Women of Weed: Elissa Hambrecht
Updated: May 15, 2020
Women of Weed is a High Vibes Media series highlighting admirable ladies who work to educate and advocate for the cannabis community.
Elissa is a perpetual manifestor when it comes to building a company. She is a self-proclaimed "serial start-up entrepreneur." She believes in the mentality, "If you have a vision, if you have a mission, then it's ready, set, go." She is one of the partners and Chief Operating Officer at fumé.
fumé is a vertically integrated company based in Napa Valley. This means their supply chain is owned by them as well. Within fumé, they operate delivery services, develop brands, and grow cannabis plants to create products.
Their first brand, LAKEGRADE, launched the summer of 2019. LAKEGRADE cannabis is grown by a master grower in Lake County, CA. Elissa plays an essential role in the development of fumé's company culture.
"I go in at the earliest stages to raise money, to wear all the hats," Elissa said. "Early-stage biz ops. I love what fumé offers because we have a lot of different business opportunities. It's like a perpetual start-up machine."
Elissa prides herself on executing the beginning steps of developing businesses. She loves the process of creating brands and building company culture. Developing an environment where equality and equity are positive and thrive is crucial to her. She believes you can't make great companies and real values without culture. She puts emphasis on being a great employer. One of her main objectives is to have a workforce staffed with an equal balance of men and women. “I hope we can build a community that’s inclusive, transparent, and provides opportunities for growth,” Elissa said.
Elissa grew up in Santa Cruz, CA. Her professional career began after college when she packed her bags and moved to Barcelona, Spain. She found a job working for a company that organized corporate events and realized it wasn’t entirely her calling. So she opened a Mexican restaurant, her very first business. Since then, she has been a co-founder and part of 10 start-ups, including Belvedere Winery and tastingroom.com.
In contrast to other industries she's worked in, Elissa realizes that there were social hurdles to face in working in the cannabis industry. Elissa is a mother of three children, and while she enjoys a smoke session before hitting the ski slopes, she acknowledges that not everyone may have a positive relationship with cannabis. This is why cannabis education is important to her. She believes people need to be educated on developing a healthy bond with the plant.
As the cannabis industry evolves, consumers are looking to find products that best fit their needs. Navigating the variety of different products will require them to look beyond signifiers like THC potency and develop into searching for more specific qualifiers like terpene profiles.
Elissa believes the experience of learning about all the beneficial properties of cannabis should be interactive and engaging for consumers. "The trick is making it a fun learning curve experience," she said.
Elissa has been proactive in the quest for sensible cannabis regulation. In 2016 she spent time volunteering for Prop 64, which was the proposition that legalized recreational cannabis usage in California. During this time, Elissa felt as if the cannabis industry had a rising representation of women. It was still more than 50% male but compared to the other businesses she worked in, it was closer to an equal split. Over time though, Elissa believes the community has drifted away from that, leaving her feeling like it's just another boy's club.
Gender parody, as she calls it, or the equal representation of men in women has been both a success and a difficulty at fumé. While it can be easy to find female employees for positions like drivers, inventory specialists, and processors, it has been challenging to find females to fill in roles in departments such as cultivation.
Elissa remains optimistic and determined to achieve her goal in gender parody. Since fumé is a vertically integrated company, there is an opportunity to move its employees into other departments, and utilize their staff in roles they might not have typically worked. Elissa hopes that women will work together and focus on building a pipeline of women to enter and take on various positions in the cannabis industry.
Written by: Rebecca Victoria @thatcannabiswriter