Public relations whiz Rosie Mattio rises at 5:30 am most days of the week. It’s a little window of peace before her four daughters wake up and she’s off and running. When she’s not getting the kids ready for school, preparing meals or shuttling them to activities, she’s representing some of the biggest brands in legal marijuana.
“Everyone knows I’m the ‘cannabis mom’ at school,” boasts Mattio, who lives in suburban New Jersey just outside New York City, of working with a brand new market for a product that is still federally illegal in the U.S.
Needless to say, there are a lot of questions – even in the carpool line.
‘People come over to me and are like, ‘So, what strain would I use?’ or ‘Where do you get cannabis around here? [And I respond] ‘ No, I’m not a drug dealer. This is my industry. This is my business. ,” she says.
Mattio fell into focusing her firm on cannabis in 2014 after taking several years off to stay at home to raise her kids. A chance assignment representing The Stoner’s Cookbook, a popular cannabis content site later renamed Herb, was the light bulb moment. She realized there was money to be made in the nascent industry for someone with her years of experience, media contacts and skill set.
“I have a full-time firm now. I represent ten clients. This is my job. This is part of my life. It’s part of my identity. And this is me coming back into the workforce,” says Mattio.
As the legal marijuana industry matures, Mattio is one of a number of mothers capitalizing on the market, launching innovative startups and creating new products that allow them to earn income while affording them the flexibility to raise their families.
The opportunities are potentially huge. A new report by Marijuana Business Daily predicts retail sales of medical and recreational cannabis in the United States will hit $8 billion-$10 billion this year – a nearly 50% increase from 2017 – and rise as high as $22 billion by 2022. And approximately one in three cannabis executives is female according to 2017 research by MJBizDaily.
When steroids and over the counter lotions failed to soothe her young daughter’s itchy and unsightly eczema flare-ups, Krista Whitley got down to business — in her kitchen. She began experimenting with emollients she bought online and combining them with cannabidiol, known as “CBD,” the non-psychoactive compound found in industrial hemp, a cousin of marijuana, that’s been shown to reduce inflammation.
“She was wearing long pants with long sleeves in the 100 degrees August heat in Las Vegas because she was just so ashamed of her skin and would get picked on by kids for being the ‘lizard kid,’ says Whitley of her drive to help her daughter Bella, who was then 8-years-old.
At the time, Whitley was already developing Altitude, a digital platform to sell legal cannabis products along with her social media marketing firm focused on pot brands. After trial and error over two years, and with support from Bella’s doctors, she finally concocted a recipe that worked. Last year, she started formulating her BELLA line of skincare products in an FDA-approved lab and in January began selling them in natural food stores and online. As for Bella, her mom’s enterprise has been life-changing.
“She’s now been off steroids for about two years and has been completely flare-up free. It’s been transformative,” Whitley says.
For mom of four, Kat Donatello, necessity was also the mother of invention. She was looking for a new way to help her aging dog with achy joints when she decided to try making her own dog biscuits infused with CBD in 2014. After seeing a difference in her own pet, the serial entrepreneur decided to make a business out of it. From the start, she ran the venture as a family affair by corralling her daughters to help sell Austin&Kat products at pop-up shops and even taste-testing new varieties (sometimes topped with Nutella). Multi-tasking was key to managing her growing business and motherhood along with keeping up her intense training for Ironman triathlons.
“I have been that mom who would have her headset on, could hold a phone conversation, do laps on the track all while watching my daughter play lacrosse,” laughs Donatello, who is on the brink of launching Austin & Kat in the UK this summer.
“The pet industry is exponential in growth, especially as CBD becomes more and more mainstream and more and more talked about,” she says, pointing out that even TODAY featured a segment on pets and CBD.
One of the misconceptions of the marijuana industry is that you have to be growing or “touching the plant” to be in the business. But with the legalization of some form of cannabis in 30 states plus the District of Columbia, a cottage industry of related businesses is cropping up and creating opportunities for entrepreneurial moms to jump in and launch all kinds of startups that address this new market.
Former entertainment executive Whitney Beatty had been prescribed medical marijuana to treat anxiety in 2012. But as a mom with a toddler and a dog in the house, she wanted a better way to store her weed.
“I had a wine fridge for my wine. I had a cigar humidor in my house. I had a closet that I kept all my alcohol in. But the thing that I called medicine, that made a real health difference for me, I kept in a shoebox under my bed. Really? Your medicine’s in a dirty Nike shoebox. That’s not a thing. So, let’s clean up this experience and let’s make it feel more presentable,” she explains.
So in 2015, she began to develop a stylish, secure carrying case that was air-tight and also offered an organizational system. After raising $30,000 from friends and family, she made a bold move and sold her home and invested the cash into her own company called Apothecary.
“I knew I’d made a lot of money for other companies and [wondered] what would happen if took even a part of those skills and was able to channel them into something that I could do for myself, something that I was excited and enthused about,” says the LA-based Beatty, who closed a $250,000 seed round of financing that included backing from the female-focused angel investment group, Pipeline Angels last August. Her enterprise is paying off. The single mom says sales of her Apothecary cases are up 121% over last year.
Passion for cannabis was a key factor for April Pride, a talented designer with a master’s degree in architecture from Parsons School of Design, to start her business. Pride is the visionary behind Van der Pop, the sophisticated line of pre-rolled joints and discrete smoking tools like stash jars and pipe cleaners with a feminine aesthetic. The Seattle-based mom of two sons ages and 8 and 11 was a proud recreational user of marijuana but wanted to improve the experience for women.
“It is a brave new world and not everything looks like a bong and a glass pipe,” she explains of her desire to create beautiful and functional products starting in 2016.
Pride, who found success as an interior designer and in the fashion world, soon realized after she started her product line that education was essential to growing the business and began to create editorial content to help inform her audience about the cannabis lifestyle. A year later, in 2017, her startup was acquired by Hiku Brands, the Canadian company that owns Tokyo Smoke retail shops. She says the capital allowed her to focus on her personal mission to de-stigmatize cannabis use and to advocate for responsible consumption. One of her greatest joys is seeing how her two sons are tuned into the impact she’s making through her work.
“They know cannabis is something that not everyone thinks is okay. But when there are positive stories written about cannabis or about me, they know that change is afoot and that somehow their mom is a part of that,” she says.