Gia Morón, Executive Vice President, Women Grow
Gia Morón is Executive Vice President for Women Grow. With 25 years of experience in public relations, she oversees the company’s internal and external communications, manages business relationships and strategic development of the company. Gia works with team on education programming and day-to-day operations working closely with the CEO and Chairwoman of the company. She began working with Women Grow headquarters in January 2017 as Director of Communications, after transitioning from the Women Grow New York City market in 2016. Gia is also the Founder and CEO of GVM Communications, Inc., a public relations, brand and business development consulting firm in which she launched in 2012. Her client base ranges from small to mid-sized businesses, non-profit organizations, entrepreneurs, authors and celebrity clients. Prior to launching her firm and working with Women Grow, Gia was a Media Relations Officer in the Corporate Communications department for fifteen years at the Goldman Sachs Group Inc.
While at Goldman Sachs, Gia oversaw various business areas from Private Equity, Urban Investment, Investment Research and Technology to the firm’s organizational focus on Corporate Engagement, Diversity, Recruiting, Human Resources and Corporate Services. Before joining Goldman Sachs, Gia was Director of Promotions and Publicity for six years at The Fremantle Corporation, an international television distribution and production company. Outside of her professional accomplishments, she continuously works with a number of non-profit organizations in New York City and mentors up-and-coming young women entrepreneurs across the country to South Africa. Gia currently resides in her hometown of Brooklyn, NY, with her daughter.
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[00:00:01] You're listening to Thinking Outside the Bud where we speak with entrepreneurs investors thought leaders researchers advocates and policymakers who are finding new and exciting ways for cannabis to positively impact business society and culture. And now here is your host Business Coach Bruce Eckfeldt.
[00:00:30] Welcome everyone. This is Thinking Outside the Bud. I'm Bruce Eckfeldt. I'm your host and our guest today is Gia Morón. She is Executive Vice President at Women Grow. And we're gonna find out a little bit more about her and about the organization. And I'm really excited about this. I'm excited to talk about cannabis I'm cited to talk about diversity on talk about what the community is around the cannabis space. Gia welcome to the program.
[00:00:51] Thank you so much for having me on today. I really really appreciate it. And it's finally great to hear your voice. We've exchanged messages for a while. It's really great to connect with you.
[00:01:01] Yeah. Not yet I've been been stalking each other over the last couple of months to try to get her on the program and I really appreciate your time here.
[00:01:08] Why don't we start with a little bit about you. So tell us about your background. I know you kind of came out of the more kind of corporate space. I'd love to hear about that. And then how you got into cannabis. What was the story.
[00:01:17] Sure. So I've had I guess I'd say a diverse career. I started out in corporate entertainment in the title to the industry in an international distribution and production company. So I worked on shows like I mean this is really going back to the 90s like Baywatch like.
[00:01:35] I don't know if I feel like David Hasselhoff going down the beach with David Hasselhoff and Pam Anderson and Nicole hooker.
[00:01:43] So I worked with the production and distribution of shows like that overseas. So I worked with American countries Asian countries and Canada. So you know it was real interesting to get that kind of global perspective as I started out in my career and I eventually became the director of promotions and publicity again working with evening shows game shows I worked on award shows it was really fun. It was natural progression and I thought that I would remain in entertainment and just through some downsizing I actually found myself on Wall Street which I would have never.
[00:02:24] Yeah I've always been more drawn to the entertainment space and PR within within that industry. And in 96 I landed on Wall Street at Goldman Sachs and I thought oh I'm just gonna be here for a little while. This is this was not anything long term. I just didn't have that interest. But what I quickly realized is that PR promotions publicity it's just a different industry. But it's the same practices right. We're putting out press releases you're advising clients and I probably had the best education for 15 years on Wall Street. I experienced pretty much everything in through one company mile because when I joined Goldman Sachs it was a private company and I think they went public in 96. So I actually went through that process with them and then much later on they kind of become like this commercial thing and then I experience the financial crisis with them. So it was like so much education that no classroom could have taught me what I learned on Wall Street and I not only worked on the revenue generating side but I really got to understand how corporations run. And I think oftentimes when people think of investment banking they only think of the banking side and not recognizing that there's so much more to these businesses. So I worked a lot on the diversity and inclusion group. I worked with the recruiting department at Goldman. Their overall corporate services I got to understand what global security meant. I had no idea. So when I say full on education it was incredible. So from me I was able to take a lot of that experience with me and bring it along the way and also of course learn a lot about the markets.
[00:04:17] It sounds like good training good training for how business is run how markets run how industry is run.
[00:04:24] So how did cannabis come up. So you're your Wall Street you're working for Goldman Sachs. How do we get to where you are today. Philip you live the stuff.
[00:04:33] That part is interesting. So again being affected by another downsize I. So in 2011 there was another downsized happening across the street. And believe it or not I was actually the spokesperson Mike really commenting on what was happening and I was actually affected by it wasn't anything personal. Hey you know you guys have been you know remember that kind of started around that same time. I kind of noticed we'd all received our layoff information. So that's when I thought about what would I like to do next. I know I've been a working mom my entire career and I'd never been home like I ever went back to work when my daughter was five weeks old. And I had taken vacation. Anything longer than a week. That pretty much at 20 something year span. So it was my first time saying well let me stay home a little while instead of jumping right back in to the industry and what I had been noodling with prior to the layoff was really starting my own consulting firm. I was reaching that point. I've had a lot of experience and the beauty of working within financial services is I got to work on the text side. I got to work with the philanthropic area private equity. You name it. Like I'd really had vast a wide exposure so I thought well what would I do next. And so being home my daughter's senior year of high school which crazy enough I'd always said if I had to be home I'd want to be home for the last year of school just to her through that college process. Well it happened power of the universe so my manifestation totally even knowing that's what I did with it it's exactly what I do.
[00:06:19] And then it was so I was laid off September 2011 and being home for quite some time I decided I wanted to launch my own PR firm and there was a lot of clients and former colleagues that I had worked with at Goldman said Hey what are you doing. Like we would love to like work with you in some capacity and that's where the seed was sort of planted like well why not. Now if not any other time like you know just a simple cock and I can always go back to corporate but why not give this a chance. And so April 2012 I launched JVM communications. And of course you know reconnecting with many of the financial companies I was working with also a lot of the non-profits was wonderful is that you know these big corporations have strong relationships with many non-profits across the world. And what was wonderful was I. Goldman Sachs also had a program called 10000 Women and 10000 small businesses. So what I learned through that is that what we did on a grand scale for a big corporation these small companies really needed our advice and our services. So I start that's when I realized oh let me start connecting with some of these entrepreneurs and small businesses and offer my services. And that was really the natural progression of becoming my own finance unquote entrepreneur business. And it was during the time of doing some work for colleagues that I'm considering what outlets to pitch them to.
[00:07:58] What sorts of business direction could some of them go. Because my business focus on public relations branding and business development as well as some coaching like yourself. So in doing the research I started noticing on CNBC around 2012 the documentaries on the marijuana industry and that completely paused me because I have my my CV talking about me like that actually. Why are they talking about weed as they're not just it's not just one show. It's like a series of shows and I just got stopped in immediately. And then that was also a flag for me to say if they're read I guess that's where my television experience comes in. And how much production costs if it was one episode or was it all they're just you know toying with a series of episodes means that there's a commitment those various dollars that serious like you know really just pitching to the higher ups to get the sign off so that for me plus the Wall Street experience told me OK this is something I need to pay attention to the forecasts. If they're talking about it and I notice Bloomberg started talking about it and I said financial markets talk about I need to pay attention what's happening and still not really understanding the lay of the land but knew that if this was next I wanted to be a part of it. Yeah. And and so everything was focused on Colorado and I'm thinking Oh my God I'm in New York I'm going to have to move to Colorado. I mean I have never owned a single living plant.
[00:09:41] Am I going to like go and try and open up the classic reaction ever everyone's like oh my gosh I may have become a grower.
[00:09:51] Right let me grow something let me go like open up a dispensary and I've never ever. I start working at the age of 13. And what's interesting is I've always worked in an office. I never had a job at a McDonald's or any sort of retail space. So I'm thinking I would be awful.
[00:10:09] I have no idea how to do this.
[00:10:11] And I mean you know of course that's the natural reaction but what I knew was that if the financial markets as I said were paying attention I needed to pay attention to it more and more that I started talking to people. They really thought it was a fad and to me something said no this is more than and I know that you recently spoke with Jane Webb the founder of Women Grow. And again back to the universe sort of aligning and leading us. So it was after watching CNBC that I saw a profile on Jane West in a magazine that I was pitching for a client who eventually ended up on the cover of that magazine.
[00:10:51] But in the profile on Jane I read it from cover to cover because I remembered seeing her in the 20 20 special when they first started talking about cannabis. I saw that lady. And so I had to find out everything about her. And that's what led me to women girl. That's what led me into the cannabis industry. I said Oh my God. Now there are women in this field because every in the documentary really focused on these businesses. And when I saw Jane I was like oh there's a place for me like the story.
[00:11:23] And honestly it's I think you know every story is unique but I think there's been common theme and a lot of the people that I speak to which is they're there in another industry and they have an expertise they have a skill they have a capability that they see an opportunity to apply to the cannabis space and so they make the move they make the pivot. And there's always some adjustment. There's always some kind of strategy and how they're gonna do it.
[00:11:44] But I think I've seen a lot of people be successful in the cannabis space not by becoming growers or becoming dispensaries or extractors or you know actually handling the plant but taking what they do extremely well and just applying it to the needs of the cannabis industry. So this idea of taking PR taking communication and community development and applying it to cannabis because cannabis is an industry and all these things. And I think it's a lot of people don't appreciate that or realize it when they first come into it but that is really where the big opportunities new places for innovation and business growth. So I think it makes a lot of sense. I think it's smart. I think you know Good move good move for you in terms of getting into this.
[00:12:19] Thank you. And honestly I would say had I. It was after my first Women Grow meeting that I attended in 2000 like Lee mid to late 2015 that I found a location here in Manhattan. When I walked into this room I was shocked. I could not believe how crowded the room was because it's a really cool loft in New York City.
[00:12:43] And I walked in thinking had all these people know about this happening in one of the biggest cities in the world.
[00:12:53] And I mentioned the meeting and no one I spoke to knew about it but when I arrived it was wall to wall people and I thought Oh my God this is like one of those need to know like this kind of things but I knew at that point I had to be in the right place and it was that day that I got my first three clients in cannabis that I realized then because I walked in thinking I needed to open a dispensary or cultivation. And someone said no you don't. And they asked me what I did and I told them what I did. And they said oh wait. They took me by the hand. They introduced me to one person who introduced me to another. And by the time I left that meeting I had three clients. Yeah.
[00:13:35] Great. I love that story. I love it just proves the point of of how diverse the community is in terms of beads in terms of skill sets how effective it is as a kid. I mean one of things I've loved about the cannabis community and the cannabis culture is it is a strong networking organization like the people in the cannabis business know that they need to connect with other people that know the business and other demands and do referrals and make introductions. And it's growing so quickly that there's just so much opportunity in here and having that kind of abundance mindset is really really powerful.
[00:14:04] So I know that's a valid point. Well one of the reasons why this is what I learned early on is still there was still stigma around it even for those that were in the district. Right. And the only way to somewhat get business done was through referral. Right. Because unfortunately it was still operating like the Wild West so people valued that word of mouth that referral experience. Also there was no advertising no one's marketing no one can really truly market their services. So the networking circles were really important to many of us who are starting out in 2015 2016 because that's really all we had. And most of the existing circles we were operating in were not familiar with with cannabis mostly other than for recreational use. Exactly. But in terms of business they weren't looking at it on the same landscape.
[00:14:59] Yeah I think that's an important sort of dynamic of the industry is that you have a lot of places where most interesting or most business folks would go to kind of network and get information things like that. Oftentimes those were actually specifically prohibiting the cannabis industry fought for some very legitimate reason and some not so legitimate. But you know it did and it's still the way to some extent although in Vegas we had twenty seven thousand people right doing this concert.
[00:15:26] I mean what do you think about that though you think about energy biz come last year and the year before versus this year. And so when you think about those earlier networking circles they were smaller but over like over a course of a year they really started growing and they started getting bigger and bigger.
[00:15:45] And so it's the same thing with the industry versus mainstream the more and more media started bringing attention to the industry is where the other industries are now saying oh maybe we need to start considering what this could look like for us.
[00:16:02] I'm curious. You mentioned something a bit ago. You talked about the stigma around the industry and stuff.
[00:16:07] I'm always curious how to what extent did you have challenges issues with your kind of professional circles colleagues things like that when you started to kind of come out as a cannabis pro cannabis professional. Oh my back was a trick to come up but I found that some people it's a really big issue other people do. What was your experience.
[00:16:27] Absolutely I did. So first and foremost when I made the decision to jump fully in because I was really on the sidelines from 2012 until 2015 I had the conversation with my family and I said this is what I'm doing. And I wanted to be mindful of my daughter although at the time in college and it sounded cool right. Like oh my mom's in the weed industry and that's what she'd say except she really didn't want to promote that either because then you don't want to be labeled or you don't want your parent to be labeled as a drug dealer. Right. So I was very mindful about the comfortability of my family and respecting that I didn't want to put them in sort of compromising positions. But no matter what I was so moving forward. Then when I talk about let's say my former colleagues as those on Wall Street that started hearing me talk about it a little bit more. And of course I think the natural reaction are the sort of jokes sorry people had and we laugh about it. But I don't think at the time they realized how serious I was about it.
[00:17:37] And the more that I began talking about it they said oh she's serious. And I felt a little bit of a distance there but it was a distance of I'm going to stand on the sidelines and just watch what she does and what I can appreciate about former colleagues and friends. Is that anything I've ever done whether it's a win or fail. They knew I was committed to it and I gave it a lot of thought right. It wasn't just something I didn't haphazardly just jump in some things I thought it was fun it was I've done my research and I'm taking this seriously and I think for those former colleagues of mine I remember one coming to me from my former employer and I was very conscious because I knew that they were very selective about where their name appeared and I knew that given in my resumé that the investment big I worked for that would come up. So instead of mentioning them in an article I just said I worked for a financial services institution.
[00:18:38] And the response was Why didn't you mention you wanted to be in this article you wanted to be measured and I was surprised because I thought I figured you wouldn't want any association but that's when I realized OK you've watched enough you're you're well and you're less you're less concerned about the stigma around the industry versus where it's going.
[00:19:04] And I'd say the same for family and friends and either you know extended colleagues they're now OK with it where they were a little apprehensive before. And I think also part of it is the natural reactions people thought I was a consumer and I am but not to the degree of what natural consumers are seeing right now. So I'm a former cigarette smokers so I'm anti-smoking pretty much overall right. I smoking is my vice. And so I'm not going to pick up a joint. Now that isn't to say that I haven't tried it a few times since being in the industry. I'm not anti-smoking. It's just it doesn't work for me. Now you put your personal choice. It's not a simple choice. So my personal choices are CBD team shares.
[00:19:47] I enjoy more of like the savory edible so like some teas with low THC huge product user of anything cannabis and CBD infused because of like my joint pains or something like that. So when I started explaining to colleagues that cannabis of the industry is more than these joints or bongs that they see they realized oh OK now we get it you're not part of the Cheech and Chong.
[00:20:18] So it actually said Yeah you know it's fascinating because I think the at some level that's kind of the life of an early stage of treatment right.
[00:20:26] You're always gonna be kind of venturing out a domain that either raising some eyebrows or people kind of question but you know I think we're certainly moving into a phase in this industry where people are now you know I get calls from from friends who I'd never thought would call me and say So tell me more about the CBT stuff and what level should I ask for advice.
[00:20:46] How about right on the spot. Also I think that it's it's also kind of a marker I think for the industry that look this is now moving towards this kind of more mainstream movement or at the consumer base. And now this gets quite complicated because it's no longer no longer just the Park community.
[00:21:03] Like you've got you know you've got the soccer moms and you've got the retired population you have professionals like the marketing the branding the product development now has to get much more sophisticated as we move into these phases which is good.
[00:21:16] I mean it just it opens up a lot of opportunity. So tell us a little bit about women grow in terms of what what the goal of the goal of the organization is how it's set up right now what are what do things look like. What are your plans for 2019. I want to hear a little bit about where things are going with women grow shorter.
[00:21:31] So with women grow and the reason why I loved it is you know they attract professional women. So it's women at every level whether you're an entrepreneur someone was looking to work at a cannabis company which is wonderful because we'd like to see more women in sexy sweet roles as well as on boards. And so your conversation with Jane was I was so excited about that because she burst a brilliant idea like what better than to get women together to network to come together for education to empower each other and really inspire us to push this industry and this entire movement forward. And you know from that idea it really launched in two markets across the country as well as an annual leadership summit which for the first time will be held on the East Coast.
[00:22:26] And there's a reason why I believe Jane even maybe the mention that we're holding into Washington D.C. And that's really sites that sizzles about the direction of the industry overall. So what we do is we have markets that are across the country led by our market leaders who are holding these monthly meetings. But in addition to their monthly meetings they're also holding smaller meetings throughout the month whether through education. We've had job fairs in New York. They've actually held a speed networking which I thought was brilliant.
[00:23:00] You had four minutes and 20 seconds to eat networking of course was going to go with it. I love it. I love it.
[00:23:09] But it was wonderful because people were able to do this networking 12 rounds of it and they sort of walked away with business cards with people that they seriously wanted to follow up with. Right. You know how it is when you go to these networking and said kind of addition to that we have webinars this week actually we're doing candidates and boomers.
[00:23:32] So the baby boomer community is really coming forward in this industry from the medical side but also from the professional side. This is really unique. It's the first industry where boomers are not being aged out they're actually being welcomed because of their professional experience. And I think that that's key because at this point we're still really early on. You know this industry maturing we need all hands on deck. No one is too young or too old at this point to contribute to the growth of development of this industry. And so we're we're doing a webinar with NJ freeway based on their recent report about the Boomer coming into the cannabis and and the broader community is one of the top consumers of cannabis whether for recreational medical.
[00:24:20] So these are the sort of forward thinking educational platform that we're looking to grow out in 2019 as well as our monthly networking events and holding our leadership summit which will be in Washington DC this June. And again it says a lot about what's happening on the East Coast because our leadership summit has been held in Denver for the last four years. So it says that really. DC I think it's a special place right now. It's the nation's capital and we're going there to really have this conversation around the industry. So we're we're super excited about it.
[00:24:57] Yeah. No that's it. I think it does. It really marks I think that the development at the expense of the industry not only to the east coast but I think at a federal level. I mean I think this is fairly quickly becoming a federal issue or at least a federal level conversation you know figuring out how do we how do we really make this work at a national level for the industry.
[00:25:17] And you know already global it's kind of this funny inverted situation we have all these developed states this global industry and we have nothing happening at the federal level. So at some point it's gonna happen. Oh yeah well now it's just a great yes.
[00:25:29] So I know you're on the New York area here. Any any thoughts. I know I know everything is moving very quickly and depending on when the episode goes live here everything changed dramatically. But based on what you see yes. What are your thoughts on what's happening New York New Jersey community in terms of legalization.
[00:25:45] Yeah. Yeah. So another great question so I'll touch on women grow it and bring it back and you'll see a full circle. So Jamie was launched. Women Grow in Denver Colorado.
[00:25:56] Our current leadership our chairwoman is from Washington D.C. Our CEO based in New Jersey and I'm in New York. And there's so much cannabis activity happening within those just from the District of Columbia to New Jersey to New York now New York being the sort of financial capital that the U.S. you I think pretty much everyone knew that our governor was not going to be outdone by New Jersey's governor pushing for his ads. Well as you know we're in this tri state area. So Connecticut is moving aggressively forward looking to do full legalization this year. And so I believe from what we're hearing in New York is that they're looking you know sometime around spring summer that this will happen. We expected New Jersey to be fully adult use law at least would have passed by now. But I think sometime this first quarter says a lot about what's coming down the pike especially in this early half of the year. Pennsylvania not too far behind them as well. So that's why back to our leadership summit. It's so important that we are bringing it to the east coast because for the longest time they were only just talking about Massachusetts right in its program. But now we're beginning to see all of these other Northeast states that are saying hey don't forget about us and to your point about federal legalization. I think you know we're at thirty three medical states in 10 adult use. Yeah I think those numbers are going to change significantly especially through this year into next year. So it's a lot of talk of full legalization is New York is very excited about it.
[00:27:42] And I understand why older people who are looking to do a lot of business in this industry in the city and in the state.
[00:27:50] Yeah. Exciting times exciting times for everyone involved. This has been a great conversation. I've joined I've learned a lot. I've had a lot of fun. What if people were to find out more about you about women grow. What's the best way to get more information.
[00:28:03] Sure. So for Women Grow I absolutely say please find us and even sign up for our newsletter or you* can find us at WomenGrow.com and follow us across all of our platforms on Twitter Facebook Instagram and on Linked In. Those are our great resources and we also send out newsletters of what's going on for me. I tend to be very active on social media. Because to your point where you have your former colleagues and family members that are asking questions. Minutes of your time and you know that turns into an hour two hours of everyone wanting to get a piece of knowledge. I'm very active on social media for those purposes.
[00:28:42] So I actually have from my great aunt history not to my mind linked in an on Instagram and Twitter reading about the articles that I'm posting. And so you can find me on LinkedIn as Gia Morón or on Twitter and Instagram as Gia. That's a GIA_ VM and I really did put that information out there because I do understand how overwhelming it is like where do you begin and so I just share information hoping that it helps to further their education knowledge about it.
[00:29:14] Perfect. I will make sure that all those links are in the show notes here so people can click through and get to them. It's been a pleasure. Thank you so much for taking the time and I'm looking forward to keeping in touch and seeing how things go both federally and in the tri state area here. And we will keep in touch.
[00:29:29] Absolutely. Thank you so much for. I really appreciate it.
[00:29:34] You've been listening to Thinking Outside the Bud with Business Coach Bruce Eckfeldt to find a full list of podcast episodes. Download the tools and worksheets and access other great content. Visit the Web site at thinkingoutsidethebud.com. And don't forget to sign up for the free newsletter at thinkingoutsidethebud.com/newsletter.