MJBizConINTL 2019 is set to kick off its second annual event in Toronto next week and the schedule features many female speakers including our own Trina Fraser and the event will also feature a keynote by Former Canadian Prime Minister, Kim Campbell.
The industry movement for inclusion and female leadership seems to be gaining traction!
The company behind this event, Marijuana Business Daily, was co-founded by a women named Cassandra Farrington and she has not only created and grown a fantastic business in the cannabis industry she has supported and welcomed women along the way.
Cassandra heads up the team at Marijuana Business Daily, the leading B2B information and events resource for the legal cannabis industry. Under her direction the team has built the Marijuana Business Conference & Expo into America’s fastest-growing trade show according to Trade Show Executive magazine. The company was ranked the 9th fastest-growing woman-owned business by the Women Presidents Organization for 2018. This lady knows a thing or two about the cannabis industry and we wanted to get her female perspective on navigating the industry as a female, women supporting women and work life balance.
L.T. Congratulations, you have created quite a company! As the co-founder, is there a specific memory that you attach to the creation of MJBIZ ?
C. F. I had started my career in business to business media and I met the person who is now my co founder and and my business partner. She was a more senior product manager and product inventor. We both went off to do our own things, for me that meant getting my MBA. At the same time my partner had started, built and sold her own business. She was now semi-retired and not entirely happy. She reached out to me as a long time friend and somebody that she knew from her professional world with complimentary skills. It had never actually been of a goal of mine to start my own business or be an entrepreneur, but when my partner reached out it was just such a great fit! Especially where I was in my career. With her, beside me, having walked those entrepreneur roads before, made that change easier for me. It’s definitely easier to do with the partner!
L.T. Who is the person that helped you the most when you were starting out?
C. F. My business partner and I built this together and we wouldn’t be where we are without each other but the other person who comes to mind is my husband. He is my number one champion! He is my other silent business partner with this entire ride he’s been incredibly supportive! He works in the business as well. A lot of people think it’s funny that he works for me but you know it it works for us and throughout all of this, we raised a family and lived our lives and grew the business together.
L.T. Why go into the cannabis industry?
C. F. It was a pure on, straight up, business decision. At the time, we were building a niche business to business media company. It would be a subscription information product, with maybe 1000 subscribers, paying you $1000 a year. Now you have a nice little microcosm of a business and if you expand that across 50 business lines you have a great business! This was the business model of the organization and originally we set out to do that. We had two things up and running and then we realized the cannabis opportunity back in 2010. Cannabis was an area where people definitely knew their industry and knew the plant but didn’t know about business. Almost by definition the people who were running businesses had come up through the black market. They we’re doing this for patient advocacy reasons or for social justice reasons and we’re not typically strong business people. We looked at how the market was establishing itself and realized that is was likely to continue to grow and expand. We didn’t know this plant, we didn’t know this industry yet but we knew business and we knew how to translate business into actionable intelligence that somebody can pick up and apply to their business.
L.T. You’ve come to learn a lot about plants along the way, so do you now enjoys some recreational or medicinal benefits of Cannabis?
C. F. I am not a particular particularly strong user of cannabis myself. It is not my bag and that’s alright. It’s not about whether somebody does or doesn’t consume. It’s really about whether you believe in the reasons why this industry should exist right and and what you’re doing to drive it forward.
L.T. What are some things that you would tell other female entrepreneurs about the cannabis industry?
C. F. In some ways it’s just like everywhere else and in some ways it’s just entirely different. There is no question, that especially lately, there has been an influx of that the typical business person, by which I mean, a white male. At the same time the cannabis industry is growing so quickly that businesses simply need talent and are willing to take it wherever they can get it.
There is more opportunity for women to come in at a level where they really do belong. They do not have to work their way up through a corporate established hierarchy.
Diversity in the industry, not just gender diversity but also ethnic diversity is not something that is going away.
Diversity, is talked about frequently and that remains top of mind for people and they are making business decisions about who they hire and who they decide to support. It’s an interesting mashup of the #me too movement and just the fact that it is 2019 and people are finally starting to open their eyes to these things.
Women, in business, in general, have come such a long way.Cassandra Farrington
Women are the ones making many of the house and the recreational decisions for their families and therefore women are an incredibly important and growing segment of the purchasing market place. Businesses are opening their eyes to the fact that its really hard to develop a a great campaign marketing to women developed by team a white males.
Companies are seeking female perspectives and and valuing them in their in their workplaces and that’s creating lots of opportunities.
L.T. Is there a specific way that you’re helping other women in the cannabis industry?
C. F. I do feel like we’ve done this well and I’ve been a champion for this throughout my organization. I recognize that we do have a very visible platform and even back from our very earliest days when we were just starting to grow MJBizCon and Marijuana Business Daily we sought to make this a welcoming environment for women. We really strive and dig deep to find great female voices to put onstage. Women who really knew what they were doing. It is a little bit harder to find those other voices that are also qualified. We have made those efforts to put that diversity on our stage and in our pages and on those platforms.
Many have been able to move on and and gain fame and fortune.
C. F. I’m excited that we’ve been able to provide that platform for people in the industry and that we have managed to keep diversity top of mind. I would really like to call out, that from the very beginning especially with MJBizCon we have been very clear with everybody who participates in that show that it was a professional business environment. Our exhibitors understand that personnel should be attired professionally. If they can’t come into our HQ in the attire selected for the expo floor then they don’t belong on the show floor. This is a place for people to do business. We’ve haven’t had 100 percent success as there is somebody every single year who tries to really push but we always push back!
We do not want women to walk on the show floor and feel uncomfortable.Cassandra Farrington
L.T. Do you ever reach out to other women for support?
C. F. Yes, I’ve got my my brain trust of of close friends and advisers. My business partner is obviously the number one. I don’t know a woman out there who doesn’t have that sort of support structure around her, so absolutely I do!
L.T. Have you created any specific policies for your business that support work life balance specifically around women and family?
C. F. Absolutely! We have an unusual approach to the office schedule. We have offices now but back when we starting we were a completely work at home environment. We had a whole team of people who had been recruited to the business because I loved working from home and they loved that flexibility too. But we wanted to advance the business in different ways and we needed to create an office environment. So the way that we manage it is we made Mondays everybody’s work from home day. We simply need to be together for 20 to 25 hours a week to get that in person communication and to have meetings to move things along much more quickly. In addition, we create the bonds and camaraderie with the staff. People don’t have to be at the office for 40 hours a week but they have to be there for the same 20 to 25 hours that the others are in the office.
C. F. Tuesday through Friday you need to be in the office by about 10 am and stay till about 3 pm but beyond that if you prefer to work out in the morning, if you have car pool in the afternoon, if you are trying to avoid traffic, you can figure out your travel schedule and your family schedule around those hours. Allowing flexibility to reach your 40 hours a week.
L.T. Is there something about this industry that you already know that others do not ?
C. F. This is literally the definition of what we do and our job, as soon as we figure something out, like that, we share it! We share it through the pages of our magazine and from the stage of MJBiz conventions. Our job is to figure out what other people don’t know about the industry and put that information out there so they themselves can run their businesses better and do their own jobs better.
L.T. Let’s talk about the conference in Toronto, it’s your second run at the conference in Toronto, what do you hope to see as a best in class outcome for this conference?
C. F. Just like with last year and our goal with every single MJBiz conference is to provide the trusted business insights that people need to move their businesses forward. That comes not just from the stage in the educational sector but it’s also about gathering the right exhibitors so that people can learn from and about those parts of the industry. Our expo hall is as much a part of the educational content of one of our shows as the as the conference sessions. People really truly are ready to do business and can can move those things forward get that deal flow activated.
L.T. Latin American Cannabis Symposium and Las Vegas MJBizCon events are next, should Canadian companies consider attending and if so why?
C. F. Any Canadian company that is looking to deploy capital resources or have business activities in Latin America should absolutely attend the Columbia event. That is going to be a great environment for the people who are looking for help and for the people who can give that help. It’s perfect for the people who are looking to enter the market or for people who are looking for partners who are already established in those markets.
C. F. For the Las Vegas expo, I don’t care where you’re from or what part of the industry you’re in, if you are a serious person looking to be part of the cannabis industry, the Las Vegas event is a must attend. It is by far the largest gathering of Cannabis professionals in the world. It is the it’s a place where the cannabis industry goes to both celebrate and and be proud of everything we’ve accomplished. It is an important emotional touch point. I get chilled every single year when I walk on that M. J. biz floor for for the first time because of the way it has grown and expanded.
It’s a very motivational thing for entrepreneurs!
C. F. Its the place where everybody is and if nothing else you can save yourself hours of plane flights going around the country or world meeting with people who are all going to be in Las Vegas during that same one week.
L.T. That answer rolls right into my next question, which I think you just answered, what is your most proud professional moment?
C. F. Yes, I would say that! The moment when I walk on to that Las Vegas expo floor! It’s definitely one that makes me pinch myself, it’s very exciting to get that really tangible understanding of what we’ve helped create! We’ve helped create the cannabis industry itself!