There is not much intuitive about succeeding in this insanely emerging cannabis business. You have to have a dynamically skilled team that thinks beyond the box, navigates politics and legalities, makes profits and manages growth in an unconventional industry with challenges in banking, advertising, and much more. Know this is not business as usual. The pace at which this industry is developing is staggering. No one has worked in an industry that is developing like this, the tech/dotcom boom is the closest thing we’ve seen.
As a part of my series about strong women leaders in the cannabis industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Franny Tacy. Franny is the first female hemp farmer in NC and has entered the scene with a force behind education and collaboration. The story begins at their farm in Asheville and now Franny is CEO of their vertically integrated hemp business Franny’s Farmacy. They grow, process, manufacture and distribute their branded product lines to their Franny’s Farmacy Dispensaries, wholesale and online customers in every state. Franny also participates in the hemp Research Trials with NC State and is a founding executive of the non-profit Women in Hemp.
Thank you so much for doing this with us, Franny! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the cannabis industry?
I have long been an advocate for cannabis. More importantly, I am a farmer focused on reviving the profession to be a viable source to sustain our families, contribute to our communities and to build an agro-economy in a sustainable way. Cannabis, in particular, hemp is the foundation of this movement. Hemp is the only plant that can feed, clothe, shelter and provide medicine. Part of this “backstory” is that I was teaching heritage poultry classes, and various Business of Farming classes across North Carolina when us farmers began the conversation of how and what to do to grow hemp in NC. After almost 2 years, NC had enough signatures and farmers had raised $200K to fund the NC Industrial Hemp Pilot Program. The bill passed minutes before the stroke of midnight and about 2 weeks before we should be planting. The “Leap then Look” approach was my only option if cannabis was getting planted. Our collective of farmers scrambled to get seed imported from Italy, 2 acres was planted, and the harvest culminated in a festival called HempX where we hosted a day of educational and hands-on workshops.
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?
Early on our journey we got broken into. The break-in didn’t cost us a thing and we received tons of community support. Fortunately, the security cameras got a glimpse of the crash, grab and go burglary and it made the news! This led to a huge community outreach and so many words of support and truthfully the greatest, free marketing we could have ever asked for. The robbers only stole about $800 worth of hemp “flower” from our Bud Bar, insurance covered the damage to the door, and we connected with our community. Go with the flow and know that everything that happens is of service to you.
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?
One time, the pond overflowed and wiped out all of our plastic culture, which at the time wasn’t funny at all, but makes us laugh thinking back to the look on our faces when we realized that heavy rains could cause unexpected flooding.
Do you have a funny story about how someone you knew reacted when they first heard you were getting into the cannabis industry?
The most surprisingresponse to my getting into the cannabis industry was from my daddy, a man with only 3 values in his life — God, family and farm. He was a kind, conservative man that always called me “Sweetie.” He helped me work through business plans to get my USDA farm loan, he helped with the fencing plan for rotational grazing pastures for my livestock and when he said, “We need to talk about this weed thing you’re getting into”, well I was a little of a lot nervous. What happened as we walked and talked while walking the fence lines of his cattle pastures (because there is always fencing to do if you’re a farmer with livestock), he held my hand (he’s not that kind of man) and stopped by the horse jump under a stand of black walnut, he said — this is a bad place for a horse to cross with all these black walnuts on the ground, a horse will always find that one rock or walnut in this 75 acres and end up lame. You my sweetie, don’t let the walnuts stop you from doing what every farmer needs. Us farmers need a quarter horse like you that can jump across the barriers and all the little rocks to show us how it’s done. You are hope and stronger than you even know. Farmers need you.
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?
My partner Jeff Tacy is the man that has for years brought my vision into reality. We have had multiple businesses throughout 15 years together. He is stoic, dedicated, smart, skilled and hard-working. His passion for profitable business has been a life’s mission. When I told him about planting hemp on Franny’s Farm, his response was hysterical, “No way! The neighbors, community and everyone will not be happy or supportive.” He also knows that I believe if people think you’re crazy, it’s a sign you’re on the right track. Fast forward 8 months after we grew our first crop, I get acknowledged for being the first female farmer in NC to plant hemp. The other women involved were all researchers that I happened to be collaborating with. Fast forward another 8 months when our second crop was in the ground and Jeff asks, “What are you gonna do with this?” I’ve always called him a “serial entrepreneur” and he proved it again. It’s how his brain works. It became the focus and obsession to build our brand. I focused on the grow and Jeff focused on opening our first Franny’s Farmacy Dispensary in Asheville, NC. I honor and respect Jeff or his commitment to building the Franny’s Brand and for having the skills to pay the bills and expand into what is now a nationally recognized, vertically integrated brand. Cheers to Jeff for believing in me, supporting the vision and having the damn balls and brains to build our brand!
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I’m always working on exciting new projects! I have a masters in Education and it is one of my special gifts/talents. In fact, we will be launching our “lifestyle” series in the spring! I love anticipation and mystery so I will heed from too much detail, but get fired up and follow me next year as I share how hemp is a universal language that bonds us globally. My goal is to give an experience that you can follow and feel as I travel and share what this journey through the cannabis industry (or what some are calling “the wild west”) is all about.
Ok. Thank you for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. 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?
I think that women can continue to step up, speak up, and set out on their own path, regardless of resistance. Companies need to promote equality and be held accountable for their actions (or should I say lack of action in most situations). Lastly, media outlets need to highlight female success stories so that young women can continue to be inspired (just like what you’re doing here). It’s crazy that we’re still talking about this in 2019, but it’s important to continue in the right direction.
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.
Cannabis is not business as usual!There is not much intuitive about succeeding in this insanely emerging cannabis business. You have to have a dynamically skilled team that thinks beyond the box, navigates politics and legalities, makes profits and manages growth in an unconventional industry with challenges in banking, advertising, and much more. Know this is not business as usual. The pace at which this industry is developing is staggering. No one has worked in an industry that is developing like this, the tech/dotcom boom is the closest thing we’ve seen.
I’d have to say my top 5 non intuitive things one should know are:
- Credit card processing
- Social Media
Can you share 3 things that most excites you about the cannabis industry?
- Cannabis will be mainstream across the US and globally within 5 years.
- Research into cannabis and other cannabinoids will provide more data and change healthcare as we know it.
- Small businesses have the opportunities to become international brands, helping millions of people all over the world.
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?
- Politics is always of the utmost concern in this industry. We face challenges in every aspect of doing normal business such as banking, credit card processing, insurance, advertising. These aspects of doing business need to be resolved or better regulated.
- We need regulations to ensure consumers are getting safe products.
- We need GMP specific to the industry. Safe handling of ingredients, traceability, batching records, protocols for recalls, product safety.
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 am in total favor of federal legalization of cannabis. With that said, I am an international advocate for hemp. When I talk about cannabis to politicians, they hear “cannabis is the only plant that can feed, clothe, shelter and provide medicine.”This is the will of the people and the government needs to follow the people. It’s why hemp is federally legal now — the voice of the people.
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?
No comparison between Tobacco cigarettes to hemp, and CBD. This is completely different; Cigarettes have been killing people for decades. It is important to acknowledge that smoking anything is not “healthy”. The good news is you only need a little CBD to get the desired effect. We want separation of cigarettes. CBD is revolutionizing how people take care of their health and wellness. When you smoke cannabis, this delivery method is one of the fastest. In dealing with social anxiety, people need quick relief and unfortunately pills can take a long time to take effect whereas smoking is almost instantaneous.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Everything always costs more, takes longer and is harder than you expect. Especially Hemp!
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?
I want to inspire people to self-educate along with self-medicate.You never know what your idea can trigger.
“Women in Hemp” non-profit attains funding to organize efforts to assist female farmers with hemp production all over the world.
Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you only continued success!