POST CATEGORY: Special

11 Women Shaping Oregon's Cannabis Scene

August 06, 2017 | SimoneFischer

Leaf Ladies: Profiles of 11 inspiring women shaping Oregon's Cannabis scene.

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After watching Sara Batterby speak on multiple Cannabis forums, I was eager to pick her brain. Batterby built her name in the tech industry, but brings the corporate structure most Cannabis businesses so desperately lack.

“Hifi farms started in January 2015, and my goal was to build one of the most progressive Cannabis companies in the country, really. I founded Portland’s chapter of Women Grow to set the tone in terms of community engagement by supporting and connecting people in industry. There is a huge need for craft Cannabis in the medical market—and they need basic business skills like fundraising. So, I started the Leader Camp Peer Advisory group for mentor and advisory capacities,” Batterby said.

leaf-ladies-oregon-lead-sara-batterby-quote.jpgBatterby stands out because she understands the power of collective success. Instead of hoarding her business skills for the benefit of her own end, she looks to help other start-ups with common obstacles.

“Hifi is the first Cannabis company to register Cannabis stock options plan for employees. We have 58 percent female representation and a strong representation of people of color and vets in our work force.”

I asked her what we could expect from a day in the life of being CEO of Hifi Farms.

“We use lean business principles so our days are organized into huddles. As CEO, I drop into different huddles: sometimes I’m in the cultivation huddle. I take a lot of meetings, lot of time on the phone, I work every day with my CFO. I constantly surf across the surface of the company and figure out how to solve problems and remove obstacles,” she said.

“I need to be a year or two ahead in the next six months’ time. Sometimes my day ends with my fiancé and I pulling for light dep at 7 p.m. My day-to-day life can vary.”

Running a Cannabis business can be exhaustive and thankless work, but Batterby said she recognizes the opportunity this industry offers business women. She knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but was lucky enough to get on the ground floor of the Cannabis movement.

“There is no glass ceiling because it hasn’t been built. There are many women employed in the industry, but there is a real leadership opportunity as well. It’s extremely important that women who reach success empower the women who come in underneath them. It is just the beginning!”


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If you are looking to break into the Cannabis industry — or to brand and design your own Cannabis business — you have to talk to Lisa Snyder. Snyder’s background is rooted in a healthy dose of feminism, event organization and art design.

“We do workshops, we learn how to give women tools, resources and access points for women to succeed. Women have the opportunity right now to be equal, or even take it over. By showing up, we can show other women how to create their own access points,” Snyder said.

leaf-ladies-oregon-lisa-snyder-quote.jpgTokeativity’s first workshop was dubbed “Get that fucking job” which helped women write Cannabis-specific resumes to land potential Cannabis gigs. Actionable items such as a resume are important to Snyder because action can translate into a form of progress and eventually success.

“I have been working on the web since the mid-‘90s and organizing feminist events for over a decade. I work to help women find light inside themselves to do awesome things in the world. Both my parents died before Cannabis gained any real legitimacy. My dad was a video engineer for CBS and ended up winning an Emmy. I saw so much behind the scenes, both men and women doing awesome stuff—including women who produce,” Snyder said.

Women like Snyder are helping to connect industry newcomers to reliable connections and a source of community. The event might be about an aspect of Cannabis, but the real heart of Tokeativity is building a strong relationship network of women.

“I went to art school, so I know how to implement ideas. I can visualize it to the end. I was inspired to create Tokeativity by hanging out with friends, smoking pot and eating food! I finally found a space to host at Prism, and Tokeativity was born into the world and has grown significantly over the last seven months to nurture a safe space to create things, business or whatever.”


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Empower remains the dominant topical force in Oregon since the medical-only days. Owner and founder Trista Okel leads one of the few companies that has managed to translate that success into the new, recreational market.

“It’s all about education to build a successful mainstream topical brand, it’s important to educate as many people we can on a daily basis. It’s not like selling flower, because most people understand what flower is going to do.  I think topicals have a lot more health and wellness focus because they don’t get you high — but you do get relief.  The market for topicals is huge and largely untapped,” Okel said.

leaf-ladies-oregon-trista-okel-quote.jpgTopicals are the unsung hero of Cannabis products with the potential to go mainstream. From a market standpoint, users who frequent dispensaries are largely interested in getting physically high, but they are missing out on other ways to go about using Cannabis—such as topicals.

“Whether I am talking to people who have never tried Cannabis topicals, or taking a class on cannabinoids—I am always educating or learning. My team has grown but I still work closely with the staff on all levels.”

By being able to share Empower products with our staff, Okel said productivity has increased within the company because no one calls out [sick]for things like cramps anymore! Okel said she understands that a healthier team is key to a successful team.

“In 2013, it was myself and a part-time person. Now, Empower has grown to eleven employees. Paid time off is offered. People must be able to relax, recharge and stay healthy in order to be on this mission — give as much of a living wage as possible. Turnover costs way too much and it pisses me off so we don’t want it. Empower is looking to be employee owned, which also helps with retention. For now, we are female lesbian owned!”


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It’s important to represent your brands as if they were your own,” said Johanna Williamson, Highly Distributed’s chief of operations.

“It’s a combination of having the staff to execute and the day-to-day metrics and trained reps that know what they are talking about and invest themselves in the brands they represent. It has more to do with people who know how to talk to other people and quick thinkers. You have to read into what people are thinking.”

Williamson says Cannabis wholesale is all about connecting people with the right products. It’s a lot about understanding your products and the price points for clients. Most of the work is touch and go because the industry foundations are still under construction.

“We currently work with seven to ten companies. I think everyone who has made it through that period is doing good things. Not everyone made it, and we all made adjustments. One of my biggest focuses is working to incorporate philanthropy into companies. If we can find an area where a company had good margins, they could donate some of the profit.”

If brands look at the option of distribution and if they don’t see value or benefit of working with a distribution company, you must figure out what they need, she says.

Williamson says distribution companies remove the headache of monitoring sales reps in the field.

“The hardest part is that the industry is so up and down, we now have a new wave of extract producers and there is all this product out there but no one is really managing the flow of it all. I think the challenge is helping companies find the right material to provide and finding the right relationships. Oregon is in a position to create its own sustainable, self-feeding system and we will be so much more independent than we would without it.


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Samantha Montanaro is the owner and creator of Prism House and specializes in event coordination and artful design.

“Prism House is my freelance design and event organizing business at this big house my husband and I bought to create this space. It’s all beveled windows and prisms everywhere. As a patient and Cannabis smoker, I was really excited to be focusing on Cannabis.”

Montanaro hosts all sorts of events, including the monthly Oregon Cannabis Industry Meetup, which is just $10 at the door. Montanaro also hosts swanky dinner events, which can cost up to $100 per person. Prism House looks to host events for all needs and purposes.

“I learned how to throw big events, and create safe spaces — not only physically safe, but a space of inclusiveness — it is really important to me that every event has an intention.”

As a creative and a mother, Montanaro says she has always surrounded herself with diverse groups of women. When Montanaro and her husband bought the house, they wanted to use the space to build the budding Cannabis community—and do it with style.

“Once everything is going, I tiptoe around trying to be secretive and watch peoples’ faces and expressions and observe the magic happening. It can seem like chaos, but it always comes together perfectly.”

“It’s the legal landscape in Oregon. It’s a big challenge because not only are you a pioneer, but you must take risks for the client—and I am willing to do that. Without Canna events, it’s easy to feel extremely isolated. They bring people together and it doesn’t exclude you or make you lonely. We should be able to experience this together and make it a part of our culture. And make it a part of our everyday lives.”


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Laura Brannan is the force behind Portland’s beloved Elbe’s Edibles. She is serious about food and at the heart of her recipes is her amazing cannabutter, which has taken years and years to totally perfect.

After watching that incredible tenacity and growth, I was delighted to sit down with Brannan to discuss what keeps her inspired in the kitchen.

“What makes us stand out is we have taken over seven years to perfect our cannabutter recipes. Seven years of research and development, and by doing so, our edibles have no flavor of Cannabis in our foods. It’s food first, and everything has to taste amazing and medicate strongly before it leaves the kitchen. Recipe refinement is essential,” Brannan said.

Brannan only sources plant material from the highest quality of craft Cannabis cultivators, like award winning Geek Farms. The Cannabis comes first, then the butter. What makes Brannan’s philosophy so special is that the integrity of all ingredients is on the same level. It’s a true “food first” mentality because the quality and the delivery of the high means everything.

“I get to get up each day and play in my 3,000-square-foot custom built Cannabis kitchen. Two to six hours are spent working with my hand-picked team of amazing talented individuals who all own their own skills and on various projects. My favorite part of the day is when we eat our staff lunch together. No matter how busy we are, we still sit down with our crew and share a family meal.” But it’s not all gravy.

“One challenge for Cannabis in Oregon is the rules against public consumption. It affects tourism dollars, it affects how our industry is perceived and it affects the bottom line of our profits,” Brannan says.  “The only positive I can derive of that is the Oregon laws demand discretion, and my products offer that. While this can be a win for my company, it’s certainly not a win for Cannabis. Public consumption is a fight I will continue fight for.”


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Mindful Organics is a flower producing farm with a focus on sustainability.  The whole team has some kind of background in sustainable practice.

CEO Stephanie Woodruff believes the core of Mindful is integrity, science and wellness. They run a tight crew of eight employees total. Her business partner has a background in biochemistry, and wellness creating products.

Woodruff’s team is striving to close the loop and bring sustainability to the indoor world. Her “team of nerds” does their own breeding, working to hunt phenos, seeds and special cuts.

leaf-ladies-oregon-stephanie-quote.jpg“I do a little bit of everything: I manage people, I manage operations, I do all the sales and marketing outreach and the sustainability program. We currently boast zero waste and we recycle everything. My current project and goal is to get rid of plastics. All of our packaging is compostable and recyclable,” she said.

“We are looking for closed looped systems to apply to indoor gardening. We are composting, using grey water catch net systems and grey water gardens for native gardens all around
the property. We also do companion planting and generally spearhead sustainability as an indoor garden.”

Woodruff says when you’re growing outside you’re working with a living environment that endows your land. Inside, you are building systems. Woodruff calls it “bio mimickery” to guide indoor growing techniques.

She also said solar panels and LEDs are in the works, and soon, Tesla roof panels for the grow.  “I’m looking at the long term, which requires an investment. It’s exciting because there hasn’t been anyone doing anything like this before.

We can help create and mold the industry with the highest sustainability practices and little environmental impact. It’s important for consumers and business owners to be a model for the rest of the country.”


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Gnome Grown started a small, mom-and-pop garden and has expanded into to a storefront in Oregon City. Autumn took the time to tell why Gnome Grown is so special.

“I’ve been working in the Cannabis industry for almost a decade, and I’ve seen the evolution of where it started, and what was important then—versus what’s important now. Working for Gnome Grown embodies the ethics in Cannabis right now. I originally started working on the farm after observing all of their ethical and sustainable practices. I was stoked. They are trying to create a standard for the quality of Cannabis but also encourage people to be mindful of our carbon footprint.”

leaf-ladies-oregon-autumn-buck-quote.jpgGnome Grown stands out as a female-lead brand because of the dedication to clean growing practices on the farm and to sustainable packaging on the retail floor. The holistic approach makes them one of the front-runners for Oregon Cannabis industry standards.

“Everything Gnome Grown does in terms of health and ecology is amazing; we practice no-till farming and not being wasteful. We use our land and resources from the farm and close the loop. They have a good mind to set the bar moving forward and we believe in fair market pricing, so everybody has access to quality medicine,” Buck said.

“For me, I am constantly switching gears.  It’s fast paced and at any given time a hundred different things are up in the air. It requires you to be fast moving, quick thinking and be a problem solver.  The people who work on the farm and the retail setting — we all have one goal in mind.  It’s a level of camaraderie I have not experienced working anywhere else.”

Buck describes the last six months as tough, especially watching friends and peers going through the difficulties of change in the industry. She and many others believe it’s a conflict of interest with Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) managing alcohol and Cannabis. The laws make it really tough for Cannabis businesses to succeed, Buck said.

Adapt or perish. I asked if there were any personnel issues between managing the farm and the newly formed retail crew.

“My biggest problem with employees is just not having enough of them! Everyone who has joined our team realized we are all fortunate to be a part of something really special.”

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