Balancing your energy: When a woman has the power or is in a powerful role, her energy can sometimes be seen as too hard or assertive. Understanding, when to use your energy properly, is key. I always want to make sure we lead with grace, dignity, and respect.
Ihad the pleasure to interview Salpy Boyajian, of Flower One. In her role as Vice President of Nevada Operations, Ms. Boyajian is primarily responsible for ensuring the efficiency of the Company’s day-to-day operations while adhering to the meticulous and required regulatory guidelines of the industry. A passionate entrepreneur and cannabis aficionado, Ms. Boyajian oversees an expert team of growers, researchers, and developers who, through collaborative efforts, work together to propel Flower One’s production and cultivation capabilities forward at scale — innovating proprietary cannabis growing techniques and product lines, prioritizing the consistency and quality of 400,000 square feet of plants, while accelerating the growth and diversification of the Company’s library of over 100 unique cannabis strains. Prior to joining Flower One, Ms. Boyajian demonstrated a record of success in both established and newly created organizations, resulting in significant growth for a renowned consumer brand and luxury cultivator, NLV Organics, Inc. (NLVO), which she founded in 2014. Acquired by Flower One in November 2018, NLVO now operates as Flower One’s 25,000 square foot indoor growing facility and in-house research and development wing. The facility continues to be managed and led by Ms. Boyajian. In addition, Ms. Boyajian is also a Licensed Clinician and Psychotherapist with extensive team-building experience. This has played a key role in developing the culture of Flower One. Ms. Boyajian’s background in the field of Psychotherapy informs her commitment to cultivate and sustain a culture of coordination of services, teamwork, assessment of needs, problem-solving, transparency, compassion, and follow-through. Her advanced diagnostic skills enable her to identify the strengths and weaknesses of any challenge or given situation.
Thank you for joining us Salpy. Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the cannabis industry?
When I first started in Cannabis, it was almost accidental. By trade, I am a licensed Therapist with my own non-profit organization in California. In 2013 my partner and I were looking for a way to potentially expand our business into Nevada.
That’s when we found out that they were offering the first applications for marijuana licenses in the state. Unlike many coming into the business from the black market, I had been working in heavily regulated industries for the last 20 years, so I felt comfortable completing the application process, dealing with local government agencies, and perhaps most importantly operating under strict regulations. Initially, I thought it was a crazy idea but once we discovered the many incredible benefits of cannabis we decided to venture forward and we have not looked back since.
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?
The cannabis business is unlike any other business in the world. Most of what I thought about the business has turned out to be quite different than I imagined. It’s been the hardest business I have ever started; cannabis is very challenging and we are constantly presented with a new set of problems to solve. To achieve both scale and quality has been the most difficult process to perfect and something we strive to get better at every day.
Lesson: Don’t underestimate how difficult cannabis can be. When I originally got into this business I knew I wanted to do it right and be the best. At NLVO we always kept striving to produce the highest quality we could and paid incredible attention to detail. When Flower One came to us to collaborate it was a dream come true. With the team at Flower One, we have the opportunity to take the business beyond my wildest imagination and I am very excited to see what the future holds for us.
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 pride myself on being able to say “everything I’ve done, I’ve done without fail! No mistakes allowed!” But really there are always mistakes when getting into something new, but I remind myself to always keep moving forward and try to learn from them. I don’t keep them in my memory long but the experience is always in my back pocket in case I need to refer to it.
Do you have a story about how someone you knew reacted when they first heard you were getting into the cannabis industry?
I didn’t really tell anyone close to me what I was doing in Nevada and when I finally did share my intent to move forward with my newest endeavor my Armenian family, my mom cried. They were so scared for me and didn’t understand why I was getting into this business. I sat her down and showed her the documentaries that were on MSNBC about the cannabis boom and the positive effects of legalization, so she could see that I was doing this for the right reasons. Knowing that there were structure and regulations in place really helped ease her mind. My dad took the tone of “yeah yeah sure we’ll see when you get there,” like many who thought it was just a dream. But after 5 years, he’s finally recognized that this was a good decision and can say he’s finally proud of me!
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 lucky to have a life partner that shared the same goals and was there to figure it out with me. From going through the early application process to city meetings, we were a perfect balance of structure and support for each other as we tried to make sense of what was developing right before our eyes. Without the emotional support of my partner to stay focused and persistent, along with the financial support of my uncle, we wouldn’t be here today.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Flower One! The original company I founded, NLVO, was licensed in Nevada in 2016 and acquired by Flower One in late 2018. We have quickly become the largest cultivator and producer in Nevada!
Another part of this that excites me, is knowing that we are helping people in so many ways. Aside from the medicinal effects of cannabis and how it can change your body and the way it feels, but also giving our consumers the best and safest products; knowing they can trust our process.
Being the largest facility in Nevada, Flower One has created so many new jobs in Las Vegas and I am proud of that fact. As cannabis continues to expand its place in society, we want to destigmatize what cannabis represents, ultimately striving to be seen as a new avenue of opportunity, knowledge and medicinal change.
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?
Marijuana historically has always been a male-dominated industry. It’s hard work growing and creating these delicate plants and bringing them from seed to flower, but I’ve never thought of it, like something a woman can’t do. Creating gender parity starts by creating the right business culture. When I am walking around our Las Vegas greenhouse, my mantra is to lead with “grace, dignity, and respect.” It’s the type of energy I give all of our employees, but also how they should treat their role within the process and as part of a team.
Right now the pool of female leaders in this community is small as the industry is still in its teenage years, but once we mature some more, we will see more female leaders as they gain the knowledge and experience they will need to take on larger roles. Naturally, I have seen growth since I got started, but I see more and more passionate women coming into this space that cares deeply about this industry, and that is what breeds success.
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.
- Passion — Without passion for this business, there is no way you’ll make it. The key to perseverance is rooted in passion and keeping the passion fires lit inside you is how we push each and every day as we work together in this community.
- Professionalism –As a leader, you lead by example, and these days and like many times we are the only women in rooms full of men who have for many years been making all the decisions. With this precedent in mind, we must come into space and create an environment that surrounds our team with respect and act as professionals who see this as a business and treat it as such.
- A sense of business culture — We are constantly sharing the belief here that we care about our team therefore the team cares about us. Being able to absorb the vibes our employees have, what they share about themselves and their passion shapes how we represent Flower One.
- Balancing your energy- When a woman has the power or is in a powerful role, her energy can sometimes be seen as too hard or assertive. Understanding, when to use your energy properly, is key. I always want to make sure we lead with grace, dignity, and respect.
- Community- Having an understanding that so many businesses and leaders were in place in this industry before I or Flower One got involved. Being able to respectfully recognize their tireless work to move the culture forward and pioneer our history in cannabis while also getting involved locally to get to know our consumers, partners, and a larger audience is so important.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the cannabis industry?
- That I am a part of history being made. Not only as females in the industry but as a piece of societal change in the narratives around marijuana.
- Creating a lot of firsts in Nevada by Flower One. From our size to our technology, every day that I enter our 455,000 facilities and see the magnitude of it all, it feels groundbreaking. We are currently growing under a continuous harvest cycle of more than 10,000 plants per week and positioned to be one of the largest, fully operational, high-tech hydroponic cannabis cultivation facilities in the United States.
- The plant itself. The true benefits of the plant and helping people feel good; to be able to share what it really does medically, whether as THC or CBD, has the potential to be a miracle worker and we can finally share that!
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?
Cannabis is always in flux for us in this new and growing industry, so there are varying concerns as things are constantly changing. but the most relevant ones at the moment are things that have always been roadblocks in this business.
- Cannabis is still federally illegal, so we are limited in the larger gains we could be making in the world.
- Because it’s still illegal, the effects of what we could be doing within the medical community are being held back; as we are not able to do the funded in-depth research that could change the scope of medicine.
- Access to banking and traditional financing.
- Legalize cannabis. This would change everything we do.
- Putting programs in places with accredited universities to contribute to research; ultimately offering the community the ability to study real medicine and how the approach introducing cannabis as medicinal cures.
What are your thoughts about the 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?
Legalization would have a huge impact on the stigma associated with cannabis. This will be removed over time as we show people that cannabis is a viable way to seek help for pain, stress and so many other afflictions. The effects will be life-changing, as this flower is truly miraculous. Cannabis has the ability to help so many people with everything from opiate addiction to inflammatory diseases, migraines, cancer and so many other illnesses that are commonly treated with much harsher prescription drugs with serious negative side effects.
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?
Cannabis is far too heavily regulated and taxed when compared to tobacco. Cigarettes are still more openly accepted as a choice, where cannabis is considered a drug or taboo. There should be a different status for cannabis than cigarettes given that cannabis is a natural plant with the ability to manage real medical problems as well as the physical symptoms associated with the treatment of fighting cancer; whereas cigarettes are made of toxic chemicals that have been proven to cause cancer.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“If you don’t have either the education or experience then you can’t identify the problem.” My role requires me to constantly assess day-to-day processes to be able to detect issues and initiate changes that will result in efficiencies, without sacrificing the quality of our products. We want our consumers to have trust in our products; trust in our purity; and trust in our standards of production. The ability to execute comes with both experience and education.
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?
As Flower One continues to grow and gain notoriety as a trusted leader in this ever-changing industry, we hope to be able to help educate the world about the many benefits of cannabis. People are using this plant in so many different ways that quite simply improve their quality of life. Whether you call it medical or recreational or adult use, or marijuana or cannabis, this incredible plant is at the center of this movement. I just want to make people feel better! We can make the world a better place… one new cannabis user at a time.