Companies can encourage their female employees to strive for greatness in their organization and maintain fair opportunities for advancement in the organization. Gone are the days when executives can expect to get away with promoting a man to a position that a woman at the company clearly deserved.
As a part of my series about strong women leaders in the cannabis industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Julianna Carella, CEO and Founder Treatibles. Julianna Carella is the embodiment of a successful serial entrepreneur. She is a trailblazer — fearless, focused, driven and always ahead of the competition. Her story is noteworthy in that she’s built one of the world’s first medical cannabis companies and since 2008 has created not one, but two multi-million dollar enterprises. These brands are dramatically altering the quality of life for health-conscious consumers and their pets by both providing broad access to safe alternatives and educating the public on the therapeutic value of cannabis and hemp. Carella began her career in San Francisco as a professionally trained dancer. After having her first child, she shifted gears to formally study her long held interest in homeopathic medicine. After some time, she realized how challenging that career was for a young, single mother and pivoted her focus towards accounting. During her time as a bookkeeper, Carella started a side business making medical cannabis edibles for friends and family members who suffered from numerous ailments. When an acquaintance suggested she turn her baking and formulation skills along with her homeopathic background into something more, Carella found that her commitment to helping those around her had untapped potential to grow commercially. In 2008 she established Auntie D’s Apothecary, one of the first five medical cannabis companies in California and began creating a variety of edible cannabis products for people under the brand name of Auntie Dolores (meaning: Anti-pain). She built her business on core principles of health freedom: delivering a gourmet experience, remaining environmentally focused, responsible consumption and the pursuit of thought leadership. Understanding that every patient had different needs and should be able to manage their own doses, she quantified the THC and other phytocannabinoids, offering options in milligrams. As her business grew, she developed choices to serve the needs of diet-restricted consumers, believing that this range of unique treatment options should be accessible to all. In 2011 Auntie D’s began cultivating CBD-rich cannabis in Mendocino California and began new product development. Eventually, clients began to ask if they could use Auntie D’s products to treat their ailing pets. She was again inspired and developed a line of pet products infused with CBD rich oil. In 2013 Auntie D’s introduced Treatibles, becoming the pioneer in creating CBD products for pets. Understanding the new opportunity with hemp, Julianna created a proprietary formula sourced from the company’s own organic hemp grown in South Carolina, where she forged a relationship with master cultivators at the forefront of hemp legalization. The exceptional oil yields an unmatched cannabinoid and terpene profile, creating the entourage effect, providing a full spectrum of benefits for pets that is virtually free of THC, non-psychoactive and non-toxic. Maintaining quality, consistency and transparency became a company mantra. Born from a passion to help people and, subsequently, pets thrive, both Auntie D’s and Treatibles promote Harmony for the whole family® through the happiness and health of each member. Both brands prioritize educating the public on the benefits of full spectrum hemp oil featuring naturally occurring CBD for both humans and pets. Treatibles is now a multi-million dollar company offering organic full spectrum CBD-rich hemp oil products including functional chews, oils and capsules in various potencies that helps pets of all shapes, sizes and conditions. Treatibles are available from coast to coast as well as internationally. And Carella is still dancing every day, to the beat of her own hemp drum.
Thank you so much for doing this with us, Julianna! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the cannabis industry?
My name is Julianna Carella and I became involved in the cannabis industry in 2008, when I founded Auntie Dolores in San Francisco. It was during the economic down turn, my daughter was approaching college age and my career as a bookkeeper became stagnant. I saw an opening that existed in edibles within the cannabis industry. Being one of the first movers in the California cannabis space led the way to opportunities and expansion, but also meant much of the groundwork and infrastructure for the industry was still to be realized. Our work in the earlier years focused on lifting cannabis prohibition and educating the public about the benefits of phytocannaninoids, which were necessary in the evolution of the industry. Auntie Dolores ultimately became one of the leading lifestyle cannabis brands in California. In 2013 I founded Treatibles, a pioneer in CBD products for pets.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The most interesting story is really more of a strange fact. The growth of the Auntie Dolores brand happened during a time when advertising for cannabis brands was illegal and yet within a year of our founding date, the demand for our product spread from the Emerald Triangle all the way to San Diego. Word of mouth, guerilla marketing, and social media were responsible for this success. This taught me to never underestimate the ability to create brand loyalty and generate good will through direct interaction with our customers, even if prevailing law makes it difficult.
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?
The funniest mistake I made in business actually happened in the kitchen. During product development, I inadvertently confused grams with kilograms and added much more cannabis to a batch than what was called for in the recipe. That particular batch came out very strong and the trusted testers reported copious and unexpected laughter. Lesson learned: know your metric conversions!
Do you have a funny story about how someone you knew reacted when they first heard you were getting into the cannabis industry?
One of my uncles had a funny comment when he heard I was entering the cannabis industry back in 2008, “Great! You are following in your grandfather’s footsteps. Did you know when he was a pharmacist during liquor prohibition he sold ‘medical alcohol’ from his pharmacy?”
Of course, that comment inspired a lengthy discussion about my Nano’s career path and the many parallels in our professional lives.
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?
The person I am most grateful for is my Nano (grandfather), Michael Carella who is no longer with us, sadly. He was a brilliant man that was a pharmacist and then later found success in the alcohol industry, owning liquor stores in San Francisco. Although he was not alive when I founded this company, I believe he guides me through spirit.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Because our product line has shifted towards CBD from THC, we have found ourselves more involved in the hemp space. We continue to add products that are designed for other species, including cats and horses. We have also formed an important partnership in Japan, where Treatibles will be available in 2020.
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?
- The seed for a person’s greatest potential is planted in early childhood, and a child that is encouraged in life will naturally succeed more. Society needs to encourage young girls to pursue success in whatever field they desire, regardless of current gender norms. For instance, girls could be encouraged to become scientists, which is a profession that the education system and society tend to encourage boys to pursue.
- Companies can encourage their female employees to strive for greatness in their organization and maintain fair opportunities for advancement in the organization. Gone are the days when executives can expect to get away with promoting a man to a position that a woman at the company clearly deserved.
- Misogyny runs in the subconscious of many individuals. People let you know their opinions by the choices they make and the opportunities they grant. If you ever come across a closet misogynist in business, watch your back!
As a female entrepreneur, I value the opinions, feedback and suggestions of the women members of my team. In my experience, women have incredible attention to detail and provide critical input when it comes to product and brand development. Treatibles consists of 90% women, and they’re encouraged to advance their careers within this exciting new industry and be engaged at every level. Additionally, I attribute the increasing yearly profits to our exceptional team of mostly women. It is very important that every woman at Treatibles has a voice and is involved in the growth of the brand.
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.
- Banking challenges will slow you down, but they won’t take you down. It’s been an incredible challenge to run successful cannabis/hemp brands with limited banking. I look forward to some of this changing with hemp’s new classification.
- You’ll be spending more time studying regulatory compliance than you may like. To be a successful cannabis or hemp brand, knowledge of current and changing laws for proper marketing and labelling of THC and CBD products is essential.
- Balancing adaptability and tenacity is an everyday effort. In any nascent industry, entrepreneurs need to be agile enough to manage the unexpected, while still maintaining a tenacious follow through on the original business objectives.
- It’s not all about getting high. Thanks to the discovery of CBD and other beneficial cannabinoids, more opportunities exist for entrepreneurs.
- There’s light at the end of the tunnel, but it is a very long tunnel. I never imagined that 11 years after our founding date, cannabis would still be a Schedule 1 narcotic. Although we may be years away from full federal legalization, there has been tremendous change in the past decade. This speaks to the necessity for activism as well as the success of the grass roots cannabis movement.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the cannabis industry?
Three things that most excite me about the Cannabis Industry are:
1.We are getting closer and closer to full legalization of cannabis and hemp. We should all be reminded that the prohibition of cannabis represents a small sliver of time taken from the full history of the plant. People and animals have enjoyed the benefits of the plant for thousands of years; prohibition will (hopefully) be no more than a century long once it is all said and done.
2. There is much more to discover about the plant; now that hemp is no longer a controlled substance, we will see more research into the benefits of cannabinoids. Hopefully, this will mean more research here in the USA.
3. Everything that happens in the cannabis/hemp space happens in dog years. One year of progress can feel more like seven years when you consider how much happens in that period. A fast-moving new industry is exciting, and full of opportunity!
Can you share 3 things that most concern you about the industry? If you had the ability to implement 3 ways to reform or improve the industry, what would you suggest?
1.Being an entrepreneur in the cannabis and/or hemp space can often feel like extreme business. Cannabis companies have extra challenges that are industry related; other industries, including the alcohol industry don’t have the same challenges. Many of the inherent challenges can lead to business owner burn out. (Cannabis happens to be a fantastic aid for stress, and entrepreneurs should enjoy a healthy regimen of it.)
2. The patchwork of different regulations that exist in both the hemp and cannabis industries is something that makes business cumbersome and causes confusion in society, law enforcement, etc. The ban on cannabis in many parts of the country, as well as in states that have cannabis laws, drives more business to the black market. Eventually, full legalization of cannabis would be a step towards a unified regulatory system, as well as an end to the black market.
3. The cannabis industry has collective amnesia which may be caused by how fast things changes. It’s important to remember history, the pioneers who fought for this plant’s freedom, and how we got where we are today.
What are your thoughts about federal legalization of cannabis? If you could speak to your Senator, what would be your most persuasive argument regarding why they should or should not pursue federal legalization?
The rescheduling of cannabis is long overdue. Cannabis never should have been classified as a controlled substance to begin with. As persuasive as this may be, more than persuasion is needed when communicating with Senators. The best approach may be to convey the tax implications of having legal cannabis in a state that may need the increased tax revenues.
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?
Cannabis should have a different status than cigarettes, due to the simple fact that cannabis is safe, and cigarettes are not. Regulators need to stop classifying cannabis similarly to other more harmful products such as cigarettes, alcohol, and even many pharmaceutical drugs. Cannabis has never been the cause of death or caused harm to humans, while the same cannot be said of the other products such as cigarettes, alcohol, and legal pharmaceuticals.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favorite quote of all time that I have found myself saying hundreds of times over the last 11 years is “The devil is in the details.” I love this quote for the cannabis industry because nowhere is it more relevant. I have also come to realize that the devil is called ubiquitous for good reason.
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. :-)
Cannabis and hemp have the ability to change the world for the good. If you consider the endless benefits of the plant, it becomes clear how much potential it has. Not only does it offer safer more sustainable alternatives in medicine and wellness, but also in industrial/textile/plastic use. If every person was committed to ending the stigma and prohibition of this miraculous plant, we would be that much closer to a gentler, more sustainable planet.
Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you only continued success!