From eCommerce Pioneer to Cannabis Industry Maven | Stormy Simon

Stormy Simon is best known for her role as President at Overstock.com, going from temp to President over a 15 year stay with the online retailer, but she’s made a move to cannabis.  She was part of building eCommerce before eCommerce really existed and though she is rather modest when talking about her achievements with Overstock, that’s a big deal.  Stormy has now set her sights set on the cannabis industry and Cannabis Magazine wanted to catch up with her to see what she has in mind for this ever growing and changing industry.  It is undeniable that mind like hers with her skill set and experience could make for some powerful moves in this space. 

 

Here’s what Stormy had to say…

CM:      Stormy, thank you so much for taking time to sit down with us.  I   know you are just now getting in to cannabis but because of your previous success in Overstock we wanted to touch base with you in your beginning stages to see where you may be heading in this industry.  I have a feeling you’ll be a woman to watch in cannabis as time goes on.

Stormy:      Well right now mile wide and steep, right? Everything’s so new, so it’s been really exciting. It was a year ago yesterday that was my last day as President of Overstock, so it’s awesome to have this interview today and see that full-cycle happen. I woke up yesterday and went, “Wow. My life is completely different and I am so happy.” It wasn’t unhappy before, by the way.

CM:     Right. But it’s a change that feels good?

Stormy:     Yes. Now focusing on the cannabis industry, I’ve really been lucky to    meet some of the women that can lead this industry in amazing ways of passion for their family or just a belief in the medicine. I’m learning and joining the conversation and kind of seeing where I can best fit in.

I joined the board of CannaKids, which is based out of Los Angeles and focuses on exploring the use of cannabis in pediatric illnesses.  The founder is awesome and what they are doing for kids is powerful.  

 

CM:   Wow!  So you are really hitting the ground running!  How did your interest in cannabis start get lit?

 

Stormy:  I’m in the state of Utah and as I entered the cannabis scene, I went to Denver, worked with two medicinal dispensaries. Really had this master’s degree in just short of six months… Coming from Utah, we don’t have a lot of exposure to what was actually happening in Colorado, it’s so advanced.

During my time in Denver I was exposed to this amazing group of entrepreneurs that are so vibrant in the ways they think and how they’re moving the industry forward.  That experience got me really focused on bringing cannabis to my own backyard and coming in 2018 will be the vote for medicinal marijuana to pass in the state of Utah.

 

CM:   Utah could really use a voice like yours.  How have you been getting involved with the movement there specifically?

 

Stormy:  I looked around and there was this group called URMC, Utah Residents for Medical Cannabis that had just a young girl, she’s 20 years old, she’s absolutely amazing, Gabriel Saunders, and she had started this Facebook page and a special movement within the state of Utah, so I reached out to her to offer her any support and have since then had an executive advisory role. And as they form a board, will take a board seat.

They’re doing a social movement. They’re putting on the rallies and they’re reaching out to residents and when the time comes to get signatures on a petition, they’ll be doing that as well, in working with the Utah Patient Coalition, who is really running the campaign.

 The second thing I’m doing in Utah, which I think is really exciting, is I am working with an organization called My Story ll INC with a mission to go out and collect the stories from Utah patients, and maybe even those who have moved from the state in order to get the medicine that they need.

 

CM:    That’s great!  Getting real patient stories out there is always incredibly helpful in educating nay-sayers.  Like, once you see how cannabis is truly impacting lives in a positive way, it’s hard to argue against its medicinal benefit.

Stormy:  Exactly.  Getting some of their stories out into the public and print and social media and start sharing among Utahans the power of this plant. A statistic that I find pretty disturbing is that in Utah, six people per week die from opiates. So that’s over 300 people a year, and I think that the education on that are stories of triumph. We don’t know how many people medical marijuana can save from opiate death. We don’t know.

But, if it’s one, I think it’s probably worth it. So getting the stories out from the patients, their parents, is a big passion of mine and that’s what we’re going to start.

 

CM:    It looks like thus far you have really taken a role on an educational level and as an activist in a way, moving forward to further cannabis legalization in Utah. I’m guessing that were the votes to go through, that you would want to be part of maybe having a dispensary or cultivation in Utah to be part of getting quality medicine to the patients?

 

Stormy:   One thing I learned at the cultivation and dispensary in Denver is that it is a tough business when the rules and the regulations are changing all the time. In my short time working at one in Colorado, they’d roll something out that affects your whole production line, which is the right thing to roll out, but it still affects, as a business, your production line and it costs you money to integrate all these new policies and changes and labeling and packaging.

So, yeah, it’s nice to have states go before us, and if it worked out well and the bill is written to where having a cultivation and/or dispensary would work for me, I absolutely would consider it. We have to wait for those laws to be in order to see …  I’ve seen the beginnings of the regulations and it’s at a really good starting point.

 

Utah Cannabis Legalization

CM:   Is there any other aspect of cannabis that you’re more interested in getting into?

 

Stormy:   It’s such a broad industry. When I jumped in, I thought, “I really just want to grow and do the dispensary.” As the horizon broadened, I started meeting all these people in these very different industries, from media, to brand creation, to product, digital … it’s beyond … the lighting, the soil … it’s just explosive.

Six months in, I said, “I just need to be an observer and a learner, educate, and really pay attention to what states are doing.” It’s hard to say what I don’t know right now because I’m certain that there’s a ton that I don’t know and where I’ll exactly land.

I definitely have the skills to go in, help him with a little brand building and some digital presence, and take their brands to a level that they can be ready for as we get federally regulated. I see bringing that talent to the industry in some form.

 

CM:   You led Overstock.com in a really notable and powerful way.  Do you see yourself having that level of impact in the cannabis industry given your experience in building Overstock?

 

Stormy:    You know, I hope so. One thing about Overstock was, we were pioneers. You know, creating eCommerce before eCommerce existed. I view cannabis the same way, but it’s much more complex because their special local level of business … With cannabis, you really have to think five years ahead. Like right now this may be something that’s happening, but you know, is it worth it in terms of investment for five years from now?

 

That’s why taking your time is crucial. At least it is for me, for my personality. But, I hope that I will be able to bring a similar kind of leadership to cannabis.

 

I do have a passion for the plant and I do believe in its properties and there’s the civil right piece to it. But, educating myself more and more on those medicinal properties, and meeting people who have had the success stories, and the scientists that have devoted their lives to it, it changes the game. It makes it much more passionate, passion driven, than eCommerce was, even though it was exciting and pioneering. So, my hope is that I can bring some of what I know, that I can bring an experience that’s not agriculture but that is valuable.

There’s a digital aspect of the experience that everybody needs.

Some of these businesses are just going to get huge and I would love to be one of the leaders, but honestly if I helped 50 companies and they become the leader, I would call that just as rewarding. You know?

 

CM:   Well we are certainly excited to see where this industry takes you and where you take it!  Thank you for taking time to give us some insight on where you’re at right now.  We look forward to checking in again in the future as you continue to learn and lead.

 

Stormy:  Absolutely.  It’s all very exciting.  Thank you.  Yes, let’s ouch base again           soon.  This industry is filled with opportunities.

Stormy Simon enters cannabis

 

 

The J. Whitney Group
The J. Whitney Group

The J.Whitney Group is a cannabis business consulting firm working with clients in licensing, operations and leadership of cannabis businesses in the United States.

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