Valda Coryat | Florida Women In Cannabis Winner 2020

Valda Coryat - 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’ve lived near the coast for most of my life. I was born in the U.S. Virgin Islands and lived in Dominica until I was school aged when my family returned to the U.S. mainland. I grew up in Connecticut and then went to Duke University for my undergraduate education before returning to New York for my MBA at Columbia University. Spending all of those winters in the Northeast reminded me how much I missed the sunshine and palm trees! I moved to Orlando about 7 years ago. Tallahassee is now my home.

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

I absolutely support medical cannabis. Coming from the Caribbean, there is certainly a lot of mixed sentiment around marijuana based on its socio-economic and political history. However, from the perspective of plants as medicine, I see it as a part of natural healing. I refer to my grandmother as a ‘medicine woman’ because of her deep understanding of plants and their use for just about any ailment we went to her for. As for adult use, I do support it as I support the consumption of alcohol. Many things can be beneficial or dangerous depending on its use. As long as people use it responsibly, I believe adult use in Florida could have a positive effect on more than just the cannabis industry.

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

I started working in cannabis with Trulieve specifically because of its professional approach to the business of cannabis, its leadership and its connection to the community. Though I was approached by other cannabis companies prior to coming to Trulieve, they didn’t feel like the right fit the way Trulieve did.

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

I started working in cannabis when I joined Trulieve in December of 2019. I’m currently the Chief Marketing Officer and am responsible for Trulieve’s marketing across all markets in which we operate, including Florida, Connecticut, and California, as well as Massachusetts, which is set to launch in 2021. With over 20 years of marketing experience with globally recognized brands plus my most recent experience in agricultural marketing with the National Mango Board, I was drawn to the challenge of helping to develop the brand and marketing strategy for one of the top performing multi-state operators (MSO).

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

After 10 months in the industry, I still feel like I have so much more to learn about the plant itself. Even with the many products that have been produced by Trulieve and other companies, we really have just scratched the surface. There are many years of research and innovation to go to truly unlock its full potential. If you pay close attention to the conversations surrounding cannabis, you see a lot about the potency and active amount of THC present, but very little about the many cannabinoids and terpenes that also affect how cannabis works on an individual level.

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.

The cannabis industry being dominated by men really didn’t factor at all into my decision to join it. Across many industries, you see men dominating the highest levels. Whether I worked in traditional consumer packaged goods, the beauty industry, the beer, wine & spirits industry or even agriculture, that has been the case.

What is also true is that talent is talent. If you want the best ideas, the best skills and competencies to support your growth then you’ll recognize that different perspectives and life experiences add value. When leveraged to the fullest, it is magical. As a woman of color, as a wife, as a mother of three who has traveled the world, as someone who speaks multiple languages, I approach cannabis with my own unique perspective. All perspectives are valid and meaningful. How we listen to those perspectives and the decisions we make about what we incorporate into our decision making is the secret to successfully leveraging talent in any organization. I do believe that all of my experience, particularly as a mother, nurturing three very different humans, adds depth to how I view our marketing efforts.

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

More than anything, women need to continue sharing their stories. Among the most powerful stories I have heard were from women who have championed cannabis for their children. We all know the story of Charlotte Figi. Hearing her mother speak about her fight to advocate for her daughter was moving. It compelled me to want to help make cannabis more accessible. We also need more men to tell their stories. There is power in truth. Everyone sharing their truth creates a drumbeat that can’t be ignored. A part of that truth is also our efforts against expungement of the records of those whose lives were ruined due to unjust cannabis convictions. When the wrongs of the past are made right, we will see more people believing that cannabis is mainstream for all.

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

I am not a medical patient yet, but members of my family are.

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.

Looking across the industry, I actually see it more broadly. There are some brands that are targeting women more and others that use language and imagery that is clearly targeted to men. The ‘Mannabis Syndrome’ as you refer to it is probably influenced more by the recreational market. When looking at health and wellness, the tone shifts to being more broadly appealing. Some women are looking for more discretion so there is an opportunity from a packaging standpoint to offer women solutions that work within their lifestyle.

As an industry, we all would be better served talking to women across generations, which requires understanding women’s unique needs and motivations. Women are already a part of the industry and although we may not be as visible, our influence is still strong. To grow — to lead — you can’t ignore 51% of the population; it limits product innovation. It simply doesn’t make good business sense.