CLAIRE MOLONEY – SENIOR REGIONAL DIRECTOR, EAST, LEAFLINK
What is your proudest accomplishment in the cannabis industry?
Of course, it has been a very special journey as the first hire of LeafLink to be a part of our growth from the beginning: I still fondly remember celebrating the very first order on our marketplace back in 2016 (shoutout to Infinite Wellness in Colorado!), and now we have over 10,000 brands and retailers doing nearly $5B in orders on our much more robust supply chain platform. There are so many big team wins and contributions that have gone into that.
If I had to pick one thing, though, it would be that I’m proud of the amazing team of nearly 300 people (and counting) that LeafLink has built. I genuinely enjoy working with my fellow LeafLinkers – they are some of the smartest, most passionate people I’ve ever met. We really don’t have anyone simply clocking in and clocking out here, because everyone is so dedicated to building a product and an experience that will shape this industry for the better.
Do you feel that the cannabis industry has more opportunity for female-identifying people than other industries?
Yes, I do. Regulators, especially in states like NY and MA, have been extremely intentional in designing inclusive regulations that give more access to people of color, women, veterans, and other underrepresented groups. Because of this, we’re seeing more female-founded companies and commitments to hiring women than we might in other traditional industries. Of course, there is always more work to be done here, and I’m excited to see the industry keep pushing itself in a more equitable direction.
Do you feel you have to work twice as hard as male colleagues or do you think the industry has moved past that?
I think two key things make cannabis a great industry for women: the amount of opportunity and the awareness surrounding bias of all kinds (gender, race, sexual identity, and more). The birth of cannabis during this specific time period is unique, because there has been a global shift in how people are thinking about equality, and the cannabis community is really embracing that in how we think about moving this illicit industry to a regulated one, and making sure we do that thoughtfully.
However, I don’t think the work is anywhere near done. I do think women still need to work harder than their male colleagues do to prove that they are deserving of the same opportunities. There are still systemic biases that persist that create barriers for us (and for many other underrepresented groups). But, I think we should all be encouraged by the progress we’re making: every step forward we’re taking, no matter how small, is a step the women who follow us won’t need to take when they go for that promotion, that coveted initiative, that leadership position. On a personal note, every extra hour I spend perfecting presentations, crafting decks, or preparing for client meetings might just show someone in that room how powerful a woman at work can be, and that might be another hour a future woman won’t have to spend. I find that extremely motivating.
What was your biggest challenge in business and how did you overcome it?
My personal biggest challenge was learning how to get comfortable with constant change at a rapidly growing startup. As an early hire, you wear many hats – but over time, as the team grows, you inevitably need to give away your responsibilities as new, experienced colleagues join the company. At first, I was nervous about what giving away parts of my job would mean for my own future at LeafLink. Now that it’s happened so many times, I’ve learned that giving away my responsibilities is one of the most powerful things I can do for my own career, because it’s given me the chance to seize new initiatives or to spend more time on what I’m good at. Now, I jump at the opportunity to give away parts of my job to new hires (P.S. we’re hiring!)
What has you or your company done to help give more opportunities for women?
LeafLink has made diversity in hiring a key initiative and our Talent team reports on how we’re doing compared to our goals during our Town Halls. We spend extra time hiring to ensure we can interview diverse panels of candidates, especially for leadership positions. We partner with a number of groups, such as Women Who Code, to try to increase the number of candidates identifying as female in our pipeline.
In addition to that, we have a Women’s ERG that meets monthly to foster a deeper connection across women at LeafLink. We have a buddy program within that group where women meet 1:1 to discuss the opportunities and challenges in their chosen career path. This has built a real internal community that can discuss ways to improve LeafLink for women, and it has surfaced new ideas and initiatives that we can take on to continue to make LeafLink a great place for women to work.
What are your personal goals for 2022?
My personal goal in 2022 is to make a real impact in the upcoming adult use market in New York. I was born and raised in New York, I went to a state-funded college in New York, and I’ve worked in New York City for the last decade. I’ve spent the last 6 years launching LeafLink in states across the country, and I finally get the chance to launch it here – it’s truly coming full circle. I am so inspired by the regulators and community in New York, because I have witnessed their serious dedication to making our market the most diverse and inclusive in the country. Whether it’s bringing LeafLink’s technology to this market to help entrepreneurs rapidly scale their new businesses or simply lending advice to prospective licensees based on my years of experience in the industry – I want to do my part in making New York the best cannabis market in the world.