe in them to gain the courage to be who they should be.
Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you only continued success!