Duree Ross | Florida Women In Cannabis Winner 2020

Duree Ross - Florida Women In Cannabis 2020

1 – Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where you are from, where you went to school, where you live now? Are you a Florida Native?

I’m Durée Ross, president and CEO of Durée & Company. I am a South Florida native and I incorporated Durée & Company in 1999 at the age of 24. I fell in love with public relations at the age of 19 during a fated college internship. Originally a double major in broadcast journalism and sociology at the University of Miami, I found my place in the world of PR. Now I lead a talented team of public relations and marketing professionals in South Florida and Aspen, Colorado. Durée & Company works with clients who provide services and impact lives from South Florida and all over the world.

2 – Do you support Medical Marijuana? How about Adult Use? Please explain why.

I support all things (legal) that can help the health and well-being of others – physically and emotionally.

3 – Why did you decide to start working in cannabis. Do you have a personal story of a family member or friend?

As a part-time resident of Colorado, I’ve had a bird’s-eye view of how mainstream cannabis has become. When an existing client in another, unrelated industry reached out to me and said he needed my help with a CBD company he was involved with, I was all in! Although cannabis and hemp were becoming more mainstream, there was a lack of public relations and marketing resources for companies due to stigma. My goal was to do what our firm does best: to adapt with the times and take on a new opportunity headfirst. 

With little precedence for PR in the cannabis and hemp/CBD industries, and few PR firms eager to take on these emerging industries (there was much confusion over whether cannabis and hemp/CBD were legal or not), I was determined to navigate this virtually untouched field. I had to look past the red tape, develop a long-term vision and tackle it head-on.    

4 – When did you begin working in Cannabis? What is your current job title and how did you get your start.

I recognized that the U.S. was on the brink of a “green rush” before the passing of the Farm Bill in 2018, and I started working in the cannabis and hemp/CBD arena before the bill passed. Since then, we have worked with full spectrum hemp and CBD brands, processing facilities, trade associations, dispensary owners, farmers, growers, cannabis cultivators, third-party laboratories and other startups.

Since we started working in the cannabis and hemp industries relatively early, we have a strong understanding of how to navigate this ever-changing and growing field. I sit on the board of directors at The Florida Hemp Council and on the leadership team for CannabisLAB (CLAB). Durée & Company is also involved in the Cannabis Marketing Association and is a proud supporter of Marijuana Moment. This past year, I’ve had the opportunity to speak on multiple panels, webinars and industry roundtables and share my expertise and practical applications for PR and marketing success in these industries.

I am president and CEO of Durée & Company. I started my own PR, marketing and special events agency at age 24, and today – 20 years later – am an award-winning PR entrepreneur with a broad spectrum of experience spanning the corporate, agency and nonprofit arenas for local, national and international clients. I’m lucky that I kind of stumbled into opening my business given past work relationships and the phone just started ringing. All those internships and prior jobs that I had while in college were suddenly paying off for me at 24 years old. I was so busy with work that the business was just born – without a business plan or anything!

I have grown and nurtured the agency, turning it into an accomplished company with more than 10 team members (and growing) who meet and surpass the needs of our clients. Our firm has offices in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Aspen, Colorado.

5 – How has working in the cannabis industry changed your perspective on marijuana and hemp.

Learning about the cannabis and hemp/CBD industries has stretched our creativity and overall strategic PR and marketing skills. Never in the history of my PR career have I been asked to promote a product and secure editorial coverage without being allowed to make any claims to media about its use or purpose! There are many updates within these industries (daily!), so navigating the ongoing changes definitely keeps us on our toes.

From an industry perspective, we’ve noticed that our clients’ consumers and patients want to know that products are third-party tested, high-quality, and safe to ingest. They are also very educated and want to read the Certificate of Analysis (COAs) as well. I believe this trend will continue.

6 – The cannabis industry is dominated by men, how has that affected you in pursuit of your current job. Has it limited your ability for you to be able to what you do. Has your being a woman given you the ability to approach cannabis from a different perspective.

To my knowledge, being a woman has not limited me or my team’s success in navigating within the cannabis/CBD space. We continue to add value to the cannabis/CBD markets with strategic public relations and crisis communications, a watchful eye on local and federal legislation, a strong pulse on key expos and leadership conferences that offer speaking opportunities, proven relationships with influencers and thought leaders, and our knowledge of affiliate marketing and product placement. I’d like to think we bring a different perspective and approach to our work. 

At Durée & Company, we are passionate about delivering stellar results for our clients. I do think companies have become more focused on hiring woman-owned and operated agencies. We never accept the status quo, so we work relentlessly to find, or create, that next great opportunity for our clients. I think many people who know me personally would say that I don’t take “no” for an answer. I’m a solution-oriented person, so I am always looking for other solutions and opportunities. 

7 – As a Florida Women in Cannabis what do you believe needs to happen (change) to help mainstream the cannabis message.

Like many, we would like to see more favorable options for banking and more advertising options, especially online. It’s very difficult right now, and I feel bad for our clients trying to operate their businesses in a climate that doesn’t allow for what would be considered basic business in any other industry. Increased options for advertising and digital promotion will certainly help to raise brand awareness and continue to mainstream the cannabis message. We are also watching closely to see what happens with the DEA, FDA and other governmental entities in terms of regulations and de-scheduling.

8 – Do you use Medical Marijuana, do you have a MMJ card. Do you use CBD, or have hemp clothing?

I find all the different uses and applications there are today for hemp and CBD products fascinating. It’s part of our job to be able to properly promote a client’s hemp/CBD products so of course, we have to sample their products. Today we’re seeing CBD infused in everything from lotions and lip balm to candy and dog treats! It’s crazy to think how quickly this industry evolved and I always say that for every year in this industry, it equals seven in any other, kind of like dog years!

9 – Women tend to make most of the healthcare decisions in the home yet we keep marketing to men. I call it the Mannabis Syndrome. In your opinion what does the cannabis industry need to do to better market cannabis to women.

The ever-increasing variety of new cannabis and hemp/CBD products often serve and cater to female audiences, so I think it’s starting to change. We have a long way to go but we are making progress. I think the cannabis industry needs to make sure that women are involved in research and development and get a seat at the table to provide their insight and perspective.