This interview is one of our favorites here at Weed Queens! Tiffany Bowden is Entrepreneur, Business Consultant and Corporate Diversity Expert and Co-Founded of the Minority Cannabis Business Association (MCBA) and Co-Owned of Comfy Tree Enterprises. We are excited and grateful she took the time to talk about her past and current work.
Comfy Tree Enterprises provides business consultation to cannabis enthusiasts, start-up’s and established companies and the MCBA is the first non-profit dedicated to the needs of minorities in the cannabis industry. Her current work as a Corporate Diversity Expert, Tiffany tackles tough topics like implicit attitude, racial sensitivity training, cultural insensitivity transformation by facilitating and coordinating diversity workshops and events.
During our interview, Tiffany touched on topics like inclusion for WOC in the cannabis space, her experience as an entrepreneur and woman in the weed world, her efforts to help others start their own canna-business and how she can help others protect themselves and their business.
Check out the interview below, subscribe to our newsletter and share this with someone who might learn a thing or two from this interview with Weed Queen, Tiffany Bowden.
What were you doing before you started ComfyTree Enterprises and Minority Cannabis Business Association?
I started both organizations while I was a graduate student. At the time I was learning about media and cultural studies. I have always had a passion for education and understanding cultural representation. I had also worked extensively in the field of advertising and communication. In those fields I did everything from your traditional advertising and public relations activities such as account management, sales, pitching new business, copywriting, website management, account planning and strategic planning. Being an African-American woman in these environments however, meant that I had to take on the additional education or labor of having to educate my peers about racism. I took this on myself because I saw myself as a sort of cultural and corporate activist. I had a chief concern about how people of color were being represented in the media. I felt that it was better for me to work on the inside of these organizations and to be able to speak their language and have decision-making power rather than being external of these institutions and simply criticizing them. I was often there to intercept racist or inappropriate campaigns and stop them before they hit the public. Eventually, I was asked to do this formally in some of my rules and I was asked to be a chair person that manages diversity. I was also asked to train vendors and advertising agencies on diversity and cultural approaches of the brands I was supporting. In effect, I created my own diversity position based on the emotional labor that I knew in advance my White peers were going to place on me in the environment because I was Black. When I got into my PhD program I eventually decided to research the propaganda behind cannabis and learned that it too had been linked to racism. As a result, all of my previous studies connected back.
What did you go to school for? How did that influence what you do?
I have a PhD in communication with the specialization in diversity. It gives me the tools that I need to be an effective diversity trainer, anti-racism educator and public speaker. I took masters coursework in curriculum and instruction so I have learned from graduate level education training in how to design curriculum. I’m not a one trick pony, however. Communication is a very broad field and I have worked in several different aspects. This is an area that I have great passion for. I see much of what happens in dealing with diversity as communication breakdowns. The remainder is what ends up being crystallized as structures of meaning in our consciousness.
What factors have contributed towards your path of success?
Being honest with myself on where I have mismanaged my own communication and watching the impacts of that. I think sometimes people make mistakes that can have detrimental effects. We also are socialized in society to think and believe in certain ways. This work in myself developed my empathy and my ability to navigate difficult conversations. I am a patient teacher. I’m also knowledgeable about how people come together and become societal structures. I think people trust me because of my sincerity.
What was the hardest/most difficult aspect about starting ComfyTree Enterprises and Minority Cannabis Business Association and being an advocate for cannabis?
I thought that I needed a lot of money and people to build my vision. As it turned out I would have been far better off in taking out a loan and believing in myself. I didn’t have a lot of discernment about people that came to my table and I wrongly assumed that people who mention they want to do similar things as you, or look like you culturally, also share your why. This is not only inaccurate – it’s foolish and in some cases dangerous. As a result I’m no longer involved in either organization. I operate independently and I have coached several women and minorities in how to avoid hostile takeovers, entrepreneurial abuse, violations of employment law and corporate espionage as a result of having to navigate these experiences on my own. This far outweighed any of the complaints often heard in the industry about changing regulations, enforcement, money management, or public discourse.
What’s your favorite part about your job? Least exciting?
My favorite part is the light bulb moment when people really get what they need to draw the connections to what they need to do in their life to make it work better. My least favorite is operations work. I however, will be hiring someone soon to help with this and also am a big fan of automation.
How/do you think your involvement in this industry is going to positively impact your community?
I have already elevated the conversation about diversity & inclusion. I have helped protect several women and minorities from the dark side of the industry. I have helped make workplaces safer through my diversity consulting.
Where do you see the industry in five years?
I think Millennials will become more aware of the companies in the space and will challenge more corporate responsibility and ethics. I think competition will force companies to have better customer service. I think more companies will start to have Human Resources as a function. All of these things are necessary to stabilize the industry.
What’s the biggest change you want to see in the cannabis industry?
There’s still this perception or stigma attached to the people involved in the cannabis industry or just consumers that partake in recreational or medical use, as being stoners- if you have encountered this kind of close minded perspective, what would your argument be to shift the conversation to one of the importance of the weed market and why it should be celebrated/normalized?
I have actually been cut off from opportunities outside of the cannabis industry because of my advocacy. I was a substitute teacher and a parent complained after hearing me talking about cannabis advocacy and I could no longer support the children I loved and adored. It broke my heart. My argument would be that not everyone in the cannabis industry consumes cannabis, not everyone smokes, and those that do are more often than not still great people and it should not be a moral or character judgement. In the same way that wine is normalized, I believe we will eventually have a similar understanding of cannabis. Further, some people use cannabis as a part of their health support measures. Compassion is important. Minding your own business works too.
As a woman of color, what challenges did you encounter (if any) building your business in a male-dominated industry and how do you plan to create change and inclusiveness for future WOC joining the industry?
Well – I have had companies stolen or taken over by men. I aligned with Black men. Gender as it turned out was a bigger barrier even than race for me. The way that I personally elevate inclusion is that I work with women as much as possible now. I elevate woman and we have our own networks. I advocate for and cheer for other women in the space and I try to lead by example that you don’t have to have a knife to get a piece of the pie. Moving away from “Zero Sum” thinking – a winner takes all mindset that undermines cooperation in the space is important. I elevate myself and others more through support, not domination. The male centered industry is more focuses on hierarchy, power and dominance. The space needs balance. I operate in such a way that exudes that you can be a force to be reckoned with without forcing your way. Being authentic, kind, supportive and good at what you do opens doors.
What would you consider to be the most effective way or initial steps of breaking down barriers and ceilings to pave this path for women in the industry?
Listening to the women in the space would be a great start. Hiring women and retaining them is another. Investing in women, cross promoting women and amplifying the voices of women is yet another.
What would be your best piece of advice for women looking to pursue a career or start a business in the cannabis industry?
Contact me. I do 1:1 coaching. There is so much to learn to protect yourself. It’s more of a journey that starts inside yourself. Then you have to learn strategies to keep yourself safe.
Name 4 women in the weed world that you want to give a shout out to.
Cynthia Salarizadeh, Bonita Money, Larisa Bolivar, Lauren Devine. However, there are so many other women who deserve shot outs. Older generation folks that I don’t know and those who are currently going through uphill battles every day currently and still accomplishing great things.
Key Takeaways from Tiffany Bowden:
- Be honest with yourself
- Compassion is important
- Listen to the women in the space
- Learn strategies to keep yourself safe
Weed Queens wants to thank Tiffany Bowden for taking the time to share her journey, personal experiences and advice. You can learn more about Tiffany Bowden and her work here.
Don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter for more exclusive interviews and materials. Thank you for reading Weed Queens!