Women Leading The Cannabis Industry: “The largest obstacle for women is funding” With Dr. Kirsten Shepard Ahmed of Pain Stoppers

Candice Georgiadis
Jan 31 · 9 min read

In my opinion, one of the largest obstacles for women in all industries is funding. When we look at funding in general for women entrepreneurs, only a small percentage of banks and small business loans are approved for women, and the numbers are even less for women of color. It is also more difficult to obtain funding for cannabis since traditional funding sources do not apply. Venture Capitalists, Angel Investors, grants and other investors often overlook women, and when funding is approved, it’s historically at significantly lower amounts with higher interest rates.

As a part of my series about strong women leaders in the cannabis industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Kirsten Shepard Ahmed.

Dr. Kirsten Shepard Ahmed (LMT, DC) is the Founder and CEO of Pain Stoppers, a hemp-based solution to pain management and recovery that promotes whole body wellness. For more than 10 years, she has established integrated practices that combine medical, chiropractic, acupuncture and physical therapy approaches to whole body care, including the opening of clinics across Texas and in Los Angeles. Dr. K’s holistic approach to pain relief has led to recognition, by way of awards and teaching opportunities, from Texas legislators and leaders from top organizations. She is a Cannabis advocate and an active member of Texas NORML, the Minority Cannabis Business Association, and the Drug Policy Alliance.

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

I discovered the holistic abilities of cannabis during my father’s (Luke Shepard) battle with Mesothelioma. The chemotherapy and radiation caused a lack of appetite and chronic pain, leading me to begin researching medical cannabis as a solution. We initially tried a THC/CBD combination but my father didn’t like the feeling of being high or the taste of the oils. As I continued my research, I discovered the dynamic healing power was in the non-psychoactive CBD component. Knowing that the skin is the largest organ, I began mixing different compounds with CBD and rubbing them on him. He almost instantly felt relief and his appetite increased. The comfort it provided my dad led me to create Pain Stopper’s topicals so I could share the gift of relief with others.

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 thing that happened to me occurred at an industry conference in San Francisco. We were one of the event vendors and a gentleman began asking about our products and backstory. In my excitement, I began sharing the details of one research study from 2010 that analyzed CBD and chronic pain in cancer patients who were not responding to opioids. He too was familiar with the study and asked me detailed questions about it. Little did I know, he was actually one of the co-authors of the article. The lesson I learned was to make sure I know the information I share. You never know the full background of whom you’re speaking with.

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?

I paid a deposit for an expensive device from a company in Europe just to later discover the company I purchased it from didn’t really own it. My expensive lesson learned was to always do my due diligence.

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

I had an 88 year old church minister of music who was attending our product launch and as I was explaining that CBD would not cause the psychoactive high like THC, she booed me. I was completely shocked and everyone laughed.

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 that I have to credit with helping me was my father. I would not have ever thought of producing a product line if it wasn’t for him. He was my first test subject and after he experienced relief with the first cream, he suggested I consider developing it to help more people who were suffering. At the time, product development was the last thing on my radar and I really wasn’t interested. He encouraged me and said I was on to discovering something that could benefit the entire world.

Another person I’m tremendously grateful for is Melissa Bradley, founder of 1863 Ventures and Co-Founder of Ureeka. Her vision to help women and minority business owners scale by providing educational programs, funding, and resources have had a direct, positive impact not only on my professional life and in growing the business, but by also helping open opportunities that are positively impacting our community.

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

We have a global patent pending on one of our formulations and our goal is to perform some clinical trials for a certain condition which we are truly excited about. Our goal once it is completed is to obtain FDA approval. Providing more evidence-based resources for effective, natural, non-pharmaceutical options for both consumers and providers will be tremendously beneficial for this industry.

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?

In my opinion, one of the largest obstacles for women in all industries is funding. When we look at funding in general for women entrepreneurs, only a small percentage of banks and small business loans are approved for women, and the numbers are even less for women of color. It is also more difficult to obtain funding for cannabis since traditional funding sources do not apply. Venture Capitalists, Angel Investors, grants and other investors often overlook women, and when funding is approved, it’s historically at significantly lower amounts with higher interest rates.

To support greater gender parity moving forward, as a society, we need to provide more mentorship programs for females and start educating women towards leadership roles at an early age. Similarly to what is being done to increase women in STEM, we should create programs to insight creativity for young girls beginning in elementary school. Secondly, we must demand our federal government pass the statutes and legislation requirements that many states like California have passed requiring boards to have at least one female director. And lastly, we need companies to allocate a percentage of their funding/vendors to female entrepreneurs and as consumers we need to stop supporting companies that don’t.

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.

Know what is legal in your state as the laws are constantly changing.

Beware of imposters, there are many consulting groups and professional organizations that are taking advantage of the surge and only trying to make money. Some offer services in excess of $5,000 and don’t produce any beneficial information. Do your due diligence!

Not all cultivators and manufacturers are the same. Can they track the source of their seeds? What methods are they using for growing? Do they have any certifications?

There are so many industry conferences being offered both in the U.S. and abroad that serve as great resources for knowledge gathering as well as networking.

Maintain FDA compliance. Because there are no regulations in the industry, it’s like the wild west. The last thing anyone wants is for the Feds to come busting in.

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

The first thing that excites me is the number of clinical trials currently in progress and the unlimited future opportunities to support the effectiveness of this beautiful healing plant. As more evidence-based research is produced, more people will be able to have the non-toxic relief they deserve. Next is the possibility that cannabis will be completely declassified in the U.S. in a few years. And lastly, as someone who strongly believes that cannabis is one of the answers to global warming, I foresee a potential to save our planet with the vast number of non-toxic products that can be produced.

Can you share 3 things that most concern you about the industry? Secondly, If you had the ability to implement 3 ways to reform or improve the industry, what would you suggest?

First, I’m greatly concerned about the lack of diversity in the cannabis industry; only 4% of entrepreneurs are black. The fact that so many black and brown individuals are still imprisoned for marijuana crimes while others, many who helped put them behind bars, are profitting is an issue that warrants attention. There are also so many bogus products on the market taking advantage of people’s vulnerability for profit which I just hate. Thirdly, the enormous amount of money required for individuals to obtain licensing is shameful.

In terms of reform and improving the industry, I would commute all individuals currently imprisoned on cannabis charges, declassify and legalize cannabis on a federal level, and allow federal funding for the cannabis industry in the form of grants and SBA loans.

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?

As an advocate, I would first ask them to join the Federal Cannabis Caucus to actively participate in the reform efforts both at federal and state levels. I would plead to them to look at the current evidence-based benefits that are available from medical cannabis which will greatly improve their constituents’ quality of life. If healthcare providers take an oath to first do no harm, then why would we prevent our citizens from access? I would also ask them to look at the 5,000+ products that can be developed from cannabis in addition to the tax revenue that could help with the enormous debt in our county. I would also ask them to look at what the voters are demanding with the vast legalization efforts in the states. I’d ask them to look at the history of cannabis in the US and ask why in 1937 did the Marijuana Tax Act pass, who profited and why was the research from 1944s LaGuardia Committee Report ignored?

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?

I think cannabis needs regulation and should be taxed, but the evidence shows a completely different effect that cannabis has on the body. Cannabis is non-toxic and with the exception of inhalation does not pose the same dangers as cigarettes. I don’t think it is as socially marginalized nor should it be.

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

I really don’t think life is about the I-could-have-beens. Life is only about the I-tried-to-do. I don’t mind the failure but I can’t imagine that I’d forgive myself if I didn’t try. — Nikki Giovanni

I’ve always been a risk taker — since I only have one opportunity to live I might as well go all in and see what happens. There is always the possibility of success.

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. :-)

My movement would be to transform healthcare globally. The world suffers with neck, back, joint and muscle pain. I envision a world that doesn’t use pharmaceuticals as a first option and we return to the traditional roots of plants, food, and movement. In the U.S. alone, we consume the most pharmaceuticals in the world and are only 5% of the world’s population. This opioid epidemic is man made yet we could have prevented it. Our commercials tell us we have pain due to a lack of NSAIDs and muscle relaxers. Which in turn creates issues with our kidneys and livers. I stand by #PatientsOverProfits

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film…

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Pop Culture, Wellness, Social Impact, and Tech. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

Candice Georgiadis

Written by

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

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from 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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