Bridget May said: “The cannabis market is in its infancy, is growing fast, and by all accounts will be huge; there’s room for all of us. Women make up over half the population; let’s reflect that ratio in the budding cannabis industry.”
Describe yourself and what you do.
I’m a botanist, chemist, artist, environmentalist, activist and entrepreneur — not necessarily in that order. 🙂 My biggest focus these days is healing: our environment, our spectacular flora, our wondrous oceans, my fellow humans — and bees, of course.
I realized at some point that I was never going to do a good job of healing others until I healed myself. It’s still a work in progress, but I’ve transformed from being overwhelmed, over-busy and feeling unhealthy to taking really good care of myself, in all ways. My goal now is to help others do the same. For me, the three most important paths to self care and good health are:
- Plant and herb medicines.
- Preventive medicine.
- Living a healthy lifestyle: getting enough sleep, eating nutritious whole food, resting when I need it, getting out in nature as often as possible, meditating, spending meaningful time with the people I love, learning, yoga, cycling, swimming, painting, communing with animals, singing, helping others heal themselves, and building a company — and society — that creates healthy people.
What is your vision for your professional cannabis endeavors?
Green Bee’s mission centers around quality, sustainability, giving back, and self-care.
At the most basic level, I’m doing this because I want to feel good, I want my friends and family to feel good, and I want my customers to feel good. So we’re creating super high quality, clean cannabis beauty and wellness products that make us feel good.
Part of “success” for me means finding a way to give back to the community in a meaningful way. I have always been an environmentalist above all and my main concern is the destruction of our natural habitats and wildlife. We’re at a dangerous tipping point and I want to be part of the solution, so we’ve built into our business model to give a percentage of our profits to support wildlife and clean water and to fight climate change and social injustice.
In terms of the vision for Green Bee itself, we’re a “gateway brand” for customers new to cannabis. We’ve been lucky to attract customers who are enlightened, want to learn, are kind and giving. They also want bright, beautiful skin, and to feel good, so we’ll continue expanding our line to include additional non-psychoactive cannabis beauty products — such as toner, cleanser, THC-only serum for extremely dry skin, and lip balms — as well as wellness products, like hot-and-cold therapy balms and vegan edibles. Meanwhile, we’re also expanding to more cities in California, and eventually other states.
What is your personal cannabis origin story?
While finishing my second degree in Biology with an emphasis in Botany, my first job in the scientific field was in pharmaceutical medicine. Later I worked as an analytical chemist with a biopharmaceutical firm using microalgae to develop renewable biofuels, biocosmetics, and sustainable bionutrition — including an alternative to palm oil.
I learned a lot and got a ton of experience, like complying with FDA requirements, quality control, developing science-based formulas, and GMPs (good manufacturing practices). But I also learned about the many harmful side effects the drugs I tested can have on the human body. It inspired me to return to my studies of Western herbalism, alternative medicine, and European and Native American healing traditions. I discovered hundreds of plants and herbs that heal with no side effects. Unlike Western Medicine, which tends to target one ailment at a time — often causing unintended reactions in other parts of the body — plant therapies heal the whole body.
The experience reaffirmed my belief that the body can heal itself with a little help from Mother Nature. I hit the motherlode when my studies led me to the natural healing powers of cannabis. If my high school AP Biology teacher were there, he would have yelled, “EUREKA!” Learning that the human body has a natural endocannabinoid system with receptors that bind perfectly with phytocannabinoids (i.e., THC, CBD and other cannabinoids in cannabis) surprised and excited me so much; I had found the secret — and the proof! — behind why cannabis is good medicine.
My immediate health concern at the time was my skin, which was getting drier and more delicate, so I experimented, tested, tried multiple combinations, and finally succeeded in making a cannabis moisturizer for myself and my friends that we all loved. Demand grew surprisingly fast from there — and this was way before the CBD craze! — and pretty soon my side project turned into a business. I launched Little Green Bee in 2015, and in January 2019, my team and I re-launched as Green Bee Botanicals with an expanded cannabis skincare lineup, which just landed on the shelves of dispensaries and delivery services throughout California, starting with Sava, Society Jane, Erba, and San Diego Natural.
What is your Superpower?
What a fun question — I’ve never been asked that before. I’d say my superpower these days is serendipity. I’m always meeting the right people at the right time, especially since getting into the cannabis industry: happy, helpful, smart, supportive people with great energy. My Green Bee team, the craft cannabis coalition I’m helping to build now, and my fellow cannabis entrepreneurs and I have incredible synergy; we help each other thrive. I’m beyond grateful to everyone who has helped and continues to help me, and it’s totally gratifying when I get the opportunity to do the same for others on their journey to success. It feels like I’m part of this great big community of people who pass it on and pay it forward every day.
What has been your greatest obstacle in this industry or with your business to date?
The legalization of cannabis continues to be a mixed bag of blessings and obstacles. I completely approve of it, of course, especially from a social justice standpoint. But from a business perspective, it’s been difficult. I can say with a lot of confidence probably 80% of the brands that were on shelves before legalization are out of business or struggling to get back in the game. The amount of money required as well as the layer upon layer of regulations that a small business has to muddle through are daunting to say the least, and many small companies just haven’t been able to make it. I feel lucky to be one of the few, but I’ve spent my life savings doing it, and pretty much work all the time. Good thing I love it. 🙂
“I had found the secret — and the proof! — behind why cannabis is good medicine.”
What is your advice for women in the cannabis industry?
- COOPERATE: First of all, we need to lift each other up! This industry is still pretty new and we have the best chance at weathering the changes and flourishing if we band together, share resources, cross-promote, encourage, and celebrate each other. I’ve discovered over the last four years of building, learning, and networking that women-owned businesses generally kick ass. I have met so many like-minded businesswomen, and when we collaborate, we are unstoppable, powerful, and wildly successful. Special shout-outs to Andy and Sharon at Society Jane, Andrea and Amanda at Sava, Nicole and Christine at Cosmic View, Annie at The Galley, Kai at Golden Goddess Botanicals, and especially my business partners Lilli, Heather and Kim!
- MENTOR: The cannabis market is in its infancy, is growing fast, and by all accounts will be huge; there’s room for all of us. Women make up over half the population; let’s reflect that ratio in the budding cannabis industry. To all you women out there: Feel free to contact me personally if you need a hand or have a question. I’m happy to share my ideas and how to avoid the mistakes I’ve made. It is a genuine pleasure to help others get through the startup process more smoothly than I did.
- DO THE RIGHT THING: The current cannabis craze in the U.S. is riding heavily on the backs of the people who were and still are imprisoned for marijuana offenses. Take the case of Antonio Bascaro, who spent 39 years (!!) in Miami Federal Prison for a non-violent cannabis conviction. In 2017 alone, 659,700 people were arrested in the U.S. for marijuana, 91% of them for possession only (source: Drug Policy Alliance). Of those arrested for drug law violations, 47% are black or Latino, even though they make up less than 1/3 of our population. This is totally unacceptable. Every cannabis company has a duty to help correct these gross injustices. At a minimum, get involved and take action. Some ideas as a start:
- Support the newly created Marijuana Justice Coalition
- Tell Congress to pass the Marijuana Justice Act
- Press your city, county and state to decriminalize cannabis and to expunge the records of people who’ve been arrested for possession
- Donate to effective nonprofits advocating for cannabis rights, reform and research, such as NORML, ASA and the NCIA
- Build into your business model a concrete, real way to give back to your local community via donations, event sponsorships and volunteer time for charitable organizations doing good work
- Set up a donor-advised fund or your own company foundation — that’s what we’re doing with our Green Bee Foundation, which will donate a percentage of our profits to charity, focusing on cannabis justice causes
One of my favorite mentors, Erin Gore of Garden Society, perfectly sums up how I feel in this Green Entrepreneur feature, Women Cannabis Entrepreneurs Unite: We Are Better Together:
“Truly empowered women empower other women. We have the self-confidence to know that when one woman is successful, many others will follow. Sometimes this means putting our egos aside and refraining from self-serving behavior that holds us all back. Instead, let’s be proud of others’ success. Let’s share our successful strategies (as well as our failures) and mentor women new in the space. Ask for help when we see someone who has mastered something that we are struggling with. This fast-moving, fast-changing industry is already hard enough for all of us. Let’s unite to form an industry of successful, women-owned cannabis businesses.”
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Photo Credit: Pamela Palma