Female Founders: Lilach Mazor Power Of ‘Giving Tree Dispensary’ On The Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Woman Founder
An Interview With Candice Georgiadis
It’s important to create raving fans. You want your business to have customers and a team that loves your brand and believes in what you do. Having a community of loyal fans is essential for anyone looking for long-term success.
As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lilach Mazor.
Lilach Mazor Power is the founder and CEO of Giving Tree Dispensary, one of the only woman, majority-owned Arizona cannabis companies. For nearly a decade, she has led the vertically-integrated operation placing a strong emphasis on corporate citizenship, raising over $100,000 for charities. Power is also the brand builder behind in-house product lines Kindred, Katatonic, and cannabis for menopause brand, Revelry. In 2021, Giving Tree Dispensary was named to the Inc. 5000 List of America’s fastest growing private companies and was a Phoenix Business Journal Small Business Award finalist. Power is now in the process of expanding operations to Puerto Rico and Israel.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
Health and wellbeing has always been a passion of mine and when Arizona passed medical marijuana legalization, I was in a place where I was trying to build an alternative wellness center. My husband is an ER doctor and through his work I learned how many people were relying on emergency care to alleviate their chronic pain. I believed there were better solutions for pain management. Medical marijuana was an alternative that fit into my business model and also opened up another channel of revenue to support my wellness center concept. I applied for one of the first licenses in Arizona and I haven’t really looked back. My company Giving Tree Dispensary is thriving and now serves both medical marijuana patients and adult-use consumers over age 21. Though my original wellness endeavor didn’t work out, the cannabis industry has been truly rewarding. This year we were named to the Inc. 5000 List of Fastest Growing Private Companies in America.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
I knew the cannabis industry was going to be different from any other industry I had been in before, but I don’t think I realized how wild it would be. Once I had won one a marijuana license, I had to find commercial property to operate. I found a space where the landlord was willing to lease to a marijuana company. It was hard to find people who were open to this early on in the industry. A few weeks before the official start of my business I found out the landlord had changed their mind and didn’t want to rent it out anymore. I inevitably ended up buying the property, which was a blessing in disguise. Over the past nine years, I have never been at the mercy of a landlord and it has allowed me the ability to expand and grow the dispensary on my timeline.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Building a business plan is critical before starting a business, but it is important to recognize that it is a living and breathing document. I worked on my cannabis business plan for months to inevitably find out it was way off. I needed to add an extra zero. Instead of $100,000, it was a $1 million endeavor.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My family has been incredibly supportive throughout this entrepreneurial journey. I wasn’t an easy teenager and I applaud my parents for always being there for me. They never made me feel like I had to have everything figured out as I was carving out my career path. They really helped me believe I could do anything. Also, my husband Keith has been by my side for the highs and lows of business ownership. When I first started Giving Tree Dispensary, I told Keith that it was a five year plan. That was nine years ago! He’s always been an optimistic force who has reassured me along the way, even when we had to use our savings to cover payroll during a separation from my business partner, Keith was understanding and actively helped the business overcome that challenge.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. According to this EY report, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. This reflects great historical progress, but it also shows that more work still has to be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience what is currently holding back women from founding companies?
Sometimes we can hold ourselves back because there is a fear of failure. I believe this perfectionist mentality and pressure is placed more on women than on men by society. This can lead to women never taking the first step towards starting their own business. In order to combat this fear of failure, I believe we need to encourage girls and women that, “Done is better than perfect,” especially when pursuing a dream.
A lack of funding is also inhibiting women founders. It is still harder for women to raise capital and the numbers show. MJBizDaily recently released a report on women and minorities in the cannabis industry. In the U.S. the percentage of executive positions held by women fell between 2019 and 2021, from 36.8% to 22.1%. Many investor groups are still dominated by men, and they tend to invest in people like them.
Can you help articulate a few things that can be done as individuals, as a society, or by the government, to help overcome those obstacles?
It all starts with education, teaching and making an effort to make a difference. It could be school, college, mentorship programs, it could be parents raising their kids differently. We need to show young girls and women that it is okay to speak highly of yourself, to be confident in your abilities in a leadership role. If there were more training or programs on this, we could all move forward collectively to overcome these obstacles. On another front, I think we need to make women feel okay about “not having it all.” I’ve seen a lot of women make career decisions based around their future goals of building a family. Nothing is going to be perfectly balanced, the important thing is that women feel like they have a support system to pursue leadership opportunities and a family, if that’s what they want. On the government end, we need more scholarships dedicated to funding women entrepreneurs and more commitment from financial institutions. This is one of the issues we see in cannabis. Because our industry lacks access to traditional bank loans and relies on private funding, women have an even harder time raising capital for cannabis businesses. Equal funding needs to be mandatory before it becomes natural.
This might be intuitive to you as a woman founder but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?
First and foremost women are very capable and have really good instincts. They can wear many hats from running logistics to overall management. It is an amazing skill set as a founder because you can keep moving forward. Also, being a founder is a way to control your own destiny. It’s very satisfying to work hard for yourself and have the freedom to set your own work schedule, which is my favorite thing about being a business owner. There is also the opportunity to change history and be an example to other women and young girls, as well as boys. My two sons get to grow up seeing my husband and I share household duties and also pursue our careers.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a founder? Can you explain what you mean?
- There is no such thing as an overnight success. It’s not easy, you need to work hard to be a successful founder.
- “It won’t work.” This is a phrase you’ll hear often, but silence the noise. Just keep believing and pushing.
- “You don’t work as a founder, others work for you.” Ha, as a founder you’ll work harder than anyone in the company and no one will realize it or acknowledge it.
- “It’s fun owning your own business.” Yes, this is true, but it takes a lot of sacrifice. You will get lonely being the boss and it is all worth it!
Is everyone cut out to be a founder? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful founder and what type of person should perhaps seek a “regular job” as an employee? Can you explain what you mean?
This is not for everyone! A person who is looking for stability and doesn’t like living on the edge should get a regular job. It doesn’t mean either choice is good or bad, it takes a different personality. I think a founder’s risk tolerance is higher than most and the roller coaster of being a founder and running your own business can be exhausting. If this isn’t a fit for your personality and you are looking for more security you will hate every minute of it. Another important thing to keep in mind — no matter if you decide to take a job or start a business, you can have an impact and create change. Helping a founder build a business, mentoring women, and volunteering are just a few examples.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your opinion and experience, What are the “Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Woman Founder?” (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Believe you can and silence the noise. There will always be people who will criticize or lead you to question your choices in business. Ultimately, you need to have confidence in yourself and that is half the battle.
- You can’t have it all and it’s not going to be perfect. In entrepreneurship, don’t be afraid to fail. There is the misconception that perfection is attainable but it isn’t. When you try to do it all, it becomes harder to be successful in any one thing.
- Delegating will help you thrive. You need to have the confidence to lean on others for support. In my own experience, my team and family were there for me when I needed them. By feeling like I could rely on them, I was able to overcome some challenging business situations.
- Create your own informal board of advisors. These people will be your support system and confidants throughout your business journey. Having an outside perspective has helped me to see things in new ways and helped me to adapt and pivot in ways I might not have thought possible on my own
- It’s important to create raving fans. You want your business to have customers and a team that loves your brand and believes in what you do. Having a community of loyal fans is essential for anyone looking for long-term success.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
Giving Tree Dispensary has had a community give back program in place since it was established in 2013. To date we have donated over $100,000 to local and national charities. On the leadership front, I make it a priority to cultivate diversity and inclusivity within my company. I want to give everyone equal opportunity, while also preaching to the ladies to believe in themselves and to just go for it. I speak often at conferences about how I am behind the only woman, majority-owned cannabis company in Arizona, and that this is not something to celebrate. It is a wake up call to encourage other women that they are needed in this industry and in other sectors too. I’m always looking for more advisor roles where I can inspire other women in business.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I want to inspire a movement focused on encouraging female independence and leadership in business. This will not only impact women’s lives, but our society as a whole. The more diverse our business landscape, the more it is able to effectively serve our diverse communities and our diverse needs.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
It is hard to choose just one person since there are so many who inspire me. If I had to focus on female founders, I would love to meet women founders who share the real story, the struggles and the wins, the whole thing. To name a few:
Whitney Wolf (Bumble), Reshma Saujani (nonprofit organization Girls Who Code), Barbara Corcoran (The Corcoran Group), Suzy Batiz (Poo-Pourri), Georgina Gooley (Billie — check it out! Empowering women) and Neta Schreiber (Safeapp). I would also love to meet Reese Witherspoon who keeps kicking butt and showing she can have more than one title and whatever the title is, she will become the best at it.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!