“I Am Here To Blaze A Trail So Bright That The Generations Who Follow Me Have A CEO Boss Lady To Look Up To Who Believed In Diversity, Acceptance, And Celebrated Thinking Differently”
A fascinating conversation with Krista Whitley CEO and founder of cannabis conglomerate Altitude Products
I had the pleasure to interview Krista Whitley. Krista is the award-winning CEO and founder of cannabis conglomerate Altitude Products. A passionate activist, Krista operates at a dizzying velocity to keep up with America’s fastest growing industry while leading a team of over fifty unicorns and astronauts in two states. Altitude Products has designed the fastest growing cannabis products in the industry, working alongside cannabis celebrities Snoop Dogg and Whoopi Goldberg to accomplish their goals.
Why did you get involved in the cannabis industry?
I spent thirty years stuck in the stereotypes of what marijuana users were supposed to be. It wasn’t until I was in a horrible car accident that a friend became the catalyst for me trying cannabis to relieve my chronic pain and get a good night’s sleep. I had no idea that the first time I sneaked a toke would be the catalyst for a major change in my life. Gradually I did my research, got involved in our local cannabis community, and made the decision to dedicate my life to sharing the power of plant medicine with the world. Altitude Products’ first division, Social Media Unicorn, was created to help cannabis brands navigate the ever changing marketing regulations around our industry. Cannabis entrepreneurs have to be activists first because our industry requires education to overcome generations of stereotypes and propaganda.
Where did you get your entrepreneurial spirit, and what’s your inspiration?
Growing up in a small town I never knew any entrepreneurs. I didn’t even think that was something I could be until I moved to the big city of Las Vegas. I was lucky to have great mentors who helped me to believe that I could create something bigger than myself. My inspiration comes from the fearless women in my life who are leading huge organizations, rallying communities to cause change, and who haven’t quit- even when the odds are stacked against them. One of my favorites is Beth Stavola, CEO of MPX, who left her Wall Street job to transform the cannabis industry. Beth could be doing anything, but she believes in the positive impact that she’s making on our industry. The cannabis industry is filled with fearless women who challenge the status quo, so inspiration is never far in my world.
How have your daughters impacted your work?
My daughters are the change I want to see in the world. Bella, my oldest, has suffered her entire life with horrible eczema that made her embarrassed of her own skin. After years of every steroid cream and dermatologist you could think of, I took it upon myself to find a solution. My first versions came from my kitchen, researched and mixed by my own hands. Today the Bella line of products helps Bella to feel confident in her own skin. I can’t imagine a better gift to give your children than confidence.
How did you get your idea or concept for the business?
Everywhere I went in the cannabis community I ended up in boardrooms of suits talking about competition. They were determined to crush their competitors and it frustrated me that they couldn’t seem to see the big picture. The opportunity for everyone, in every segment of the cannabis industry is collaboration over competition. When federal legalization happens (and it isn’t an “if”- it’s a “when”), the competition we should all be worried about is the pharmaceutical industry, tobacco, and alcohol industries, who will inevitably want their piece of the cannabis pie. Our ability to work together is our power in the current climate. My debut cannabis product, The Weekend Box, is all about collaboration and education. We work with the top cannabis brands to aggregate their products into one box, alongside education about safe cannabis consumption, to create an easy solution for new cannabis consumers. When new cannabis consumers experience safe consumption, they begin to consider how they can incorporate cannabis into their wellness routine and every cannabis brand wins because every new consumer gets us closer to normalizing the use of cannabis. It sounds simple, but the reality of rallying folks to work together has taken more tenacity than I ever imagined. Today we are the Birch Box of cannabis.
What best motivates you? How have your entrepreneurial motivations changed since you first started?
When I decided to become an entrepreneur I looked around and I couldn’t find anyone who looked like me, who believed in what I believed in, or who I could look up to. My motivation has been the same since day one: I am here to blaze a trail so bright that the generations who follow me have a CEO boss lady to look up to who believed in diversity, acceptance, and celebrated thinking differently. I want all of the little girls in small towns who don’t know any entrepreneurs to believe that they can grow up to create something great that makes a positive impact in the world because I did. The Forbes list in 2017 had a record setting number of female CEO’s on it. It was 6.4%. Can you imagine how much better the world would be if it reflected the diversity that exists in the work force?
Do you believe there is a winning formula for becoming a successful entrepreneur? What is yours?
One of my mentors gave me sage advice when I moved to the big city. He said that if I wanted to get rich I needed to do three things: 1. Show up to meetings prepared five minutes early 2. Return all emails within 24 hours 3. Answer phone calls It seemed so simple, but there were so many ambitious people around me that were so star struck by their big ideas that they didn’t appreciate how important execution is. Ideas are pawns, execution is king. Even today my entire company is filled with entrepreneurs who are known for their flawless execution. The world has plenty of people talking about what they want to do. The world needs more people doing what they do best.
What popular entrepreneurial advice do you agree/ disagree with? Why?
Man, years ago it used to piss me off every time I would hear Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh talk about following your passion instead of money. I was a married mom with kids who had to pay my rent. Who had time for passion?! He was totally right. Completely right. Yes, you’re going to have to pay to keep the lights, but if you find day jobs that garner you expertise you can put to work in your future venture, you’ll have built an acumen that can carry an empire. Passion won’t pay your bills if you’re not ready, but luck is opportunity meeting preparedness and I wouldn’t be where I am today without all those day jobs that led me to being prepared to follow my passion.