Women Grow announced a major leadership change late last month, as founders Jazmin Hupp and Jane West stepped away from their day-to-day roles at the cannabis networking organization. After guiding the company through two years of exceptional growth, Hupp and West have handed the reins to Leah Heise, a Maryland attorney and entrepreneur. Heise comes to her position with an extensive background in regulatory compliance law and experience in the cannabis industry both as an advisor to emerging companies and as an applicant to grow, process, and dispense medical cannabis in her home state.
The founders had been open about their intentions to transition from Women Grow, and Heise saw a prime opportunity to use her skills to take the company to the next level. “I love the brand, and it’s been such a great space to connect,” she explains. “I’m a big supporter of the organization, and I had a lot of ideas about where Women Grow could go in this new phase.” Heise initiated conversations with Jane West about her vision for the future of the organization, and, after a comprehensive search, it was clear that she was a perfect fit to head the enterprise.
Given her knowledge of business formation and passion for implementing systems, it’s no surprise that Heise’s initial priority as CEO is building a scalable infrastructure around Women Grow’s chapter program. “Unlike most startups, they never had a slow ramp up,” Heise says of her predecessors. “They absolutely exploded, so there wasn’t the time to generate the infrastructure, to make sure there weren’t any holes.”
With over 400 applications to start chapters all over the world, Heise and the national team will now work to develop standard documents and processes that ensure consistency and compliance. “We are updating all affiliate agreement documents and will launch an entirely new chapter program. We’re going to make it a more cohesive company. We are one organization, and you should feel that at every chapter meeting, in any city.” Coming out of the chapter system herself, Heise has a good sense of the issues that face chapter chairs and intends to ensure that these women, who are often the first point of contact with the organization, continue to feel empowered, recognized, and heard.
Additionally, Heise aims to build the organization’s membership – both business and individual members – by clarifying the member system and increasing the value of member benefits. She also has an eye on ways to create new revenue streams for the company. “It is already such a powerful brand and has incredible social reach, so we’re able to consider many possibilities.”
Mission and Vision
The new executive anticipates her biggest challenge will be the nature of remote leadership, managing Women Grow’s far-flung national team and dozens of chapters across the U.S. and beyond. Backed by a talented support staff and strong chapter chairs, though, she’s ready to take on trials with her characteristic positive attitude and solution-oriented mindset. “It’s important to me that everyone knows I’m transparent and warm and authentic. This isn’t about me, it’s about the mission.”
Heise’s long-term vision for Women Grow knows no bounds. She sees the organization as a platform that has the ability to disrupt the entire business paradigm for women, people of color, and members of the LGBTQ community. She hopes to continue to use the company to give people a voice and to bring together communities of support. Heise even sees a possible advocacy arm in Women Grow’s future.
“Because it’s brand new,” she says, “there must be a way to utilize the cannabis space to change the conversation in America – how we hire, how we treat one another, how we communicate and collaborate and partner. And Women Grow can be that vehicle for shifting the industry and society as a whole. We have to seize this opportunity for social change, because in our hearts, we’re all activists.”
Photo courtesy of Women Grow