Kimberly Dillon is a bona fide marketing veteran whose expansive expertise is taking the cannabis world by storm. For nearly a year, Ms. Dillon has been the VP of marketing at Papa & Barkley – a premium brand that produces ganja infused pain-relief and wellness products.
Prior to her foray into the canna-biz, she worked at high-profile companies such as Proctor & Gamble, Accenture and Clorox. She’s been a speaker at TedWoman and SXSW and founded the pioneering beauty app, House of Mikko. Staying true to her innovative spirit, Dillon decided to transfer her dynamic skill set to the ever-flourishing green-side. Kimberly recently shared her impressions with EstroHaze about her introduction to medical Mary Jane.
How did you come to work in the cannabis industry?
I have been in the industry a little less than a year. This time last year, I was working on a Mobile Music App. Before that I was working at Clorox. I am a pretty seasoned marketing professional and have close to two decades of marketing experience, so the skill set is not new; applying them to cannabis is. That’s why I wanted to enter the space.
When I was in San Francisco working on Consumer Packaged Goods, I was noticing everything with their mobile apps. The girl next to me was one of the first employees at Uber. Someone down the hallway was one of the first at Pinterest. It was 2011-2012 and everything seemed possible, so I left Packaged Goods to go into tech. Then about a year ago, I began to notice that everything seemed to be about cannabis. I wasn’t even a smoker. I am just intrigued about the newness. I like being part of new industries and new movements, which is why I picked cannabis.
Tell us more about Papa & Barkley. What was the impetus behind its creation?
Adam Grossman, Founder and CEO, was on a journey to relieve his elderly father’s debilitating back pain. After conventional treatments failed, he researched and created a surprisingly effective cannabis-based pain relief balm in his father’s kitchen.
The home remedy not only helped bring his father out of a bedridden state, but was more effective than any other prescribed treatment. His next step was to gather a team of best-in-class scientists and researchers to advance the formula and make it even more powerful so it could be used to help more people and their loved ones.
What makes the products unique?
We want the public to learn the importance and power of the cannabis plant. Cannabinoids found in cannabis (THC, CBD, THCa) remarkably affect us because they mimic the cannabinoids found in our bodies. Plant-based cannabinoids naturally bind with the receptors found in our endocannabinoid system.
Our handbook, called PlantMade, breaks down all these elements to better guide you on which of our products to use for each purpose and how to self-dose with care. The more people are educated on the history, pros, cons and economic benefits of cannabis flowers, the faster we can grow as a community. It’s our responsibility to take an active role in further educating ourselves and others. PlantMade is available for readers to view here.
What are some of the pros and cons of working in cannabis?
Pros: You are making up the rules for the game as your go. There are no standards, no case studies to copy, nor best practices. You have to really reach into your toolkit of experiences from other industries and see how it can work for cannabis. Another pro, and this sounds corny, but you really are changing peoples lives and peoples mindsets. People are only starting to come out of the green closet, it is hard to know who the cannabis user [really] is. Only the extremes are known — the stoner and the really sick patient. Those are the two archetypes, but when you dig below the surface, it’s surprising to see who the real cannabis consumer is.
Cons: Sometimes you pay what I call a “competency tax.” Often times you are working with people who have never worked in a professional setting. Getting people to respond to your email is nearly impossible. It seems minor but it is crazy how many vendors and partners communicate via text or Instagram DMs instead of a simple email. Another example is that you might ask for a spreadsheet of something and people will just stare at you.
I also think it can be a bit lonely in the sense that I am very aware that a big part of my job is to mainstream cannabis and, for our brand, elevate cannabis. For most of the industry that means beautiful vistas of California mountains and non-diverse people. Cannabis in of itself can bring people from all walks of life together.
The way a lot of people in the industry are marketing cannabis is as if Black people, or Asians, or people with disabilities don’t exist. That’s why I am grateful to be able to show diversity in our marketing efforts. It doesn’t escape me that someone can be in prison for the very same thing I am marketing in a beautiful jar.
Is there anything you wish to share about your experiences as a woman in the cannabis industry?
I think being a woman that works is pretty similar across industries. Same stuff, different day. I don’t mean to diminish the question, but I always think that these answers are always the same. So, in that spirit, what I will say about being a woman in this industry is that we have a huge opportunity to create an industry that is more egalitarian, more supportive, more nurturing then maybe we can be the example for other industries.
Can you imagine that? Cannabis is leading the way. I am encouraged because to be a woman in this challenging industry means that you have that trailblazing no F#@#ks giving energy, so it is an industry full of amazing, powerful women.
Do you have any advice to share with other women who wish to enter the field?
Do it. This industry needs your skills, your vision and your magic. Especially because the real value creation will be in products and not just the plant. What that means is that there are a lot of needs and niches that need to be filled. Since women tend to be the primarily shoppers of beauty, food, and personal care, your insights are so valuable.
How do you envision the future of the industry, and your future within it?
I am riding this Green Rush wave baby. I am not the type to be shy about money, I am just thrilled that I can help improve people’s lives at the same time.