For International Women’s Day, Cannabis Wealth is highlighting some of the women that have spearheaded, shaped and shook up the cannabis industry.
From business and industry leaders to campaigners, patients and parents – the cannabis industry features a wealth of women who are cultivating success through this humble yet powerful plant.
For cannabis in the UK, it has been women who have paved the way for policy change, women who feature in boardrooms, women who are helping to spearhead research and women who are speaking up and taking control of their own and their family’s health with cannabis.
Here we celebrate just some of the females that are making their mark on the nascent cannabis industry.
The industry leaders
Dr Annabelle Manalo-Morgan, lead scientific advisor, Flora Growth
Dr Manalo-Morgan is a scientist, educator, author, mother of five, and a respected key opinion leader. She is a cell and developmental biologist from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, with a background in neuroscience from Georgetown University. She earned her PhD in Cell and Developmental Biology with a focus in Cardio-Oncology and has since become a philanthropist and entrepreneur focused on pharmaceutical innovation and clinical trial research in medical cannabis.
As the lead scientific advisor at Flora Growth Corp, Dr Manalo-Morgan consults on medical cannabis legalisation, standards, and protocols for a variety of countries and markets. More specifically, Manalo-Morgan has dived into a diversity of research initiatives in hopes of encouraging a more embodied approach to precision medicine, where communication between scientists, doctors, and everyone in between can be better implemented.
She is leading what could be the UK’s first NHS trial on cannabinoids for fibromyalgia and chronic pain, in partnership with the University of Manchester, which hopes to start this year, currently subject to ethics committee approval.
How a former pro rugby player created the first CBD products certified for sport
Puresport became the first CBD brand in the world to become BSCG certified for sport in 2019.
As Puresport closes its latest private funding round of £1m, its founder Grayson Hart speaks to Cannabis Wealth about developing the first CBD product that pro athletes could put their trust in.
Puresport was founded by the former professional rugby player, Grayson Hart. The success of his career caused numerous adverse impacts on his physical health, which he was encouraged to solve with addictive prescription painkillers.
After discovering the natural benefits of CBD, Hart was inspired to help others break the quick-fix mentality and set out to create industry-leading, trustworthy products that promoted a natural, long-term approach to wellness.
Grayson’s discovery of CBD came out of his professional rugby career. At 24, he was diagnosed with a degenerative knee injury and advised to retire from rugby. But as a young professional athlete, he was compelled to continue playing, becoming heavily reliant on painkillers as a result.
“It got really bad, to the point where I was on six to eight painkillers a day,” Grayson recalled. “I gradually started to become aware of the negative impact that it was having on my health; my sleep quality, my energy levels, my focus and mood.
“As a player, you don’t really question the lifestyle that much; you just do what you have to do to get ready to play on the weekend. But then as it went on, I realised that it didn’t feel right.”
The realisation was accelerated by a fellow teammate who became addicted to sleeping pills. It eventually led to him losing his career and derailing his entire life. This was the “wake-up call” that led Grayson to search for a natural alternative to pharmaceutical painkillers.
During his efforts to come off painkillers, Grayson came across a host of natural supplements that are thought to relieve pain and inflammation. He learned about natural ingredients such as fish oil, omega-3, collagen, nootropics, adaptogens and mushrooms.
It wasn’t long before he stumbled on CBD through accounts from American athletes who had ditched painkillers in favour of CBD.
The world’s first certified CBD products for pro athletes
When he first started taking CBD, Grayson had to tread very carefully to avoid a potentially career-ending drug test.
“CBD was a much riskier space for me as a drug-tested athlete than mushrooms and nootropics,” Grayson said. “The chance of it not being extracted correctly and containing too [much] THC, that was a risk for me because THC showed up on a drug test and that would be me banned for two years and once you’re banned you’re never coming back.”
As he delved deeper into the CBD industry, Grayson discovered that many companies were not operating transparently. He reached out to firms, requesting detailed lab reports and information about source materials and extraction methods, but he struggled to get the clarity he needed to avoid putting his career on the line.
Frustrated by the industry’s poor regulatory landscape, Grayson set out to create the world’s first range of CBD products certified for sport. But getting there would not be an easy task.
“To achieve this level of certification, it’s the most stringent level of testing any supplement can go through,” Grayson said. “They literally test for everything, including banned substances, any other contaminant that isn’t what it says on the label, they rest for heavy metals, pesticides, they test for label claims, they vet the whole manufacturing process.”
After launching Puresport in December 2018, Grayson set out to develop a product that could meet the highly stringent conditions needed to achieve certification from The Banned Substances Control Group (BSCG), an international leader in banned substance certification.
Every element of the development process was designed to achieve the certification, Grayson said. He needed full traceability on how the raw materials were grown, complete and detailed lab reports, full accreditation for the manufacturing facilities needed to have full accreditation and he needed to show the full process of how the products were manufactured.
In June 2019, his hard work paid off as Puresport became the first brand in the world to become BSCG certified for sport.
Building the brand through community
Over the next two years, Puresport grew organically as professional athletes caught on and started sharing their experiences with the product. In its first year of trading, the company’s revenue hit £110,000 and achieved 400 per cent growth the following year with a net revenue of just over £500,000. In 2021, the company’s revenue reached £1.6m with no signs of slowing down.
Central to Purepsort’s impressive growth is its community-focused approach to brand awareness. The company hosts the UK’s largest free weekly running club and has recently launched a new Fitness Club, regularly collaborating with the likes of Gymshark, Equinox and Arc’teryx.
Working in the CBD space comes with a myriad of restrictions, especially around marketing, with the likes of Instagram and Facebook continuing to prohibit the marketing of CBD through their platforms.
Puresport has instead built its brand through fostering a community; one that primarily centres around its Run Club. The idea came from jogs that Grayson and his colleagues would regularly go for after work or during lunchtime breaks. They started inviting friends and family before deciding to launch a free weekly club.
The first few gatherings attracted a few dozen people and within six months, Puresport had 200 people coming together evey Wednesday at Benson Park in London.
“Our way of growing has always been with real people like in real life,” Grayson said. “We just realised that this is the best, most sustainable, authentic way to build our brand because that’s true to us.”
The company is now looking to scale the concept while retaining its authenticity. The company now has additional Run Clubs in Bristol, Liverpool and Dublin along with a recently launched Fitness Club in London which takes place ilan a different gym each Thursday.
The future of Puresport
During the first coronavirus lockdown, Grayson stepped away from his full-time rugby career to give his full attention to the growth of Puresport.
“This, aligning with a time that people’s attention was shifting to prioritise their health due to the pandemic, turned out to be a bit of luck and timing for Puresport,” Grayson said “We have always wanted to be more than a product, we’re a community, an educator and a place of belonging, as well as products that truly benefit people’s health.”
Puresport now has its own headquarter in Southwark, London where the company hosts community events focused on sustainable health and lifestyle, fitness and community.
The company has recently tripled the size of its team having just raised £1m in private investment to help facilitate its planned expansion. After growing its brand and customer base through its online store and community initiatives, Puresport is now expanding into retail for the first time with a number of partnerships already agreed upon.
The company is raising another £400,000 through a crowdfunding campaign. “This aligns so well with our community ethos at Puresport and allows loyal customers to be even further immersed in the journey with us,” Grayson added.
“So much of our growth has been through building that community and connection through events and word of mouth. We have our Run Club and our Fitness Club; we have an unbelievable community and we wanted to incorporate that into this raise.
“We were very confident we could raise the full £1.4m privately but we wanted to include our community.”
A new perspective on life and health
In the process, of achieving our goals, we often “overlook our own health,” Grayson said. “We do things that are short-term, quick fixes that seem to push us towards our goals, but are often detrimental to our health. We take something that will mask that symptom.”
Grayson has applied this perspective on health to his outlook on life in an effort to keep his head above water as Puresport grows and the stakes get higher.
“We’re taught that our identity and our value and happiness are dependent on circumstances, achieving certain things or having certain things,” Grayson said. “I really believed that and I thought that I’d feel better or good or happier if I achieved my dream of becoming a professional rugby player.
“Although I was happy and proud and loved being a rugby player, I didn’t feel the sense of confidence or fulfilment or happiness that I thought would come with achieving my dream.”
This realisation led to Grayson experiencing a period of poor mental health that made him question his entire outlook on life. Over time, he shifted his perspective. Now, he believes happiness and contentment is inherently in our nature, and it is our desire to achieve or attain certain things that get in the way. He applies this new way of thinking to his life in business to keep his mental health in good shape through the highs and lows.
“My biggest challenge as the business grows is there seems to be more pressure, more to lose and more to gain,” Grayson said. “Those thoughts of ‘you need this’ or ‘you can’t lose this’ seem bigger and more real.
“Every day, my challenge is to say, ‘is that true?’, and from that place of knowing who I really am, that I am not defined by Puresport, it’s that allows me to make better decisions or see more clearly or see opportunities and have more balance.”
New chief financial officer joins Cellular Goods
Former finance director of Trinny Woodall’s Trinny London, Bruna Nikolla, will join the company.
UK-based Cellular Goods, has announced the appointment of Bruna Nikolla as Chief Financial Officer.
The a UK-based wellness company has welcomed Nikolla to its team, who will also serve as company secretary.
Nikolla will become a director of the company and is expected to join Cellular Goods with effect from 22 August 2022, and will be taking over from Simon Walters who will continue with his role until 1 September 2022 to ensure an orderly handover.
CEO of Cellular Goods, Anna Chokina, commented: “I would like to welcome Bruna, who brings a wealth of experience in the eCommerce and luxury goods sectors that will strengthen our commercial, financial and strategic capabilities. I look forward to working closely with Bruna to drive the Company’s growth and deliver long-term value for our shareholders.
“On behalf of the Board, I would also like to thank Simon for his support and valuable contribution over the course of Cellular’s listing journey and its move to commercial operations. We wish him well in his future endeavours.”
Nikolla is a member of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants and brings more than 15 years of financial, strategic and commercial experience across multiple sectors including eCommerce, luxury retail, international technology, software and telecommunications.
She has significant leadership experience within the premium consumer goods sector and previously served as finance director of Trinny London, a premium beauty and skincare brand founded by UK television presenter and makeover guru Trinny Woodall.
During her tenure at Trinny London, Bruna led the pricing and commercial strategy in a high-growth period. Between 2018 and 2020 she served as finance director at luxury eyewear brand Tom Davies Ltd. where she maintained overall responsibility for controlling all UK and head office finance as well as supporting the wider operations of the business.
Canopy Growth appoints industry veteran Christelle Gedeon as chief legal officer
Gedeon’s cannabis and commercial expertise will further Canopy Growth’s strategy for North American cannabis leadership, the company said.
Christelle Gedeon is one of Canada’s Law Department Leaders of the Year and formally served as chief legal officer at the international cannabis firm Aphria.
Canopy Growth has appointed Christelle Gedeon as its new chief legal officer. Listed on the Legal 500 GC Powerlist in 2020 and the 2019 Canadian General Counsel Awards Tomorrow’s Leader, Gedeon is a commercial lawyer and strategist with more than a decade of legal and strategic experience.
Most recently she acted as chief legal officer and corporate secretary for The Metals Company (TMC). Prior to this, she served as the chief legal officer and corporate secretary at Aphria Inc, where she oversaw the reverse takeover of Tilray.
“Christelle is a proven leader in the legal and cannabis industries, and we are excited to have her join Canopy Growth as we continue to build the leading brand-driven cannabis company in North America,” said David Klein, CEO of Canopy Growth.
“As a company, we have set clear priorities including achieving profitability while advancing our competitive positioning through a premium focus in Canada, high-impact CPG brands and the continued growth of our US THC ecosystem. I am confident that Christelle’s commercial and legal acumen will be key to further bringing our strategy to fruition.”
In addition to her expertise in the cannabis industry, Gedeon brings experience with complex regulatory structures, intellectual property management, corporate governance, government relations and strategic acquisitions.
She has also had a direct role in the completion of more than 50 mergers, acquisitions and strategic investments including during her time as a partner at Fasken, a leading Canadian law firm, where she advised life sciences clients on commercial, regulatory and government affairs matters.
Gedeon received her Bachelor of Law from McGill University and is a member of both the Ontario and Quebec bars. She is also a registered trademark agent and holds a PhD in Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology from the University of Toronto. Her appointment to the role of Chief Legal Officer at Canopy Growth is effective immediately.