Growing awareness of the lack of parity in access to capital has driven one startup veteran and experienced angel, Sara Batterby (former CEO of Hifi Farms ), launched a new funding masterclass that recently kicked off in Portland, Oregon. Contact the Batterby Group for more information on how to attend.
CannEpoch talked to Sara about what it takes to make it in the cannabis business.
Q. What areas are opening up in the cannabis industry?
A. I think the big growth area is female-centric consumer products, cosmetics, wellness, food and beverage and female sexual empowerment. There are already a lot of cannabis products in these segments but the room for innovation and brand development here is huge. The entrance of hemp-derived CBD gives many of these products a new way to move past the restrictive cannabis regulations and sell directly to consumer nationwide and even globally.
Q. Was there a taboo reaction among your professional peers to your cannabis start-up?
A. Cannabis legalization moved quickly between 2014 and today. I moved to Oregon right as Measure 90 made adult use legal in that state. I remember staring at my profile on LinkedIn and thinking “OK, well this will be interesting”. Up until then, I had a pretty buttoned up career in technology and finance and I didn’t even smoke weed. I was not a prude by any means, but I was not at all sure how my professional network would react to the news.
Most people were curious but as someone who has spent my career analyzing startups, I wondered how my subtle hesitance would play out more broadly and how many smart, talented professionals were deciding that cannabis might carry too high a price in professional capital. Almost four years later this has definitely changed and best in class professionals from just about every domain flood into this exciting, growing industry every day.
Q. What does starting a business in this industry take?
A. Well, this is a short question with a very long answer but if I was to sum it up, I would say that it takes an almost delusional conviction that this thing must be brought into the world. On top of that, you pile a ton of work, some money, and a strong team. The other 80% is luck and timing.
Q. What are some of the things nobody ever looks out for or figures in?
A. Founders have a habit of being obsessed with their own offering and company. That is great but what often define success in a new business is something outside the company that will give you an edge or cause you a major problem. In cannabis, we were all captive to the rulemaking process after legalization. There were things we could do to influence it but we were essentially powerless. For me, that was a great lesson in understanding how much the concept of control in a new business is a fantasy and how external factors, largely beyond our control are often what define success or failure. I always advise entrepreneurs to look beyond their own business and try to recognize and read the themes and trends that are the underlying dynamics of their market. Sort of the zeitgeist that contextualizes the company.
Q. What are your top pieces of advice for CannEpoch readers?
A. Be prepared to embrace the ambiguity of stepping into something new to you, and just NEW. Cannabis is a churning whirlpool of startups. Using human development as an analogy, think toddler. Very fun but not much in the way of balance and stability and prone to tantrums. Every shade of talent is relevant and needed but the industry still lacks much of the formal structure and culture that mainstream professionals are used to. If you are thinking of making the switch, be prepared to create structure where you want it. It’s an awesome opportunity to design your world if you look at it that way.