How Annie Davis Is Bringing the Cannabis Business Back to Those Who Pioneered It
After graduating from Harvard Business School in 2007, Annie Davis and her husband wanted to move to the West Coast for the culture and lifestyle. But there was something else about the way people approached life here that also attracted Davis.
“I was really interested in pursuing the function of marketing and brand building so that I could be at the forefront of creating more socially conscious and responsible businesses and companies,” she says. And when Proposition 64 passed in 2016, legalizing adult use and cultivation of cannabis, Davis saw another chance to innovate.
“I can think of few other examples in my lifetime where we have an opportunity to really build and shape a brand new industry from the ground up,” she says, and so in 2019, in her Petaluma home, she started a consulting firm, Growing Impact, which provides marketing strategy and business development for people in the cannabis industry. And after discovering how much better cannabis was than pharmaceuticals for treating her insomnia and postpartum depression, she already believed in the health benefits of the product: “I wanted to be able to contribute to normalizing this plant so that more people, but especially more new moms and more women, would feel comfortable trying it.”
But Davis was after more than helping only those with deep pockets. “Prior to legalization, the people who really cultivated cannabis, pioneered the genetics and distributed and sold cannabis were people of color and women,” she says. “If you have fewer economic opportunities you might feel compelled to do something more risky. But as we remove the risk by making something legal, there should be more opportunities for people of diverse backgrounds to create wealth in this industry.”
Davis says there are significant hurdles to getting a cannabis business off the ground that start with the cost and complexity of getting a license and acquiring land and space for cultivation or retail. “As in all industries, the numbers are pretty abysmal in terms of the ability of women and people of color to raise venture capital and private funding,” she says, pointing out that it’s the people who are already politically and financially connected who can more easily achieve those goals.
“So that’s part of the role that I’ve been playing in this industry, helping entrepreneurs network and connect with sources of capital and helping to develop strategic plans for their businesses and go-to market strategies.” Davis is also giving back; she has carved out some of her time to offer mentorship to underrepresented groups through accelerators like Our Academy and Eaze’s Momentum. “Through Growing Impact, I work with companies that are larger and more well-funded, and that pays my bills and enables me to have some additional bandwidth to be able to advise and consult, for free, with founders that I am mentoring and advising.”
In the end, for Davis, it comes down to a desire to balance the economic and social scales. “I want to create an opportunity for people who have historically been shut out of traditional capitalism or have had trouble accessing opportunities to create wealth within the formal economy.”