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Q&A with Unity Marguerite Whittaker, Curator at Village Bloomery

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Unity is Curator and Bloomer at the Village Bloomery, Co-Founder of BlyssCloud, a writer, photographer and creator of cannabis style guides. Her work has been featured in Huffington Post, Georgia Strait, Her(b) Life and BlyssCloud. She’s also one half of cobb & unity, the he said/she said of cannabis podcasts sharing the local BC and Canadian cannabis community with you. She’s well versed in stylish and quality cannabis accessories and legal, safe and respectful cannabis consumption. Alpha Woman caught up with Unity just prior to the re-opening of Village Bloomery.

AW: What is your personal history with cannabis?

I’ve been a cannabis consumer for 28 years (eek!).  Growing up in Vancouver, smoking pinners out of crushed pop cans was part of our teen experience, although my consumption has been steady, my ‘why’ has shifted through the years. Education has taught me to be a conscious consumer. I now track my cannabis consumption, seeking experiences which lower my anxiety and support my wellness journey.

AW: Tell us about your professional journey and why/when you ended up committing to the cannabis industry.

I worked in the fashion retail industry for 17 years including owning a store in Kitsilano, the beachy neigbourhood of Vancouver.  I shifted into the corporate world of residential development working in Mexico and Canada.  After a couple of years of working a corporate role, I experienced severe panic attacks and depression. Then 3.5 years ago I was invited to join BlyssCloud as a co-founder by a friend I’ve known since I was 18. I began studying cannabis and was immediately hooked. It feelt like a natural fit.  I joined the Village Bloomery team in the spring of 2019 as a Curator & Bloomer.  My primary focus is inventory of cannabis and accessories.

AW: Tell us more about Blyss Cloud and the challenges you faced building a beautiful lifestyle media brand for women in the cannabis industry.

BlyssCloud was an incredible experience.  I enjoyed it immensely.  Of course, I feel disappointed that we weren’t able to attract the capital or partnerships we needed to grow it.  Additionally, the founder needing to be anonymous due to being a mother, her husband’s job and their geographical location limited us.

I learned that cannabis brands who have founders out of the canna-closet will be more successful because consumers are seeking to connect with communities and people not just products and content.

With BlyssCloud, I spent two summers in Toronto/Ottawa; travelled frequently to legalized states like Colorado, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and California.  I developed a unique POV of creating content for US brands, as well as, pre-regulated and regulated cannabis.

We focused on creating cannabis educational content for professional women around 40 who had children.  This niche focused and passion propelled us forward.

AW: What were your biggest learnings as an entrepreneur in the media scene at BlyssCloud, and your own content creation company?

In the words of Marie Forleo, “everything is figureoutable”.

I’ve been avidly taking photos since I was 12. I’ve enjoyed journaling and writing since I was 9. I’ve studied both and have never pursued a career in either. I learned very early on in cannabis, that this industry moves so quickly that content creation had to match this speed. At BlyssCloud, we initially hired someone to do the content creation but the delivery didn’t match the speed we needed, so I learned how to do what needed to be done and I did it.

Creating content in cannabis is a fast pace experience.  My mantra is: It’s progress not perfection.

Cannabis can be a tough industry for women yet paradoxically it can also be a tremendous opportunity.

AW: What do you think women entrepreneurs can take action on in the space succeed? What are our biggest challenges?

Our biggest challenge is ourselves.

When we resist what is, we waste our energy.  The gender bias, racial bias and stigma are real.

I’ve witnessed people troll other brands and personal social media accounts because they disagree with something that has been said, done or posted. It’s not uncommon to see accounts frozen or shut down by Instagram based on group-driven complaints.

When we do this, we hold women back because it becomes scarier for us to put ourselves out there.

If you disagree with someone or a brand; simply unfollow, disengage, mute and/or block.  Our time is better spent investing our positivity in ourselves and what we’re creating – not channeling our negativity towards destruction of another.

AW: Have you seen a shift in attitude towards cannabis since legalization? When do you think stigmas will really begin to break down, and why?

More people are talking about cannabis yet the stigma is real. I’ve become comfortable shifting boundaries with perceptions and I arm myself with knowledge of regulations and statistics.

I will roll joints in age-gated public in very normal locations.  Heck, it’s legal. I’m not breaking the law and I enjoy poking perceptions steeped in stigma.

If we want to normalize consumption, then we need to invest in a diversity of people because they will hire diversity and create products which appeal to a greater population of people.

“Female-identified leaders are still underrepresented in key decision making and board positions across the cannabis space.” – High Heels for Her

Here are some startling statistics, as seen on High Heels for Her:

  • Women received 2.2% VC dollars in  2017 and2018.
  • 90% of venture funding raised by black women since 2009 went to 34 women.
  • Since 2009, black women have only raised 0006% of the $424.7billion total tech venture funding.
  • There are 8 female CEO’s and 92 male CEO’s in Canadian License Producers.
  • We ask men to win and women not to lose.
  • None of Canada’s TSX 60 companies were headed by a woman and two-thirds did not include a single woman in top earners during the 2017 fiscal year.

AW: In your role as Curator at The Village Bloomery, what Licensed Producers are exciting you the most and why?

Photo credit: Wendy Shephard and Blissed Love

I’ve been really fortunate to build fantastic relationships with LP’s and to tour 8 facilities.  I’ve learned everyone is doing their best to create products people will love in a tightly regulated industry.

Sundial in Olds, Alberta has the biggest buds I’ve seen.  They are growing craft at scale and their growers come from the pre-regulated industry.  Watch out for Top Leaf and BC Weed Co..

48North is a brand to watch.  I love their cannabis accessories, magazine and team.  They support women entrepreneurs in cannabis. I was awarded a scholarship by them in 2018 to attend Leaf Forward in Toronto.

Tantalus is a local favourite of mine.  I feel they nail every brand element they execute on.

Tweed has moved me deeply with how they give back to their communities and fascinating strategic moves.

Aurora Sky amazed me with how future forward thinking they are.  I feel proud to be Canadian knowing they represent our Canadian cannabis on a global scale.

7acres is a brand which gets me excited with how they’re bringing cannabis to market that appeals to long-time consumers by selecting award winning seeds and presenting their product in a way that invites new consumers to feel a part of the dialogue

Qwest is grown in one of my favourite places in the world, the Kootenays. They’re bringing to market the BC Bud we adore.

Eve gets me excited with the variety of cultivars they’re bringing to market with fun names that resonate with me – The Boss, Hostess, Dreamer, Advocate, Yogi and Optimist.

AW: With the next wave of cannabis formats soon to be released what do you feel will be the formats that will appeal most to women (and that you’re most excited to curate for your female clientele), and why?

Mothers are super busy and experience stigma.  Edibles and vape pens make it easier for them to consume in a safe, respectful and responsible way around their children. It will be easier to micro-dose.

This next wave of products will appeal to people who dislike smoking and feel fear around being high or the plant. It will be exciting and more important for us emphasize safe consumption and how to dose.

AW: How do you keep fit mentally and physically?

I’ve had a regular meditation and yoga practice for 19 years. On work days, I wake at 5:15am-ish to do a quicki Kundalini practice followed by a sitting meditation using my new Muse, a gift from Emerald Health.  Then I head out to either an Ashtanga based Rocket Series yoga class with Risto Duggan or a strength and conditioning class at Tight Club. I prefer commuting cycling over driving, and I have a dog, so I walk 6-10km a day. My diet has been wholefood plant based since 2000.

Living naturally, being outdoors, feeling grateful and focusing on the positive are priorities.

AW: What are your favourite methods of consuming cannabis, and do you use cannabis for different purposes throughout the day/evening?

Photo Credit: Wendy Shephard and Blissed Love

I’m a classic joint smoker.  I love it. During the week, we do cannabis tasting in the late afternoon.

I micro-dose oils every morning like vitamins.

I dab with my mini-nail at home.

I take bong hits when I’m in a hurry.

I consume edibles when I’m sick or feeling super sad.

I enjoy vaginal inserts two days before my menstruation.

I only use cannabis infused topicals on my skin.

I’m washing my hair with terpene inspired shampoo and conditioner by Up Cannabis.

I use Kush Mascara by Milk Makeup.

The PAX3 is my vape of choice for micro dosing throughout the day or when I need to be discreet due to circumstances.

Who would you most like to smoke a joint with and why (dead or alive)? Considering your choice, what strain would you choose to smoke with this person?

My mother, her sister and their parents; as well as my dad’s mother.  I’d do anything to see, talk and feel my family again.  Having lost so many people I love is hard.

I’d choose a low 1:1 THC/CBD sativa, organically sun grown, hand trimmed, hung to dry and served fresh.

I’d also arrange for a topical facial and infused massage with CBD fresh juice mocktails.

I’d want us to talk and laugh – for the moment to last forever.

Where is your most favourite place on earth and why?

I’ve travelled, worked or studied in 43+ countries, this is a hard choice.  Places that hold a special place in my heart are: all of New Zealand (I hitchhiked and camped solo there for two months); San Sebastian in Spain; Gili Trawangan in Indonesia; Ericeria in Portugal; Urubamba in Peru; Tikal and Lago Atitlán in Guatalmala; Hampi in India; Isla del Sol in Bolivia; Vilcabamba in Ecuador; Roatan in Hondorus; Hossegor in France; Tulum in Mexico; Byron Bay in Australia and more.

Ultimately, my favourite places are oceans, mountains, lakes or anywhere with deep spiritual meaning.  I love how Vancouver has so much nature in the city, I live a couple of blocks from the ocean; my commute to work is along the seawall for 5km.  My monthly mountain escape is Nelson in the Kootenays – famous for its homegrown BC Bud.

AW: Such a beautiful and unusual name! Is there a story behind your name, Unity Marguerite?

Marguerite is my middle name; I was named after my mother’s mother. \ I feel a strong connection to my female lineage – they were both design savvy, strong beautiful women.  My mother and I were very similar. Our birthdays were two days apart. Her middle name was Joy – I was her mini-her. She passed away 8 years ago and my nana passed when I was child. This has been a hard loss – not having these wise women guide me. I began using Marguerite as part of my first name to pay homage to my history.

AW: What excites you most about the next 10 years of the cannabis industry?

Working with the government to shift how we package, market and discuss cannabis.

When the science comes, then more people will begin consuming cannabis.

To create a medicinal cannabis program that supports high dosages for those who require this for their wellness needs.

AW: Do you have any words of wisdom for other women who are thinking of joining the cannabis industry? Is there any cannabis industry-specific training or schooling available for women thinking of a career in cannabis?

This is a new industry. Jump in. Show up. Listen deeply. Share your talents and voice. Everyone’s voice has value.

No one is going to invite you to pull a chair up to the table. So pull your own chair up. Or, better yet, build your own table.

In Canada, these are my favourite cannabis educational training programs:

In the US:

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Leslie Andrachuk

As a bilingual pioneer in global digital publishing and marketing, Leslie is happiest when creating new things and inspiring her teams. She is passionate about changing biases that hold women back from realizing their true power and is grateful that at this point in her career she has the skills to make real change.

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