Editor’s note: In honor of International Women’s Day on March 8, Eaze is focusing on women working in the cannabis industry. This is the first in a series.
A mission for change.
Rosie Rothrock wanted to bring more flair to a burgeoning industry. Maya Kochman wanted to use her chemistry skills to develop products that encourage healthier lifestyles.
Both women found their home in cannabis.
They are among the leaders of Caliva – Rothrock is head of brand, Kochman is director of research – a San Jose cannabis company that grows, produces, and sells proprietary strains of flower, oils and topicals.
“At its core, the plant has some real feminine energy,” Rothrock says. “So how do we bring that out?”
A marketer at heart.
Rothrock was vice-president of marketing at a luxury real estate firm in Seattle when a literal brand-new opportunity popped up: a new company in a new industry needed someone to develop its new brand and marketing strategy. She joined Caliva just as the company was launching in 2015.
“I was drawn primarily by the opportunity to kind of create and carve out some territory in a brand new industry,” Rothrock says. “Specifically it was the interest in creating products that could change consumer behavior for the good.”
She says her branding know-how easily translated from real estate to the cannabis industry, which was prime for consumer-targeting strategies and marketing expertise.
“It felt really natural to apply this to the industry,” she says. “The white space for it was so enormous.”
The complexities of cannabis.
But she found a steep learning curve when it came to learning about the plant itself.
“The plant is so much more complex than it was given credit for. The potential for products is so much more complex and sophisticated than people understood,” she says, “’and I think wrapping my head around that at the time felt crazy and exciting.”
Because the cannabis industry is still taking shape, it was important for Caliva to aim its eye at the future and consider what its presence might be as legalization expands.
“Positioning for agility is a huge part of our strategy,” Rothrock says. “We’re saying: How do we build a brand that’s able to be agile over the next 10 years as this industry evolves, yet still position ourselves as a brand and not just a product or commodity?”
Seeking chemical excellence.
Maya Kochman needs to feel a personal connection to her work. “I get bored very easily,” says the doctorate in analytical chemistry.
A practicing vegetarian, Kochman is committed to reducing meat consumption, so her previous job was with a company that makes meat substitutes from plants. When Caliva came calling, it was easy decision to bring her skills to the cannabis industry, she says.
“I know the recreational market is the big market, but there’s a growing market of people that really need cannabis for their well-being, and this is my interest.”
As the company’s director of research, Kochman’s expertise in flavor and purity is integrated into product development. She wasn’t concerned if her skills would apply in cannabis, but whether she could later return to work outside the industry.
“This was the only question, and the answer is, of course, yes!” she says. “If I go to a milk company or a cannabis company, it’s almost the same. The only difference is cannabis is now being regulated, and people are a little bit hesitant about it, but it will become a commodity.”
From Caliva’s public profile to its behind-the-scenes science, women are shaping the way forward.
Says Kochman, “I’m really proud to be at the forefront of this market.”