Women, fashion, branding, community, marketing, cool products, starting a business, cannabis life - AMA!

Jeanine Moss
Jan 26, 2018

I'm CEO of AnnaBis, the first luxury brand in cannabis.  We design and manufacture gorgeous odor-proof handbags and purse accessories for the high life.  We sell online and select dispensaries.  Our "secret sauce" is on-trend design, Aroma-Bloc Technology, and special compartments for product and tools. 

AMA about my experiences starting a business, fundraising, working in the industry, the industry, or fashion, production, marketing to women, what cool products I've seen lately, how to start a business, what it's like in my cannabis life.  It's a historic moment!

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If you want to suggest a male-oriented cannabis luxury product, what would it be?

Jan 29, 9:59PM EST0

How well are you promoting women through your business? Is it all-woman company?

Jan 29, 7:16PM EST0

What according to you are the prerequisites and/or qualifications to start a cannabis business?

Jan 29, 5:16PM EST0

What are the products currently in your company’s pipeline? How do you think they will succeed?

Jan 29, 5:26AM EST0

I can't tell you everything that is in the pipeline here (see the question about the "next big thing" below), but I can tell you that we will have some bigger accessories, and that we will have very appealing items for men.  The items we're working on are being tested and refined - but the most important thing is that we are responding to what customers tell us as opposed to thinking we know everything ourselves.  There's an art and technique to listening to customers, but that is what gives me a great deal of confidence that they will succeed.  By-the-way, nothing ever "succeeds" 100%, in other words, there will be some products that outperform others, and the job in product development is to constantly learn from what went before, and "beat" your best sellers in every iteration.  Another rule in fashion is the 30-30-30 rule:  30% of your products are your best sellers; 30% are your competitor's best sellers, and 30% are new.  Maybe not an exact formula, but you get the idea!

Jan 29, 10:37AM EST0

What are your plans for producing an economical range of products? Would you wish to try that?

Jan 29, 12:33AM EST0

I know what you're saying - but in business you have to have the courage of your conviction.  What I mean is, I believe that people want something special, high quality, high design to carry their cannabis.  There are already "giveaway" cosmetic bags, cheap knock-offs and baggies for that matter, if one doesn't care so much about design, fashion, materials, etc., and that's what someone wants.  But quality costs a bit more (and of course, it should last a lot longer, too - and be more joyful to use).  We chose the "affordable luxury" category so we could deliver the quality, design and functionality at a price that is more accessible to more people (there is one of our competitors who makes bags that cost in the thousands!).  What we ARE doing, however, is making a few things we think everyone will love that are smaller and can introduce people to what we're doing.  We think that will create loyal customers who are willing to spend a bit more to get the best quality for the thing that they love!

Jan 29, 10:44AM EST0

What do you think is the secret of your business’s success?

Jan 27, 11:49AM EST0

You're going to be surprised, Jeff, but I think it's a combination of 1) being a good person; 2) Working REALLY hard, and 3) Perseverence (nevertheless, she persisted).  Now, I'm not saying I'm the best person in the world, but I believe in being generous and helping others whenever I can.  Sometimes I fail, but I really do try to have other people's best interests at heart.  If it's a client, I put their interests first (even if it's counter to putting money in my pocket), and I know that has tremendous value to them.  We'll have a long and fruitful relationship.  If it's someone asking for advice, I try to take some time to give it.  If it's a charity that needs a bag, I donate it.  Just do the best you can along the way for others and be generous without being selfless, (because I don't believe in that in business)!  Regarding working hard, I mean you have to put in time, energy and curiousity/mental focus.  In the shower, on your walk, you're always thinking about how to make things better - faster, cheaper, higher quality.  And ideas and how to work with people better.  And you put in time at your desk - because it just takes that.  Regarding persistence, that's truly the hardest.  Things don't EVER go the way you planned.  But you can't be discouraged by that.  You have to keep asking what's happening, why it's happening, what you can do to move forward.  What you can learn from each and ever experience good and bad.  Don't take it at face value.  And when it gets really difficult, I think creativity and seeking outside of yourself helps you keep going.   I know I don't have all the answers, but because I've been a relatively good person in my life, I have a number of people who joyfully give back to me.  This gives me great joy, and the energy to continue.  I'm pretty sure at this point that this is what life is all about.  (And business is life.  Think about it, we spend so many hours at it!)   

Last edited @ Jan 27, 1:12PM EST.
Jan 27, 1:10PM EST0

If you would like to start another business for women, what would it be?

Jan 27, 10:58AM EST0

This is an awesome time, because as far as I'm concerned, 2018 is the year of women and cannabis!  I think about that almost all the time now.  There are tons of things to do for women in cannabis, but one of the things I think needs real propelling is helping cannabis companies figure out how to enable women to make their best contribution (engage them and pay them equally).  And I think the industry as a whole can use a lot of assistance in communications.  In regard to cannabis, this is all just starting.  There is a huge white space for women-focused cannabis products and services from practical and attractive ways to consume, to, of course, carrying cannabis.  I think we should tap into companies like Deloitte who have spent a lot of time and money figuring out how to promote women and enact these things in our industry. And women have to be a part of getting these things enacted.  I'd help with that!  I also think there's a big opportunity in travel and wellness.  Women are adventurous, we are caretakers.  We have money and experience and we're taking that on the road. I would like to be part of that, too.      

Jan 27, 12:48PM EST0

Did you get offers from international companies for partnerships? What is your response to them?

Jan 27, 10:52AM EST0

I have a lot of interest from companies, most of them here in the states.  Though I have been contacted by companies in Canada, and customers all over the the world.  I LOVE partnerships!  Usually if someone contacts you, it's with an idea for distribution, co-branding/marketing, or production.  I'm open to all those as long as it helps us get a great product out to the right people!

Jan 27, 12:32PM EST0

What was your first job? What job were you taking before starting out your own business?

Jan 27, 10:36AM EST0

My first job was selling snakes on the Venice Beach Boardwalk.  My mom was a modern-day Dr. Dolittle, so we always had crazy animals like snakes and terantulas.  I was walking with my snake one day when a hippie went crazy over it and wanted to buy it.  Then I had a whole business and made tons of money for a 12-year-old.  I've always had my own businesses interspersed with working for others.  I have a marketing firm that I've owned for 15 years.  Before that I handled all the communications for The September 11th Fund - which was an honor, and a very demanding position.  I've worked for a lot of management consulting firms, national non-profits (like United Way and American Red Cross), universities, associations, and fashion companies, too.  I can tell you that it all comes to bear when you run your own company.

Jan 27, 12:31PM EST0

What is your education background? From where did you get the knowledge about cannabis?

Jan 27, 9:42AM EST0

My formal education was at about five colleges and universities.  I attended college in Santa Barbara, San Francisco (2 of them), St. Louis and Paris (Sorbonne).  I didn't graduate because I dropped out in my senior year to start a computerized horse trading platform.  My knowledge of cannabis started in Venice Beach, CA when I was just a teenager.  Everyone consumed - friends, family - and in the 70s it was almost legalized before Nixon started the "Just Say No" campaign.  Living in California in those days meant you knew everyone in the cannabis food chain.  I was always on the periphery, consuming as part of my life ... enjoying a puff on weekends, at parties with friends, just like a glass of wine (I never became much of a drinker).  As cannabis started coming out of the shadows in the past 10 years I was really happy, because that's where it belongs - and I started watching how it was developing, the new products, methods.  Then, when I got the idea for AnnaBis, I really dove in. Over the past three years I have been part of the industry, attending events, reading everything, talking with everyone.  I joined NCIA and am on the NCIA Marketing and Advertising Committee. I learn a lot from them. But things are always changing, so you really have to stay on top of things!

Jan 27, 12:27PM EST0

What was it like when you started the business? Was cannabis a taboo at that time?

Jan 26, 8:39PM EST0

I started the business when I was living in a prohibition state (as we like to call them out here in LaLaLand) in 2014-15.  If I told people I was making odor-proof bags to carry cannabis, they laughed, winked, blushed, rushed off and wanted to talk to me privately later.  I also worked for some of the most conservative companies in the country, so I certainly couldn't be flagrant about my cannabis use -- my colleagues had no idea.  That's how I learned what it takes to be discreet!  And I turned those chops into AnnaBis - stylish purses with secret odor-proof pockets for medicine/product, and little compartments for the mints (smoke breath), perfume (stinky smoke smell), handcream (I hate the smell on my fingers) - and a lighter (why o why did I always lose them?).  Cannabis was and is taboo in lots and lots of places.  We just get complacent in places where you can light up on your balcony and wave to the people in the courtyard (we're really in the minority here, you know.  10 states (now that we have Vermont - including D.C.).   40 more to go!  In legal states, you go to an event and there are hundreds of plants decorating the ballroom.  It's amazing!  In prohibition states, people are still afraid that their children will be taken away by child services if they find out, lawyers and doctors can lose their licenses if they're discovered, and people are still going to jail for years - with a disproportionate number of those being people of color.  Erin, my friend, we have a real social justice issue here, and we can't forget about that because we feel free and that we just won a big war (the 2016 elections gave us a great start, but it's not over yet).  But before I start preaching, ask another question!  

Jan 27, 12:27AM EST0

From what you know, what percentage of cannabis users are women? Is this a major market to tap?

Jan 26, 8:30PM EST0

Hi Angela - see the answer to MichelleC below - you both asked the exact same question minutes apart!

Jan 27, 12:19AM EST0
Jan 27, 5:32AM EST0

From what you know, what percentage of cannabis users are women? Is this a major market to tap?

Jan 26, 8:23PM EST0

I think women have been flying under the radar for a long, long time.  Most estimates of cannabis use by women suggest that we make up from 30-40% of total consumers.  (I think it's at least 40%).  But recently, a survey by the Cannabis Consumers Coalition says that we make up 53%!  Gallup says that 8% of U.S. men and 6% of U.S. women use cannabis daily.  EAZE, a delivery service in CA, says that 32% of its customers are female.   Another factoid:  13% of all American adults have tried cannabis since 2015 (up from 6.7% 10 years ago).  In numbers, this means that 54 million American adults consume cannabis, and 22 million of them are female (based on 40% - the number I think is correct).  So, is this a major market?  As an example, about 20 million people do yoga in the U.S.   More than enough for LuLuLemon!  If AnnaBis is able to sell bags to 1% of 22 million women, we'll have a very nice business.  There is really very little in the cannabis world that targets women with the kinds of products and services we like and need.  But that is rapidly changing - so get on our bandwagon! 

Last edited @ Jan 27, 12:27AM EST.
Jan 27, 12:18AM EST0
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Please describe your fundraising campaign. What is it about?

Jan 26, 7:50PM EST0

I've learned that fundraising is really a marketing campaign (who knew?).  You see, no one is going to give you money on your first date.  You have to get to know people, cultivate them, and draw them through your marketing funnel just as you would a customer.  I've learned that you shouldn't just send your deck out to anyone and everyone, and just because someone has pockets-full of money doesn't mean they're going to give you some.  And, I've also learned that fundraising isn't a part-time job.  It's full-time, just like your business.  So you probably need help.  Here's what I do:  1) Put your investment materials up on DocSend so you can track who has looked at them and capture their emails (for future communications),  2)  Put them up also on platforms like GUST, Angel List and Crunchbase;  3) Pitch at as many investor events as possible and drive interested parties to your DocSend to see your pitch;  4)  send out regular communications or "momentum emails";  5) send relevant articles and other things demonstrating your knowledge and participation and successes in your industry;  6) follow-up in person and get personal meetings;  7) Don't leave the meetings with out additional recommendations of people to talk with;  8) Mine the platforms for investors who have participated in similar ventures and reach out to them;  9)  keep doing it for a long time!  You'll also need materials to consumate any deals, so make sure you have those ready (you can look at Due Diligence document articles and prepare those as you can in advance).  That's pretty much what I do!   Hope it helps!

Jan 26, 8:02PM EST0

What cool products have you seen lately? Where can one get them?

Jan 26, 7:39PM EST0

OK, so I'm enamored of good-looking things that do their job well.  So, I really love My Bud Vase and the Journey3 Pipe.  My Bud Vase is made by a lovely woman named Doreen Sullivan who turns vintage vases (and now has some blown for her line) into bongs!  They look terrific on your nightstand, no one knows they're a bong, and you can smoke out of them!  The Journey 3 pipe you can see in a lot of the photos of AnnaBis purses and accessories when we show what goes in them.  It's a sleek, modernistic steel design that holds together with magnets and snaps shut to control smell.  Easy to clean, super cool and functional.  You'll love them!  

Last edited @ Jan 26, 7:55PM EST.
Jan 26, 7:55PM EST0

What were some of the major challenges you faced when starting the business?

Jan 26, 7:29PM EST0

Yikes, that's a big one.  Major challenges include:  how do I make the best product?  How will I reach my customers (particularly hard in the cannabis business)?  Who will help me make the bread (remember Chicken Little?).  But beyond these - they may seem obvious, but they're the first keys - are the human issues.  Building teams is hard.  Creating an operational structure, delegating responsibility and having a partner are SUPER hard.  I think partnership issues are among the toughest.  I've seen and experienced a lot in this category, and since it's one that's less discussed, I'll focus on it here.  Women like to be equal.  We like to share power and collaborate.  That is our strength and our weakness.  In my case, I've made the mistake more than once of having a 50/50 partnership.  Forget that!  It hasn't ever worked for anyone as far as I know if it applies to everything in the company.  You might be 50/50 on compensation, but someone has to have the ultimate say in product development, marketing, operations.  Otherwise, you'll have a lot of strife and ultimately may lose the friendship.  It takes strength and confidence to say, "I'm the best at marketing, so that's where I have to have majority rule."  (Or some other area). It's not about braggadocio, or pride, it's about getting things done and appointing the right person to have ultimate responsibility.  Roles, responsibilities and authorities are key.  Hope that helps!

Jan 26, 7:50PM EST0

What do you see as the most common mistake entrepreneurs make in starting out in the cannabis business?

Jan 26, 7:22PM EST0

I think it's the very thing that makes us go into businss in the first place:  entrepreneurs believe that the minute people learn about what we have to offer we'll have to beat people off with a stick.  If we didn't think that would happen, we probably wouldn't start our businesses.  But it doesn't ever happen. (I've started probably a dozen businesses, and I still (secretly) think that will happen).  But I do plan for it NOT to happen (so maybe actually have learned!).  What that means is that you really have to focus on marketing and sales.  And, of course, you only get one chance to make a first impression, so your product better be awesome!  So, instead of believing that "they will come", what we have to do is focus on the numbers (uggh!).  It's not what we want to do (usually), but we have to actually ask ourselves how many people we're going to have to reach to generate x numbers of visitors to your site (for example), and what that will cost.  Or how many calls you'll have to make before making a sale, and figure out how you're going to do that.  You won't know in the beginning, but you'll create a benchmark and then see if you hit it.  If you don't, you adjust.  If you do, you do more of it.  The other mistake we always make is not having enough money to be successful.  That's a tough one because bootstrapping really does work - sometimes.  And sometimes you can't wait.  I think being an entrepreneur is like being an artist.  It's something you can't avoid.  You can't NOT paint.  You can't NOT write.  You can't NOT start a business.  If that's you, then you'll find a way around all the obstacles, sacrifice your personal time and family time - and the only other thing I'd add is, you MUST find a way to enjoy it because it takes dedicating a lot of your lifetime.  

Jan 26, 7:42PM EST0

Is there a significant number of cannabis users who do not want to come out in the open even if its already legal? How do you help them?

Jan 26, 7:00PM EST0

There are TONS of consumers in the green closet.  Even now with 29 states with medical legal, and 10 (including Vermont and DC) where adult use is legal.  There are at least 22 million women in the U.S. who consume cannabis.  Women stay in the closet because stigma takes an awful long time to go away (think racism, for example).  And, most of us would rather smell like Chanel than cannabis (as sweet as that scent may be).  From our point-of-view, it starts by not being judgmental.  If you want to keep your private life private, rock on.  But regardless of whether you want to tell the world about your cannabis consumption, or keep it to yourself, it's our belief that cannabis is an important part of your life's journey if your consume, and you should be able to honor that.  That's why we made AnnaBis accessories.  You might want to tell people what's inside, and then you might not.  Your choice.  Your power.  Your control.  We never put our name on the outside of our accessories, and that's so that if someone recognizes our symbol (below)  - then they're part of the tribe and maybe you want to know each other!  So, short story long, we help each other by not being judgmental, by recognizing that cannabis is something we do, not something we are, and by giving cannabis the same care we give our ipads, cell phones, eyeglasses and wallets - something totally cute to stay organized, safe, discreet and fashionable!

Last edited @ Jan 26, 7:15PM EST.
Jan 26, 7:13PM EST0

I'd like to tag our friends at Direct Cannabis Network (DCN) above.  In the photo (l-r) are Adelia Carillo (CEO), Roni Stetter, Christina Carillo and me!  Make sure you check out all their amazing coverage of the industry.  

Jan 26, 6:46PM EST1

When did you start using marijuana as medicine? Can you describe your condition then and how cannabis helped you?

Jan 26, 6:44PM EST0

You're going to laugh, but since I grew up in Venice Beach, I never thought of using cannabis as medicine until I needed hip surgery.  I was pretending I didn't need the surgery (doing everything under the sun to avoid it), and I wanted to go for a walk to de-stress because I love nature.  So I smoked a joint before I went (I didn't realize I was already medicating then).  I walk out, and suddenly I'm cured!  I couldn't believe it!  It didn't hurt at all.  I thought I'd jog.  I did.  Didn't hurt.  I thought OMG, this has all been in my head!  It's mom's fault! (Just kidding).  But seriously, I thought it was all gone ... for about an hour and a half.  Then it was back.  And I realized I had just used medical marijuana.  So fast-forward, I had the surgery.  And they asked me my pain goal.  I said "zero!"  So they gave me a bag of opiates - take two every 4 hours.  But I was a zombie and slept all the time (first few days).  I wanted to eat bonbons and watch TV with my daughter,  so I pulled out the cannabis again.  Took 1 opiod every 4 hours and used the cannabis for break-through pain.  Then 1 opiod every 8 hours.  And then, none.  Within about 7 days I was completely off all meds except cannabis, and two weeks after the surgery I had my first business meeting in NYC (I did have to be dropped off and picked up).  But it was MUCH better, and I was able to be present for my convelescence.  Then I became SUPER mad that people are being denied such a useful medicine, and that spurred me on to get involved, and then create AnnaBis.

Jan 26, 6:58PM EST0
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