Women Leading The Cannabis Industry: “You don’t always need to be the smartest in order to succeed but you do need to work very hard” With Jessica Cadmus of Rogue Paq

Len Giancola
Sep 6, 2020 · 11 min read

The rapid growth of the industry has excited me from the beginning. There’s so much unlocked potential for healing that will only reach the masses through normalization and education. More recently a source of excitement exists around cannabis’s status being moved to “essential.” The pandemic has been a difficult time but it has put many things in perspective including the need of many people to use cannabis instead of pharmaceuticals as an anxiety reducer and sleep aid among other remedies. Finally, the place of women in the industry excites me. Honestly most of the images and products and packaging that I feel is leading, are items created by women. Not only that, but so many women in the industry have taken on a very critical educational role which I think is core to changing the stigma around the plant.

a part of my series about strong women leaders in the cannabis industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jessica Cadmus, Wardrobe Stylist and Founder of Rogue Paq.

Rogue Paq was founded by NY wardrobe stylist and Goldman Sachs alumna, Jessica Cadmus (AKA the Wardrobe Whisperer), who thinks non-stop about how people present themselves. Her style advice and commentary has been featured on CBS This Morning: Saturday, Bloomberg TV, CNN, Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch, Business Insider, and more. She’s worked for small as well as leading media companies, such as HBO, to get stars red-carpet ready. Jessica has been a featured stylist at major events like NY’s Fashion’s Night Out and she’s been a guest stylist for international brands like Hugo Boss, Reiss, and Alexis Bittar. She has spent the last 12 years dressing power brokers and influencers and ensuring their aesthetic is highly cultivated. When she discovered her clients were carrying their rituals in vessels like old pencil cases and baggies, a problem defined itself: the need for a refined carrying case. From that need, Rogue Paq was born.

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

hank you for interviewing me! As a fashion stylist, I’m very intimate with the contents of my clients’ closets and drawers. I have been in a position to see that many people, despite their overall sophistication, store and carry their cannabis in very unsophisticated ways (think: baggies, old toiletry bags, shoe boxes, beat up makeup cases). At the time when legalization hit the west coast, it occurred to me that people, like me, who love design and aesthetics (and cannabis!) would care about how they present their ritual and would want something beautiful and refined in which to carry it. After scouring the market and coming up empty-handed, I decided to design something based on a jewelry carrier that I adapted for my own carrying purposes years ago.

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?

I’m not sure this is of general interest but it is certain to be of interest to entrepreneurs in the cannabis space. Twice now my online store has been shut down by Shopify due to its relativity to cannabis. Because cannabis isn’t federally legal and the bank lenders who fuel the merchant site are federal, they will not support businesses which have anything to do with cannabis implements. The first shut-down was specific to certain items on my site — rolling papers, a grinder, some beautiful pipes. Once I removed these, I was told all else was fine. Then a few months after that, Shopify shut me down again (you are given 48 hours to find an alternative) and was told that now everything on my site is forbidden and that I must obtain a high-risk payment processor. It is unfortunate because finding and setting up a high-risk payment processor is not only costly but also takes time during which your store is unable to process credit cards. There are so many obstacles just by virtue of being in the cannabis space that it’s imperative to be an agile problem-solver and creative thinker in order to keep moving forward. And above all else: don’t get discouraged. I console myself often with this thought: if it were easy, everyone would already be doing it.

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?

This was a mistake but not necessarily mine — the address I provided to my manufacturer was for my warehouse but something got lost in translation when the manufacturer put my inventory on trucks. On the day of delivery I was shocked when I saw a huge semi coming up my driveway. I was even more shocked when it threw open the roll-up doors to reveal a truck full of boxes that I obviously had no place to store. I caught them in enough time to redirect them to the correct address but if I hadn’t, he would’ve unloaded right in my driveway. The lesson I learned is to check, double-check, and triple-check the details of everything.

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

My super conservative parents were horrified as they never knew I consumed cannabis. I have always been a straight A, over-achieving type and it just threw them for a loop to realize that cannabis was part of my life. They grew up in the time of “reefer madness” and other ridiculous anti-marijunana marketing campaigns and so, in their minds, cannabis retains a stigma. To me it’s funny to have never been discovered as a teenager but to make it to adulthood only to have that weird and awkward conversation with my parents.

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?

There’s a man whose name is Ken Drudy who was instrumental in helping me to find a sewing partner. He was an executive at Daytimers many years ago (therefore an expert in small leather goods) and was also a supply-chain expert. He helped me to understand how to link to good partners and how to begin the process of sampling. He was kind and patient and such an incredibly helpful force in my process.

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

We recently put together an initiative called Rogue Paq Gives Back. Rogue Paq Gives Back is an initiative to donate, in an ongoing manner, to organizations like Last Prisoner Project and National Bail Out. We understand that the cannabis industry continues to grow and flourish while many suffer in prison for non-violent cannabis related crimes. We also understand how the black community is disproportionately and adversely affected. We support these organizations in their dedicated approach to intervention, advocacy, and awareness. 100% of the proceeds of our Give Back Bundle go to support these organizations and others like them.

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?

I am in favor of “voting with your dollars.” So, on an individual level, it’s helpful when people are aware from whom they are purchasing. Supporting businesses that are women-owned and black-owned is something for which I advocate. On a company level, I think it’s important to work with other businesses and individuals with whom you align but also who you can raise up. I make it a point when out-sourcing to try to hire women as well as people of color. When we talk about advancing gender parity on a societal level, I think a lot of that has to do with women pushing each other forward. I’ve done several collaborations now with that idea in mind. Early on I did a collaboration pipe with Ariel Zimman of Stonedware who is an amazing artist and friend. I’ve also done a collaboration with KellyGreen Shop to create a decorative version of my Solo Paq. Currently I carry on my website a beautiful hand-made candle by Yvonne Perez of The Make & Mary. And, of course, I always love working with Jennifer Skog of MJ LIfestyle Magazine in any and every capacity as she is a huge champion of women in the industry and uses her platform to highlight their amazing achievements.

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.

First, it is near impossible to use conventional advertising or marketing on cannabis related items. It’s imperative to think creatively about how you will position your product or service as well as how you will create awareness. You will likely be prohibited from using conventional avenues like FaceBook advertising and Instagram post promotions. Second, prepare to pay for things other companies do not have to pay for such as the high-risk payment processor that I mentioned earlier. Third, and this is a positive one, I encourage you to reach out to your competition and collaborate instead of just competing. The industry is so small and people have proven time and again to be open and generous and to take opportunities to advance one another. Fourth, it’s important to define what your business stands for and to create ways to channel that into your interactions with your customers. It really helps in developing a strong community around your brand. Fifth, not everyone has the same level of experience and understanding regarding the plant so it’s important to educate yourself and be a source of positive education for others. Together we can change the stigma and get this healing plant into more peoples’ lives.

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

The rapid growth of the industry has excited me from the beginning. There’s so much unlocked potential for healing that will only reach the masses through normalization and education. More recently a source of excitement exists around cannabis’s status being moved to “essential.” The pandemic has been a difficult time but it has put many things in perspective including the need of many people to use cannabis instead of pharmaceuticals as an anxiety reducer and sleep aid among other remedies. Finally, the place of women in the industry excites me. Honestly most of the images and products and packaging that I feel is leading, are items created by women. Not only that, but so many women in the industry have taken on a very critical educational role which I think is core to changing the stigma around the plant.

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?

One thing that concerns me deeply is how the industry is flourishing yet many people have been and continue to be persecuted and incarcerated for nonviolent cannabis offenses. We must continue to lobby law-makers for reform. I am also concerned about the lack of education in the space. Without federal legalization, people broadly will view the plant through the lens of the stigma instead of seeing the incredible healing properties inherent. In a specific example, it is very troubling to see what has happened with unregulated vape oils containing dangerous toxins. Each and every person’s responsibility within the industry is massive. We must all collectively ensure that our products are pure and of the highest quality so as to promote the plant in its finest light and to never degrade the public view of cannabis.

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?

I completely support federal legalization for medicinal as well as recreational cannabis. Cannabis has widely been recognized throughout a majority of states as having important medicinal qualities — this is something that alcohol cannot claim and yet it is federally legal. I believe cannabis should be available as an alternative to alcohol and in many cases as an alternative healer to opiods. Federal legalization would lead to what we need most which, of course, is education. The more people understand and respect the plant, the more it will be used responsibly and in a way that promotes wellness and healing.

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?

In no way can anyone argue that cigarettes are medicinal and so I feel that cannabis shouldn’t seek a similar status. To me, cannabis should be available as a means to promote personal wellness. In this regard, I think that Californians have the right idea with their “Cali Sober” lifestyle. They view cannabis as not only a safer alternative to alcohol, but something that supports overall wellness and a healthy lifestyle. They understand that in order to achieve balance, micro-dosing and consuming cannabis responsibly is a way to relax without alcohol which often upsets rather than ameliorates these things.

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

Not so much a quote but a mantra for me is: HUSTLE. I’ve always been a hustler. I’ve had a job since I was seven, worked my entire life, concurrently held three jobs and three majors in college, and now I run two companies simultaneously. I think the importance of hustle to me is the knowledge that you don’t always need to be the smartest in order to succeed but you do need to work very hard, be consistent and reliable, and hold yourself with great integrity in all situations.

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. :-)

There is a movement happening right now driven by World Central Kitchen to address food insecurity. I did not create it but I actively support the movement through donations as I feel so strongly about their mission and reach. WCK is working across America to safely distribute individually packaged, nutritious meals to those who need support — for children and families to pick up and take home, as well as delivery to seniors who cannot venture outside and healthcare workers on the frontline. WCK has served more than 19 million meals in over 300 cities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since their founding, WCK has provided more than 30 million chef-prepared meals for those in need.

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

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