CHANTELLE ELSNER – SVP of Retail Operations, Northeast Division, TerrAscend Corp.(OTC: TRSSF)
What is your proudest accomplishment in the cannabis industry?
First, it is not about pride for me, it is an honor to be in my position as a leader in the Cannabis field and a steward of responsibility for TerrAscend. I do feel particularly accomplished in a generative sense, however. From creating the design and layout of stores to cultivating new front-line teams, and ultimately generating new opportunities for our brand, I take great joy in the creative elements of my position. Blending seamlessly the operational, artistic, and human elements of my sphere of influence is where I feel most accomplished.
Do you feel that the cannabis industry has more opportunities for female-identifying people than other industries?
Yes, I do. A key aspect of leadership in a burgeoning industry is pioneering new pathways for those communities that have been underserved or marginalized. The sheer youth of the Cannabis industry allows leaders to see the historical failures of the marketplace to actively address, and correct, discriminatory practices. TerrAscend has extraordinary women driving much of our success and we hope to stand as an example to other companies and industries of what can be accomplished when women are promoted, valued, and encouraged.
Do you feel you have to work twice as hard as male colleagues, or do you think the industry has moved past that?
My male-identifying colleagues are exceptional and industrious. I do not work twice as hard as they do. However, the area where women often see the need to work more diligently arises from challenging the fraternal structures that have traditionally lacked inclusivity. That the Cannabis community should be homogenous is clear, but that must include key factors to benefit women like women’s leadership groups on a large scale, and women mentoring women on a smaller one. I should point out that men should be welcomed to all women’s leadership events as a way of breaking down non-inclusive structures.
What was your biggest challenge in business and how did you overcome it?
Cannabis is youthful, which makes innovation necessary and easier to implement, but it also means that the industry changes rapidly and unexpectedly. My biggest challenge is devising and coordinating tactical elements of our retail success while maintaining focus on grander more strategic elements. Building a team-oriented around the cultivation of unique voices and independence allows for flexibility and supporting the autonomy of those team members bypasses unnecessary impediments to progress.
What have you or your company done to help give more opportunities for women?
We recently addressed shortcomings in how our insurance handled caregiving for women, choosing to have children. I should point out that that situation was identified and rectified by male-identifying leaders to support their team. That speaks to our internal core values, the ones that guide us toward principled and thoughtful leadership. We have also produced training materials and guidelines for best practices in candidate screening, diversity, and inclusion, and promoting “culture fit” as a key component in hiring and promotion. All of those are quality responses, but the truth is that opportunities for women can only be realized when leadership believes in the value of women and supports in both theory and practice a workplace of genuine inclusion. I am one of those leaders for TerrAscend.
What are your personal goals for 2022?
This one is easy for me. The rigors of my position demand a hefty measure of my time, and while I am doing the things mentioned in the previous answers, I find it difficult to establish close personal ties with other industry professionals. While most refer to that as networking, I find that term to be clinical and impersonal. Reaching out to like-minded people, forming meaningful relationships, and personally attaching myself more to the community, I work so diligently for professionally.