Article2 Excitement & Growth in a Budding Industry | CiC Interview: Ellen Lee Scanlon of How to Do the Pot
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In this episode of Careers in Cannabis, we follow the career journey of Ellen Lee Scanlon, the CEO and co-founder of How to Do the Pot, which is an audio first education platform demystifying cannabis for women. Ellen began her career working on Wall Street until she discovered cannabis and its healing potential. She recognized that on Google search results women were heavily underserved, so she wanted to provide a solution for women seeking information about cannabis.
On Careers in Cannabis, TRICHOMES.com talks with staffing agencies and cannabis companies to explore employment and career opportunities in the burgeoning cannabis industry. To reach the show: email@example.com
Ashley: Hey everyone for TRICHOMES.com, I'm Ashley Manning and this is Careers in Cannabis. On this show we sit down with staffing agencies, cannabis companies and other industry professionals to discuss employment opportunities in the burgeoning cannabis industry. Prior to the global pandemic podcasting and cannabis had already started to become mainstream. Then the world would shut down with stay-at-home orders and the cannabis industry was deemed essential with cannabis and podcasting at our fingertips, it's no doubt that the two became a pair of the most popular trends of 2020. However, with so many new cannabis consumers many of them are Googling their curious cannabis questions. Today's guest began her career working on Wall Street until she discovered cannabis and its healing potential. She recognized that in those Google search results women were heavily underserved so she wanted to provide a solution for women seeking information about cannabis. On this episode we followed the career journey of Ellen Lee Scanlon, the CEO and co-founder of How to Do the Pot, which is an audio first education platform demystifying cannabis for women. Hey, Ellen, welcome to the show.
Ellen: Thanks, Ashley. It's great to be here.
Ashley: It's good to have you here again. Where are you joining us from?
Ellen: San Francisco.
Ashley: Awesome. That's one of my favorite cities in the world especially for cannabis culture too. I feel like it really has the vibe and the people, which is important in a Career in Cannabis also culture.
Ellen: So much history here. Absolutely.
Ashley: So thank you for joining us. I'm excited to have you. I know we talked a few months ago and we got here on the show today and I want to hear about your journey and how you got a Career in Cannabis. So I'd love to kick it off by starting by asking you what you were doing right before you had a Career in Cannabis.
Ellen: Well, I got my medical card in 2016 and I think that's when I really started paying attention to cannabis, as a possible career. I had a background, I worked on Wall Street, I got my MBA, I had worked in the investment business for a long time and I moved to San Francisco and started meeting all these people that had all these cool jobs in industries that were not financial services and just finally decided to make the switch myself. I was working for a women's healthcare startup that was venture-backed and had several locations around the country. I had worked in totally male-dominated Industries for so long that I think understanding women's health as really specific was what I started to learn in just an extremely strong way and women were really seeking alternatives to traditional health care challenges and that became incredibly clear to me. So while I was doing that, I also was poking around some cannabis conferences and definitely able to partake a little bit more because I could go to legal dispensaries and kind of figure out what was happening and I was a little scared to do it. I had a great friend who took me one afternoon to three or four different dispensaries in San Francisco and I was so grateful to have a friend to do it with because I grew up on the east coast in a traditional kind of family and this was an illegal substance and so it was definitely something that I needed a little support to feel more comfortable. In 2017-2018 I reconnected with April Pride who was a friend of mine from college and she had been working in Canada, she founded a company called Van Der Pop and had recently sold it to Canopy Growth and really understood what it was like to work in a market leading up to legalization. She and I in 2019 started How to Do the Pot which is our podcast which is demystifying cannabis for women. I had a baby in 2018, so I also was kind of understanding life as a new mother and really having sleep troubles for the first time dealing with a lot of different kind of stress than what I was used to. So I started to realize that cannabis could be an incredible resource for me and all of those learnings were really going into the content that we were creating and How to Do the Pot is we want it to be fun and easy to listen to and just a great resource for women. I think today Connecticut legalized, I grew up in Connecticut so it was kind of an amazing moment in the two and a half years since I started this business, eight states now and the country of Mexico have legalized. So it's moving so fast and 80 million women over 21 have access and pretty sure they still have some questions. So, we're here to try and solve them and I'm learning so much and just taking the background that I have in Wall Street and understanding information flows and how they work and synthesizing what's most important in getting that back out and all of these sort of unexpected things that are really relevant to what I'm doing today today.
Ashley: So, you were learning and working at this time not realizing you were working. Then you're like wait, I compare these two together and that's where How to Do the Pot came about if I understand correctly.
Ellen: Yeah, I think that we knew that we wanted to focus on women and when we were trying to figure out the best way to reach women, it seems like another industry that's growing so fast is podcasting. Luckily, it's legal and something I always have them grateful for, but it was 2019 when podcasts became mainstream because 50% of the population listened to them. I love podcasts, I've been an audio listener forever. I love to read and I love to listen to audio books.and so it's just a medium that I'm really comfortable in and I feel so connected to the hosts of the shows that I listen to, I feel like they're my friends. It seemed like for a topic like this, I know that I needed a friend and we wanted to provide that same type of feeling and opportunity where you can trust that the person who is talking to you has done their homework for sure but also is relatable and is going through a lot of the same things that that you or your friends might be. We bring on tons and tons of amazing guests. It's a narrative show so it's not an interview podcast, so we're crafting stories and writing scripts. My English major is definitely coming in handy and so we are really trying to change hearts and minds about cannabis through the stories that I know you hear all the time that are just those stories where when you hear them you just can't unhear them and they're so compelling and people are getting so much support and help and relief from this plant that I want to share those stories.
Ashley: I love that you're documenting these stories as well because one thing that we realize in cannabis is that regulations don't allow us to make claims, this helps with sleep, this helps with cramps, this helps with this and that as I'm making claims right now but you're essentially doing that for the canna curious who want to know these answers, they don't need claims, they can hear these stories and and relate. It's important that you're getting that message out there. I love hearing narrative stories over and over and over even if it’s same stories and just sharing them with people because we all know someone also who knows someone who wants to know about cannabis and it's hard to navigate besides Google, so How to Do the Pot makes sense. You're Googling how to smoke cannabis, how to eat an edible. I'm assuming these things, I'll let you speak about the podcast. So what are some of the skill sets you have parlayed over from your previous career into what you're doing today?
Ellen: Well, I think that a through line in my career is that I really want to be as close as I can to the action. I worked on a trading floor for five years and part of my job was to talk to traders at two or three different points during the day and know what was going on in each of their sectors which required me to do a lot of research and have a lot of information in my head. And then the product that I created actually went out to thousands and thousands of hedge funds and this was pre Twitter and pre many types of slack and different ways to get information out and so it was one of the first of its kind on Wall Street, where you were getting real-time information from traders from a research team that really knew what they were talking about. It was just such a great training ground because every single day, the news changes, every single day something happens that moves a stock. So, I was trained to figure out what matters and what was going to be important and make the stock move and so I think that's something. I've been a big reader my whole life, I love to take in information and kind of find the pieces that are most important and then figure out a way to share that. I got my MBA and so I have a lot of tools that I can use that have been around for a long time in terms of sort of analysis and assessment and just being able to bring context to what I'm talking about. I think that those are things that I use every single day. It also is really fun for me. My husband jokes that this is the kind of stuff that I like to do while he's watching a hockey game. So It's really fun for me to learn. I worked on a trading floor which you would think would be the most sort of exciting place to learn. and I think cannabis is by far the most exciting industry that I've ever workedin , it touches everything. Whatever your interest is, if you're interested in the government side, if you're interested in the social justice side, if you're interested in the culture side, if you're interested in the medical side or the agricultural side, I mean it's incredible. I was just thinking about all the different directions and it's so exciting that it's also really new. That's part of what's scary about it because it's hard, things change really fast but it definitely just keeps me intrigued all the time.
Ashley: I have no idea what it's like to work on a trading floor or anything but I can assume this might be a little bit more relaxed. But the same concept like you said of getting the news, getting information, seeing what's relevant to the people and what's going to move the needle forward and getting that information out there to the right people. It's essentially what you're doing for women on How to Do the Pot. You're gathering information and putting it out there to them. So, kudos to you for bringing those skill sets and to cannabis in a unique way. Some people think that parlaying their skills from other Industries into cannabis has to be exactly what they were doing before and even though there is financial services for cannabis you that's not the route you chose. You chose I think a much more unique approach to it and eventually we're going to get to the bigger financial services getting involved and maybe that'll be a whole nother how to bank in cannabis podcast. There's something for you as well
Ellen: Fingers where there's banking cannabis soon to talk about.
Ashley: Are you interested in that being that your background is in financial services?
Ellen: I think I'm more interested in the investment side. That's sort of where I landed. I worked for a firm that managed money for endowments and foundations, which is what they call sort of perpetual capital. These institutions want to live forever and the difference between the many years I spent on the trading floor where you're working on things that are happening that day at the end of the day, close the book start over versus working for an amazing firm that is trying to create capital that will exist forever. I really got two different sides of the investment spectrum and I think cannabis definitely falls on the long game play. I love watching and seeing all the different moves and I do think as many people have said that, it's still very early but that doesn't mean that there still isn't so much to learn. But it's hard, it's hard to know, kind of what to pay attention to and what to spend your limited attention on and I think in some ways that's why I've chosen the stories because I can in my own research, keep paying attention to what's happening with legalization and government and changes and things like that. But until it's a little bit more clear, I feel like that's more of a niche focus and I really want to speak to the mainstream. It’s the 80 million women, it's the women I know across the country who just want to feel a little better. Just want to sleep a little better. I have endometriosis and CBD and cannabis is an incredible treatment and solution for me and, there's so many women that are having experiences with cannabis that are life-changing. Telling those stories right now and helping women to understand how cannabis can help in their lives is something that I'm really passionate about and then definitely paying attention to what's going on otherwise.
Ashley: Yes, in with cannabis being deemed essential through the pandemic. So cannabis is now at our fingertips and so is podcasting at our fingertips. It's no doubt as to why those two became the hottest trends in 2020. That's my opinion but that's what I saw through 2020 and during the pandemic. Where do you think that the outcome of the industry might be in the next couple of years? Put your investment hat on, where do you think it's going to be?
Ellen: It's such. It's such a hard question. I lived and worked in New York City for a long time and I do believe that there is just so much cultural power that exists in New York. So I think that the fact that New York has legalized and as they figure out what they're going to be doing over the next year and get those markets stabilized and ready to start selling. I think that is a huge, huge important step. I don't think any of us really understand how huge it is yet and I think that it could definitely be a blueprint for a federal legalization. I think that the federal government is going to be paying very close attention to what's happening in New York and then you saw Connecticut today, Rhode Island and I've got a million other states that are my list of sort of that yellow. They're not quite too green yet.
Ashley: There on the governor's desk, just needs to sign.
Ellen: Exactly. So, I think that is something really that I know I'm paying very close attention to. I mean, what's so incredible is the November election I just really think changed everything. I have to confess, I didn't expect that every state on the ballot would legalize cannabis and between the fast-forwarding effect that COVID has had on all of our lives and technology and so many things that have just been fast-forwarded. Cannabis absolutely, which was already a very fast industry. I think just five and ten years of what many people were expecting, I think happened in a year. So I don't know if I'm ready to put a date on federal legalization. I'm hopeful for the banking, I feel like that's actually what I'm more focused on because I think that just the idea that you can't get a bank loan for a cannabis business it's just not it's not right. There are some very practical things that I think could help everyone in the industry so much and allow people who really want to do good and bring great products and services to do that and they've just struggling right now because of capital.
Ashley: Absolutely true. So let's shift gears, I have one more question about How to Do the Pot and then I want to shift gears into some advice. How to Do the Pot is not just the podcast you also have a plethora of information on your website. Do you want to share some of that information.
Ellen: Sure, we have an amazing website. That actually is going to be upgraded pretty soon so stay tuned. It's going to get even better. We have a newsletter also that has gotten really really popular that goes out twice a month, so you can go to dothepot.com and sign up for that. We try to bring conventions that women are used to in other areas of their life to cannabis. I think that when you're taking in new information it can be really overwhelming if you can't create a frame of something that you have some context for. So our website is very easy to navigate and we try to do things. I love a list, we've got a lot of fives and top threes and that's the same thing with our newsletter. We just, I think about weed all the time but if you're coming to our site or listening to our podcast every week I want you to walk away fifteen or twenty minutes later feeling satisfied like you've learned something, like you can move forward and like you had some fun. And so, that's the energy that we bring to everything that we are thinking about weed all the time, so that the women who are coming to our site or listening to our podcast don't have to.
Ashley: I'm assuming you're currently a consumer of medical cannabis is right? You said that earlier I apologize.
Ellen: Yeah no I love cannabis I've loved it for a long time. What I really love is knowing what makes me feel the way I want to feel at the moment that I want to feel it. Sort of college or when I was getting baggies of things that I didn't know and sometimes you felt good but sometimes sometimes it didn't and the cannabis that I might want for a Friday night at home is really different from what I would want, hopefully soon out with friends doing fun things. I love micro dosing. I really love one IPA, I love to have one drink and I kind of have that vibe with cannabis I guess. But when I'm in pain with endometriosis, when I have other issues, back issues, rest all of the complaints that we all have. I'm so grateful to have cannabis really at my fingertips. I'm sure, like you, I have a lot of weed.
Ashley: Yes, 100%. So let's shift gears to one of my, one of my favorite questions. I ask all my guests, what would be some big sister advice that you would give someone who might be on the fence of having a Career in Cannabis.
Ellen: I have heard this question on your show. I am a big sister, I'm the oldest of three. So many of your guests have given really wonderful advice so I was trying to think about something that hasn't been shared already and I think that I'm going to go back to something really practical, which is LinkedIn. Linkedin is a really great resource if you are curious, you can follow the leaders in the cannabis industry. I think because cannabis is such an entrepreneurial space people are out there kind of hawking what they're doing and so they're using it a lot more than maybe your average person at a large corporation. And so you can really know what's going on. On How to Do the Pot we have a site for the podcast where, of course, we will put out the new shows that are coming but we also put out what we think is the most important news. You can follow me Ellen Lee Scanlon, I am always putting out things about podcasts about cannabis about women leaders and there's so many incredible people that I follow on LinkedIn and even just spending 15 or 20 minutes a day, it's just a great way to get caught up on what's happening. There is an algorithm so it's definitely showing me things that I like and but if you're considering getting into the industry spend a little time, cultivating your LinkedIn cannabis and I think that you'll get a lot of great information and resources and learn a lot and be able to kind of figure out where you might want to fit in the industry.
Ashley: That's great advice. It's kind of like a little bit of a voyeur looking into what all these companies are doing without actually talking to them. You get the background, which you should be doing that anyhow if you're curious about any industry, in my opinion, but LinkedIn, like you said, it's really narrowed it down with entrepreneurs and very active executives and being able to connect with them as well. They actually manage their own LinkedIn.
Ellen: Yeah, I manage mine. I love to hear from people and I feel like it's just a great resource. That's my advice.
Ashley: Awesome. It's great advice. So a couple more questions, I always give guests the opportunity to share if they're hiring ,looking for interns, are you any of the above?
Ellen: We are, I believe that always be hiring, always be looking, always be talking, absolutely. And we're creating a community of women and so community builders are welcome also people who love podcasts I think that with these industries there's so much that's new and there's really no one that can say you don't know what you're talking about because unless you're staying on top of both cannabis and podcasting your kind of yesterday's news. So if you are curious and excited and paying attention, that to me is really just as valuable as someone who has many many years of experience because there aren't that many of those people. So, I think it's a great way to make yourself really valuable. I obviously believe in both of these industries very much and think that it's a great place for someone early in their career to start gaining expertise because age is just a number and in these industries if you have the right experience. So yes, we definitely are and always looking for storytellers and really people who just want to build community and anyone who has experience in building audiences on podcasts will always be welcome because as unfortunately we know discovery is sort of the biggest challenge with podcasts and but the listeners are really loyal, so it's very satisfying.
Ashley: Right. I think I got into podcasting, I took over this role of Careers in Cannabis because I'm in an inquisitive person and I'm curious and I love that ask questions and talk, is that the ideal person for a host because they're thinking of these of questions that probably other people also have questions about as well?
Ellen: Well, our show is a little bit different because different because it is scripted and so writing the questions and thinking about the question and researching them is really a big part of of keeping this show going but the interviews then need to be turned into scripts and so people who are good writers are very valuable also and people kind of gave me a hard time, my parents for having an English degree when I was in college but I remember just hearing people saying it's going to be come in handy to be a good writer, I really think that it has and that it does. To be able to communicate clearly and effectively and share a story and to take an hour-long, fascinating interview and for me because I like to keep our show short, turn it into five episodes and find the places where I can put this perfect person's quote that balances out another quote and shares a story. We bring on a lot of experts and so my medical experts and then weave the story so that people are drawn in by perhaps the woman's story but then they learn something from the medical expert and then share something fun. It's a very creative kind of endeavor but it's rooted in a lot of research.
Ashley: Got it makes sense. One, last question for you before we head out. How can you be reached?
Ellen: You can find me on socials, I'm Ellen Lee Scanlon. You can go dothepot.com to find all kinds of information about women and weed and then How to Do the Pot is available wherever you listen to podcasts.
Ashley: Awesome. Well, it's been great talking with you Ellen Lee Scanlon of How to Do the Pot. I look forward to having you back on the show sometime soon. Then maybe we'll be in person. We're not that far from each other so maybe next time.
Ellen: That would be great.
Ashley: Awesome. Well thank you so much for your time today Ellen and have a great weekend.