I had the awesome opportunity to interview Emma Chasen! Emma Chasen is a Cannabis Educator & Industry Consultant at Eminent Consulting.
About Emma Chasen:
Emma Chasen has a mission to educate people on the science behind cannabis, so that they may take charge of their own healing. After graduating from Brown University in 2014 with a degree in Medicinal Plant Research, Emma went on to coordinate Clinical Oncology trials with the Brown University Oncology Research Group. When her supervisor refused a Cannabis trial in favor of another expensive pharmaceutical drug, Emma quit and headed across the country to Portland, OR. She found her way to Farma, the popular Portland dispensary that takes a more scientific approach to Cannabis; rejecting the Indica/Sativa binary and instead focusing on chemotypes to determine effect. She began her career at Farma as a budtender and was quickly promoted to General Manager and eventually to Director of Education. In this role she was able to focus on educational efforts and create a robust training curriculum that focused on cannabis science, product knowledge and empathetic patient care. Emma now co-owns and operates Eminent Consulting, a cannabis consulting business that offers educational training and craft industry development for cannabis industry professionals and businesses. She helps brands develop educational marketing collateral and ongoing educational programs to further elevate their brand presence in a competitive industry. She also helps struggling and newly emerging cannabis businesses with business organization and sets them up for success in both the competitive medical and adult use markets.
This interview is one of our favorites, because Emma gives us insight on what it takes to be a successful woman in a new and exciting industry, what initially inspired her to work in this market and how you can do it too. 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 Co-founder of Eminent Consulting, a cannabis industry consultancy that focuses on assisting cannabis entrepreneurs with craft business development and science-forward educational initiatives.
What is Eminent about? What do you guys do?
My business partner Matt and I wear many hats within our company. We created and now offer online courses on the fundamental elements of cannabis science. The courses are designed with the budtender in mind but they are geared towards industry professionals and lay enthusiasts alike. We also spend a lot of our time working one-on-one with our clients to set them up for success in new and established markets. We do everything from business strategy and execution to facility design, science-forward marketing initiatives, hiring, training, etc.
What makes your role and position unique?
We place an immense focus on scientific education and craft development. Many other consultants in the space will take on clients and will defer to the client for how they want to operate. We only take on clients who are interested in implementation of craft practices (small batch, organic methodology etc), science-forward education, restorative justice, and actionable care for their employees and the community with which they are a part. For this reason, we remain rather small but it allows us to never compromise on our values.
What’s your favorite part about your job? Least favorite?
I love working with people across the country who are really passionate about cannabis. I love working with people who are endlessly intellectually curious. I love helping people realize their dream. My least favorite part of my job is the headache of working in cannabis – the barriers and regulations and hardship that the industry suffers because of frustrating negative stigma still pervasive in the federal and local governments. But, that comes with the territory for now.
What inspired you to start your company and how did you get started?
Before Eminent, I had been freelancing for a while as a cannabis consultant with a large focus on building out my science-forward educational curriculum and budtender training. I got to a point where my workload began to grow and I knew if I wanted to grow with it, I had to bring a partner on and make this gig a little more formal. I’d been burned by various partnerships before so I was hesitant to join professional forces with someone again. But when it came to choosing Matt, that was a no brainer. We’d worked together in a dispensary before — I was general manager and he was the intake manager. Our professional relationship was so tight. I approached him and pitched the idea of us launching a consulting company together and he was super on board. It’s now been 2.5 years working together and it’s been consistently wonderful.
What were you doing before you became an Educator & Industry Consultant? How did that influence what you do?
Before I joined the cannabis industry, it was 2014 and I was fresh out of undergrad with a specialized Biology degree in Medicinal Plant Research and Ethnobotany looking to make a difference in the medical world. With that drive in mind, I took a job as an administrator at the Brown University Oncology Research Group. Unfortunately, I had no luck legitimizing cannabis in the medical science world and eventually left that position because I felt no passion in the work. I moved across the country shortly after and took a job as a budtender at Farma, a dispensary in Portland. I found I had a real knack for explaining cannabis to customers and patients and eventually was promoted to general manager. After about a year in that position, I stepped down and pitched the position of Director of Education to the owners. They agreed and so I became Farma’s first Director of Education for about six months before I decided to move on and start consulting. From my academic background and my experience on the ground floor of this emerging industry, I could so clearly see the problem of education and training within the industry. It was inexcusable to me that this wasn’t being addressed by regulators or business owners and that most budtenders and industry professionals had to personally advocate for any educational guidance. I knew that I could be the one to fill this vacuum and provide scientific-based education and training for the industry — I’ve had that mission at the forefront of my goals ever since.
How did you learn the skills to start and run a successful business?
I made it a point to observe all of my supervisors and bosses at every job I’ve ever had. I would absorb as much information as I possibly could about the ways in which they ran their business. This would then allow me to pick and choose what I wanted to incorporate into my own business and what I knew what NOT to do given the mistakes I’d witnessed from some of my past supervisors.
What factors have contributed towards your path of success?
A drive and tenacity that just won’t quit and really good people who have helped and supported me along the way.
Did you ever expect a career in the cannabis space?
Yes and no. I’ve always wanted to have a career in the medical field, helping patients in some way. I just thought I would become a doctor, but I think where I’ve ended up is better than I could have ever imagined.
What has your personal experience with cannabis been?
Growing up, I was a self-imposed puritan. I didn’t drink or smoke weed or do any experimenting with any substance at all. I was so driven to get into an Ivy League school from my very average at best public high school that I thought smoking weed would just slow me down and make me stupid. But then I got to college where some of the smartest people in the world were concentrated and most of them smoked weed. That completely challenged my perception of cannabis and it wasn’t before too long that I was enjoying cannabis’ therapeutic effects myself. Now, I use it often as it helps me to unwind, relax, and find playfulness in the mundanity of everyday life.
Did you ever feel like you weren’t taken seriously because you are a woman?
Oh definitely. Luckily, my misogynistic experiences have been few and far between. I’ve always been able to give off a rather intense ‘Don’t fuck with me” vibe when I want to and that’s kept many men from belittling me or my work. But as I’m sure every woman does, I have my stories of men who just completely wrote me off because of my gender identity and then those men who made it intentionally hard for me to do good work in a job or even went so far as to sabotage my work because they were threatened by me. That’s what I hate the most — men going out of their way to make collaboration impossible, so that they can come off as smart and I end up looking stupid. It frustrates me so much.
How/do you think your involvement in this industry is going to positively impact your community?
I have a motto: Elevate the Ecosystem. If I learn something, I want to share it freely with my community so that they can feel empowered. That’s why I’ve done countless podcasts, webinars, courses, etc for free. The gift I can give is education and I truly believe by educating people you empower them. Knowledge is power. Nobody should be a gatekeeper of information and education should always be accessible for everyone. I do my best to make sure I keep that at the core of everything I do.
What’s the biggest change you want to see in the cannabis industry?
I want to see full expungement of records for people who have cannabis convictions. I want to see all people who are in jail for cannabis crimes released. I want to see less white people participating in the cannabis industry and more Black, Indigenous, and People of Color participating. I want to see reparations given to the people who have been negatively impacted by the systemic violence due to the War on Drugs.
Now that cannabis is legal, what excites you most and what worries you the most?
I’m really excited about the possibility for more funding directed towards scientific research so we can better understand the potential of this amazing plant. I’m worried about intervention from pharmaceutical companies trying to capitalize on the cannabis industry.
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?
The most meaningful ways I’ve been able to contribute towards inclusiveness are passing along opportunities to WOC and providing educational resources for free to the community. If I’m achieving some measure of success, it is my responsibility to lift the people up around me.
What would be your best piece of advice for fellow women looking to pursue the cannabis industry?
Connect with other women! Network the hell out of the cannabis industry in your region and find other like minded people to connect and engage with. In cannabis, it is all about the network and I believe once you tap into a supportive community opportunities will start to come your way.
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?
Share educational resources, connect with the community, and then give women money! Investors statistically do not invest in female-owned businesses even though the data shows that women owned and operated businesses perform better than male-owned businesses. Access to capital is a huge barrier in cannabis and we need more investors and wealthy people to give their money to women.
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?
This is America and money talks. Especially given the downturn of the economy due to COVID-19 and cannabis’ designation as essential business, many entrepreneurs are considering a career in cannabis because of the economic potential of this industry. How can we continue to think poorly of the people who are allowing this industry to be successful; who are allowing for such economic success? Plus, there is scientific evidence that shows large therapeutic potential of cannabis. Many people choose to consume cannabis for so many different reasons. If you still believe in the antiquated idea that people who partake in cannabis are lazy stoners, well then you’re going to be left behind and left out.
Do you have any suggestions on how we can help normalize cannabis?
Education! The more we can educate on the science behind this plant, the easier it will be to reverse the stigma. Even one person ‘coming out of the green closet’ so to speak and sharing their experience with cannabis with their community can have a dramatic positive impact on the perception of this plant.
Where can we reach you?
On IG, @emmachasen
Name 4 of your favorite women in weed that you’d like to give a shout out too. What do they do and where can we reach them?
Zoe Wilder, PR goddess, Shena Vander Ploeg, naturopathic physician and formulator of Protanicals, the best cannabis + botanical tinctures I’ve ever had, graphic designer and founder of the Cannabis Workers Coalition Savina Monet, and Mary Pryor, an overall incredible person and founder of Cannaclusive.
Key Takeaways from Emma Chasen:
- Connect with other women! Network the hell out of the cannabis industry in your region and find other like minded people to connect and engage with.
- Don’t quit.
- Share educational resources, connect with the community.
- It is all about the network. Once you tap into a supportive community opportunities will start to come your way.
We want to thank Emma Chasen for sharing her story, advice and experience. You can learn more about Emma Chasen and Eminent Consulting here.
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