Breaking the gender equality glass ceiling has been a struggle for decades, and the emerging cannabis industry is no exception. Amy Margolis, a seventeen-year attorney decided to take on that fight, launching the world’s first Women’s Cannabis Business Accelerator—The Initiative—and cannabis friendly co-working hub—The Commune—located in Portland, Oregon. Although the accelerator is located in Portland, they will be accepting entrepreneurs from other cities.
While Margolis’ background is in law, her passions lie in the cannabis industry. We had a chance to speak with her about her upcoming launch and about her relationship to the cannabis industry.
“This is really a social and criminal justice issue for me,” she said. “I have stood by many, many good people charged with cannabis crimes and watched their lives destroyed. If we can make cannabis a success story, we defeat the drug war.”
While there are plenty of great resources for networking and education, Margolis thinks women need more support when it comes to financing, accessing capital, and finding the strength and confidence to succeed. The concept behind The Initiative is straightforward. She wants to level the playing field for women in the cannabis industry. She says, “At the end of the day, this program is all about getting women funded, period. None of the rest of this matters if women cannot get the money they need to grow their businesses or they are competing against their better-funded male counterparts.”
The Initiative provides an immersive business program, online toolboxes, networking events and access to funding that accelerates the entrepreneurial process for women in the industry. The goal is to ensure the cannabis industry becomes the most progressive and gender-balanced emerging industry possible. Margolis said The Initiative will work closely with regulators to make sure that each participant understands the challenges and are prepared to navigate the intense regulatory challenges they face—especially as they grow from state to state.
The Initiative will be held inside The Commune, a 4000-square-foot cannabis-friendly building. Margolis has accepted eight businesses to come work and learn at the Commune. The space will be home to business classes, boot camps, incubator opportunities, speakers, co-working space, event rentals, and will hold infused-dinner events. There is availability for drop-in and monthly basis use, desks available for rent, group or meeting rooms as well as large event spaces.
Margolis says, “Unlike other spaces, we are unapologetically cannabis friendly. We also offer the collaboration and cooperation that comes along with everyone fighting the same battles.”
So, what type of women should apply for The Initiative program? Margolis is looking to include any and all women entering the cannabis industry. She urges anyone interested to apply. “At the end of the day, we are looking for ambitious, courageous and enthusiastic women. The only real requirement is that their business exists already and that they are in the cannabis space. We are also absolutely willing and encourage touching-the-plant businesses to apply.”
Upon completing the training, each graduate will have the opportunity to receive seed money directly from The Initiative and have the chance to pitch to a syndicate of accredited investors. Enrollment in The Initiative will open online to all women cannabis business leaders on September 1, 2018.
While the program is based in Oregon, there are plans to expand into other legalized states as well, such as California and Colorado. Margolis says, “We are absolutely going to expand quickly. The more women we reach, the more likelihood we have of making a dramatic impact on the industry. We also encourage out-of-state women to apply for the Portland class and can be helpful in arranging their temporary relocation.”
Gina Finstad is a freelance photojournalist currently living in San Francisco. She enjoys solo traveling, culinary exploration and street photography accenting human interaction.