Spotlight Series: Aliza Sherman, Ellementa
This week we sat down to chat with Aliza Sherman, 1/3 of the founding team behind Ellementa a women's resource and education group that over the past couple of years has grown to include over 25 cities. The group has a unique approach to cannabis education in that they produce small, intimate gatherings or "circles" that allow for the kind of safe spaces necessary to explore some thing as powerful as cannabis and the therapeutic qualities it offers.
How did you get involved in the cannabis industry?
In 2016, a friend asked me for advice about growing her PR business, and I recommended looking into the cannabis industry for new prospects. At the same time, I was trying to grow my digital marketing company and realized the cannabis industry was in need of professional marketing and social media skills. So I started a new company to encompass my digital marketing services, Spark The Creative, to focus on cannabis brands.
At the same time, I was personally experiencing chronic pain and insomnia. The more I researched cannabis for business, the more I learned about the history of the plant, it’s medicinal properties, and why it was banned in the first place. I ended up moving to a state where cannabis was legalized for adult use and was able to access and try it as an anti-inflammatory and sleep aid.
Once I experienced pain relief and was able to address my own insomnia, I realized that other women could benefit from cannabis and, more importantly, from better information about cannabis and how and why it works. So much of the information out there can be confusing, inaccurate or irrelevant for women who are looking to heal and feel better or to care for their loved ones. I realized there was a gap in the market that needed to be filled – and that in doing so, we could help a lot of people at the same time.
Tell us a little bit about Ellementa
Ellementa is the fastest growing women’s health and wellness network focused on cannabis. We bring women together with experts and brands in cities across the country to talk openly about cannabis and learn about the products and services that can serve their needs.
We are currently hosting in-person Gatherings in 25 cities, partnering with women locally to organize these unique monthly women’s circles where women can access better information about cannabis. We also host online forums to continue the conversation and learning around cannabis as a medicinal plant and natural remedy.
We also work with cannabis brands to reach women with information about their quality products and services. And we offer market research services including surveying and feedback panels.
What time does your day typically start and what does a normal day look like to you?
My day is incredibly packed with all the tasks of a startup entrepreneur and mom. I usually wake at 4am and start working – 5am is “sleeping in” for me. My family starts waking around 6:30am so I’m able to take advantage of the quiet hours of early morning to get a lot of work tasks done.
I spend the next two hours getting my family up, fed, and getting my kids going for school. I get a 6-hour workday that consists of managing a lot of the content, marketing, and community building for Ellementa as well as working on or overseeing marketing for clients.
Then the late afternoon and evening is devoted to kids and dinnertime, although I’ve been known to keep working while getting dinner ready. I’m often working in the evenings and into the night until I can’t keep my eyes open. And it starts all over again.
My weekends are pretty much like longer workdays right now. I tend to work 12 hours a day, just not 9 to 5. I think this is the typical life of a startup entrepreneur and mom, and I’m sure this mirrors the day-to-day of my co-founders, Melissa Pierce and Ashley Kingsley. We’re looking forward to raising capital for Ellementa for internal growth so we can delegate more of the many hats we are each wearing at the moment.
What is your vision for Ellementa going forward?
Ellementa will be a household name and the first brand women encounter or think of when she is seeking better information about cannabis for health and wellness. We’ll be not only nationwide but international, providing the platform and structure to bring women together with experts in brands both online and offline.
Ellementa will produce more quality content about cannabis, particularly for mainstream media, to reach more women – and more people in general – dispelling myths and correcting the gross and rampant misinformation that is out there about cannabis.
What would an ideal post prohibition society look like to you?
Our vision is that cannabis will be in every medicine chest alongside ibuprofen, ointments, supplements, and aromatherapy. Women will be the caretakers of this ancient healing plant and bring its benefits to our loved ones while also taking better care of ourselves.
What was your first experience with cannabis like?
I tried cannabis in my teens, first in high school and then a little bit in college. My early use was about loosening up and having fun at a party and mostly resulted in hanging out with friends and giggling or sitting in my dorm room with the munchies and a big bag of chips.
After leaving school, cannabis didn’t seem to fit into my life or career. It wasn’t until my 50s that I revisited it specifically for relief of arthritic pain and to address insomnia from both the chronic pain and menopause.
Tell us about some of the challenges you face working in the cannabis industry
I’ve found the cannabis industry to be filled with incredibly warm and generous people – many of them women – who have beautiful visions about building businesses around cannabis that helped and healed others. Sure, there are some bad apples in the bunch who are driven by greed and making money at any cost, but isn’t that every industry?
My real challenges are overcoming my own personal hang-ups about cannabis as a child of “Just Say No” and the War on Drugs era. We were fed so much propaganda and misinformation for decades, and too many people still believe the myths and falsehoods. Overcoming ignorance is a major challenge daily.
The rest of my challenges are typical of a startup entrepreneur: Cash flow, capitalization, and simply having enough time in the day to get it all done. And as a mom and wife, juggling it all to make sure everyone is taken care of – including myself.
What are some solutions you've found?
For the misinformation challenge, our greatest weapon is producing and disseminating better information about cannabis widely. Putting that information into the hands of women is a smart move because women make over 80% of healthcare decisions and purchases in households across the country. Ellementa goes straight to the source of care and caregiving in families and communities. As women, we are at the Epicenter of Care – for ourselves and for our loved ones.
What is one thing you wish everyone knew about cannabis?
I wish everyone knew the history of how cannabis was used through the centuries – especially by women – as a healing, medicinal plant and natural remedy. I also wish people understood why cannabis was made illegal in the first place – a decision driven by greed, fear, and ignorance, pretty much in that order.
Once people do their homework and are able to access more unbiased, more reliable or more scientifically sound information about cannabis, it is like a light bulb goes off in their heads and a dark cloud is lifted. It really is a revelation to realize that we’ve been fed so much bad information about cannabis for so long, and that it is up to us to make positive change so people can access the plant without breaking the law.
What is one thing you wish everyone knew about Ellementa?
Ellementa is not only a starting point for any woman seeking better information about cannabis for health and wellness but also a source of continuous learning, networking and support. The women in our communities are diverse, open-minded and committed to improving lives and healing communities.
If you could go back in time and do it all over again, what (if anything) would you do differently?
It is not in my nature to look back and regret but to look forward, hope and work really, really hard. But one mistake I made in the 90s was not taking a million dollars when it was offered to me to invest in my Internet startups, Cybergrrl, Inc. and Webgrrls International, which were the first woman-owned Internet company and first organization for women to learn about the Internet. I was given a lot of bad business advice at the time and took less money to keep more control of my company. Within a year, two other companies – iVillage and Women.com – came in better capitalized and leap frogged over my company that had paved the way for women online. I realized years later that my own fear of not just failure, but also of success, held me back.
This time around, I know that Ellementa is for cannabis what Cybergrrl and Webgrrls was for the Internet – out at the forefront, women-led and women-driven, and a powerful force in the emerging cannabis industry. If someone offers me a million dollars today to grow Ellementa, I’ll ask for more. Like the early days of the Internet, we have a short window of time before big multinational corporations get involved and change the landscape from healing to greed. We have a lot of important, life-chanigng work to do and need the capital to do it.
What is your favorite way to consume cannabis?
Vaping. For CBD, I like tinctures and topicals.
Concentrate or flower? Why?
Flower. I’m a bit old school, it is what’s familiar, it is more “whole plant,” and there’s a bit of a calming ritual to preparing it.
Do you think cananbis legalization will change the world for the better? Why?
Our world would be a better place and our lives would be a lot less stressful and pain-ridden with safe, legal, reliable and affordable access to cannabis.
Nothing is gained from people having trouble sleeping or from children having seizures or from people suffering during chemo – or getting cancer in the first place – unless you’re a pharmaceutical company. Nothing is gained from people being in pain – unless you’re a pharmaceutical company. Nothing is gained from people being addicted to opioids – unless you’re a pharmaceutical company.
Cannabis can address a number of health and wellness issues on a global level starting with one woman, one household, one community.
Ellementa is not a political organization but we are part of a growing movement of mothers, daughters, grandmothers, sisters, aunts, healers, students, teachers, and businesswomen who believe in cannabis and want to bring its benefits to more people.
What advice would you offer to another woman who is looking to get into the industry?
The cannabis industry is in need of smart, motivated women and can be a welcoming place. As with any industry, do your homework, ask a lot of questions, and identify the people with shared visions and the opportunities that best suit your skills and abilities.
Build companies, or work for companies, with a higher mission than just making money. We all want to have the financial means to live better lives, but make sure to hold on to and take care of the really important stuff – family, friends, and above all, take care of YOU.
Find out more about Ellementa by connecting with them online
Twitter Handle: @ellementawoman
Facebook Page Link: http://facebook.com/ellementawoman