Weed Queen: Vanessa Gabriel
Title: CEO & Co-founder
Company: Drop Delivery
Vanessa is the founder of multiple startups and recently exited in the cannabis industry with Greenlight, the first mobile order-ahead cannabis app for dispensary purchases within 9 months of launching. She is now the Co-founder and CEO of Drop Delivery, an all-in-one compliant SaaS platform specifically designed for cannabis retailers to offer delivery services. The Drop Delivery platform offers advanced technology that empowers business owners to manage inventory, dispatch and driver logistics, marketing tools, digital loyalty programs, and provides them with their own white-labeled, e-commerce mobile app. With Drop Delivery, cannabis businesses can launch their own delivery services within hours.
ABOUT DROP DELIVERY:
Drop Delivery is the cannabis industry’s only all-in-one compliant delivery management platform. The Drop Delivery platform offers advanced technology that empowers business owners to manage inventory, dispatch and driver logistics, marketing tools, digital loyalty programs, and it provides them with their own white-label, e-commerce mobile app. With Drop Delivery, cannabis businesses can launch their own delivery services within hours.
How would you describe yourself and what you do?
I’m the CEO and Co-Founder of Drop Delivery. My job is to make sure that we are making progress towards building a great business every day.
What is your company about? What do you guys do?
We provide an all in one delivery management software solution for cannabis businesses. We offer delivery companies their own white-label eCommerce mobile app, cannabis-specific last-mile logistics, digital loyalty & rewards, and segmented and automated SMS marketing all in one platform.
What makes Drop Delivery unique?
Drop Delivery is the only all in one delivery management software solution for cannabis businesses in the industry. Companies can sign up and launch their app to their customers in as little as 24 hours.
What’s your favorite part about your job? Least favorite?
My favorite part is seeing the technology we’ve built directly impacting the cannabis industry, helping businesses grow, and providing consumers with a safe, convenient, and modern way to shop for cannabis products. My least favorite thing is that I wish I could see my team more in person! With the pandemic, we’ve been taking precautions and working from home, and there’s different energy working in the same room and quickly bouncing ideas off each other and discussing things.
What inspired you to start your company and how did you get started?
Back in 2019, we knew that the future of purchasing your Cannabis was going to be through delivery. We knew we could build a delivery management platform that would benefit cannabis business owners and customers. Think pre-pandemic even then; you were getting mostly everything in your life delivered, so why not your Cannabis in a convenient, reliable, and safe way?
What is your vision and mission for Drop Delivery?
Drop’s mission is to empower companies to deliver more. Not just to physically deliver more orders but to also deliver more in customer service and experience. Our goal has always been to provide simple, effective, and affordable software for cannabis business owners.
What were you doing before you started Drop Delivery? How did that influence what you do?
Before Drop, my co-founders and I created Greenlight in 2017, the first order ahead cannabis app where customers could shop from local dispensaries. The app allowed customers to schedule their orders for pick-up, skip the long lines, and earn loyalty points for their purchases. Just nine months after launching Greenlight, we were acquired by a publicly-traded cannabis company. During that time, we were always approached by delivery license owners asking if we had any software they could use, so we knew it was something we wanted to explore eventually. After the acquisition, we started to research and talk to delivery business owners about what software they were currently using. At a minimum, we learned that they were utilizing five different platforms to run their day-to-day operations. Data wasn’t connected across platforms most of the time, and it was proving to be costly and inefficient to manage
different software providers. That’s how the idea for Drop Delivery was born.
How did you learn the skills to start and run a successful business?
I was blessed to grow up with one set of parents with corporate success and the others leaving that to start their own businesses. I grew up learning that you can create the life you’ve always wanted, no matter what path you choose, with hard work and dedication. But business was always the talk around the dinner table. I have memories of helping my dad with his companies, organizing payroll checks, handing out flyers, or visiting his job sites. I came to understand the world through a business lens, and from then on, I knew I wanted to own my own business someday — unsure of what that would eventually look like. Entrepreneurship at its core is really about taking a chance on yourself, going for it, and learning to adapt quickly to what works or doesn’t work. Everything my team and I know is self-taught. The internet has been our most valuable resource so far, but we also wouldn’t be where we are today without our mentors and advisors who have shared valuable insight because they’ve been through it all themselves.
What factors have contributed towards your path of success?
I wouldn’t be the woman I am today without my father. He is my ultimate mentor, and without seeing him start his businesses at a young age, I’m not sure I would be on this path. My entrepreneurial journey has come with its ups and downs, and at times, I pursued other careers, but I always came back to the idea of building my own business with my team. I’m honestly just glad I didn’t give up on myself.
Did you ever expect a career in the cannabis space?
I didn’t, but I’m so glad that it happened! The industry has come a long way in the past few years, but there is still so much opportunity for technology and software to modernize it. My team and I are truly honored and grateful to use our love of building great software for this industry that needs it more than ever.
Were your family and friends supportive of your venture? Yes, they were! I’m so grateful I get to run a business with my sister and have our dad as our mentor. I wouldn’t trade it for the world, and there’s a different sense of trust that we are all in this together and using our strengths to build and grow our company. I do think it was a shock, though, for extended family to learn about what industry I’m in since it’s not a traditional path.
What has your personal experience with cannabis been?
I love me some Saka Wine and Kiva chocolate now and again!
Did you ever feel like you weren’t taken seriously because you are a woman?
So many times! I started my first business out of my dorm when I was a freshman in college ten years ago, and ever since, I’ve been judged because I am a young woman and a minority. Even after successfully selling our first cannabis startup, no one took me seriously when I attempted to raise traditional capital for Drop.
How/do you think your involvement in this industry is going to positively impact your community?
I feel honored and proud to represent that our founding team is 50% women and 100% minority. I think we are telling a new story of what the future of cannabis tech can look like. Hopefully, our story can inspire others who are just like us not to give up and not be afraid to take a chance on themselves when we know that there hasn’t been a great track record for us.
What has been your greatest obstacle in this industry to date – and how have you overcome it?
Looking back, I think it was attempting to raise money for Drop even after our success with Greenlight and still feeling like we were being judged based on age, ethnicity, and gender. But without that obstacle, we would’ve never considered crowdfunding. In just seven weeks, we were able to raise over a million dollars through crowdfunding and provide others that look just like us the opportunity to invest and join us on this journey. I’m a massive believer that every no you receive gets you closer to the yes that matters.
What’s the biggest change you want to see in the cannabis industry?
I’d love to see more women and minority-owned businesses in Cannabis in general and ultimately federal legalization.
Now that cannabis is legal, what excites you most and what worries you the most? I’m excited that cannabis delivery is finally having its moment. With the pandemic, getting your Cannabis delivered is now normalized. I want it to be as normal as your instacart or amazon prime order. It’s exciting that with Drop, we are helping businesses offer cannabis delivery in a safe, convenient, and reliable way. I’m worried that things on a federal level might not happen as fast as we want it to, but that’s nothing we can control, and we have to focus on providing great software for the industry until then.
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?
While attempting to raise capital for both Greenlight and Drop, I was always pitching to men. I’d love to see more WOC investors. I just read about how Jay Z created a cannabis investment fund for black-owned businesses, and I’d love to see the same one day for women-owned businesses. I’d love to do something similar even if on a smaller scale where we can provide grants to WOC and POC or even offer our software for free to new businesses.
What would be your best piece of advice for fellow women looking to pursue the cannabis industry?
First, I think to find mentors and advisors you admire and reach out to them and pick their brain. It sounds so cliche, but it’s what I did. I saw an article in Forbes about a list of successful women in Cannabis, and I reached out to the ones that I thought could help me. Today two of those women are my advisors! Secondly, don’t give up. Another cliche, but with anything in life, there will be ups and downs. Even if you hear no, it’s just getting you closer to that yes that matters. If I had given up at any point in my journey, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
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?
For me, it’s so comforting to know that there are successful and established women in the industry that believe in my team and our vision. It was essential to have women like my advisors and mentors bounce ideas off, share our roadmap, and ask questions because they are experts at what they do. I think they are the best example of how we can continue to pave the way for more women by giving back to the community and others trying to make a difference.
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?
My family or friends might judge me for having a software company in the cannabis industry, but once they learn that at the core of it, we are helping these businesses grow and thrive, and I think that changes their perspective on things. Even in 2020, we saw that Cannabis was deemed an essential industry just as much as your local pharmacy, and I think that was a massive win for everyone. I also think we should recognize the beneficial impacts it’s had socially and economically historically in the US so far. What’s great about our democracy is that each state can decide to normalize and decriminalize Cannabis. We get to look at the successes of Colorado, California, and Illinois, for example.
Do you have any suggestions on how we can help normalize cannabis?
I think as a society we need to be open and non judgemental towards industries such as Cannabis regardless of whether someone is a participant, business owner, investor, etc.
Where can we reach you? (IG/ Twitter handle and or email)
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?
I’d love to give a shout out to my amazing team of women advisors, mentors and partners that believe in our vision and our team.
● Cynthia Salazarideh: Founder & President of House of Saka, Founder & CEO of AxisWire, Co-
Founder at Green Market Report, Cynthia@salarmediagroup.com
● Kristin Jordan: Director of Real Estate at Acreage Holdings, Founder of The Maze and Mannada, email@example.com
● Jessica Billingsley: Chairman of the Board and CEO of Akerna Corp, firstname.lastname@example.org
● Gia Moron: Founder & CEO of GVM Communications, email@example.com
Key Takeaways from Vanessa Gabriel:
- Find mentors and advisors you admire.
- Reach out to them and pick their brain.
- Don’t give up.
- Even if you hear no, it’s just getting you closer to that yes that matters.
Huge shout out and big thank you to Weed Queen, Vanessa Gabriel and Drop Delivery for taking the time to chat about her experiences as a female entrepreneur and executive in a male dominated industry, for giving us great advice and tips on how to be successful in the weed world and for shouting out other dope Weed Queens!
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