By Paul Schneider
You remember the the old saying, “You throw like a girl”?
Well, thanks to Jazmin Hupp and several other women, we might have to change that to “You grow like a girl.”
Hupp is the founder and executive director of Women Grow, the first industry organization led by and intended to promote women in the ever-burgeoning cannabis enterprise.
Founded a mere 14 months ago, the group, dedicated to assisting and empowering women throughout the industry, has exploded from an initial membership of 20 businesses putting up $3,000 each to today’s 33 chapters in the United States and Canada. Over 15,000 subscribe to its newsletter.
That it’s also been able to survive for 14 months is a testament to its philosophies, foremost among them that it’s a for-profit organization. Try Googling other women-led organizations in other businesses that are non-profits, and you’ll find that many of them have fallen by the wayside.
“What’s been challenging so far is that we are a for-profit,” said Hupp in a phone interview from Seattle, where she was attending HempFest. “We’re trying to demonstrate that you can be a for-profit and be socially conscious at the same time. It’s profits with a purpose.”
Like any for-profit, Women Grow isn’t without its challenges, like making sure it, well, makes a profit. Also at the start, there was the question of running up against the traditional “good ol’ boys network.”According to Hupp, even in an industry still very much in its infancy, the male detractors were out there.
“Oh yeah,” she said with a chuckle. “There’s definitely been a negative reaction but it’s been the minority of the minority. They seem to equate it to something like Affirmative Action. They don’t think they an organization like Women Grow is necessary.”
Women Grow grew out of a chance meeting between Hupp, who was attending a conference in Denver in June 2014, and Jane West, who is Chairman of the Executive Board of Edible Events, advertised as Colorado’s top cannabis event production company.
“I wasn’t in the cannabis industry at the time,” Hupp said. Not that she wasn’t keeping herself busy. Hupp has launched six companies in retail, eCommerce, business services and media and was serving as the Director of Women 2.0, a 15-year old endeavor helping women gain a larger share of available venture capital funding.
“They announced at this conference that there would be a thing called Women Grow,” she continued. “I went up to Jane West afterward and said to her, ‘This is a great idea.’ And she said to me, ‘Well I took the model from Women 2.o.'”
Kindred spirits? If such a thing exists in the business world, then yes. Combining their business savvy and experience, they have developed an organization whose purpose is to educate and assist women both inside and, perhaps more importantly, outside the marijuana industry. Hupp says that by next year they expect to expand into 64 cities in six countries, including France, Germany, Jamaica and Israel.
What seems to make Women Grow unique is not only catering to women who own businesses to network and expand their ventures, but through such programs as their monthly Signature Network Events, making a conscious effort to recruit women who want to start their own companies, giving them a leg up where perhaps ordinarily one could not be found.
“I’ve been a veteran of some useless networking meetings,” said Hupp. “So we wanted to create a higher bar (with the Signature Network Event). “We try to relate to the women that the industry is never going to be this small again, so whatever contacts you make now are going to pay off exponentially in the future.”
To that end, events are held on the first Thursday of every month in 33 different cities across the U.S. and Canada. In each city, a woman is contracted out to host an event and is guaranteed half the revenue generated. “We’ve created a small-business model for someone new to the industry to help them get in,” Hupp said. “We’re helping women find their first position or first business partner.” A typical event would include an hour of general networking, followed by guest speakers talking about issues that would be unique to the state where the event is held.
It only makes sense that in the marijuana business, where changes are happening seemingly every day at a seemingly blistering pace, that more and more people want to invest and get in on the ground floor. Women Grow, recognizing the emerging market attracting the female entrepreneurial spirit, will soon launch a Seed School, a 12-month online training program that members can use to clarify and refine their business ideas and pitch investors.
In the meantime, Hupp, West and Women Grow’s other members will continue their mission of empowering and inspiring women to enter and and thrive in the world of medicinal and recreational marijuana.
Not bad for a bunch of girls.