The 2016 Women Grow Leadership Summit in Review

The 2016 Women Grow Leadership Summit will undoubtedly go down in history as an industry-changing event.

With over 1,200 top-quality individuals gathered together, limitless new connections and insights were realized. There were people from all over the world, including Canada, Puerto Rico, and states across the entire US. Many individuals, like myself, came from areas of prohibition with dreams of legalization one day touching down in their pocket of the universe. People found support, encouragement, empowerment…and most importantly, community.

From the perspective of someone living in a prohibition state, these types of events are crucial to my sanity as an entrepreneur in the cannabis industry. It’s not easy living in a land where your medicine and choice of recreation are demonized. It’s difficult to make new, quality friends when you’re worried about hiding such a large part of yourself, and it can be painful to watch someone you admire begin looking down on you once they know you use cannabis. Not to mention that the number one small-talk starter is “what do you do for a living” and it can be daunting to always be judging whether or not the whole or partial truth would be appropriate in that moment.

But at Women Grow events, I don’t have to hold back anything. People are open-minded, accepting, enthusiastic, and personable. I can talk cannabis for hours and there will always be someone who has more to say. I learn more just by talking with these people for a few hours than I can find searching on the internet, and, best of all, most of them are doing exactly what I’m doing – making a name for themselves in cannabis.


Leading up to the summit, I had the opportunity to help design a few different pieces for Women Grow to use at the event.

Early on, I put together the square graphics used on social media that highlighted four different lightning-talk speakers. Later, I put together the brochure to advertise for people to join Women Grow as a Cornerstone or Individual member that was placed in the Leader welcome bags. Finally, I designed about 18 slides of visual data that was then animated by another individual to have on a loop at the welcome dinner, in the lounge, and elsewhere.


I had originally planned to get to Denver on Tuesday and help the Women Grow team get things set up, but the snow had other plans for me. After praying with no avail for the traction law to be lifted, I left Vail around 9:00 am on Wednesday, endured about 3 hours of driving 20 mph down the highway on broken chains (that yes, did indeed mess up my car), and didn’t finally arrive in Denver until 2:00. I sat in my car and did some energy medicine for a few minutes, and then off I went into the summit.

I began by registering, and then excitedly went on a hunt for my coworkers that I hadn’t seen since Vegas. I had been missing everyone terribly! Like I said, these events are crucial to my sanity – and after 3 months of lonely prohibition life, I was ready to see my tribe!

The hotel had fabulous furniture

Each floor of the hotel was decorated in a different theme. Floor 3 was childhood themed

Lobby of the Curtis Hotel

After mingling a while in the lounge sponsored by The Farm, my friend Jenn and I took the shuttle to Mindful Dispensary. There, we had a while to all go through the dispensary line and pick up whatever our hearts desired. They were selling limited edition vaporizer pens in collaboration with Women Grow. These were a live-resin high-CBD to THC ratio sativa – perfect for daytime use, as it alleviates stress while providing uplifting effects, and does not get you “stoned.” I actually purchased a gram of Highwayman Wax, a high-functioning sativa that’s great for productivity and creativity.

Comes in a complimentary memorabilia case. 

Diamond studded end that glows red with each inhale

While waiting for the shuttle to pick us back up, we noticed a “Free Dabs” sign outside a little head shop just a few buildings down. Our curiosity got the best of us, and we took a peek inside. They were, indeed, giving out free dabs (sour diesel) and we did, indeed, accept one. It was a fantastic experience.

The trip ended up taking a little longer than we had anticipated, so when we got back things became a whirlwind. The Women Grow team gathered all together for the only time in those three days to took a group photo, then the welcome reception and dinner for Leaders, sponsored by Incredibles, began.  


That evening, I met and connected with some amazing women over delicious food.

I also awkwardly hovered around the poster table for a while when the Incredibles party was so dense you couldn’t even get through it. This table sold posters, printed on American hemp paper, that displayed an exact replica of the poster used by women in the 1930s to fight alcohol prohibition. The text below reads as follows:

“This is an exact replica of the poster created in May of 1929 in Chicago, where a dozen women founded the Women’s Organization for National Prohibition Reform. The women of the WONPR were considered smart and sophisticated women of the era, and their status attracted press coverage and made the movement fashionable. In less than two years, membership grew to almost 1.5 million, triple of the membership of the prohibition group.
The women of WONPR argued that ending prohibition would end the crime, corruption, and furtive drinking that prohibition had created. Repeal would return decisions about substance use to families. The WONPR gained the upper hand in the battle over prohibition by harnessing support from women and quickly became the largest repeal group in the country and on December 5, 1933 the Twenty-First Amendment was ratified ending prohibition.”

The next day began with yoga at 7:00 and a networking breakfast at the Curtis Hotel. I met everyone at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House for the Lightning Talks starting at 10:00 am sharp. There were 32 speeches with 30 speakers who each had 7-12 minutes on stage in which they discussed a part of the industry in which they had exceptional knowledge. My top 5 favorites included Sherry Glaser’s “Taking the High Road,” Jaime Lewis’ “Forgetting Regret: Embracing the Unknown to Find Balance,” Genifer Murray’s “How I Lost my Company,” Moriah Barnhart’s “Mom Really Does Know Best,” and Maureen McNamara’s “Comparison: Is it Thieving Your Joy?” Although I must say, everyone was absolutely fabulous.

The speeches opened with comedian Sherry Glaser’s “Taking the High Road.”

Glaser warmed us up with her daily “Boom Chakra Lakra” routine that goes through the mantra “I am, I feel, I will, I love, I see, I know” with coordinating body movements – one of which was swiveling your hips. This was a great ice-breaker for the entire audience that got everyone up and out of their seats, laughing and engaged with the people surrounding you. And it was great to see the few men scattered throughout the seats roll their hips!

In the first half of the day (10:00 am to 1:30 pm), we had a mindfulness break led by Jessica Dugan. This was unlike any other break I had experienced at a conference before, and did a wonderful job of getting us out of our seats and smiling again.

To close the morning sessions, comedian Sherry Glaser did a hilarious bit of an old woman talking about getting medicinal cannabis for her and her dying husband. It was authentic, touching, and funny all at the same time. For lunch, an hour and a half was allotted for people to find food nearby and dine with whomever they pleased.  I brought some lunch back to my friend at the poster table, and we had the pleasure of chatting with some wonderful people.

The second half of the day took off with Melissa Etheridge talking about her experience with breast cancer and cannabis. She was followed by two other heart-wrenching speakers: Moriah Barnhart and Alison Ettel. These talks were also broken up with a yoga stretch break led by Kristin Ehasz which again got us up and out of our chairs. I thought to myself, “These types of breaks could only have been planned by women,” – and they were. Women are caretakers, both of themselves and others, and are therefore concerned about people not getting too tense or tight during the day.

The amazing Jazmin Hupp

We enjoyed live music by Lenny West between speakers

Jeanne Sullivan inspiring us with her Wonder Woman costume

Melissa Etheridge

Comedian Sherry Glaser during her "Grandma Rose Knows" bit

Comedian Sherry Glaser during her "Grandma Rose Knows" bit

Yoga Stretch Break by Kristin Ehasz

The speakers were informational, inspirational, and insightful. Here are some of my favorite notes from speakers throughout the day:


Jazmin Hupp’s “Welcoem to Women Grow” and “Your Turn”

  • 80% of healthcare decisions are made by women
  • 18 women die every day from painkillers, and 30 more are in the ER each day due to them
  • Legal cannabis in the US is a 5.4 billion dollar industry
  • You become the average of the five people closest to you. If you’re not happy with who you are, now is a great time to make some new friends!


Genifer Murray’s “How I Lost My Company,” 5 Tips for success in business:

  1. Read the documents and ask questions
  2. If someone asks you to burn a bridge, recognize it as a red flag
  3. Don’t be afraid to stand up for what you know is right
  4. Stay informed and involved
  5. Don’t be afraid to fail


Renee Gagnon’s “What About Her Dream?”

  • Competition distracts from making great product – don’t worry about anyone else, only focus on the things you love doing. Nobody is good at everything.


Sara Batterby’s “The Unexpected Secrets to a Successful Raise,” 5 Tips:

  1. Be the best investor. Think about how you can contribute to other peoples’ success.
  2. Be in service. Connect yourself to what you’re passionate about.
  3. Make family.
  4. Read between the dollar signs. Don’t do this just for the money – as women, tune in and understand your customers and what they want.
  5. Be your lady self. Don’t be afraid to throw out the rule book and do your own thing.


Sheri Orlowitz’s “Putting the ‘Biz’ in Cannabis – Legal, Financial and Leadership Strategies"

  • Our leadership strategies will set us apart – lead like a woman and be who you are.
  • Hire those with courage, honesty, integrity, and respect.


Alicia Syrett’s “Your Dollars and Actions Are Your Vote”

  • It’s our responsibility to proactively help women. Look for brands that have a woman at the head of the company, or female authors, directors, and artists.


Maureen McNamara’s “Comparison: Is it Thieving Your Joy?”

  • Comparison is the thief of joy. Instead of being threatened by something that is better than us, we should instead be inspired by it. In this way, comparison can be beneficial.
  • Get out of your own way with these steps:
  1. Notice it (that the act of comparison is upsetting you)
  2. Change it. Ask generative questions. Know that you are limitless.


Jane West’s “Cannabis Cured my Imposter Syndrome”

  • Imposter syndrome: The fear that you have no idea what you’re doing and fooled everyone into believing that you are more competent and capable than you actually are. Identified by client using phrases such as “I’m not” or I’m just.”
  • Jane accomplished what she has because she began thinking differently. She advises everyone think and act big.


Moriah Barnhart’s “Mom Really Does Know Best”

  • This was the speech that will stay with me forever. Read about her story here.
  • Over 50% of children are diagnosed with a mental disorder or illness.


Nurse Heather Manus’ “The Endocannabinoid System”

  • In 1964, Dr. Raphael Mechoulam discovered the endocannabinoid system. This system is not taught in medical or nursing schools.
  • The endocannabinoid system is the body’s homeostasis or balancing system for all the other systems within the body
  • CB1 and CB2 keep balance and fight disease
  • Cannabis can be likened to vitamins; if our bodies are not producing endocannabinoids like we need, it’s the same concept as lacking in calcium or potassium. If we are deficient in a nutrient, we can take vitamins to help supplement our bodies. Cannabis is the supplement for a deficiency in endocannabinoids.


Allison Ettel’s “Cannabis and Pets”

  • Animals also have an endocannabinoid system.
  • Animals metabolize cannabis differently. Its effects are louder, longer, and stronger.
  • One should avoid pure THC when dosing pets; a 50:50 ratio of CBD:THC is the highest one should ever go.
  • When dosing an animal, consider weight, condition, and goal (symptom relief or treatment?)
  • Always start small with animals and increase in tiny increments


Cathie Bennett Warner’s “Safe Cannabis: Why Women Will Lead the Way”

  • Only 5% of all cannabis in California is lab tested. It is important to be tested because there can be pesticides, bug infestations, and molds found in cannabis, which can have severe side effects when being used to treat medical patients.
  • We need to be accountable for our products
  • We should be testing for cannabinoids, terpenes, microbiologicals, pesticides, and mycotoxins


Lauren Gibbs’ “Make Your Business Human”

  • There are 2.2 billion social media users – this is 1/3 the planet
  • Social media can be used as a relationship accelerator
  • In our social culture, everyone is seeking a human connection and businesses can stand out if they are able to be authentic and relatable with their community
  • You should make your interactions feel real – don’t just repurpose traditional advertising
  • Be helpful, answer questions, and give things away

Lauren's company, Rise Above Social Strategies, donated these awesome stash boxes to the Leader welcome bags

Kiana Hughes’ “Changing the Conversation About Cannabis”

When talking to people about cannabis, be

  1. Educated
  2. Proactive
  3. Patient
  4. Considerate (no sarcasm/judgment)
  5. You; share your story, reflect a professional image

Leah Maurer’s “Going Grassroots: Normalizing the Cannabis Conversation in Mainstream America”

  • Find your cause and make a plan.
  • Have talking points on your causes and stick with them. Leah’s are:
  1. Regulation is safer for children
  2. Law enforcement resources are freed up
  3. Tax revenue goes to places that desperately need it
  • Know your legislators
  • Start the conversation and get out the vote
  1. Talk with people in communities
  2. Know the facts and be able to present people with valid sources
  3. Form alliances with others who share your cause
  • Make sure you register to vote!!

Steve Fox’s “How Women Will Lead the Transition from an Alcohol- Dominated World to a Cannabis-Enhanced Culture”

  • Cannabis provides a less harmful alternative to alcohol
  • It’s unfair that those using cannabis are treated as second class citizens when people are pressured to use alcohol all the time
  • Wear “Women Know” gear and be ready to explain, when people ask, that women know marijuana is less harmful than alcohol and that we will be better off when we transition from an alcohol-driven society to a cannabis culture.

Thursday night, SSDP hosted a private party at the Nativ Hotel.

There, were able to mingle over drinks and even get comfortable on a lounge couch. After a long day and hour-long drive waiting for my friend and I, we didn’t stay too long.  

Outside the Nativ Hotel

Lights in the Nativ Hotel

The next day began with morning yoga and a breakfast bar, then was filled with 45-minute breakout sessions on each hour with a lunch break. I actually posted up in the Networking Lounge with a project I had been working on for Jane West and my own little promotional for The Cannabis Cleanse.

During this time, I was displaying and gathering feedback on a series of packaging designs I had created for Jane’s new product line. While I had mockup designs for both The Tube and The Weekender, the product I was mainly discussing was The Weekender. I would pick up and demonstrate the prototype, then explain that we were looking for any comments one might have one the four different packaging styles laid out in front of them. It was an interesting experience, to say the least. I got an assortment of responses – and almost none of them matched up. Literally every design was at one point someone’s least and most favorite. But I took notes and did get some really helpful feedback that I have now compiled and passed along to Jane.

At the same time as I was conducting market research on the Jane West packaging, I was discussing Coming Clean with Cannabis with passer-bys. I was astounded and completely flattered by the number of people who had heard of and/or downloaded the eBook and had some amazing conversations with wonderful people! This experience gave me insight on where to take the Cannabis Cleanse next – a full update on that is on the way soon!

Lunch this day was in boxed form so that people could pick up a lunch and take it wherever they pleased to chat with new friends. I expected the food to be crummy, but it was actually of great quality and quite delicious. I had a chicken salad wrap with sea salt chips and a clementine (and I’m proud to say that I resisted the chocolate chip cookie!).

The summit ended around 5:45 that day, and my friend and I stayed behind to help pack up. We briefly joined some other Women Grow ladies for a post-summit celebration, then headed home for a night of full sleep.

A map indicating where in the US Women Grow chapters are located. 

Overall, the summit was fantastic.

The women I saw were strong and fearless while also being compassionate and approachable. They didn’t take any shit – and let us know that we shouldn’t either. These women weren’t afraid to be real, even if it meant cursing (which I found incredibly cool – it reminded us that we don’t have to be “good little girls” and made us feel more intimate with the speaker). I left feeling empowered and excited with tons of new connections that I know will help make my dreams a reality.  It was exactly what I needed, and I can’t wait to see where the rest of this year goes. 

Copyright © 2016 Kristen Williams, All Rights Reserved