Internet Pioneer Has Started a New Women's Community - This Time for Cannabis
by Christine Giraud
Aliza Sherman, an entrepreneur, internet pioneer and feminist community builder, has started many new ventures in her life. Her latest venture, founded with Ashley Kingsley and Melissa Pierce, is a startup called Ellementa — a cannabis wellness network and resource.
Since 2017, Ellementa has been connecting women with information on the health benefits of cannabis and brands out there that can help them. The network has reached over 5,000 women through their local gatherings alone.
Building an online community is old hat to Sherman. In 1995, she started the first woman-owned Internet company, Cybergrrl, Inc., a nod to cyberspace and the riot grrrls, and the first organization for women to learn about the Internet, Webgrrls International, that peaked at 100 chapters worldwide with 30,000 participants.
A place for Female Cannabis Consumers to gather
Ellementa is just as ambitious. The network caters to female cannabis consumers of all experience levels. The network becomes self-fulfilling as experienced consumers guide new ones on how to integrate cannabis into their lives with products and services they or Ellementa staff have tried so they can make educated decisions. This happens online and at in-person events organized by local chapters.
In a previous interview with Leafly during SXSW 2019, Sherman explained the complexity of the new market. “There’s a new consumer. It’s not just about ‘let’s get high’, but how can this help me?”
Speaking with Her(b) Life, Sherman bemoaned the misinformation in dispensaries. She discovered this personally when she went to a dispensary and asked a budtender for help with insomnia, making clear she wanted something appropriate for menopausal women. He suggested a strain that would get her “effed up.” That was not what she was going for.
Mainstream cannabis publications are also hit or miss. Sherman has found that much of the data analysis they provide has been drawn from popular publications like High Times, but the primary sources of these studies are often misinterpreted. “It’s not easy. I’ve sought out consultation from researchers to understand the data and their implications.”
Cannvas.Me, a leading digital cannabis education and analytics company in Canada, has partnered with Ellementa to improve educational content and data collection for women across North America who are interested in the health benefits of cannabis. Cannvas and Ellementa will share content “to enrich the cannabis education offered to their audiences.”
The initial data collected from Ellementa have shown there are significant differences between men and women regarding cannabis.
• 70 percent of women use cannabis for health and wellness, not to get high, according to a recent report by Eaze, the cannabis delivery service.
• 40 percent of women say they use cannabis to relieve anxiety while 30 percent of men say they use cannabis to relieve insomnia. Both men and women cite addressing depression as the second most common reason they use cannabis.
• 40 percent of men and 50 percent of women shop at dispensaries. Men are comfortable buying cannabis from the black market. In contrast, women are more likely to purchase it from friends.
• 15 percent of women say they buy from cannabis delivery services. Sherman said that while convenient, having strangers come to their door with cannabis can be scary for some women. She gave the example of SAVA, a company that is sensitive to this and uses female delivery personnel.
• When it comes to CBD, 50 percent of women say they prefer CBD tinctures followed by edibles and topicals. 50 percent of men say vaping CBD is their preference followed by tinctures and topicals.
• Stigma is still a big problem for the older generations. Many were taught cannabis is the “gateway drug” to harder drugs like heroin. As a result, older women tend to be more hesitant to try it.
Power of the Female Consumer
Sherman believes women have the majority of the buying power in the family. You reach her and you reach at least five people. Therefore, Ellementa makes an effort not only to educate women, but also to educate brands about women.
Brands have to start asking themselves: How are we approaching the consumer and her needs, but also her whole family’s needs? How are we packaging our product? Are we sure the name of our product is not offensive? Are there additional explanations that we should add? Is the product organic and environmentally-friendly?
“No two people are the same but knowing how to reframe content is important. A woman in her thirties is experiencing something completely different from a woman in her sixties.”
Ellementa staff try products with testers in legal states. If they don’t trust the product, it’s not promoted in the review.
On Ellementa.com, you can find online forums, webinars, and in-person gatherings in cities across North America and now also in Jamaica. Plans to expand to Europe and Australia and New Zealand are in the works. Joining the network is free.