This week JADEO caught up with Aliza Sherman, co-founder of Ellementa, a global network, and resource to connect women to cannabis experts and brands. She shared with us a bit about her groundbreaking background, her journey with medicinal cannabis and more about the women’s network she’s developed specifically for the cannabis space.
To begin, can you tell us a bit about Ellementa for those who aren’t familiar?
At Ellementa, we are focused on health and wellbeing and on women’s roles as caregivers. As women, we care for our children, our partners, and our parents as they begin to age. We sometimes are searching for our own health, wondering “how can I take better care of myself,” or “how can I feel better?” We might want to help a friend. At Ellementa, we want to be a woman’s guide to trusted, quality products. We try to be a clearinghouse of useful information. We do this through monthly in-person gatherings in over 45 cities across North America, as well as our website, email, live webinars, and private online forums.
How did your background lead you to create Ellementa?
A. I started the first woman-owned internet company “back in the day.” I helped pioneer the web for women and started an organization in the 90s to teach women how to use the internet. Many of my books have been around business and the internet. Cannabis is like the Internet industry in many ways - and with Ellementa, I started the first women’s global network where women teach women about cannabis.
What made you decide to break into the cannabis industry this way?
When I first looked at the cannabis industry it was from a professional standpoint. At the beginning of 2016, I was looking for where to go with my skills and had a long time digital marketing company. I quickly began learning about cannabis. I grew up in the 80s with the national anti-drug campaign of “Just Say No,” and was told that cannabis was a gateway drug to heroin. I began recognizing all the misinformation out there, and as I started to understand the medicinal health benefits of cannabis, I started to wonder how I could use it for myself. I wasn’t looking for a job, I was just looking for a place to get new business. I also get paid to do future trends for clients which is why cannabis got on my radar. I wasn’t looking at it otherwise.
How was cannabis appealing to you for purposes of your own self-care?
I was going through menopause early because when I finally had a baby at 41, it sent me immediately into menopause. This is not uncommon, but at a younger age, no one told me it would be this bad. I had insomnia that was becoming a real problem. My neck was hurting from arthritis from all the years of using technology: no one knew how badly we were harming our bodies with technology. No one had ever told me that cannabis could help me, but I started looking specifically at cannabis for self-care.
Did it work?
The first time I tried it I slept through the night. I woke up the next morning and I cried. I thought: why don’t people know about this?
Wow, so what was next?
Well, I just happened to be moving back to Alaska where cannabis had been decriminalized in 1975 and a regulated industry since 2016. I was able to find a grower who became my caregiver. Another woman told me how to use a flower vape pen. All I remembered at that time was from what we were told in the 80s, but I became empowered to begin exploring medicine for myself.
How do you introduce products to your community?
We are careful about how we recommend and what we recommend. When we introduce a new product we’ve made sure to have vetted the company. Several individuals on our team try the products, depending on the type of product and the delivery. No one can pay to buy a review from us. We will review based on things found to be effective.
Aren’t the rules around cannabis different everywhere?
Yes, and that means we have a lot of hoops to jump through and mazes to navigate to get information to women.
Why are you only targeting women?
Because women hold the healthcare decision making power in households: which doctors do we see, which products do we use? When one of our friends is diagnosed with something, we reach out with support or suggestions. When you tell one woman about the health benefits of cannabis and she is inspired, she instantly influences her community at large.
Can you tell us more about how the monthly meetups work in connection with sponsorship?
The right sponsor for Ellementa is a company with a willingness to educate. They have to be education forward. To reach our community, we use a combination of different pathways or channels, both online and off. Depending on the sponsorship level, we may showcase someone from a company at a Gathering or provide information about their products or include them on a webinar or survey our members for a brand.
Why does education play such an important role in your mission?
I use as an example when I tried a product for women’s sexual wellness - a CBD oral spray with a bunch of herbs. After taking this particular product, suddenly I had night sweats and insomnia all over again. It turned out that the herbs combined in the product I was using were not good for menopausal women, but I had to research that before I figured it out. Although it sounded really good, the product was more suitable for a pre-menopausal woman. Women’s hormones are very different. How you take care of yourself when you’re at different physical life stages is totally relevant and there is no one size fits all. It’s important to be mindful of that as women explore cannabis considering all the products being made right now. Education helps us question how products are made and how they can help us - or not.
What advice would you like to give to women who want to break into the Cannabis industry?
Bring your talents and skills to the cannabis industry. We need you! Whether you’re a lawyer, accountant, salesperson, graphic designer, or writer, your experience is valid. You can learn all about cannabis. What we learn over time in our careers are things like a good work ethic, professionalism, and business savvy plus the ancillary skills that can support cannabis companies. Ask questions, get everything in writing, and stand up for yourself. Your voice deserves to be heard.