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Women Leading The Cannabis Industry: ‘Be an expert on the flower’ With Kaitlyn Brosnan of LEVIA

An Interview With Candice Georgiadis

Be an expert on the flower. Know the strands, know the effects, know the quality just from looking, smelling, touching. And it goes without saying you should have hours upon hours of actual consumption experience with the product. Those that get in the business just to make money are not going to succeed.

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

Kaitlyn grew up on the south shore of Massachusetts. She completed her undergrad at Colgate University and then went on to grad school at Bridgewater State University to pursue a master's degree in social work. She spent the first 15 years of her career working with children and adolescents in mental health and school settings. She is a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker, as well as a licensed School adjustment Counselor. In addition to her desire to help young people who are struggling with their mental health, she is an avid believer in the power of exercise and a healthy lifestyle and has been passionate about introducing a love for movement/exercise to the young people she has worked with. Kaitlyn coaches CrossFit in her community gym, working with both adults and kids to help them build confidence, strength, and a sense of community. Two years ago the family moved to the north shore to pursue the dream of starting a cannabis company. Kaitlyn has been working on this dream, coaching CrossFit, and raising a 6-year-old during a pandemic.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the cannabis industry?

My husband Troy and I made the decision to get into the industry in 2016. We were working towards a manufacturing license when we were introduced to our partner Kristin Rogers. We realized quickly that our visions aligned and partnered, forming Cultivauna on Feb 14, 2017. We tried several cannabis beverages from around the country and knew we could do better. We created a crystal clear, zero sugar, zero calorie cannabis-infused seltzer, the first of its kind.

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?

We noticed quickly where we were going to bottleneck and never expected it to be the canning machine. Our COO Will Durgin acted extremely quickly to identify a new canning line that will enable us to grow. I am pleased to say that as of 6/14/21 Levia is manufacturing 100 cans a minute! The lesson learned, don’t be afraid to think bigger. But in all honesty, we could not have guessed how loved Levia would be in Massachusetts, it is incredibly humbling.

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?

So this is really embarrassing, but once we got all of the equipment: tanks, filler, everything all set in place in the building, we sealed up the final wall and installed the door. The very next week we got our first empty can delivery, the eight-foot 2-inch pallet, which didn’t fit through the eight-foot door. We had to call the construction crew back, knock out a wall and order a new 10-foot door. All within a week of final inspection with the CCC. This might all sound easy, but during a global pandemic, supplies were tight. George Mountner and the crew and Key Construction were amazing. It was a tight timeline, but we made it. Lesson learned: the smallest details are sometimes the most important.

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

Most people have been pretty supportive, it is the hot new industry that seems “sexy” to get into. I think there was an assumption that it would happen fast and as we have seen, it is a slow process with a lot of barriers. I think the folks that had the hardest time understanding the process are those of the next generation, our parents’ age. We put a lot on the line to break into the industry: sold our home, moved away, left our careers-actually when you put it all out there like that it sounds kind of crazy- some people really didn’t support that and thought we were irresponsible- but if it were easy everyone would be doing it, right? Sometimes you have to take big risks to find a reward. The reward here is breaking down the stigma and helping people access something that can improve their quality of life. I guess it goes back to my propensity to take risks. I like challenges, I like to take risks: jumping out of planes, snowboarding backcountry powder, getting into the boxing ring, starting a cannabis company.

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?

I think there have been a lot of positive female role models in my life that have shaped me to become a strong, independent, and resilient adult. My mother and grandmother were very important influences in my life. My mom had me when she was very young, my childhood was a lot of shared time with my grandparents while my mom worked her way through nursing and then law school. Even so, she provided me with a lot of wonderful opportunities. She is a self-made success story, and having her as an influence has taught me to have an extremely hard work ethic and that there are no barriers you can’t overcome.

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

It might be cheesy but Jordani Joseph, our Director of Cannabis, has a saying “ABC — Always Be Creating”. We just launched a 100% water-soluble tincture. We stayed true to our effect lead approach. Achieve is going to energize, Celebrate will Brighten your day and I believe our Dream Tincture is going to be a savior for those struggling with sleep issues and will ease your mind and spirit.

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?

That figure is alarming because we know there are a lot of females here in Massachusetts that are already established in the cannabis space or starting to dip their tow into launching their own cannabis-related business. I couldn’t be more proud of women pursuing their entrepreneurial goals, or more supportive if our journey can provide guidance. What individuals, companies and society can do as a whole to support female entrepreneurs in the cannabis space is keep us top-of-mind when partnering up or conducting business, but it’s local government and locally-formed cannabis commissions like the CCC we have here in Mass, that make a conscious effort to give women the advantage, or at least equal the playing field. We keep doing our part here at LEVIA as almost 1/3 of our team is comprised of females, some of which have their own aspirations to open their own cannabis business someday, and as crazy as it sounds, I’m perfectly ok with that.

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.

  • Be an expert on the flower. Know the strands, know the effects, know the quality just from looking, smelling, touching. And it goes without saying you should have hours upon hours of actual consumption experience with the product. Those that get in the business just to make money are not going to succeed.
  • Know your numbers. Know the cost of goods, have good speculative numbers on the wholesale and retail front, know your profit margins.
  • Know your threats; know what could go wrong. This helps you be prepared for any potential negative outcome. One that sticks out is the shortage of cannabis supply in Mass, which we didn’t expect when we first started, and how that shortage can have an adverse affect on our profit margin, which in turn, could have slowed down company growth on a few different levels. Lucky for us, we have strong relationships that supply us with their flower at below-market value. It’s good to have friends in high places.
  • Make sure you produce or provide a superior product. Competition keeps growing in the cannabis industry, and we’re seeing it here in Mass with national cannabis-seltzers trying to make its presence felt here, or whispers we’re hearing of others trying to launch their own cannabis beverage. We knew coming out the gate that LEVIA had to be superior across all fronts to ensure if consumers are comparing the two, there’s no question that we would have better taste, better experience, overall a complete better product.
  • Surround yourself with motivated, creative people. They will help you think outside the box when you’re immersed in operations, logistics, and all the other fun stuff that comes from running a business. And the motivated ones will keep you going with their same level of enthusiasm which will help you keep going after a string of back-to-back-to-back 12-hour days.

And although my 5 pieces of advice pertain to the cannabis industry, these tips can apply to anyone looking to succeed in any business.

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

We are extremely excited about secondary cannabinoids like thcv and cbn. How wonderful will it be when these are readily available? The day is not too far in the future when you see people shelving their Ambien for an all natural cbn shot. A cbn shot that provides an actual good night sleep with no side effects. All it’s going to take is a little bit of education, but look how the US has already adopted CBD, the door is open. Getting into a brna new industry like this is exciting, there is so much we still do not know about the cannabis plant and all of its properties, the possibilities are endless and this industry is going to be a game changer when it comes to recreational and medical use.

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?

Third party testing. There are hundreds of cultivators and manufacturers in the state of Massachusetts dependent on a handful of labs. Every product batch has to be tested, for us that means when we create our CO2 oil for the drinks that gets sent out for a test. We then need to wait for the certificate of analysis to come back clean before we can mix our beverages. That beverage is then sent back to the lab for another test. All said and done, to make a cannabis beverage in MA we are looking at a timeline of about 20 days from intake of flower to finished product That’s the bottleneck for growth in the MA industry. We need to green light more labs.

This isn’t a concern with the industry, it’s more advice for people who want to jump in: have patience, persistence, and double your timeline. We thought we were going to launch LEVIA by September 2019. We shipped our first car February of 2021. The cannabis Industry is not luxurious, even though right now it’s the prettiest gem in the room.

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?

Federal legalization should be pursued with as little as red tape as possible due to the many medicinal purposes that cannabis can be used for which I’m happy to elaborate on in the next section, but one compelling suggestion I would make is to watch Ricki Lake’s documentary “Weed the People.” That will open everyone’s eyes as why cannabis should be legal at the federal level.

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 be in an entirely different conversation from cigarettes; it’s apples and oranges. The medicinal qualities of cannabis are numerous as it’s been scientifically proven to provide relief from symptoms affecting millions of people including chronic pain, PTSD, epilepsy and common sleeping disorders amongst many…many others.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel” Maya Angelou. Explanation below.

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. :-)

Be kind> it sounds so simple, but practicing kindness is something we struggle with. If everyone just took a moment to take a breath, smile, say hello, say something kind once a day…we would all be better off. You never know what others are dealing with. I spent most of my early career working with youth who were very much struggling: with mental health, with emotional health, victims of trauma, youth and families who did not have a lot of control or choices in the systems they were born into. These were youth who had been up against a lot of odds, experienced massive disappointment in life, had little trust in the world, and I learned quickly that kindness goes a long way, particularly when you are working with people who had maybe never experienced true genuine kindness in their lives.

Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you only continued success!

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In-depth Interviews with Authorities in Business, Pop Culture, Wellness, Social Impact, and Tech. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

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Candice Georgiadis

Candice Georgiadis

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

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