This month, we’re celebrating women, and specifically—women in cannabis. Follow along as we present a series of interviews with female founders, CEOs, vice presidents and senior vice presidents who have taken a winding road to the positions they are in now. Many were motivated by a desire to help others in pain, while some saw the deleterious effects of discriminatory enforcement of unjust laws.
Kristi Knoblich Palmer, Co-Founder of Kiva Confections is a hustler and a go-getter. As freshly graduated starving artists, she and her husband started their first company in their backyard; one that would eventually lead to Kiva Confections.
Find out how her company is bringing professionalism to the field of cannabis and whether that’s brought her any closer to her dream of buying a yacht to sail around the world.
Where are you from? Tell us about yourself.
I grew up in the Bay Area with my wonderful parents and sister Sara, where I went to school in Castro Valley. I left the comforts of home to attend photography school in Santa Barbara, and that’s where I met Scott (Kiva’s co-founder, CEO and now my husband), as he was also a photography student. We moved back to the house I grew up in in the bay to start our careers in photography, but life had other plans for us as it often does. I am a person who loves to be with people, play games, take a walk, drink wine, smoke weed and generally laugh and have fun while going about my life.
How did your career in cannabis get started?
Our careers in cannabis started out of desperation We were starving artists, and so we decided to start growing cannabis in our backyard garden shed to make ends meet. Scott sold me on the idea that we would complete a couple harvests, buy a yacht, and sail around the world. We’re still working towards that goal today!
With our cultivation, we were able to develop relationships with the dispensaries. When we made the leap from plants to chocolate, we had relationships and a reputation already established. That was huge leg up and gave Kiva some immediate traction.
My experience in fine dining and wedding photography gave me customer service skills that would set Kiva apart, and still does to this day. I relied on those skills immensely to bring professionalism to the cannabis industry at a time when there was very little.
What inspired you to found Kiva?
There was a gaping hole in the marketplace. Edibles at the time left much to be desired, often labeled with 10X to indicate potency, shady branding if any, and labels with typos. That was really off-putting for us as consumers ourselves. We were used to a professional product experience in a non-cannabis environment, so why wasn't that same level of professionalism being offered to us in the cannabis space? We set out to redefine the edibles category and make a better product that people could trust and fall in love with.
What has your professional experience been like as a woman in cannabis?
For me, it’s been an asset. The industry is male dominated, so I see that as an opportunity to bring in some girl power. It's nice to be yet not another dude in the room, it’s a key differentiator for me. I offer a unique perspective and people seem to be interested in hearing it. Sure, sometimes it's difficult to get a word in at a table full of men, but I think it’s important to listen to all individuals equally. We all have something to offer.
Do you feel that opportunities for men and women are equal in the cannabis space? That's a tough one; I mostly do, yes. The cannabis industry right now requires a certain frame of mind and skill set. One must be aggressive, yet strategic and not necessarily put others’ interests ahead of yours. I don’t think it matters if you are male or female, if you can navigate the challenges, assert yourself, and you have a strong sense for business, your chances of success of greater.
What have been your biggest challenges in your professional career? Do you feel that you face these issues in the cannabis space?
Prioritizing and focusing. It can be really easy to get swept up checking emails or letting your mind wander off thinking about where to meet a colleague for lunch. But when you’re in an important strategic meeting, that’s when you really to need to shut everything else off, pay attention and get involved in the conversation. With so much going on all the time, this is a constant battle.
Are you a cannabis user? What is your favorite product and/or strain?
Yes! I love cannabis. I very much enjoy our mints for their microdosed format. I have a very low tolerance, so I like to pop just one and still be able to tend to my life with a giant smile on my face and a certain airiness about me. Those around me like it too; I can relax and laugh for hours, but I can also clean house like nobody’s business.
What are your hopes for the cannabis industry?
I hope the cannabis industry continues down its path toward normalization and de-stigmatization and becomes accessible to all people (adults) who want to use it. I hope it welcomes more people into the fold and to participate by starting a business, or consuming to relieve pain or just enhance their quality of life.
What advice would you give women who are trying to enter or are in the cannabis space?
Get in there, girl! Get aggressive, sit in the front row, don't be afraid to raise your hand, put yourself out there. There’s a huge opportunity happening right now, so go get it. Don't let it pass you by.