There has never been a better time for women to get involved in the cannabis industry, said Leafly.ca managing director Jo Vos.
As the head of the company’s Canadian division, Vos understands the industry is still dominated by males at the executive and board-level, but said women have an incredible opportunity to help shape the brand-new industry towards gender equality.
“It’s an opportunity to bring a different perspective to the table, to help shape the businesses and industry we are in. And I think we already know diverse teams lead to better decisions and better overall results,” she said. “So I hope we continue to see large organizations and startups foster diversity and inclusion so everyone can have a seat at the table and not just women.”
It’s not surprising that Vos has been shortlisted for the Lift & Co Corp. (TSXV: LIFT)(OTCQB: LFCOF) Canadian Cannabis Awards in the Womxn in Weeds—Trailblazer category. As well as bringing Leafly.ca to life Vos has also overseen the launch of the company’s new cannabis guide, which revolutionized the behemoth legacy website. She is also a staunch supporter of diversity in the workforce.
The winners of the CCAs in the 32 judged and consumer choice categories will be announced this Friday in Toronto at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel.
Vos said finding her position at Leafly.ca was kismet. In early 2018 Leafly.com — a hugely successful online cannabis guide based in Seattle, WA with more than 100 million annual views — was searching for someone to bring the new Leafly.ca online and Vos was the perfect fit.
“One of the things I love doing is solving business challenges and bringing brands and companies to life,” Vos said. “Cannabis presented such a challenge and a chance to build something from the ground up in an industry which did not exist before. I was presented with an opportunity to roll up my sleeves and really sink my teeth into a lot of the regulatory challenges we were experiencing in Canada.”
Bringing Leafly.ca to life
Vos inherited a legacy organization, which has been around since 2010, and was tasked with creating a Canadian-specific platform that was both regulation-compliant and relevant to Canadians. For example, if you live in Saskatchewan and wanted to know about nearby dispensaries, or needed to talk to your kids about cannabis, you’d turn to Leafly.ca, according to Vos. The company is also tasked with leading consumers into the legal market.
The northern chapter came to life by focusing on hiring incredible internal team leads and producing really strong ever-green content, Vos said. Today the team consists of 20 people and is 60 per cent female, which demonstrates how Leafly approaches diversity and workplace equity as a critical component to the team’s success.
Leafly.ca has attracted around 8 million users since its launch a year and a half ago. The company saw a steep increase in traffic at the time of cannabis legalization, which showed consumers are curious about cannabis and what it can do for them, Vos said.
To better serve curious consumers, Leafly launched its new cannabis guide, which overhauled their nine-year-old system of crowdsourcing information about different weed strains.
The previous system — which categorized strains as sativa, indica or hybrid — was becoming outdated because the bulk of what is on the market today is hybrid plants, Vos said. The new guide compiles data on the strains’ terpenes and cannabinoids in a visual flower pattern based on colours and shapes.
This new guide will empower consumers with more relevant cannabis information. It will continue to grow, evolve and expand with the introduction of edibles, extracts and tinctures as the products become available.
The future is female for Canadian cannabis
There is an incredible opportunity for cannabis companies to advertise to female consumers right now, Vos said. Women typically make the decisions and do the shopping for the household, and the cannabis industry is only just now waking up to that.
Companies who market to the recreational consumer or medicinal consumer are rarely marketing specifically to females. But with the emerging wellness trend, the industry is likely to see niche markets catering specifically to women emerge over the next couple years, she said.
Women working in the cannabis industry also have a unique opportunity to bolster their female colleagues, Vos said. We need to reframe our thinking and come from a place of abundance and not scarcity, because lifting female colleagues up does not mean putting yourself down.
“There are women all over this space who are doing amazing things for these companies,” she said, pointing to Hexo Corp.’s (TSX:HEXO)(NYSE:HEXO) master grower Agnes Kwasniewska. “We, the nominees [for the Canadian Cannabis Awards] are just a small group who happen to be getting recognized, but there is a tonne of other talent in this space.”
Looking forward, Leafly is continuing to build out its team and hire top talent, Vos said. Leafly.com hired 150 people over this year with no end in site, she added.