Nancy Whiteman is co-founder and co-owner of Wana Brands, which produces Wana Edibles, Wana Extracts, and Wana Medicinals. Nancy is responsible for strategic partnerships and licensing agreements domestically and internationally. She is also responsible for the strategic vision of Wana Brands. We had the opportunity to interview her on being a woman in weed.
Established in 2010, Wana Brands is ranked 2016’s No. 1 edibles producer in sales revenues in the highly competitive Colorado market according to BDS Analytics.
Wana Brands produces 20,000 units a week in its 30,000 sq. ft. Colorado facility, servicing more than 450 of Colorado’s 500+ dispensaries. Wana Brands is also available in over 160 dispensaries in Oregon.
The company launched in Nevada at the end of 2016 and has a partnership in Illinois that will bring Wana Brands products to that state in 2017. Additionally, Wana Brands has deals in the works in four new emerging markets. Wana Brands best-selling products include Wana Sour Gummies, Jewels, Salted Caramels, and WanaCapsXR.
Who was your mentor(s)? How important were they and how, if at all, are you paying it forward?
I can’t think of one particular person that I would call out as my mentor, but there have been dozens of people – many of them women – who have encouraged me, listened to me, validated my concerns and given me sound advice that has all added up to being mentored.
I try to pay it forward by doing the same for my peers and by supporting women who are thinking about getting into the business by listening to their ideas and giving them honest and respectful feedback.
What makes a great leader in cannabis?
For me, it’s a combination of vision coupled with ability to execute and bring that vision to fruition. When I think of “vision”, for me that word is connected to the larger picture of cannabis and its potential to help millions of people, not just the ability to build a great individual business, although that’s a great thing also.
Exactly what that vision is and how it manifests itself is a very individual and personal thing to each entrepreneur. Courage and resilience to keep moving forward in the light of a multitude of challenges is also key.
Willingness to be a pioneer and be public about your commitment to the industry is also a critical part of being a leader in cannabis.
How do you feel about being a woman in weed?
I feel great about being a woman and great about being in weed so I guess that translates to feeling great about being a woman in weed!
Seriously, I think it’s a wide open industry for everyone. Since the industry hasn’t existed before, there are no historical barriers to entry or glass ceilings that must be broken for women to succeed.
I think it also attracts people who think outside the box and are risk takers so I find it to be a pretty welcoming environment for anyone who wants to get involved. I couldn’t be happier to be a woman in weed.
What empowers you?
The most empowering thing for me is the feedback I get from our end customers. When I hear that our products allowed someone to get through chemo, enabled them to deal with their chronic pain or has contributed to their lives being better in some way, it is all the encouragement I need to keep going.
There can be a lot of negativity about cannabis but customer feedback empowers me to know that we are doing good and are on the right track.
Advice to other women in weed?
Help each other and be there for each other. Make time to have coffee or lunch with other women in weed and get to know one another as people.
Yes, sometimes we are competitors but we are also partners in creating this new industry so let’s try to make it into an industry that reflects our values and priorities.
Career before cannabis
Prior to founding Wana, Nancy was a principal with The Whiteman Group, a sales and marketing consultancy, and previously held a range of senior level marketing and business development positions including Vice President, Marketing and New Corporate Ventures for the Paul Revere Insurance Group in Massachusetts.
Nancy holds a Bachelor of Science from Cornell University and an MBA from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. She is a member of the National Cannabis Industry Association and on the Board of the Cannabis Business Alliance (CBA).
She was named the fourth most important woman in Cannabis in 2016 by the Cannabis Business Executive.
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