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“Strong women leaders” With Len Giancola & Erin Gore

I would love to inspire more consumer consciousness around cannabis purchases. We’re at such a unique and fragile opportunity, where consumers can directly impact the success of cannabis businesses. I would love to activate consumers to purchase based on values (of course the quality must be good!). Do you support women owned companies? Do you […]

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I would love to inspire more consumer consciousness around cannabis purchases. We’re at such a unique and fragile opportunity, where consumers can directly impact the success of cannabis businesses. I would love to activate consumers to purchase based on values (of course the quality must be good!). Do you support women owned companies? Do you support companies that have a philanthropic purpose to veterans, lgbtq, or compassion programs? Do you support equity brands to enable the communities most impacted by the war on drugs to realize success with regulation? None of this will happen without consumers intentional awareness. With the flow of capital into the market, it’s getting much harder for small brands and businesses to thrive. Consumers can change that by demanding that retailers have products and businesses that align to the values they want to support.


As a part of my series about strong women leaders in the cannabis industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Erin Gore.

Recently named one of the most powerful and innovative women in cannabis by Forbes, Erin Gore is founder and CEO of Garden Society, a California-based, cannabis-focused benefit corporation serving women in search of new, more holistic ways to rejuvenate from the chaos of their daily lives. Garden Society creates artisanal edibles and sun-grown pre-rolls that connects responsible farming, sustainable ingredients and strain-specific cannabis in a variety of products.

Erin is an active member of the Northern California cannabis community, a cannabis-focused contributor to Green Entrepreneur, and a frequent speaker on the topics of cannabis and entrepreneurship. She’s a fearless advocate for women-owned cannabis businesses, and equally dedicated to breaking the stigma and rewriting the script around the plant.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the cannabis industry?

After I received my degree in Chemical and Biological Engineering, I went to work for Henkel, a German CPG company for +10 years — I had a very exciting career that was as stressful as it was steep. I kept coming back to cannabis to help me manage my chronic pain from college basketball injuries, and then to help me manage my job related sleeplessness and stress. The more success I had with my career, the more isolated I felt in my personal life. I was also struggling with fertility like so many women in the same stage of life. After starting to explore cannabis, I planned a “high holiday” baking party and invited some friends, mostly women, who were struggling with the same issues of work-life balance. Some were new to marijuana, and up for experimenting. All of us shared similar struggles with juggling the expectations of ourselves as modern women. This was a fun and safe space, and an opportunity to learn, connect, and find joy on an intimate level when we realized that none of us were alone in our struggles. We found this sense of relief realizing this was more normal than not.

It was at that point that I started Garden Society out of self need. As I kept turning back to cannabis I realized there was nothing for me in the market. In 2015, I started tincturing and creating the type of products aimed at bringing myself and my friends joy in our daily life.

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?

Seriously, I have a cannabis company — every day in my life is interesting because we’re building a business and an industry at the same time! HA! I would say one of the more interesting parts of this journey has been fundraising. I would assume most people out there know the stats around women raising money. (Only 2% of all funding goes to women). As a female founded cannabis company, our investor pool is even more limited due to the federal status of cannabis. Most “traditional” funders cannot participate due to the Schedule 1 nature of our business. I would say it was been a wild journey with many high highs and low lows, and the biggest lesson I have learned, and honestly continue to learn, is to trust my instinct. My instinct has usually been spot on every time. If someone seems too good to be a true, they are. If someone seems worth the fight, they are. If an investor gives bad energy, stay away. It’s reaffirming to have found investors who believe in our vision and the potential that we have as leaders to build a world class business. To be clear though, it has not been without the many cases road rash and some permanent scars along the journey for every time we fell off our bike on this path. I kept getting back on the bike, and at the end of the day, am grateful to have found those investors to help fund us to build our dream.

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?

As I first began to build Garden Society, before it was even launched, I was networking with industry veterans in the Emerald Triangle (a region in Northern California, named for being the largest cannabis-producing region in the U.S.) for research. I booked a meeting with a fellow to whom I had been introduced, and set about on my way to the address provided. I ended up on a lot in what was essentially the middle of nowhere, wondering where I had made a wrong turn. Just as I was preparing to get back on the road, an RV pulled up. THAT was my meeting. Such were the earliest phases of the industry and in some cases even today.

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

My husband and I were really worried about what people would think about me starting a cannabis business. For about the first 9 months, I wasn’t “allowed” to talk about what I did around his work colleagues. They thought I just quit my job to volunteer and work on getting pregnant (while in the meantime I’m working my tail off to build an industry). That was a hard pill for me to swallow, but I understood the stigma and risk he felt. Then, as word was getting out, I started talking more openly about what I was building. I remember it was a family event, and my family member kept saying what, a cannabis company, what’s that… and I had to translate to 1970’s slang of a grass business for the full realization to set in of what I was building. The really cool part about talking about my business and telling people I founded a cannabis company is that I am able to change so many peoples mind about what a cannabis company looks like and why cannabis companies should exist in our community. Maybe it’s because I’m a woman, or a mom, or a chemical engineer, or a locally elected officially, or because I’m their friend or look like their friend, but really being able to get people curious, engaged, and inspired to look at the cannabis industry with a new light is the best part.

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?

Garden Society Co-Founder Karli Warner and I have worked very hard to identify mentors and advisers to help us build businesses. We once heard that every founder needs a pillow and a mirror. This can be your co-founder, but this can also be your adviser. We have had two advisers specifically, Kevin McGee and Carm Lyman, who have really helped us stay laser focused, propelled us when we needed a push, helped us figure out the hard answers to questions we were struggling with, and are committed to our shared vision for the potential of Garden Society. Without both of their support, it would have definitely taken us a lot longer to get to where we are today.

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

So many projects! First, we’re fundraising to scale our business and propel us to the next level of growth. While it’s extremely challenging to be fundraising as women in cannabis, working with investors who believe in our vision is exhilarating. We’re also excited to be working with executives from other industries who see the future in Garden Society and are helping propel us into our full potential. We recently launched our — High CBD Rosette mini-prerolls, and are getting ready to launch several new CBD and THC products in 2020. We are also growing our elevated cannabis experiential program called “Garden Parties.” We work with loyal customers to host casual gatherings of girlfriends who come to learn about cannabis, get questions answered, and if desired, purchase product discreetly.

The life of a startup is never boring. Add to that a burgeoning industry that changes and evolves daily, and we are constantly on our toes. The cannabis industry is, to us, one big exciting project.

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

  1. The power of the plant in helping people feel better.
  2. The opportunity to create a new way of doing business as the new normal (meaning empowering women, diversity, equality, new jobs, new businesses, new standards).
  3. The opportunity to create a meaningful and lasting company that creates products and education that matter to our customers and our partners.

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?

  1. The lack of opportunity for the craft or legacy participation to transition to the regulated market place due to over regulation at every level.
  2. The lack of access to capital for all stages of the cannabis ecosystem, and the capital that is flowing into the industry, is flowing to the “traditional” subset of the industry who “traditionally” receive venture funding, thus creating the new industry to look like every other industry.
  3. The lack of opportunity for diversity to thrive in ownership and leadership roles due to the “corporatization” of the industry.

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 would love to talk with all the Senators! I had an opportunity to talk with Senator Warren and Senator Gillibrand at an Electing Women event here in the bay area, where I advocated for educated on the need for cannabis access. The number one reason that I advocate for federal legalization is safety! Cannabis is in our communities everywhere, even in your community doesn’t allow legal cannabis, it is there in the illicit market. Legalization gives consumers a regulated channel to purchase products. Legalization would also accelerate the medical research that consumers and businesses so desperately want. Legalization would also ensure products purchased follow all the proper safety.

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 believe cannabis and cigarettes are very different and shouldn’t be compared from a health benefit perspective. Nicotine is highly addictive. Cannabis is not addictive. Cigarettes have been proven to cause cancer. Cannabis is being proven to cure cancer. I do believe both products should be regulated and taxed and have robust consumer safety measures. I believe the federal prohibition on cannabis is a direct result of the political atmosphere from competitive industries like the cigarette industry and pharmachutical industry, where they are choosing profits over people. Cannabis when fully mainstream, will be available in so many different form factors that there will be many ways that are socially acceptable for all audiences to consume cannabinoids.

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

“You miss 100% of the shots you never take”, by Wayne Gretzy. As an avid fan of sports and amateur athlete, I really believe that you need to try to succeed, and failure is just a stepping stone to success. If you like in a life where you never take a risk, I believe you will never truly realize your full potential, whether in life, relationships, business, or personal joy. You have to shoot the ball to score a basket, and a missed shot is not a failure, but just another chance to shoot again!

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 love to inspire more consumer consciousness around cannabis purchases. We’re at such a unique and fragile opportunity, where consumers can directly impact the success of cannabis businesses. I would love to activate consumers to purchase based on values (of course the quality must be good!). Do you support women owned companies? Do you support companies that have a philanthropic purpose to veterans, lgbtq, or compassion programs? Do you support equity brands to enable the communities most impacted by the war on drugs to realize success with regulation? None of this will happen without consumers intentional awareness. With the flow of capital into the market, it’s getting much harder for small brands and businesses to thrive. Consumers can change that by demanding that retailers have products and businesses that align to the values they want to support.

Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you only continued success!

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