Women's Month Spotlight: Erin Gore

Garden Society

 

Erin Gore/Spotlight 

What is your proudest accomplishment in the cannabis industry? 

Creating a brand that resonates and is meaningful to so many. Garden Society stems from my personal journey to find balance in life and being surrounded by women feeling the same pressures. I’m proud to have built a company alongside my business partner, Karli Warner, that’s based on a shared passion to encourage people to explore non-traditional ways of finding joy in their everyday lives. 

Do you feel that the cannabis industry has more opportunities for female-identifying people than other industries? 

While we have made strides as female-identifying individuals in the industry, we have rapidly declined from where we were a few short years ago. So, honestly, I’m not sure. In past years, I would have said “absolutely” since we’re literally building a new industry right now. We need more allies to step up to the table to join us in this journey. 

What has become apparent is that the cannabis industry is a highly capital-intensive industry filled with bias. Gone are the days you can make a beautiful product and sell it via the collective model. Now, one needs access to significant capital to launch and scale their business, and traditional capital channels like bank loans and small business grants are not available for the cannabis industry. The well-documented lack of funding for female-identifying individuals and the bias that reverberates across the industry if one does find bias definitely limits our potential. I think it’s our time to stand in our power and call out this bias and lack of capital, and find incredible allies that will support us to create a more equitable industry. 

Do you feel you have to work twice as hard as male colleagues or do you think the industry has moved past that? 

Only 2% of venture capital dollars go to women overall, and in cannabis, it’s even less (<1%). As I successfully navigated my own fundraising journey for Garden Society, it became clear that one of the reasons women fail to bring a great product to market is simply because they don’t know how to raise the capital. Women are much less comfortable being confident in their vision, usually from lack of confidence with financials and fundraising. This became even more clear during the pandemic–women were managing their children, their home responsibilities, their community responsibilities, and their career. 

During our fundraising, we were accused by men of not being authentic enough since we didn’t have any female investors–that was a turning point for us. We decided to build a slate of female angel investors, and they are undoubtedly amazing. We know first-hand how incredibly powerful women allies can be, and how we will work twice as hard to get the credit we deserve. We also 

have been able to find incredible male allies who see our vision, help us address bias, and empower us to build the company of our dreams.

And yes, we definitely have to work twice as hard as male peers in the industry. Do I think that it is fair and just? Absolutely not. Do I think it’s helped us build a better company? Absolutely yes. We are stronger, more profitable, more agile, and more resilient as a result. It has been proven that female-identifying founders deliver better returns on their companies. I think this is absolutely the main driver, and am proud to continue to deliver at Garden Society. 

What was your biggest challenge in business and how did you overcome it? 

The pandemic, hands-down, which while can be identified as the single biggest challenge, led to an entire series of difficult challenges. It started with working with our brethren in the Northern California cannabis community to deem our products and this plant “essential,” to immediately focusing on how to keep our team safe while keeping the doors open and our employees retained. This, all while moving sales in the right direction, as well as raising money – and all while raising my most important life asset: my son. Every minute of the day was exhausting as a mom and wife, CEO, and oh, by the way, I was Chair of the Board of Directors of our local hospital during this time too, so yeah, I was exhausted. 

What have you or your company done to help give more opportunities for women? 

This is very important to both Karli and me: we have a huge desire to accelerate the success rate of women in cannabis. I think one of the biggest accomplishments of the past two crazy years has been making the time to engage in my fellow female business community across the U.S., doing my best to serve as a resource and mentor to other female cannabis entrepreneurs. This includes working hard to share knowledge and resources that would help other women over the finish line in their own business efforts. We have had some wonderful mentors and allies to help us, and also learned everything else on our own through lots of failed attempts. We’re motivated to share our learnings with other women to hopefully accelerate their success rates. 

But it truly takes a village. I’m honored to be working with other successful women in the space, including female lawyers, founders, mentors, recruiters, and executives at public companies. We work to engage with entrepreneurial women far beyond encouraging chats and aim to give them the actual tools they need to drive their companies forward. 

What are your personal goals for 2022? 

The ever-elusive quest for balance and finding time to feed the soul, while doing the same for my family and business. If 2020 and 2021 were about surviving (literally and figuratively), during 2022 I am planning to spend time planning, visioning, and executing. I am super focused on achieving our potential at Garden Society by executing our plan across all aspects of the business. I also have a goal to develop a larger 3-5 year strategic plan, now that we’re through

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