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Thriving in Chaos: Characteristics of Successful Women in Cannabis

By Renata Serban .

Cannabis is an emerging industry that has been rapidly evolving over the past several years. More women than ever are entering this exciting, difficult market and are likely to face unparalleled opportunity coupled with incredible challenges. Renata Serban (RS), manager in Citrin Cooperman’s Cannabis Advisory Services, sat down with Elana Frankel (EF), Chief Creative Officer of Indigo + Haze, to learn more about what it takes for anyone, particularly women, to thrive in cannabis businesses.

EF: Let’s be clear, the cannabis industry is in chaos and there are no rules in chaos. We're building the runway and building the plane all at the exact same time. While that's very exciting and can spark a lot of entrepreneurial spirit, whether you are man or woman, you really need to be the type of person who can thrive in chaos and constant change.

RS: What do you think is contributing to women's success in the cannabis industry? What kind of traits and personalities do woman need to have to succeed in this space, to run a successful business, or to represent certain groups?

EF: The cannabis industry is not for the weak. It is not for somebody who is used to or expecting an infrastructure that is tight, pristine, or well-established. We're talking about chaos. We're talking about rules, regulations, and laws that are constantly changing. You are challenged to pivot not only within your state, but from state to state, as well as on the federal level. You really have to be able to work within uncharted territories and blaze new trails.

To be successful in this industry, you have to be fully dedicated to this plant because it has been so deeply maligned for so many years that not only are you trying to build a business, but you're also trying to change people's minds. It’s true that women are flocking to the industry, and they don't mind working in that sort of high-risk business environment.

But it's important to focus on the whole plant and to understand that there is retail, plant therapeutics and cannabinoids, textile from hemp, rope, biodiesel fuel, and food. There are so many ancillary businesses and moving parts to consider. Anyone who is successful in this space needs to fully understand the accompanying laws, accounting, systems, electrical, security, and delivery components necessary to keep the business running. All of these components also easily transfer into the cannabis industry if you have had these prior experiences in other industries.

The one thing I will say that was important for me was that I needed to make sure that I had one friend. I just needed one. Everyone says you need a community. I just needed one woman by my side who I could trust, who I felt safe with. It was important to me to have that confidant that I could walk through this industry with. It has helped me immensely. And finally,

RS: So, your advice for women to succeed in this space is to really partner with another women?

EF: Whether you're going to partner with another woman on a business or you're just going to have somebody with you that you can go to events with, you need someone that you feel comfortable bouncing ideas off of and networking with. Any sort of relationship works. Make sure you have it. It has been really important for me, as I move through the industry and the doors open for me, that I also hold the door open so that others can step inside.

To learn more about thriving in a cannabis business, please contact one of our Cannabis Advisory Services professionals or Renata Serban at To view the video interview, click here.

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