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Women Leading The Cannabis Industry: “Have An ‘All Boats Rise’ Mentality Instead Of Competing Against Each Other” With Sarah Polansky of Prismatic Plants

An Interview With Candice Georgiadis

As a part of my series about strong women leaders in the cannabis industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sarah Polansky.

Founded by Business & Design Strategist Sarah Polansky, Prismatic Plants’ origins were born-out of dealing with her own health turmoil. Having struggled with chronic health issues in her 20’s, Sarah’s health began rapidly declining after being over prescribed antibiotics for GI issues. This led her on a quest to heal herself naturally by researching the gut-brain connection and diving deep into understanding how stress affects your health. She realized that nature offered many powerful plant allies and began investigating potent plants to aid in her healing. Cannabis being a central player, she found great therapeutic benefit from it and CBD in particular. Paired with what she was learning about time-honored herbalism and adaptogen use for 1000’s of years, she set out to design a remedy that addressed stress from all angles — both the HPA axis and the more recently discovered endocannabinoid system. Emboldened by the purpose to help others reclaim their health through these plants, Prismatic Plants came to fruition with a set of formulas using the yin/yang modality.

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 a big fan of cannabis as a teenager for recreational purposes (aka expanding my mind) but it wasn’t until later in life that I discovered the prolific benefits it could have for one’s health. At my previous job, I was tasked with researching the space in 2016 to understand where the industry was headed and what it truly had to offer. Much of the space at that time was geared towards high THC consumption and was centered in the “bro-stoner” culture. Not that many brands were A) Talking about health and B) Focused on women.

Simultaneously, I was dealing with chronic illness for years and found myself on a natural path for healing after being continuously let down by allopathic medicine. As part of my research for work, I consumed all sorts of cannabis and quickly found it had a massive positive effect on my digestive system and stress levels. So began my interest in creating a brand (Prismatic Plants) and formula geared at introducing plant-medicine (beyond just cannabis) to folks like me who found their health needing support from high levels of stress.

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?

Whew…Well I think it’s just about how amazing and supportive our community has been. We’ve been absolutely floored by some of the positive customer feedback we’ve received. There’s a million and 1 brands out there, and we really wanted to create something different that had a unique voice. It wasn’t a brand for everyone, but it was a brand that would really speak to certain audiences. I think we have done well in that respect.

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?

There were definitely a fair amount of hurdles of sh*t truly hitting the fan and us having to navigate around it. Most of them still don’t feel humorous, but I think the most naive mistake I made was underestimating the amount of red tape we would run into as a CBD brand. There was and is such excitement from retailers yet it’s often a no fly zone because of regulations (or lack thereof) and payment processing issues. Because of this, we had to pivot the brand into really being an e-commerce store where customers come directly to us.

Do you have a funny story about how someone you knew reacted when they first heard you were getting into the cannabis industry?

Ah yes, 100%. I was relaying the information to a couple of close family friends and it was like…”oh wow, your parents must be thrilled. One kid is in alcohol and the other is in weed. Taking care of all of our vices.” My brother runs a distillery out of Boston called GrandTen Distilling so zooming out it was kind of hilarious. In truth though, we are really on opposite ends of the spectrum. Our position is as a wellness product not a recreational substance.

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?

Just like raising a kid, starting and running a company really takes a village. I’ve had so many great service partners along the way from PR, to social, to formulation, to marketing. It may sound cliche, but really my life partner for letting me step away from a well paying job to pursue this dream and his support in dealing with start-up life’s constant ups n’ downs.

Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We’re really geared at helping people heal, find balance, and ultimately smile more — enjoy life! We are working on a new product that is in line with this and have some sublime artistic collaborations in the works too. At the end of the day, every product we put out, we want it to be highly efficacious and different from what else is out there. This takes time but we hope that people truly see and feel the difference in quality when using our products.

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?

When it comes to the purchasing audience, I feel confident in saying that women make up at least half of cannabis and hemp purchasers. We are learning more every day about how cannabis specifically can be an incredible ally in healing the female reproductive system so I think it’s less about society and more about the system. It seems to be much harder for female-founded companies to A) Get investment and B) To be taken seriously by supply chain partners. The 3 things I think can be done are…

  1. If you’re male and a successful cannabis entrepreneur, perhaps offering yourself as a mentor to smaller female-founded brands. Even just sharing helpful resources could be invaluable. It’s a massive industry so there’s room for all!
  2. Building community with each other. If you’re a female brand, align yourself with other female brands in your space that resonate with your mission and audience. An “all boats rise” mentality instead of competing against each other.
  3. If you’re a VC or connected to the fund-raising world, seek out female-founded brands that feel unique and inspiring. We’ve seen a sizable shift in recent years in the demand for gender and racial equality but I’d like to see more funds actively pursuing BIPOC brands and female-founded brands.

Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the cannabis industry?

1. Most importantly, cannabis is opening the door to plant-based medicine as a whole. People are realizing “wow, if cannabis can help me more than this prescription narcotic or OTC medicine, maybe there are other plants out there too. Plants that don’t have negative side effects and can actually help me heal long term instead of just putting a bandaid on my problem.”

2. As a dovetail to the first, cannabis circumventing the opioid epidemic

3. Cannabis is becoming a major crop of interest for U.S.-based farmers instead of corn or cotton which are both less eco-friendly due to pesticide use and watering needs.

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?

There’s a massive history of racism surrounding cannabis and we haven’t made the changes necessary to move away from this into a more just, equitable system. The BIPOC community is still being targeted and incarcerated for cannabis possession, while many white-owned companies are reaping major profits from selling cannabis. How can this be right?!

Any company in this space needs to have this paradigm in mind and actively work against it. Brands need to become policy advocates, donate to orgs doing the work, and build a community that advances change.

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?

My thoughts are pretty simple. Yes we need cannabis to be federally legal ASAP. It’s high time (pun-intended) for us to embrace this plant as medicine. Stop incarceration of cannabis offenses which disproportionately affect the black and brown communities and help reduce the dangerous use of opioids. From a fiscal point of view, the crop is very beneficial to our nation’s economy — creating jobs and the taxing of it that funds public programs and education.

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. :-)

Put the earth first more often. As a society of convenience, the planet and all other life here takes the hit. We need to re-evaluate our whole notion of disposable — get rid of single use plastics (immediately), move to a refill model where we can, embrace regenerative plant-based materials, and ultimately consume WAY less.

As a product based company, I understand the irony here. But I think there are still ways of creating products that are more intentional and sustainable. Even as a small brand, Prismatic Plants built its supply chain with sustainability at the forefront. We’re not perfect but we use partners who have sustainable and organic agricultural practices, U.S. based vendors to reduce our carbon footprint, post-consumer waste shipping materials, and glass packaging instead of plastic.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

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Candice Georgiadis

Candice Georgiadis is an active mother of three as well as a designer, founder, social media expert, and philanthropist.