Boss Women Month: Colorado Salutes Its Leading Ladies

There is Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day (Both of which land in March) and now we have Women’s Canna-month. DOPE Magazine had the sincere privilege of speaking with Wanda James who has been named one of the 50 Most Important Women in the Cannabis Industry by Cannabis Business Executive. As the CEO of Simply Pure Dispensary, Wanda became the first African American, legally licensed individual to own a dispensary, grow facility and edible company (with her husband). As the Founder and Managing Partner of the Cannabis Global Initiative (CGI), she has declared August to be Women’s Canna-month! And who are we to argue with such a boss woman.

“The thought came to me after going to an event and seeing all of these women that I know that own businesses. They’re rock stars,” James explains. Utilizing the very appropriate hashtag #BossWomen, James has launched a full-fledged campaign to showcase the monumental contributions that women make to the flourishing cannabis industry. The fourteen highlighted women-owned cannabis companies pull in a combined staggering monthly sales revenue of $1,149,839.

“It’s amazing what they do. We have a woman who does cannabis training—it prepares women for public speaking. In this industry we’re constantly having to change the hearts and minds of people—we have got to be ready to speak at a moment’s notice so we’re being trained for that.” James cheers with obvious admiration for her fellow female canna-business owners, and she is not alone in these sentiments.

Olivia Mannix of Cannabrand, the world’s first cannabis marketing agency, enthusiastically praised James’ strength and passion, “Wanda is a very strong woman who has built an incredible brand and helped a lot of people in the industry and a lot of patients. I have a lot of respect for her.” Cannabrand is one of the fourteen women-owned businesses that is being highlighted during Women’s Canna-month or #BossWomen month. “We were the first people to ever start a marijuana marketing agency. Jenn and I were really young when we started I remember looking at her and saying, ‘Hey, if we’re putting our name on this we’re probably never gonna get a real job.’” Mannix described the leap of faith her and her partner Jennifer DeFalco took when starting Cannabrand right after college.

“We knew that it [cannabis] was going to become legal for adult use, and we are both really passionate about cannabis and saw it as an opportunity to get in and help companies with their marketing and branding because, pre-2014, there was really not a lot of sophisticated marketing or advertising” Mannix explains. Mannix knew going in that the road ahead wasn’t going to be easily traversed. Both the marketing world and cannabis realm have always been extremely male dominated. “It was really a challenge but it was really refreshing to be able to work with other women in this space and other female business owners.”

“It’s amazing what they do. We have a woman who does cannabis training—it prepares women for public speaking. In this industry we’re constantly having to change the hearts and minds of people—we have got to be ready to speak at a moment’s notice so we’re being trained for that.”

Like James, Mannix is eager and inspired to use her platform to uplift other women interested in entering the industry. “We work with over 100 companies ranging from cultivation, dispensaries, vape pens, edibles, you name it, we help them. We are helping companies with their operations, with raising capital, evaluations and operational controls as well. I brought on a group to help me facilitate those types of services and it’s been pretty fun.” Cannabrand has lead the charge in cannabis advocacy and marketing since its inception, breaking boundaries and grass ceilings. “There are so many different aspects to cannabis that really need to be talked about and educated on. That’s really why I do this. It’s so exciting,” Mannix explains.

Wy Livingston of Purple Monkey is another outstanding woman featured in Colorado’s Boss Woman Month. Livingston is a self-proclaimed “recovering Corporate Executive.” She was the Senior Vice President for AIG and then for Pulte Homes where she decided she wanted to do something different. “I am a foodie by nature,” Livingston explains enthusiastically. Going into the food industry was something that she has always wanted to do. “Someone suggested a coffee and shop and I was like ‘Nah, we don’t need another one of those on the planet,’ and they said, ‘What about a tea shop?’ I wondered how do people make money at that so I did what all of us red blooded people do when you don’t know something and googled it. Stayed up half the night, totally intrigued.” Livingston’s desire to learn more was far from over. In the next few years Livingston became certified in all things tea from the Specialty Tea Institute, she traveled to Europe and Asia and entrenched herself in the culture, even picking tea in the tea fields of Japan.

Upon returning home on June of 2008, she opened her first tea cafe, right as the economy crashed, but the cannabis industry was just beginning to boom. “I’m not a heavy user but I certainly indulge from time to time,” Livingston explains, “Then I found out that there was something called, edibles. Right up my alley from a food and beverage perspective.” From there Livingston did the same thing she did with tea and fully engulfed herself, experimenting with food and beverage cannabis products, meeting with experts and ultimately creating Purple Monkey.

Purple Monkey makes infused teas, coffees, cocoas, sweeteners and creamers. “You don’t have to teach someone how to drink tea and coffee. It’s part of their daily ritual so if they are looking for a discrete way to elevate it’s the perfect product,” Livingston proudly details. Right now Purple Monkey is also working on both a chai and green tea coconut varietal, both of which sound like something many of us would enjoy on a quiet Sunday morning.

These are only two of the fourteen phenomenal female entrepreneurs showcased in Colorado’s Boss Women Month. The companies involved cover a wide range of products and services, each with their own story. “What’s really important about this is really bringing the recognition towards what these woman are doing. It’s well over a million dollars a month that we are putting into Colorado alone. Over 118 people are working for these 14 women,” James explains. This month visit to find all the promotions, events and discounts that will be offered and support a more balanced and inclusive industry.

Luna Reyna

Luna Reyna believes in the power of journalistic activism and social responsibility. As a writer with DOPE, she tackles many social justice topics that often do not receive the coverage they deserve within the cannabis industry, as well as issues of inclusivity regarding race, gender, class and sexual orientation. Luna is also the Managing Editor for BARE Magazine, a quarterly lifestyle magazine whose motto is, "culture without censorship." She is also the founder of RIZE Entertainment, an art, entertainment and culture company that focuses solely on artists who challenge injustice and champion equality through their art.

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