Whitney Beatty is a true Weed Queen! She is the awesome founder of The Apothecarry Case, a high-end luxury case that was designed to keep your herb super fresh and she is a board member of Supernova Women, an organization that empowers WOC to become stakeholders within the cannabis space.
We talk about her journey as a WOC in an industry monopolized by men, how she became a success in this field and how she is helping other women do it too.
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, Whitney Beatty.
What were you doing before you started The Apothecarry Case?
I used to work in the entertainment industry and I was there for 15 years. My last last job was as SVP of Development over at Warner Brothers running one of their brands. I have a Master’s degree in film production and worked my way up through the entertainment industry. My first job was at the William Morris agency and went on from there and started developing more reality tv shows.
What did you go to school for? How did that influence what you do?
I have a bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University in theater and a Master’s in film production from Loyola Marymount University. My experience in the entertainment industry really taught me a lot about branding and developing for specific demographics. You really do take a deep dive into different worlds and I think that experience really helped me be able to translate into the cannabis space because I do really well with niche products. The ability to figure out who I’m talking to, who that demographic is and what they want, I think I got that from the entertainment industry.
What factors have contributed towards your path of success?
I think really what has contributed the most is that I have always worked in spaces that were not necessarily welcoming to women and women of color. I never took a closed door as something I couldn’t get through. It meant that I needed to find the window and continue to push and I think that is really important in the cannabis space because it’s a difficult space to crack into. You hear a heck of a lot more no’s than you do yes’s so being able to understand that a no doesn’t ruin everything for you, is important. The other part of it is that I always have a belief in myself. In order to start this company, one of the things I did was sell my house and I invested that money into my business. If I don’t believe in me, no one else does and so I think that this belief that I have in myself to be successful, really played a large role.
What was the hardest/most difficult aspect about starting The Apothecarry Case and being an advocate for cannabis?
I guess it was a couple of different things. You don’t know what you don’t know, in general. One of the difficult parts about being an entrepreneur is really being able to find people that can answer your questions effectively. That can save you so much time and energy. If I’m looking for a payment processor I can be spending weeks and weeks and weeks looking for one or I can know who to ask and go have that question answered in 15 minutes. Being able to build that network around myself who I can talk to, that would give me insights in to the space was really important to me.
As a whole one of the most difficult aspects of starting a company in the cannabis space is funding. Funding is especially difficult because you can’t go to the bank for a loan. They don’t do loans for cannabis space businesses even if you’re not plant touching. So being able to find the funds necessary to start the company was difficult and to continue to grow is also difficult. It’s made more difficult by the fact that I am a black female. When we look at who is funding cannabis, it’s angel investors and VCs and we know that they are giving 2% of the money they are investing to women and the amount of money going to black women is .0006%. Those numbers are abysmal and it makes it very difficult for black women coming into the space to find funding. I think this is part of what makes it super hard.
In regards to being an advocate for cannabis, one of the most difficult things is that there is still a stigma out there and you do have to speak loud and you do have to speak proud to break down that stigma that permeates everything within the space. We find this stigma in communities of color specially with older black people who have lived through the war on drugs and have seen it decimate neighborhoods and communities and it becomes really difficult to convince those people of the medicinal benefits of cannabis. It’s easy to give grandma opioid pain pills but harder to have her use a tincture or a cannabis based rub which would be healthy for her but she has such a stigma against the plant. So being able to tell people who I am, what I do and why it’s important and try to change hearts and minds becomes really important to me in that aspect.
What’s your favorite part about your job? Least exciting?
My favorite part of my job is designing. It’s being able to think of new projects, it’s the imagination of it all. I really enjoy that aspect. Coming up with new designs and being able to come up with concepts that I think work. Least exciting is the paperwork and the work aspect of it all. It’s not the fun part but it has to be done because in this business you’re only as good as the paper trail that you leave.
How do you think your involvement in this industry is going to positively impact your community?
In a couple of different ways. I have two companies. Apothecarry Brands, that provides high end storage for cannabis consumers and I believe that company positively impacts my community in a couple of different levels. I am able to provide jobs within my community, a product that I believe in, that’s useful and I put out ads that are diverse and reflect my community.
I also have a phase three round one application for a dispensary in Los Angeles and I am super excited about how that will impact my community. My location is in south Los Angeles and it’s a community that is demographically served by POC and I have an opportunity, to not only bring that plant to the community in a convenient way, but to have a dispensary that reflects the community and its values. I have the ability to educate on the plant and build a community center that is plant focused and welcoming across the board and I’m looking forward to bringing jobs to the community of south Los Angeles. I’m super excited about this opportunity!
Where do you see the industry in five years? Ten years?
I think that within 5 years we’ll have a lot of growth but unfortunately I’m afraid we’re also going to see the death of a lot of small businesses as more money is being poured into the space. We’re seeing that that money is going to non female led businesses or businesses owned by POC. I think we’re going to see less diversity in the space because the people of diversity are going to get pushed out. That is disturbing to me.
Within 10 years I think legalization will be on the table and that is going to throw everything into the air. On one hand, I am very excited because I do think there is no reason whatsoever that anyone should go to jail for cannabis usage and that (federal legalization) would somewhat stop that from happening. But my fear is the way in which it is rolled out. I think it’s important in federal legalization that we have something like social equity in play and opportunities for neighborhoods of color that were most impacted by the war on drugs.
What’s the biggest change you want to see in the cannabis industry?
I want to see more diversity. It’s important. I live in Los Angeles and it’s one of the largest cannabis markets in the world and we have so little participation across brands across licenses across retail I think that this space is crying for diversity and I think it is absolutely important that we figure out ways to diversify the 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?
That stigma is real and it is out there. I deal with it on two levels. First, I tell people who I am and that I use the plant and that I work in the space. I think that me being me and letting people see into my world, which is why I have my instagram, TheHighMommyLife so people can see. I think that, in itself, helps de-stigmatize. People are coming out of the canna closet, if you will and there is a lot more people that use cannabis than what we see in the media but people still keep their cannabis usage close to the vest. It is important that we are loud and we are proud and we show people that we can use cannabis and that you can be a good member of society, you can be a mother you can be all those things and also use cannabis.
On the other side, there is the idea that it’s a bad place to work or that you wouldn’t want to work in the cannabis industry and I tell people very clearly, if this was the end of prohibition and someone came up to you and asked you if you wanted to start Jack Daniels, you would say yes because that is a huge opportunity and that is kind of where we are in the cannabis space. There is a huge industry coming online and to me it’s ignorant to not want it to happen and not see the opportunity there and try to not grab it while it’s there. Unless you are also demeaning people who work at alcohol facing companies or who work selling tobacco products and the pharmaceutical companies that are selling opioid pills to the world, you really don’t have a place to tell me that I’m wrong for working in an industry that has medicinal benefits and health benefits, that have been very very clearly made out.
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?
There are a ton of challenges like the financial challenges I mentioned earlier are really indicative. I’ve had people say things to me that are inappropriate. I’ve had people tell me that a black women couldn’t run a high end luxury cannabis line. I’ve had people tell me that I would do better selling things out of my trunk, people down play me and count me out constantly and I use that as fuel to the fire of what I am doing. I always believed that women who want to be equal to a man lack ambition. I don’t want to be equal to a man in this space. I want to be the best, man or woman. That’s the attitude I come in with.
In regards to creating change and inclusiveness, I am a board member of the Supernova Women. Supernova Women is an organization that seeks to empower WOC to become stakeholders within the cannabis space and we do that through education, activism and networking. The time that I give Supernova is really important to me because we are able to do the things that are necessary in order to help operators within the space who are women and women of color, be successful. We also advocate on the state, federal and local levels for policies that will help them be successful and take their businesses into account and I think that is critical in this space.
What would be your best piece of advice for women looking to pursue a career or start a business in the cannabis industry?
I would say networking. Go out and meet people within the space. It’s getting clarity on where it is that you want to come into the industry and to understand what the needs are in the industry before you come in. I think the best way to come into the cannabis industry is with your current skill set you’ve built outside the cannabis space. There is so much opportunity within the space for all sorts of careers. Bring your skillset and tailor it to the space. It’s also really important for an entrepreneur to be able to pivot and make changes as you figure out what the market is. Don’t be so set in your ways that you cannot pivot to make your product fit your market.
Name 4 women in the weed world that you want to give a shout out to.
I know so many fantastic women in cannabis that I have so much respect for but I have to shout out my board members from Supernova, Amber Senter, Raeven Duckett, Isamarie Perez and one more to my attorney, Toni Forge, who is an amazing power house and has been so helpful to me and so many others, as they pursue licenses within the space.
Key Takeaways from Whitney Beatty:
- Go out and meet people within the space.
- Bring your skillset and tailor it to the space.
- Be able to pivot and make changes as you figure out what the market is.
- Be able to understand that a no doesn’t ruin everything for you.
- Believe in yourself.
A huge thank you to Whitney Beatty, for taking the time to share her experiences, her journey as a WOC as an entrepreneur in the weed world and for sharing super helpful tips advice on how to jump into the weed world as well. You can learn more about Whitney Beatty and her ventures here.
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