It has been a tremendous year for women entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry. Thirty-one states have passed legislation to decriminalize cannabis, and nine of them permit both commercial medical and recreational adult use. Demand for cannabis products is higher than ever before, and women are perfectly positioned to become big players in this fledgling market. One of the women at the forefront of the cannabis industry is Maya Elisabeth, co-founder and infuser at Whoopi & Maya.
Elisabeth began her career in the cannabis industry by participating in the Cannabis Cup (hosted by HighTimes) with Om Edibles, a company she founded in 2008. Judges from all over the world come together at the Cannabis Cup to sample and vote for their favorite varieties, and Maya made her mark early. She started winning in the Cannabis Cup edibles category in 2011 and has never looked back. Since then, Elisabeth’s creations have won 11 Cannabis Cups, four emerald cups, one first place challenge; plus, one of her recipes was recently voted Best of the Bay. It isn’t surprising that Hollywood A-lister Whoopi Goldberg would reach out to her to team up.
Together, these women have created a line of high quality, passionately grown, and lovingly infused products for women. Their line of cannabis offers relief and comfort for menstrual pain. Their company provides a healthy and natural alternative to existing medications for women’s discomfort. And, because of that, Elisabeth is proud to say that women are more eager to start what she calls “The Conversation.” We sat down to talk to her to learn more about her career in cannabis. Here’s what we learned from her.
Photo Credit: Timothy White
The Cannabis Conversation
Elisabeth has always viewed cannabis as a product that could improve a customer’s health and wellness. “To me, cannabis has a medicinal value it can bring to your life. When you think about the mind/body connection, it’s all about improving overall human health. Think about the fact that there’s aren’t 25 million medicines to choose from for menstrual pain,” says Elisabeth. For so many years, women’s menstrual health remained a niche, underserved market that was waiting for the right combination of care and products.
That combination: “Cannabis and Whoopi Goldberg,” says Elisabeth. The conversation around women’s menstrual pain and periods in general has taken off since Whoopi & Maya introduced their line of products specifically designed for feminine care. As she started to dive deeper into the industry, Elisabeth continued to expand the conversation with members of the LGBT community, women in transition, and customers of all orientations and genders.
Whoopi & Maya have tapped into an important customer base for their line of cannabis products. The lack of diversity and availability of affordable menstrual care alternatives is what continues to fuel Whoopi & Maya’s drive to get their products to as many women in need as possible. Today, some of their best-selling cannabis products include cannabis-infused soaks, epsom salts, and rubs.
A Cannabis Brand for Women, By Women
Elisabeth attributes a lot of her company’s success to the profile of their brand. “There’s a unique thing going on with Whoopi & Maya that – intentionally or not – makes a statement to a wide range of customers. We are two different women from two different backgrounds with two different heritages, and ages, and professional specialties. We’ve come together with a vision for women,” says Elisabeth.
Photo Credit: Timothy White
Elisabeth and Goldberg began their partnership in 2016 and continue to take an active role in product development, marketing and their company’s growth. In fact, Maya remains directly involved in the cannabis space, moderating and acting as a spokesperson for women and entrepreneurship. Through her leadership, Whoopi & Maya isn’t just fast becoming a household name among women for their menstrual needs, but also an example to follow in terms of business mind set and establishment.
As Elisabeth describes, women remain an underserved audience in the cannabis space. “Our goal is to get our products to as many people as possible. I think people are really ready for this conversation. People are ready to feel good and make healthy choices. This is the time to bring cannabis to the light through education and healthy products.”
Women in the Cannabis Industry
According to a survey by Marijuana Business Daily, the proportion of women in leadership positions in leadership positions is significantly higher in the cannabis industry. Women held executive-level positions in 27% of cannabis companies in 2017, versus the national average of 23% for other businesses. Women like Maya Elisabeth are shaping the industry both in the supply side – as well as in customer demand.
Though the cannabis industry remains fiercely competitive to new businesses, some cities have taken steps to provide individuals a chance to enter into the market successfully. Social equity programs like the ones in Los Angeles and San Francisco may give female entrepreneurs a boost in getting a license or permit. These programs not only target residents living in underserved communities, but individuals, that could be women and minorities, who want to get into the industry but don’t have the means to do so.
What’s next for Maya Elisabeth? Whoopi & Maya is quickly carving out a space for other women who are ready and able to start a business serving an exclusively female client base. As more and more businesses come online, it will be interesting to see how these entrepreneurs and support each other and grow, all at the same time.
*Cover photo credit: Timothy White