Whitney Beatty is founder and CEO of the Apothecarry Case, a complete humidor organizational system designed specifically to meet the needs of the discerning smoker.
Some of her sage wisdom about being in the space as a female entrepreneur:
“The odds are always against you as an entrepreneur, but you have to trust in your ability and capabilities. You have to shake off anything you hear that tried to consciously or subconsciously limit what you can achieve. That’s also the joy of working in such a new and booming market …You get to blaze a new trail.”
Whitney, what drew you to work with this magical cannabis plant?
I never imagined myself working in the cannabis industry. To be honest, I did not use cannabis when I was younger. I didn’t use in high school and I tried it a couple of times in college, but I wasn’t impressed – besides, Nancy Reagan told me to say no to drugs and I believed her! I had a 15-year career working in entertainment — but a couple of things changed my trajectory. First of all, I was diagnosed with anxiety. It was a life-altering experience for me, I went from sitting at my desk with shortness of breath and heart palpitations to racing myself to the emergency room and parking between two ambulances at the ER and being pretty sure that I was going to die of a heart attack.
Besides being very scary, I was most frightened because the medicine that I was given to treat my anxiety did not work for me — and I tried a lot of them. Finally, in an offhand comment, my doctor suggested I look into cannabis. The rest, as they say, is history.
I was able to find a CBD:THC regimen that worked for me. I was able to get off of all the other drugs my doctor had put me on. I was able to do the research on the plant and learn how misinformed I was.
And then I realized that, although I now love the plant, I did not connect to the cannabis culture as I thought I might. I detested the stigma. I detested how people avoided talking about it. And I realized that while I kept my wine in a wine fridge, liquor in a bar, cigars in a humidor — I was still keeping my high-quality cannabis in a shoebox under my bed. This is inappropriate — not only for safety and freshness, but it perpetuated the stigma I was trying to erase and shamed my experience. What other medication do you store in a shoebox?
After meeting so many like-minded cannabis users who lamented about a lack of good storage system, worried about securing buds away from kids and pets, and who were tired of searching around for their stash to discover it dried out from plastic baggies and non-airtight dispensary jars, Apothecarry was born. The brand seeks to redefine the image of cannabis users who take pride and pleasure in their stash, while filling a hole in the marijuana paraphernalia market. This includes everyone from the attorneys who toke after their high-stress workday and the “stiletto stoners” who host ladies night, to the seniors using medication for health benefits and everyone in between who demands the best in all things.
How do you and your company hope to impact and/or inspire women?
I think females add enormous value to the space, and I dedicate time and effort to supporting women transitioning into cannabis, with speaking engagements, workshops and as a board member of Supernova Women. We tend to look a little bit more holistically at the lifestyle of cannabis consumers.
A lot of the higher-end items that you see that take cannabis out of that counterculture and into mainstream culture have been spearheaded by women. A lot of education that I see happening in the space now has been spearheaded by women. I also tend to see women understand that this is a huge market and rising tides lifts all ships, and are more than willing to share information and to build this industry together. They make me proud to work in this space. I’m also a single mother and I tell people all the time if you want your investment managed right — have a single mother do it. I keep a close eye on our dollars and cents. We have a really low burn rate. I take the money invested in me personally. I don’t take it lightly.
What has been the most difficult and the most rewarding thing about building your business?
There is this idea out there that working in cannabis is a free-for-all — and that were all smoking weed all day making tons of money the easiest way possible — and nothing could be further than the truth. Cannabis entrepreneurs are responsible for everything else every other business is responsible for PLUS we have an added layer of legislation, regulation and eyes over us at every point in time. We pay taxes, but we can’t bank. They want our money for licenses but we cannot take payments from customers with credit cards. It’s insane.
For me personally there were a couple of challenges that stick out. First of all, the key to being able to be a successful entrepreneur is not necessary to know everything, but to be able to gain access to the people you need to fill your knowledge gaps. In an industry that’s changing as quickly as the cannabis space, that can prove to be very difficult. There’s not long track records, case studies, and standard operating procedures. The rules change on an everyday basis and a lot of people don’t like to share information to keep their competitive advantage. You have to innovate and be nimble.
Raising money is also a huge challenge in any circumstance, and even more so in cannabis, where investors are leery of putting in money on a space that still federally illegal. And mind you, I own a company that does not touch the planet. I sell a box – a locking storage box! Not to mention the fact that over the last five years only .02 percent of capital raises across ALL start-ups were closed by an African American female founder. So I knew there was an uphill road in front of me.
I overcame these hurdles with hard work, dedication — and a hell of a lot of Google. I was able to build a community around myself which is very difficult as an entrepreneur. One of the ways I was successful in that was by joining the canopy business accelerator in San Diego. It gave me access not only to a cohort of entrepreneurs who were dealing with the same issues who I was able to mastermind with and share resources together on how to solve banking issues, compliance issues, etc. to accelerate all of our companies, but I was given access to mentorship from across all areas of business, which allows me a much broader view of market trends and where industry was moving.
In regard to raising money, it was a mix of preparation, due diligence, and the ability to develop traction. It was incredibly frustrating for a while. I was able to win the ArcView group’s 2017 Los Angeles Pitch prize for $50,000 which was a great start. But the longer I found myself raising the flatter my sales became. I realized at a point that I needed to take the money I had in hand put it to work so I could prove to future investors that if they gave me the money I would do what I said that I would. And that worked. I was able to take that small amount of money and my next month was 500% better than the month before. Before long I was able to close a seed round. I’m back at it raising my bridge. And it helps to know that although it may be difficult, it’s not impossible.
Cannabis so far is a local industry, born from a global movement. How can leaders across geographies work together to bring other women into the industry?
I believe that key is communication – specifically, sharing our knowledge and experiences with women interested in the space. Sharing information and resources in the digital age is easier than ever and it’s important that women use these tools to network together to build the inclusive industry that cannabis deserves.
What is one bit of wisdom or advice you have for other women looking to lead in this space?
My favorite quote is “women who seek to be equal to men lack ambition.” It’s something I’ve taken to heart, both as a woman and a woman of color. It served me well as an executive in the uber-competitive entertainment industry, and as I started Apothecarry. The odds are always against you as an entrepreneur, but you have to trust in your ability and capabilities. You have to shake off anything you hear that tried to consciously or subconsciously limit what you can achieve. That’s also the joy of working in such a new and booming market — I can’t compare what Apothecarry can do with anyone else because this space didn’t exist 10 years ago. You get to blaze a new trail. YOU CAN DO THIS!!
Check out her beautiful products at https://www.theapothecarrycase.com.