Wisdom From The Women Leading The Cannabis Industry, With TaJanna Mallory of CannAssistants
An Interview With Candice Georgiadis
You belong here. There is so much to discuss when it comes to diversity and equity in our industry to the point where people don’t feel a sense of belonging. Coupled with saturation of some markets, those wanting to explore entrepreneurship can feel like there’s no place for them in cannabis. Bring your brands, ideas, healing, perspective, experience. No one can do it like you. You belong. We need you.
As a part of my series about strong women leaders in the cannabis industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing TaJanna Mallory.
TaJanna Mallory, Founder and Chief Executive Officer at CannAssistants TaJanna Mallory is Founder and Chief Executive Officer at CannAssistants, a virtual assistant (VA) agency that provides administrative support to mid-size cannabis companies, founders, and business executives. CannAssistants works with a curated team of VAs and consultants to bridge the gap between administrative support, customer solutions, and a business’s bottom line. At the core of her work, TaJanna believes the foundation of every strong organization is a steady and seamless support staff that excels in daily operations and exceeds client expectations. In 2016, after spending over a decade providing administrative support, human resources, and talent recruiting for large teams and C-level executives in both the for-profit and nonprofit space, TaJanna launched on her own with a focus on providing these much needed services to the cannabis industry. TaJanna’s expertise spans startups, technology, finance, education and hospitality. She’s worked with national, multi-national, and Fortune 500 companies like Comcast, Chick-Fil-A, Deloitte & Touche, The National Football League, Fiserv, and Oliver Wyman. TaJanna holds a Bachelor of Arts in Religion from Florida State University and a Master of Arts in Theological Studies from Liberty University. She resides in Tampa, Florida with her husband of 14 years and their Chihuahua.
CannAssistants is a United States based virtual assistant (VA) agency providing administrative support to midsize cannabis companies, founders, and business executives. CannAssistants understand the unique culture, fast-pace, and nuances of the cannabis industry and will match you and your business with a team of well-qualified VAs that step in and take the extra work off your hands. CannAssistants’s goal is to relieve businesses of administrative load, leaving you with the work that you love. Flexible retainer options and virtual work models reduce the overhead of hiring the traditional way. For more information, please visit: https://www.cannassistants.com
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the cannabis industry?
I was working in the corporate world as an executive assistant (AE). I was getting burned out by office politics, and I was developing this burning desire to travel the world. After a ton of research and a friendly push from my husband, I quit my job as EA to the CEO of a restaurant chain and I launched on my own as a virtual assistant (VA). My client right out of the gate was in the cannabis industry. I had no idea about the industry and wasn’t a consumer. A whole new world opened up and I’m forever grateful.
Do you have a funny story about how someone you knew reacted when they first heard you were getting into the cannabis industry?
I identify as Christian and I’m often involved in my local church in one way or another. Around 2019, our pastor at the time asked me to take over much of the church administration. This would have given me unwanted exposure. I wanted to help but I didn’t want any judgy Christians getting on my nerves so I was dodging the pastor like crazy. Let me think about it. Are you sure you want me? Decline call. Ignore email. You would’ve thought I owed him money the way I was dodging him. Finally, I sat the pastor down and told him that I work in the cannabis industry and I’m not sure if he wants that smoke (no pun intended) from the parishioners. His reply was, “The work you do is legal, right? Ok cool. Thanks for telling me. When do you want to start?” All that energy of dodging him. Wasted.
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?
My husband Andrew is the reason I started freelancing as a VA. After researching for months, he encouraged me to just start because I was going into analysis paralysis mode. LOWD CEO Jesce Horton was my first client and the reason I’m in the cannabis industry. He didn’t know, at the time, that I was just starting but he did know that I was no cannabis expert. During our first call, he said, “No one is. And if they tell you they’re an expert in cannabis, they’re lying.” He sticks to that motto to this day. He took a chance on me and continued to challenge and mentor me.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I’m excited that we are developing content and community for cannabis VAs and freelancers. I think it’s important for VAs to have a place to develop, learn about business, and participate in this industry as entrepreneurs. There needs to be a place that fosters community and enrichment for us. We’re working on that.
Ok. Thank you for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. Despite great progress that has been made we still have a lot more work to do to achieve gender parity in this industry. According to this report in Entrepreneur, less than 25 percent of cannabis businesses are run by women. In your opinion or experience, what 3 things can be done by a)individuals b)companies and/or c) society to support greater gender parity moving forward?
Among my peers, I’ve found that women tend to suffer from imposter syndrome and have a hard time speaking up for themselves more than men. Aside from therapy (lol), some ways that we can get over this is by sizing up our skills and comparing it with salaries. This takes some internet research and maybe conversations with staffing firms and recruiters as well as people who are in positions that you are in at other companies. This gives you perspective of how you actually compare in the marketplace. As business owners, learn to have value-based conversations with prospective clients and investors. Take the focus off of cost and focus more on how you and your company can be an asset.
Companies can do more to make their pay scales consistent and transparent.
As a society, we have to cease this culture of anticipating someone’s abilities based on what we see with our eyes — things like gender, race, or what may appear to be a disability.
You are a “Cannabis Insider”. If you had to advise someone about 5 non intuitive things one should know to succeed in the cannabis industry, what would you say? Can you please give a story or an example for each.
- Serve first. I have found the most authentic entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry are also activists. They have the plant and the people at the core and they build their business around that. Clients and customers can tell the difference.
- Be flexible. This industry can change on a dime. Those that are surviving are flexible with the changes.
- Be ready. It’s fast-paced! Be ready for opportunities as they arise, as markets open and as you create new connections.
- Stay creative. Year over year, I’m evaluating our work at CannAssistants to make sure that we’re always bringing value to the industry and the professionals that we serve. Stay creative to evolve with the industry.
- You belong here. There is so much to discuss when it comes to diversity and equity in our industry to the point where people don’t feel a sense of belonging. Coupled with saturation of some markets, those wanting to explore entrepreneurship can feel like there’s no place for them in cannabis. Bring your brands, ideas, healing, perspective, experience. No one can do it like you. You belong. We need you.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the cannabis industry?
- I’m excited about the focus and attention on ancillary entrepreneurship. We’re showing another avenue for starting a cannabis business.
- I’m excited about seeing more and more diverse business owners.
- I’m excited about the constant conversations happening about how to make this industry better — how we can all serve the plant and the patients better.
Today, cigarettes are legal, but they are heavily regulated, highly taxed, and they are somewhat socially marginalized. Would you like cannabis to have a similar status to cigarettes or different? Can you explain?
No, I want cannabis to have a similar status to a lemon. Lemons are natural and have so many purposes from cleaning to healing. Lemons come in many varieties, from different farmers, from different regions. Lemons are easily accessible for people to purchase. No one bats an eye when you buy a lemon. No one tries to tax a lemon. No one is heavily regulating lemons.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Keep saying “yes” until you’re ready to say “no.” This is advice that I give people when they’re considering opportunities or business ventures. I’ve told myself this as encouragement to take the next step into the unknown. It’s exactly how I’ve ended up here.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Oh man! What a question! I would inspire a movement to remove roadblocks in this country for people to access good health and great wealth. Somehow, this country has managed to capitalize on just about anything a person can use to better themselves than hold people accountable for not bettering themselves. This is an amazing thing for me to think about. I need a plan.
Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you only continued success!