Mother’s High Tea With Cannabis Maven Susan Squibb

COLORADO:  Women are rewriting the social rules regarding marijuana use, and driving innovation in the emerging legal cannabis industry.  To celebrate and pay tribute to them, Denver-based 4 & 20 Blackbird Productions and organizers Cannabis Maven Susan Squibb and Christie Lunsford will play host to  the 3rd Biennial Mother’s High Tea, a networking event for women and mothers in cannabis.

MJNewsNetwork asked Susan Squibb about the event, and much more.

Q: What is Mother’s High Tea?

Mother’s High Tea is a tea party around Mother’s Day for the inspirational pioneering women and mothers of cannabis legalization and our fast growing community. It’s based in Denver, Colorado.  The first Mother’s High Tea, in 2011 began as a community event.   The original event inspiration was my mother who was active in the nonprofit community serving women and children’s needs. When she passed away from ovarian cancer, I created this event within my own community in homage to her positive influence and gather the busy cannabis business women together for an inspiring tea party around Mother’s Day.  The next Mother’s High Tea doubled as the launch of Women’s CannaBusiness Network, a project of National Cannabis Industry Association. This women’s group, 2 years later developed into Women Grow. Mother’s High Tea is a trailblazing cannabis event!

Q: Who will be speaking?

Cannabis business women, AC Braddock CEO of Washington based Eden Labs and Kristi Kelly, Principal of Good Meds Network in Metro Denver are speaking at this year’s event. Our keynote speaker is Republican Senator Beth Martinez Humenik from Adams County, Colorado. Diane Fornbacher, publisher of Ladybud Magazine will inspire with poetry and cannabis educator and consultant, Christie Lunsford, is sharing MC duties with me. It’s an exciting lineup of accomplished women, I’m eager to hear what Senator Humenik will say!

Q: Who should attend?

This event is for women and mothers in cannabis business and legal reform. It’s a networking event with a speaker program and event activities.   Mothers can bring their children, if they like. Due to compliance issues for public cannabis events, we have a limited capacity for minors, so children need to be preregistered to attend. Those arrangements can be made when tickets are purchased. Men are welcome to attend too!

Q: The event was produced by 4 & 20 Blackbirds Productions —your event production company — tell us about that.

Mother’s High Tea, as a non-consumption event, has been the only 4 & 20 Blackbirds event so far. I have plans to organize other cannabis events, more on the cultural side, but the laws in Denver are strict and not conducive to public events with allowed consumption. Here in the Denver area, people in marijuana “speakeasies” can get tickets for public consumption by police, and events have been cancelled or moved under pressure from officials. It’s unstable and still largely underground right now. The private use only aspect of the Colorado legalization law is not based on actual behavior. Cannabis culture is social and needs to also be legalized. Ideally, I want to be able to get a marijuana event permit, just like a permit is needed to sell alcohol at an event.

Q: You wear a lot of hats — Cannabis Maven, Operations Director of Steep Hill Labs, SAFER activist, event planner — how do you manage to balance it all? 

I don’t wear all my hats at the same time! But life can get hectic, juggling it all. Meditation is an important balance. I can do a lot because I am deeply motivated to make positive change for this plant. This is my inspiration for my legal reform work.  I feel really blessed to have many opportunities to describe and impact cannabis laws, expand the legal marketplace and increase consumer safety. I think of great ideas to manifest, look for good projects to work on, and support worthwhile businesses that add value to the scene and develop business and social infrastructure.

Q: The event is open to well-dressed men and well-behaved children…what is your thinking?

Yes, this is primarily a lady’s event. We don’t exclude men, especially men that recognize the importance of the event and want to lend support to the women of this community!  We do ask the men to dress nice! Cannabis business is usually a casually dressed environment, lots of t shirt and jeans. We want to everyone looking sharp for the ladies!  Mothers can bring their children the Mother’s High Tea. We design the event with kids in mind. We have a letter writing table for encouraging political engagement, a craft table to decorate teapot ornaments, tea time word searches, and a fun photo booth. Many cannabis businesses in Colorado are run by families. This public event is an opportunity for them to bring their children, or parents,  to a cannabis event that is appropriate and safe and stylish.

Q: Who are your sponsors?

We have over 35 business sponsors for the event representing a wide range of businesses within the cannabis industry. MJBA Women’s Alliance has been an enthusiastic sponsor of Mother’s High Tea and special thanks to our lunch, photo booth and platinum sponsors: Mary Medicinal’s, Julie’s Natural Edibles, MiNDFUL, Steep Hill, The Farm, Ideal 420 Soil, and Northern Lights Cannabis Co.

Here’s all the sponsors! Mary Medicinals, Julie’s Natural Edibles, MiNDFUL, Steep Hill, The Farm, Ideal 420 Soil, Northern Lights, McAllister Law Office, Dixie, Good Meds Network, Canyon Cultivation, Miller Soil, Live Green, CannaMart, Surna, MJ Freeway, Denver Relief, Lauren Davis Law, The ArcView Group, The Clinic,  Better Baked, Vicente/Sederberg, CMT Laboratories, Cloverleaf University, 420 Investor, SSDP and DPA, BMB Builders, 3D Cannabis Center,  The Hemp Connoisseur Magazine, Ladybud Magazine, Buds and Blossoms, Cannabis Camera, 4 & 20 Blackbirds, Women Grow, MJBA Women’s Alliance, Wildwood Apothecary, and Sara C’s it Social Media.

Q: Women Grow, MJBA Women’s Alliance, Ladybud, why do you think women in the cannabis have taken such a visible leadership role in shaping a post-prohibition world.  

Women have been involved in cannabis reform for a long time. The change in the laws has made it a more comfortable space for women to openly come forward as advocates for legal reform, and executives in cannabis business.  Also, women are important thought leaders for the future we are creating right now. We have a social norm we believe that moms look out for our safety and if mom says something is ok to do, then it’s safe and ok.  The opinions of moms and women will shape what appropriate social use is like in a society of legalized marijuana. Women play an important role in removing stigmas that surround marijuana.  Also, the needs of women consumers will have a big impact on market development, so businesses need to be forecasting for women consumers.

Q: Feel free to add anything else you feel would be relevant to MJ News Network readers.

Anyone who believes cannabis laws should change can have a big impact by simply talking about your support within your social circles. Fear of what others think or fear of being stereotyped as a lazy pothead, unfit mother whatever has stifled public conversations supporting legalization. These everyday conversations aren’t about personal consumption or someone wanting to get high. There are many convincing arguments for legalization- medical research and patient access, social justice issues and the racial disparity of prisoners serving time for nonviolent marijuana offenses, or the missed tax revenue for what currently is the biggest cash crop in the US. We can all contribute to the groundswell of support for legal reform by telling our neighbors and community members our support and in doing so, we reflect the normalcy of the people wanting legal reform in the US. There is a lot of work that still needs to happen, let’s use this current momentum to have a big impact on restoring this useful plant into modern life.

The Heart of Leadership: Why Women + Pot = Power

By Blair Lyonev

What would an industry led by women look like? The MJBA Women’s Alliance dares to ask.

Tattooed, buttoned-up, pencil-skirted, dreadlocked, twenty-something-to-seventy-something, wide-eyed, canny, high-octane, high-test, high-heeled, serene, essentially-oiled, blown out, crunchy, sleek, seasoned, demure, loud-mouthed, smart-assed, mothering, laughing, crying, drinking, pot-friendly women.

These are the women who assembled in a hotel conference room in the well-to-do Seattle ‘burb of Bellevue for the Marijuana Business Association’s (MJBA) Women’s Alliance gathering. They came to network and hear from guest speakers Diane Fornbacher – activist, writer and owner of the online magazine Ladybud, and Debbie Whitlock, an entrepreneur and financial coach who specializes in improving cash-flow for women-owned businesses. They, and other MJ luminaries, all spoke on the night’s theme, “The Power to Lead.”

The meeting came just two days after Oregon, Alaska, and Washington D.C voted to approve sweeping pro-pot initiatives. Shawn DeNae, founder of the Washington Bud Company, and the event’s Mistress of Ceremonies, opened with a meta-note on the evening’s agenda:

“We are pioneers. For the first time in history we are poised to lead an entire industry – and we are doing it with guts, tenacity and tears.”

Her statement summed up the flavor – and fervor – of the palpable collective desire in the room: to claim and capitalize on a brand new industry with a fresh, uniquely feminine brand of leadership.

Pot Potentials

Helmed by Morgan, the MJBA Women’s Alliance is a trade organization that hosts networking events to “support, educate, and connect” women trying to gain a foothold in the cannabis industry.

As a whole, the fledgling pot industry has had a galvanizing effect on the country: thousands are quitting their jobs and moving to newly legal states, pouring their savings into start-up ‘canna-businesses,’ risking potential jail time, wading through the nitty-gritty of intractable state laws, and riding out moratoriums, hoping that – once though the legislative mire – they will strike green gold.

Besides the allure it holds as a potential economic boon, the nascent MJ industry also represents a kind of hinterland for the enterprising ‘ganga-preneur,’ a place where personal values and ambition might blend to create a more whole, expansive, and human business model. Conversations around legalization inevitably reflect on this as a “historic moment,” one that invites – or even demands – a new ethos in the business sphere.

Guest speaker Debbie Whitlock invoked several pivotal points in female-led activism: the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848 for women’s suffrage, the first meeting of the Daughters of Bilitis in 1955 for lesbian civil rights, and the inaugural publishing of Ms. Magazine in 1971. She then asked the crowd, “Who here is ready to add your name to that list?”

The cannabis plant, its subtle, once-maligned capacities now in the process of being integrated into the public moral imagination, has become a metaphor of a greater cultural trend towards ‘authentic entrepreneurship’ by women – aka: using one’s natural gifts and powers to make an honest buck.

“Our lives dictate that we must get out of our comfort zones to evolve the species,” noted Diane Fornbacher in her talk. “And the cannabis movement is an excellent vehicle for that.”

As such, women are recognizing the ‘Green Rush’ as not only ripe for profit, but as a new and malleable industry that could be infused with more ‘feminine’ values of cooperation, sustainability, and inclusivity.

“The invitation for women in the cannabis industry is to come together,” Whitlock remarked. “Collaboration is key. There is no reward for soldiering on by yourself.”

Alliance member Aubrey Armes, a Seattle-based Life Coach and Human Resources professional, noted that in most business settings there is “A fear of being totally transparent. It is perceived as a weakness. But in my experience transparency can invest you with a kind of power.

“Inclusivity is simply the capacity to hold space for everyone. You’re allowing for people’s humanity – which means you’re also allowing for their greatness.”

Why Going ‘Small’ Means Big-Picture Gains

Fortune magazine recently revealed that, despite the fact that there are more women CEOs in big Fortune 500 companies now than at any other point in history, women still hold only 5.2 % of the their total number.

However, a report by The Guardian Life Small Business Research Institute, states that women are creating small businesses and new jobs at a rate that surpasses their male counterparts and greatly exceeds their current contribution to U.S. employment. The study forecasts that female-owned small businesses, currently comprising 16% of total U.S. employment, will generate 5 million new jobs in the United States by 2018 – a full third of the 15.3 million new jobs projected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Also of note – they are achieving these numbers in large part without the more top-down, paternalistic style long practiced by the male-dominant business establishment. The evening’s first speaker, AC Braddock, CEO of Eden Labs, revealed that her company has grown 400 % in the last year – and has done so with a completely lateral structure.

“There is no hierarchy. Everyone works in teams. Sometimes it’s hard to get people to speak up. But I tell them, ‘I need to hear what you have to say.’”

One attendee, a consultant for a management software company that caters to the cannabis industry, reflected on how women bring invaluable assets to start ups that want to go the distance:

“Women are going to be listeners. We’re leading with passion and empathy, and that makes any business foundation stronger. When people feel protected they offer better ideas and there is more creativity. You can take more risks and the company as a whole evolves faster.”

In fact, these more sentient and relational attributes might provide the first inspiration – and push – to get a business off the ground.

Prior to the founding of Ladybud, Diane Fornbacher worked as a journalist but discovered that her values weren’t necessarily reflected in the publications she wrote for.

“I’m an artist, a feeler, a crier, a spiritual person. That’s where I’m coming from,” she said. “I didn’t see a lot of art, or testimonials in these magazines. There were no families represented, no in-depth journalism. And I was tired of filtering my ideas through other people.”

So she did her own thing. The result? A top ranked women’s lifestyle publication that covers all things cannabis – law, business, food, fashion, wellness – and family.

 

Leadership, Found.

 

Some of the hurdles for women taking leadership roles in the cannabis – or any other industry – are internal. For decades women have witnessed and absorbed negative associations with holding power. Because of this, a woman might perceive total ownership and power as being potentially harmful, something that would cause them to neglect or abuse the people they love, to be abandoned should they eclipse their male partner, or be attacked as selfish or domineering – and therefore inherently lacking in ‘femininity.’ As a result, part of their psyche might resist claiming leadership.

“There has been a shift in how we perceive power,” says Debbie Whitlock. “The old male-dominated culture was about ‘power over.’ But for women, we don’t want ‘power over,’ we want ‘power to.’ Power to serve, to create, to move forward, to stay in or leave relationships.

“In all the years I’ve been a financial advisor, I would ask women why they weren’t leaving unhealthy relationships, and they would say, ‘I can’t afford to leave.’ Money made them feel like they were being held hostage. So it’s necessary for other women to stand up and say – it’s ok to have that kind of power, and we need to provide models for it.”

Diane Fornbacher spoke of how her early childhood experiences in an abusive home where she was “Told to be quiet, to not cry and not explain myself,” mirrored her experiences in the adult professional world. But it was these very experiences that provided the impetus for her to become an advocate and leader – someone who now seems hard-wired to kick up a stew.

“We are the redeemers; we’re giving birth to a new industry – reaffirming that we’re here for a reason,” she says. “I didn’t know I was a leader. I just knew that I was pissed off and needed to do something.”

It is this quality of resiliency that many of the women present at the event spoke of as most salient in women’s leadership – as inherently feminine.

“We are excellent problem solvers,” said one attendee, “And start-ups are nothing but problem solving. There’s so much tactical skill in launching, branding, and making a business successful.”

While the more receptive capacities to listen, to connect, to create space for other people’s gifts, to support body, environment, and family-friendly systems in a professional setting are important, it is their resourcefulness, tenacity, and ability to spot opportunity, to follow their instincts and vision – sometimes past prudence – that is the key to women’s success.

“Women are incredibly persistent,” says Whitlock. “We’re crafty. We find ways to keep things moving forward. And when things are going sideways, the bat signal goes up, and the community descends on us with pints of ice cream and glasses of wine! It’s a survival instinct. The cannabis industry is igniting a particular capacity in us. I’m overwhelmed by the passion I’ve seen.”

On the whole, the women offered a horizontal and profoundly engaged vision of leadership for the budding cannabis industry. They are standing on a threshold, a borderland between memory and imagination that could shape its direction and provide a template for other industries.

“What does leadership mean to me?” asked Diane Fornbacher in the conclusion of her talk. “It means agony. It means beauty. It means I fail but I know I tried. It means I’m not making a million bucks. But I can sleep at night.”

 

 

 

 

Seattle WA 11/6: MJBA Women’s Alliance Hosts Ladybud Publisher Diane Fornbacher

WASHINGTON:  MJBA Women’s Alliance and Eden Labs team up for an exclusive evening with Ladybud Magazine publisher Diane Fornbacher and dynamic personal and business finance expert Debbie Whitlock next month in Seattle for “The Power to Lead.”

Get inspired to lead the way with other major women leaders in the cannabis industry, including mistress of ceremonies Shawn DeNae Waggenseller of Washington Bud Company, legal pioneer, Anne Van Leynseele of NW MJ Law, and other fierce females to be announced soon.

The Power to Lead
Thursday, November 6th, 5:30pm-9pm
Bellevue Red Lion

Corporate Members and VIP ticket holders are invited to a special VIP Meet & Greet Reception preceding the main event in the Evergreen Room at 4:20pm.

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MJBA Women’s Alliance works collaboratively to enhance the growth and strength of our individual businesses and the collective development of the cannabis industry.