The GRAV Exchange
For years, cannabis culture catered mostly to men, but now companies are beginning to balance their focus. Even before this shift, GRAV recognized that all smokers - genders aside - desired more than just a piece. So we rose to the challenge and created functional and affordable pieces of art for everyone. Today, GRAV is home to a variety of designs for every type of smoker - giving them the chance to embrace their own genuine fashion.
Tanya Rosenzweig, GRAV’s VP of Marketing, feels that cannabis is ready for these changes: “I believe that the industry is thirsty for some of the marketing knowledge that established industries already have. Cannabis, to me, is an industry that doesn’t necessarily have a well-known legacy.” Tanya sees that desire for expertise in the absence of pre-existing business models has afforded her unique opportunities: “In more established industries, there are legacies, and being a minority - on top of being a woman - I never fit into those legacy molds.”
More recent contributors to the marriage of cannabis culture and feminism include Jane West, an incredible brand of smoking products including glass pipes made by GRAV, and Broccoli, a magazine for women who love weed. The women in charge of both Jane West and Broccoli come from extremely successful careers in established industries like marketing, design, and fashion, but they’ve found creative freedom in the cannabis space. That renewed creativity often aligns with more opportunities for advocacy.
The leaders at Jane West and Broccoli aren’t alone. Many of the decisions related to making smoking products more inclusive have been made by female executives. While women account for only 5% of CEOs overall, that number grows to 36% in the cannabis industry.
Kate Csillagi, VP of Sales at GRAV and an accomplished Austin artist in her own right, has been a powerful voice in GRAV’s efforts to cater to female consumers. She says that women in the cannabis space "seek each other out like magnets and work to build each other up, almost like warriors preparing for battle."
Kate sees cannabis as a plant that heals, and thinks that a range of consumption platforms, styles, and preferences benefit everyone. But Kate worries the progress made by women in the early years of the industry could be undone as cannabis becomes more mainstream:
The cannabis industry has made great strides towards cultivating diversity. I’ve witnessed and participated in the headway we’ve made. Although women execs are more common in cannabis than on average, the percentages are actually dropping. Lots of my peers claim they’ve outgrown cannabis, and in many cases it's because of the uninformed shame that we’ve all learned to internalize.
That sort of shame and stigma is exactly what Jae Graham is fighting against. Jae is the founder of MaryJae Smoke Culture, a boutique store for cannabis accessories that opened in 2017. Jae uses education and a judgment-free atmosphere to welcome newcomers to cannabis culture.
Like Kate, Jae emphasizes the therapeutic applications of cannabis, which helped her father while he was struggling with cancer and liver disease. She recalls with fondness how they were able to share meals together at Kerbey Lane Cafe, even towards the end of his life. Now she runs a store just a few blocks away on South Lamar - a prime location in the heart of South Austin that speaks to how much times have changed and how transformative the tenacity and optimism of businesswomen like Jae can be.
Jae is inspired by the wealth of cannabis career paths and business models:
The industry is still so new; rules are being written every day. It really allows me to explore a wide array of choices, whereas in other fields you can only go so far up. For example, with my last employer, I hit a point where I couldn’t move up the ladder, but when I ventured off and started MaryJae, the possibilities became endless. I can take it from a brick and mortar boutique shop to a dispensary, franchise it, start an apparel line, collaborate with a glassblower, start an edible company, etc.
Jenny Salerno, leader of the GRAV Sales Team that participated in MaryJae’s grand opening, thinks of cannabis as “the industry to be in,” and relishes the opportunity to be part of the vanguard. She acknowledges there are still a lot of hurdles for both cannabis companies and women, even within GRAV, but agrees with Jae that the solution is more education and better communication, which Jenny calls “one of the best tools we have to fight adversity.” She believes women are well-suited to bring cannabis out of its underground past and into the future: “Who better knows how to fight for rights and acceptance with persistence and conviction than women?”