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FEMALE LEADERSHIP IN THE CANNABIS INDUSTRY



While Mint Cannabis is well known for introducing numerous firsts to both the industry and its home state of Arizona, the brand is equally notable for the diverse team of people it employs. Unlike many retail companies, 65% of the Mint’s managers are female. That’s an anomaly in an industry traditionally dominated by men.


“No matter what, we always hire the best person for each job,” said Eivan Shahara, Co-Founder and CEO of Mint Cannabis. “It just so happened, very naturally, organically, and authentically, that more female employees work in management and leadership roles at the Mint, from our National HR Director, Financial Controller, and SVP of Operations, to our Purchasing and Store Managers and Events Coordinator.”


According to Raul Molina, Co-Founder and COO of the Mint, their all-inclusive environment encourages employees to express and develop themselves. “Having the ability to work with a diverse group of employees while dealing with highly controlled inventory and government oversight has led us to an elite team of women who are very well-versed in the cannabis industry.”



Growing an Employee-first Culture


If you have ever purchased cannabis in Arizona, you likely have been to one of Mint’s four dispensary locations – in Phoenix, Mesa, or Guadalupe/Tempe. The Mint operates the state’s largest dispensary – it’s open 365 days a year, and on some days, it stays open for a full 24 hours. The Mint is also the only U.S. operator that runs a cannabis kitchen inside one of its dispensaries, where professional chefs prepare fresh THCinfused foods, snacks, and drinks that customers and patients purchase to-go.


For the Mint, growing a successful business in a rapidly evolving and highly competitive industry means constantly innovating.


“When we entered the industry in 2016, cannabis was an immature business,” said Shahara. “From day one, the Mint has been at the forefront of spearheading change in the cannabis industry. The root of that change has required breaking down barriers, removing stigmas, and transforming perceptions of our industry. We’re not running ‘pot shops’ – we’re operating innovative places where people want to work, advance, and increase their knowledge.”


Beyond its expansive product mix and industry-leading services, another area where Mint excels is shaping a culture where employees take pride in their work and have the opportunity to achieve career goals. It is one more way the Mint is disrupting perceptions of the cannabis industry.


With more than 200 people on staff in Arizona, the Mint has become an in-demand employer in not just the cannabis industry, but in the state as a whole. This can be directly attributed to its founding principles and business philosophy, which goes beyond serving patients and carries over just as passionately to its employees.


“The Mint operates with a core belief that the key to achieving customer happiness is to focus on team members’ happiness first,” said Heather Walker, SVP of Arizona Retail Operations for the Mint. “Empowering people and leading by example are two ways we’re fostering a close-knit family of team members who are committed to delivering variety, innovation, and first-class service.”


Molina agreed. “Our two biggest assets are our employees and our clientele,” he said. “The Mint wouldn’t have such a great clientele without a great team of people. We’re connoisseurs of good people. Once we find somebody who is willing to put in the effort and time – what we call ‘playing for the team’ – we try to take care of them. We pay them well. We do what we can to make sure they are well taken care of.”



Training to Transform the Industry

Consistent with its disruptive approach in other areas, the Mint dedicates extraordinary resources to its employees by developing their knowledge and furthering their career aspirations. The Mint’s formal employee training program runs on Google’s online classroom platform. It delivers educational tools and resources covering topics from the latest cannabis compliance and safety information to general sales and retail skills.


“Our training program allows us to create a well-rounded, educated workforce,” said Marisa Gonzalez, National HR Director for the Mint.


The training tool, which employees can begin at any time without having to wait for a formal class, provides them with empowering industry knowledge, including policies, regulations, and compliance issues that are not often passed along to rankand-file members at other dispensaries. All employees are encouraged and incentivized to take advantage of the training program, consistent with the belief that the more education that is provided the better the patient experience.


“It’s rewarding to see ambitious individuals sharpen the skills they use on a day-to-day basis, but also to understand the importance of the work they do,” said Gonzalez.


Along with employee evaluations and performance reviews, individuals looking to grow their roles and move up the ladder in the company must complete a designated number of classes and pass accompanying tests to advance. From entry-level positions to management, the Mint has put upward mobility within reach of all its employees.


“I love building up the next generation of budtenders to be able to do what I do best,” said Ariyan Holder-Gutierez, the Mint’s Guadalupe/Tempe Store Manager.



Camaraderie Driven by Giving


Employee turnover at the Mint is less than 12%, which is well below the industry standard of 21%. This is a direct reflection of the leadership team’s commitment to mentoring its team and leading by example.


“Having happy Mint team members who enjoy what they do not only increases our efficiency, but it also improves collaboration and ultimately leads to better morale and service,” Lexie Coleman, the Mint’s Events Coordinator, who also plays a leading role in the dispensary’s community outreach programs. “The sense of camaraderie you can feel at a Mint dispensary impacts customers, but it also spills over into positive changes in the communities we serve.”


In fact, the lines between work and volunteerism blur as employees build strong bonds with their peers, their patients, and the community at large, which often results in them planning and participating in activities that fall outside of work hours and are independent of Mint-initiated programs, which have contributed more than $3 million to communities the Mint serves.


One example is the annual Mint Charities Adopt-A-Family program that Coleman oversees each holiday season; each Mint dispensary location selects families in need to receive surprise cash deliveries. Similarly, Coleman organized an inaugural Mint Charities Basketball Tournament earlier this fall, which raised money to support Cloud Covered Streets, a nonprofit organization dedicated to people experiencing homelessness.


Beyond monetary giving and fundraising, Coleman’s outreach also encompasses education. She regularly speaks at support group meetings for cancer patients assisted by Cancer & Blood Specialists of Arizona and Check for a Lump. She has a wonderful ability to help demystify cannabis as a potential solution and answers all kinds of questions from patients, from those who have never visited a dispensary to those who might be familiar with cannabis but are not sure what kind of product might help them the best. Following each support group meeting, it is not uncommon for patients to seek Coleman out for her expertise, requesting additional one-on-one help from her in navigating the dispensary and products.


A Class of Its Own


While the Mint team has individuals with backgrounds in everything from science and agriculture to health, food and nutrition, everyone who works at the Mint has one thing in common: they all believe in the life-changing benefits of cannabis.


From cultivating and dispensing to creating and distributing innovative products that fill undeniable gaps in the medical marijuana sector, the Mint team is driven by a sense of duty to patients and the communities that they serve not only in Arizona, but across the U.S.


Thankfully, cannabis is more of a mainstream, respected, and essential business today. Ask any cannabis patient or customer who knows our industry well, and they will tell you that the Mint is in a class of its own, thanks to its unique approach and diverse team.



Meet Dora Traslavina, Wholesale Operations Manager for Mint Cannabis


1. What inspired you to get involved in the cannabis industry?

Like so many others, I self-medicated with cannabis for many years. I had chronic back pain from being in multiple car accidents and the physical therapy afterwards just led to more pain. The muscle relaxers a doctor prescribed to me weren’t a good long-term solution so, I chose to smoke flower to help me relax so that I could sleep during the night so that I could function properly during the day.


2. How does working as a woman in this industry compare to your experience in other fields?

I worked in the financial services industry for 15+ years prior to working for Mint. I felt like I was in a box. I often felt compelled to conform to the majority’s way of thinking because there wasn’t a culture of open-mindedness. It was all about who you knew and not your level of expertise. I transitioned to the cannabis industry in its infancy. I was in awe of how accepting and openminded the majority of people are that I work with which led me to feel encouraged to create and innovate.


3. What advice do you have for a woman just starting her cannabis career?

You were called to this role for a reason. So, approach with an open mindset, refine your voice and don’t be afraid to use it. You’re walking a mostly untrekked path that will pave the way for potential and possibility. Remember that asking for help doesn’t mean incompetence. Afterall, collaboration is a big part of being successful. Lastly, believe you’re capable because I do.



Meet Heather Walker, SVP of Arizona Retail Operations for Mint Cannabis


1. What inspired you to get involved in the cannabis industry?

I had read an article on the future of cannabis. It had talked about the industry itself and where it could go in the near future in comparison to other industries. I had been waitressing since I was old enough to work. The Mint opened up right down the street from the restaurant I worked at, and it was a good chance to transition from a job to what would eventually become a career for me.


2. How does working as a woman in this industry compare to your experience in other fields?

I think being a woman in this industry is different from other industries because everybody has an opportunity to be very open and be themselves. It has created an environment that has a very loving, family vibe and I have not felt that connected to a job in my past.


3. What advice do you have for a woman just starting her cannabis career?

My advice to any woman just beginning her career in cannabis would be to build connections! There are so many great people willing to help build others up. Find those people, build those bonds, and work together to do great things!



Meet Ariyan Holder-Gutierez, Guadalupe/Tempe Store Manager for Mint Cannabis


1. What inspired you to get involved in the cannabis industry?

I got in this industry because I wanted to help people to better the quality of their lives and educate them with something that’s had a negative view from society


2. How does working as a woman in this industry compare to your experience in other fields?

This industry allows women to make their mark when it’s been dominated by men for a while and allows us to have a say in how we impact others.


3. What advice do you have for a woman just starting her cannabis career?

My advice would be to allow your passion to lead you in this industry to show that we, too, can be experts and leaders in cannabis.



Meet Mara Sturans, Purchasing Manager for Mint Cannabis


1. What inspired you to get involved in the cannabis industry?

I was inspired to enter the cannabis industry because cannabis was one of the things that helped me when I was at my lowest place physically and mentally. I thought it would be a great opportunity to help people who need an organic alternative to western medicine and to also educate those who oppose cannabis legalization.


2. How does working as a woman in this industry compare to your experience in other fields?

Working in this field as a woman can still be intimidating to most, as it is primarily a male dominated industry. You still run into the occasional individual who thinks they know more than you about cannabis or the industry simply because you are a woman. I find that our community tends to be more accepting than others though. The people I get to work with closely are open-minded individuals with a stoner’s mentality of freedom and equality.


3. What advice do you have for a woman just starting her cannabis career?

Just do it! If you never take the jump, you will never succeed. Starting from the bottom doesn’t have to be a bad thing, either. I worked my way up to where I am today over the course of a few years. Hard work pays off, but make sure you find a positive support system, because that is essential as well.



Meet Lexie Coleman, Arizona Events Coordinator for Mint Cannabis


1. What inspired you to get involved in the cannabis industry?

Like so many others, I self-medicated with cannabis for many years. I had chronic back pain from being in multiple car accidents and the physical therapy afterwards just led to more pain. The muscle relaxers a doctor prescribed to me weren’t a good long-term solution, so I chose to smoke flower to help me relax so that I could sleep during the night and function properly during the day.


2. How does working as a woman in this industry compare to your experience in other fields?

I worked in the financial services industry for 15+ years prior to working for the Mint. I felt like I was in a box in the other industry. I often felt compelled to conform to the majority’s way of thinking because there wasn’t a culture of open-mindedness. It was all about who you knew – and not your level of expertise. I transitioned to the cannabis industry in its infancy. I was in awe of how accepting and open-minded the people are that I work with, which led me to feel encouraged to create and innovate.


3. What advice do you have for a woman just starting her cannabis career?

You were called to this role for a reason. So, approach with an open mindset, refine your voice, and don’t be afraid to use it. You’re walking a mostly untrekked path that will pave the way for potential and possibility. Remember that asking for help doesn’t mean incompetence. Afterall, collaboration is a big part of being successful. Lastly, believe you’re capable, because I do.


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