"I've spent the better part of my life standing up for issues that were important to me," said actress, comedian, singer, writer, and entrepreneur Whoopi Goldberg in an OpEd about cannabis she wrote in 2018. Her latest cause, she explained, was helping women gain easy access to the therapeutic qualities of the marijuana plant.
This is a wellbeing issue, Goldberg argued, marking the difference between sheer recreation and actual medicinal need; between smoking weed in an old-fashioned joint format and consuming cannabis in ways that are not detrimental to one's lungs. This comprehension and latter distinction were crucial to the award-winning performer's decision to get into the cannabis industry, starting a business focused on women's comfort, and especially on treating menstrual aches.
"I asked a friend in the cannabis industry if anyone was doing marijuana for menstrual cramps; and when he said no, I knew someone had to – and that it may as well be us," Goldberg told me during a recent conversation. "We started working on a business plan and looking for product developers, which led us to Maya [Elisabeth]."
This is how Whoopi & Maya, Goldberg's first "line of cannabis derived epsom salts and menstrual relief rubs," as she defines it, came to be. Interested in learning more about this fascinating, women-focused venture, and Whoopi's long-standing love affair with cannabis, I decided to enquire further.
Whoopi & Weed
For Whoopi, the therapeutic properties of cannabis are no novelty.
"When I was younger, I realized it helped my cramps, and I've had a good relationship with it since," Whoopi revealed. "It continues to help me feel better as I get older. I'm a big fan of our products and my vape pen… they provide me relief as I get older.
"We're not saying our products will work for everyone, but I think it's worth trying."
The Birth Of A New Love
The search for an outstanding cannabis grower was what led Whoopi to Maya Elisabeth, who is her partner at Whoopi & Maya today.
"When we started looking for someone to help us make products, we saw that Maya won the most Cannabis Cups and was involved in a women run collective. We met and we hit it off immediately," said the immensely talented performer, winner of an Emmy Award, a Grammy Award, an Academy Award (or Oscar), and a Tony Award – dang!
"I thought her [Maya's] product was great, and I asked her if she'd be willing to do this with us. Luckily she said yes, and we launched Whoopi & Maya."
Now, what makes Whoopi & Maya different from other companies in the cannabis, and the health and wellness spaces? Why is this brand so appealing to women?
"Our goal is to make you feel better, not get you high," Whoopi told me. "There are plenty of products out there that will get you high, but we want to make sure you are feeling OK.
"We want to help women who have bad cramps be able to work a full work day without excruciating pain."
From Hollywood To Holly-Weed
I wondered how similar (or different) running a company and being a performer had been for Whoopi.
"This is a long term plan and we're still a relatively small company," responded the artist who captivated the world with her role as Celie in The Color Purple. "Entertainment projects come and go and there are so many things outside your control. I like that we can own this and have control over the direction of our business."
Beyond these differences, I wanted to know if Whoopi had learned any lessons from her career in entertainment that could be applied to her business.
"Quality and working with the right people is important no matter what you do in life," she voiced, unhesitant.
Whoopi's Words of Wisdom
Close to the end of our chat, I asked Whoopi to share a story of a big challenge she and her team had had to face while building or growing Whoopi & Maya, and to explain how they had overcome it.
"Starting the company itself was very difficult: we had to find the team, put together the plan, raise money, and then do it all," she said. "After we launched, we started learning what worked and what didn't and still have to continuously re-adjust course as regulations change, and we learn more. But the response has been incredible and it's very rewarding to offer a product that helps so many."
Finally, I requested Whoopi shared some advice for entrepreneurs getting into the cannabis business.
"Jump in and try it, you never know what can happen until you do,"Whoopi ended.
This article first appeared on Forbes.
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