By: Bianka Anguiano | June 1st, 2020
Let’s welcome Celia Daly, Director of Development & Operations at CanopyBoulder. CanopyBoulder is a business accelerator and Venture Capital Fund, who invest in and support early and growth stage ancillary cannabis and hemp/CBD companies.
During our time together Celia talked about her role with CanopyBoulder, her challenges as a young woman in a male-dominated industry, how she plans to create change and inclusiveness for future womxn joining the industry and she shares advice on how to obtain funding and appeal to possible investors. Check out the interview below and don’t forget to share with other Weed Queens!
How would you describe yourself and what you do?
I am the Director of Development and Operations at CanopyBoulder, a Business Accelerator and Venture Capital Fund. Our business invests in and supports early and growth stage ancillary cannabis and hemp/CBD companies. My role specifically varies. I work closely with our portfolio companies to understand their needs and how we can support them. I also work closely with our investor network, connecting them with relevant CanopyBoulder portfolio companies for investment. My role also includes managing all of the external communications, including our marketing strategy and the day-to day operations of our accelerator program, when in session.
What inspired you to jump into the weed world?
My entry into the cannabis industry was actually accidental. I graduated from my MBA program in December 2015 and was looking for a job in Marketing. I just so happened to land at an early-stage cannabis tech company called Surna. Up until then, I’d not thought much about cannabis specifically. But my background has been in new industries and impact businesses. Cannabis enticed me because its novelty held a lot of promise for building an industry that could create a positive impact for all stakeholders- investors, customers and communities alike.
What’s your favorite part about your job?
Working with entrepreneurs. Their passion and hustle is inspiring. Watching these people work hard and build something amazing from nothing is pretty cool. I’m honored to be a part of that journey. My job also allows me a front-row seat to the rapid innovation that takes place in the cannabis industry which I enjoy.
What’s your least favorite part?
Administrative work. CanopyBoulder is a small, startup organization which means that everyone has to do a bit of everything – even our CEO occasionally has to do some administrative work. We have a culture of execution, which means taking ownership and being self-sufficient, regardless of how mindless a task may be.
What’s the biggest change you want to see in the cannabis industry?
The industry needs to be more inclusive and it needs to happen now. The longer we go without that, the harder it will be for disadvantaged & underserved communities to enter the industry. Cannabis is getting increasingly corporate which is inevitable and, probably, a good thing in a lot of ways. It brings a level of sophistication and legitimacy to our industry. However, what the industry needs are people who can span those two worlds – people who have passion for the plant and its benefits but who are business savvy and capable of building profitable businesses.
What factors have contributed towards your path of success?
Finding an organization and people who share my mindset – both in my interests but also in how I operate. My job would not be possible if my whole team didn’t have an attitude of working hard and getting s**t done. I’ve been fortunate to have mentors who have championed me as well. As well, I’ve spent many hours thinking about what I want to do and what the steps are that will take me there. I view my career as a jungle gym and not a ladder, meaning that sometimes things can feel like a step back, but really open a door into a new area.
As a woman, what challenges did you encounter (if any) building your career in a male-dominated industry and how do you plan to create change and inclusiveness for future womxn joining the industry?
This is always a hard question. Being a woman- specifically a young woman – in venture capital is tricky. Often, I face assumptions from people that I am the assistant or admin and am not taken seriously. This is frustrating, but the reality. It’s important, however, for those phenomena to not be kept secret. I believe it’s important to discuss those situations particularly with the men I work closely with. I’ve seen those honest conversations impact them, making them a bit more aware of the assumptions and biases womxn face and, thus, more equipped to fight them. My experience is that most men I work with want womxn to succeed but often miss those micro aggressions. Pointing them out seems to help combat it. As far as being an entrepreneur in cannabis as a woman – the one thing I see alot is that (in general – obviously not a tight rule), womxn seem to underplay their achievements, whereas male presenting people will boast, even if they have nothing worth boasting about. Womxn entrepreneurs seem to need far more success before they believe they “have something”. Confidence is everything and when you realize no one really knows what they’re doing 100% of the time, its an easier road. It’s my goal to help those entrepreneurs recognize what they’ve created and, specifically, how their progress lines up with others to set a more realistic view of their businesses.
What would be your best piece of advice for fellow womxn looking to pursue the cannabis industry?
It’s probably the same advice as I would give to anyone – find people who are doing the things you want to be doing and figure out how to learn from them. Also, passion isn’t enough. I’ve seen plenty of people who start their business pitch with “I’m passionate” as a reason it’s unique. It’s not. Also, don’t try to do something you have no experience doing. I meet so many entrepreneurs who want to start a licensed cannabis company and who have zero experience in that. It is going to be an uphill battle. There are tons of opportunities to build things for the industry based on the experience you already have. I.e. if you’re a journalist, build a media company, not a cultivation.
Why is it so hard for cannabis business owners to obtain funding in this industry?
I’m a bit biased here and believe its not that hard to obtain funding if you have a truly good business. However, there is limited institutional capital for the cannabis industry and there are a lot of businesses competing for it. In particular, plant-touching, licensed businesses struggle the most. Valuations for these companies are low, and profits are hard to come by. The current economic landscape makes this 10x harder.
What’s the best way to obtain funding in this industry?
Whereas early in the industry, investors were putting capital into pre-revenue businesses, now they are not. Investors are looking for unique companies with strong teams (that have experience in what they’re doing) and traction. The best way to prove that your company has product-market fit is to actually sell it. If you’re a fast growing company with sales, you’re more likely to get investment. Unfortunately, there’s just too much noise now for investors to have an appetite for pre-revenue or pre-operational companies.
What can we do to improve the chances of obtaining funding?
Learn how to talk about your business to people who understand business. Passion and drive is irrelevant to investors as those should be a given for all entrepreneurs. I cannot tell you how many applications for funding I’ve seen that go on and on about their passion and the “unique” business opportunity, without having a clear grasp on the competition or actual landscape. Investors want to see real numbers and realistic projections and understand that you as the founder have the capabilities to take it all the way. As well, aligning yourself with advisors and others who have solid connections is a great way to get funding. Accelerators and incubator programs are a great way to do that. Finally, funding is not easy to come by. Many entrepreneurs say things like “I’ll just raise $1M, no problem” without understanding the reality of that. As a general rule, fundraising takes 3x as long and 3x effort as you expect.
Any advice you would like to share in regards to this topic?
Start EARLY. Businesses that want capital but don’t *need* capital are in the best possible position and most attractive to investors. Don’t wait until you’re out of money to begin this. And, if you’re not a business or financial person, make sure you get someone like that on the team. If ducks aren’t in a row, it’s an easy no for investors, who are always looking for a reason to say no. We have a lot of resources on the CanopyBoulder website about how to pitch and get investor-ready. Finally, not all businesses need investors or should take on that kind of capital. Investment should be for fast-growing businesses that expect a 10x return down the road. Debt and bootstrapping are often great options for small companies.
Name 5 of your favorite women in weed that you’d like to give a shout out too.
Jessica Billingsley, Akerna
Courtney Wu, Amnesia Media
Jan Cole, The Farm & Zoltrain
Sarah Gersten, The Last Prisoner Project
Kate Awada, Azara
Key Takeaways from Celia Daly:
- Find an organization and people who share your mindset.
- It’s important to have conversations with male colleagues about the assumptions and biases womxn face in this industry.
- Confidence is everything.
- Find people who are doing the things you want to be doing and figure out how to learn from them.
- Learn how to talk about your business to people who understand business.
- Start EARLY. Businesses that want capital but don’t *need* capital are in the best possible position and most attractive to investors. Don’t wait until you’re out of money.
A huge shout out to Celia Daly for taking the time to share her story, advice and experience. You can learn more about Celia Daly and CanopyBoulder here and the resources they have available on how to pitch and get investor-ready here.
Don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter for more exclusive interviews and materials. Thank you for reading Weed Queens!