After eight years running a multiple award-winning edibles company and making national headlines with a soaring partnership with Whoopi Goldberg, Maya Elisabeth has learned a few things about running a successful cannabusiness.
Like many pot pioneers, Maya didn’t start out with investors or even support from friends and family. She started Om Edibles after suddenly finding herself unemployed when the dispensary she worked at folded. She says it was a blessing in disguise and a lesson in faith. “I had to let go and trust. I jumped before the net appeared.” And the leap of faith proved successful, as Maya was carried from fledgling cannabusiness owner to a highly-acclaimed winner of multiple cannabis competitions.
When we caught up with her, Maya was in the enviable act of judging solventless concentrates for San Francisco’s High Times Cannabis Cup.
“I’m really into rosin right now,” she said between dabs from her heady, opal-embellished dab rig. “I’ll take an opal and Ganesh dab rig over a Prada bag any day!”
Maya is at the top of her game in an industry dominated by men. Still, unlike the corporate world where women fill only about 22 percent of leadership positions, 36 percent of leadership roles in the cannabis industry are held by women, according to a 2015 survey conducted by Marijuana Business Daily.
“We call it the grass ceiling,” Maya says. And with Whoopi Goldberg by her side, she’s growing right through it.
It was Whoopi’s idea to start a product line catered to soothing women’s menstrual cycles, Maya says of being discovered by the outspoken actor and activist through her many accolades. Om Edibles has placed first and second in High Times Cups over the years, and nabbed first place at the prestigious, all-outdoor, all-organic Emerald Cup. But it wasn’t just her victories that caught Whoopi’s eye. It was also the fact that Om was part of an all-female collective. Together the duo developed a cannabis line infused with medicinal herbs that Maya believes provides all the relief women are looking for: “a rub,” in the form of a topical salve infused with THC and CBD; “a soak” featuring lavender and Epsom salts for soothing, cannabis-enhanced baths; “medicine” via a psychoactive THC tincture, and “chocolate” – a raw, organic superfood indulgence available in both THC and non-psychoactive CBD versions.
“When I realized that there was a way to become part of a new way to relieve pain, I knew it was right for me,” Whoopi Goldberg stated in an email. “At first people thought this was a niche product. I had to point out that half of the population is not a niche.”
And, Maya says, this woman-centric line doesn’t alienate the guys.
“Cannabis doesn’t discriminate against who she heals. Even if you don’t believe in her, she can still heal your cancer. And even if you’re menopausal or a man, all these products can still bring you relief. The herbs all have beneficial side effects that are good for everybody. Men love the fragrance of the salve. It’s really unisexy because there’s this woodsy undertone and sweet amber.
“And she’s so generous,” Maya adds about cannabis. “She doesn’t discriminate against… what she helps you with. She’s like, ‘I’ll take away your moon and lift your spirits and help you sleep tonight. And that shoulder that was bugging you will feel better, too.’ It’s a big deal if you can save yourself from 12 hours of darkness and pain.”
This generosity that characterizes cannabis is the same generosity that Maya believes is the secret to a successful cannabusiness.
“I feel like I can attribute all of my success to being generous and compassionate with cannabis; using the best, most healthy ingredients I can; and trying to make things that already help people even better with cannabis.”
For women hoping to enter the billion-dollar cannabis industry, she suggests choosing something that’s not already on the market and finding a way to enhance it with cannabis.
“Google is an awesome resource,” Maya says, noting that she is self- taught. “Do some research. Form your own opinions about things. Develop and cultivate a relationship with the plant. Then do a good job, don’t cut corners, be nice, be gracious, be graceful, be compassionate and always reflect the same generosity to the patients that the plant reflects to us.”
Maya’s next move is to merge Om Edibles with Whoopi & Maya. She’s developing ideas for niche markets and researching variations on products they’re already providing. Expect a lot more bath products, she says.
“Those baths are the future! They’re extremely relaxing. I’ve woken up in my towel plenty of times.”
While her successes have come in many forms over the years, Maya’s proudest moments have been reading the testimonials from women who have been inspired by her company to make their own infusions or to venture out and start their own cannabusiness. But the true bottom line is that it really isn’t about the bottom line.
“Anyone can make money off cannabis. But it’s not about making money. It’s about providing awesome ways for people to experience cannabis medicine – ways that feel good, taste good and are good for you. You can do all of it. You don’t have to sacrifice anything.”
TELL US, are you interested in getting into the cannabis business?