Women Grow, a group that was started in Denver in 2014, empowers female entrepreneurship in the cannabis industry. Monthly meetings allow members an opportunity to meet each other and learn about emerging business trends. Industry experts share their knowledge during a panel discussion and attendees are encouraged to swap business cards and do some serious networking during the social time that is built into each meeting’s agenda.

I attended a recent meeting of the San Diego chapter of Women Grow, which was founded two years ago. I arrived in time for the pre-meeting mixer and quickly found members eager to share their experiences with the organization.

Best friends Katie Moodie and Brooke Brun are partners in KB Pure Essentials, a San Diego company that offers a line of CBD wellness products. Brooke suffers from a severe form of epilepsy that, untreated, subjects her to an average of three grand mal seizures daily. Traditional pharmaceutical treatments were effective, but the high doses she required left her with depression and other side effects.

Katie and Brooke (Photo by A.J. Herrington)

“About two years ago we looked into hemp CBD for her seizures as an alternative medication. It ended up helping her so much that we incorporated it into our already existing company making skin care products and wellness supplements,” Katie remembers.

With cannabis, Brooke was able to reduce her use of pharmaceuticals and better manage the side effects.

Katie and Brooke soon found a generous community of like-minded entrepreneurs in Women Grow. Brooke explained how much of an asset the group has been for their company.

“There’s so much good networking, education and support from a lot of other women in the industry,” she said. “We tend to band together and help each other grow, hence Women Grow.”

Although geared toward females, Women Grow is an inclusive organization that welcomes all.

Two men I talked to at the meeting owe the creation of their business to the group. Christoffer Kammer and Dan Shook are partners in Flora Street Distribution, brokering medical marijuana and cannabis products in the San Diego area. They met at a Women Grow meeting in February of this year, and two months later launched Flora Street together.

Christoffer and Dan (Photo by A.J. Herrington)

Dan has been attending Women Grow meetings for about a year and thinks they are a great way to create and nurture relationships. He shared how continuing to attend Women Grow meetings is crucial to the success of his business.

“The biggest thing about distribution is networking. At events like this, you find sources and buyers,” he explained.

“Hemp History” was the theme of the June meeting, so the discussion panel was made up of ganjapreneurs whose companies use ingredients from hemp in their products. Katie and Brooke, of KB Pure Essentials, were joined by Barbara Yanni of Hemp Love, a company that makes gourmet chocolates and other products with hemp seeds.

All three women saw advantages to using ingredients sourced from hemp, such as legality in all 50 states (although the DEA has a different opinion on this). But they also acknowledged the challenges. Brooke sees stigma attached to products that are made of “just” hemp, even though the CBD sourced from it can be an effective therapy for many people.

Women Grow Panel on Hemp (Photo by A.J. Herrington)

Barbara, of Hemp Love, whose products are available in mainstream locations such as Whole Foods, has been told by uninformed members of law enforcement at farmers markets that her products are illegal. She’s currently battling Facebook over its refusal to run ads for her products, even though they allow ads for the very seeds she uses.

The three members of the panel all see educating the public as the key to tackling the challenges faced by the manufacturers of hemp products. As more people learn about the safety and benefits of hemp, the more it will be accepted in the marketplace, and by regulators.

Women Grow fosters leadership in the cannabis industry through chapters in 20 North American cities. To find or start a group in your area, visit www.WomenGrow.com. Your next business contact could be just a meeting away!

RELATED: Want to Legalize Marijuana? Get Moms On Board
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