A huge welcome to Weed Queen, Carrie Solomon! Carrie was considerate enough to take the time to answer some questions about her success in the cannabis industry, how she did it and how you can do it too!
More about Carrie Solomon:
Carrie Solomon CEO and Cofounder of Leif Goods and Greater Goods. Leif Goods is a THC company that operates in the regulated Oregon market while Greater Goods is a hemp CBD company that operates locally but can ship nationally. Both companies, focus on fun confections that evoke joy and nostalgia, as well as delicious, higher end organic chocolate bars.
During our time together, Carrie Solomon gave us a great understanding about what it’s like to be an executive in an industry where women don’t normally hold high positions and also gave great advice on what it takes to be successful in the weed world. Check out the interview below and don’t forget to share it with other Weed Queens!
How would you describe yourself and what you do?
I am the CEO and Cofounder of Leif Goods and Greater Goods. I handle all of the daily operations of both of the companies with a focus on sales, marketing, design and strategy, in tandem with my cofounder/partner/husband, Jody Ake, whose focus is on production, product development, and strategy as well.
What is Leif Goods and Greater Goods about? What do you guys do?
Leif Goods is our THC company that operates in the regulated Oregon market; Greater Goods is a hemp CBD company that operates locally but can ship nationally. In both companies, we focus on fun confections that evoke joy and nostalgia, as well as delicious, higher end organic chocolate bars. Leif Goods also makes a line of organic, vegan topicals, and we will be launching a topical line this year under Greater Goods to match the quality of our topicals in THC. Greater Goods also produces a line of crystal clear, organic, full spectrum hemp CBD tinctures.
Did you ever expect a career in the cannabis space?
Definitely not, however it makes perfect sense. With a background in design, I myself was always more interested in being an entrepreneur than working for a company or an agency. I’m also interested in emerging markets where innovation and creativity are key to success. Seeing a gap in the marketplace early on in cannabis made it irresistible to not create products that could service a market that was not being addressed. And being entrepreneurs really fits our spirit of wanting flexibility and agency over our own lives.
What has your personal experience with cannabis been?
I myself was a consumer in college, but experienced a lot of anxiety using cannabis as I started to get older. Now, I am a devoted, daily CBD user, from edibles to tinctures to occasionally smokables. It’s changed my life in a manner that helps me control anxiety and some chronic pain issues.
What inspired you to start Leif Goods and when and how did you get started? What is your vision and mission for Leif Goods and Greater Goods?
Leif Goods was established in 2014 as the antidote to what we saw was lacking in the Oregon medical market at the time. Topicals smelled like a medicine cabinet, and edibles were largely predictable and packaged in a very uninspired fashion. We saw a niche to fill with exciting chocolate truffles and chocolate bars, as well as topicals that smelled amazing, were ultra potent, and were never greasy. We also wanted to make sure our products were effective, and have always been committed to full extract/full spectrum products across the board. We launched Greater Goods in May 2019 as an extension of our THC brand in order to bring the same level of quality, transparency and design to the national CBD market.
Our mission for both businesses is simple – bring quality and joy to the masses. We see cannabis as equally medicinal and recreational, and want to disrupt the notion that THC is for either stoners only. We equally reject the notion of luxury cannabis, in that we feel that great quality ingredients and conscientiously grown and crafted cannabis should be accessible. On the CBD side, we want to exalt hemp by promoting joy, delight, optimism and a little bit of rebellion into the mix. So many hemp products are presented as overly serious, leaning towards a quiet and docile presentation in the wellness vertical, when in fact CBD is such an amazing, natural therapy for what ails a lot of people. Let’s celebrate it!
What’s your favorite part about your job? Least favorite?
My favorite part of being a business owner is the variation from day to day. There is always something to solve or create and it changes all the time. I also love the freedom of not having to answer to anyone but myself. The hardest part of this job is that it’s truly a 24/7 responsibility – vacations are but a dream! And part of entrepreneurship is also as many failures as wins, and as many curveballs as you can imagine, which at times takes you away from some of your true passions. Wearing all the hats can get heavy, but it never gets old.
Were your family and friends supportive of your venture?
Yes! Both of our families are quite liberal, and never saw these ventures as terribly different from starting a mainstream business. Our friends love it, and frankly it felt as though we became the most popular people in the room when we started the business and told our friends about it. Cannabis is the greatest ice breaker.
Did you ever feel like you weren’t taken seriously because you are a woman?
I’ve been lucky enough to make my way through a career as a designer and now as a business owner without too many notable experiences where being female seemed to have affected me negatively. Early on, despite being the CEO, there were certainly times when men talking to both my partner and myself made a lot more eye contact with him and aimed financial questions towards him, but with an inherently strong personality, I would normally be able to redirect the conversation where necessary. I’m grateful for having numerous female bosses, managers and mentors in the past where I’ve been able to surround myself with the type of energy that is respectful and fair regardless of gender.
How/do you think your involvement in this industry is going to positively impact your community?
My focus in terms of positive influence is on the ground level. I aim, even with our small team, to promote diversity and open-mindedness, building a supportive culture for our team and welcoming innovation and creativity no matter what role someone plays. As leaders, we make it a point to come to the table with no ego and always open to learning new ways of doing things, which I believe is the blueprint not only for running a business, but also communicating and working with others in the community. We also hope to elevate the standards around cannabis and hemp, engaging in a conversation that helps consumers question where their products come from and to shop small and local.
What has been your greatest obstacle in this industry to date – and how have you overcome it?
The greatest obstacle I’ve encountered in cannabis, both in the regulated THC market and in the hemp market, is the constant change that arises year after year, week after week. Lack of predictability, including rule changes; sweeping fluctuations in the market itself in response to anything from harvest setbacks, global economic issues, and controversies in the local market; intense competition and challenges around advertising, make running a small business that much more of an obstacle course. I think that my background, and my partner’s, in art and design, and, ultimately, liberal arts educations as a foundation, have trained us to be less rigid than, perhaps, someone who came from a business background and who expected things to operate in a certain way.
What factors have contributed towards your path of success?
I love to mention it again…I think having a liberal arts education that helped me learn to problem solve, along with being a career designer with a strategic mind, has made inventing, reinventing, pivoting and bouncing back from challenges possible. I also have a solid partner with relatively well-defined responsibilities to fill in the highs when I am low, and vice versa. We also never get too married to an idea or product. If something is not resonating with the consumer, we learn from it and grow, trying out new things all the time.
What’s the biggest change you want to see in the cannabis industry?
Of course we want to see nationwide legalization to the point that at least states can begin talking to each other about cross-border commerce. That in itself would fix so many issues we face, from unfair drug laws that impact communities of color to banking rules that are outdated and unfair.
As a woman, 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?
I feel I’ve been quite lucky, or perhaps just incredibly fortuitous, in that I can’t describe a specific set of events that I encountered that made things more difficult as a woman in this industry. I will say that in any position I’ve ever held, whether as a business owner or as designer working for someone else, I’ve battled my own inclinations to be less aggressive and more empathetic, which at times likely did not result in the best outcomes. I’m learning to be a better negotiator, for example, and less apologetic when asking for some things. That might simply be an aspect of my personality, but I wonder if I was not female, if those traits I see in myself might be less prominent.
Although we are a small team, we work hard to promote a culture of inclusivity at our workplaces, and most of our team is female. Our brand attracts individuals who are drawn to our ethos, which also skews away from a more masculine approach, so we’ve been fortunate to have a lot of female talent come to us in response to our career opportunities and work for us as well. We also choose to work with other female-owned businesses and actually seek those opportunities out actively, to support our local community and women-owned businesses.
What would be your best piece of advice for fellow women looking to pursue the cannabis industry?
Be very, very thick skinned if you are starting your own business (though this is true in any field). I have found that the cannabis industry can be more blunt and to the point than in other work environments, so taking anything personally should be avoided. I believe it helps to work for a cannabis company first to learn what it’s really like before starting a business of your own to be sure this is something that really fits your goals and personality. If you are looking for a job in the industry, there are many male-dominated companies that exist, so also be mindful of what environment you are pursuing (as you would when taking any other type of job), and to not compromise where you might feel comfortable in exchange for just getting into the industry. There are many inclusive brands that are worth waiting for, whether a dispensary, a manufacturer or a farm, where the day to day experience will be nurturing and a great learning experience.
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?
I think the only way to achieve this is to lead by example and help support other women in the community. There are also so many events, at least here in Oregon, that can also help connect women in terms of networking and learning, most online these days, that build a community of people that can uplift and also connect us to each other. That community is key, in my opinion, to success.
There’s still a 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?
It’s always a bit of a surprise when I encounter these attitudes, and as a matter of fact, it actually happens more out in the world when we’re presenting our CBD company! Many people are actually still frightened and misinformed about everything from THC to CBD to even hempseed oil. Although some people are simply resistant to the conversation, it’s always an opportunity to chat with people about the actual history of cannabis use and how much a part of American history hemp and cannabis once were. We also present as super normal people to those who meet us! So when we represent the cannabis industry ourselves as well-spoken, well-educated and quite average, all things considered, this can often open a successful dialogue.
Where can we reach you? IG? Twitter?
Name 4 of your favorite women in weed that you’d like to give a shout out too.
Key Takeaways from Carrie Solomon:
- Be very, very thick skinned if you are starting your own business
- Lead by example and help support other women in the community
- It helps to work for a cannabis company first to learn what it’s really like before starting a business of your own
- Having a liberal arts education helped
- Network! The community is key, in my opinion, to success
A huge thank you to Carrie Solomon, for sharing her experience and journey as an entrepreneurial woman in the highly regulated weed world monopolized by men. Check out her valuable tips and advice on how to be a dope woman in the weed world too.
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