Krista Whitley is the award-winning founder of Altitude Products, a cannabis company with a mission to create ultra premium cannabis products that unify cannabis communities.
We recently invited Krista for a Q&A session to talk about her company and her interesting journey as an entrepreneur in the cannabis industry.
Ganjly: What is your background and what made you decide to pursue a career in cannabis?
Krista Whitley: I was born and raised in the Yakima Valley in Central Washington. For the first 30 years of my life I believed everything DARE had taught me. A few weeks after my 30th birthday I was in a car accident and the doctors prescribed all kinds of muscle relaxants, opioids for the pain, another pill to sleep. A good friend told me they had never seen me more stoned than when I was taking those pills, so he handed me a joint and told me to try smoking it before bed. After I put my daughters to bed that night, I sat out next to my pool trying cannabis for the first time and had the best sleep of my life. None of what DARE taught me was true. I didn’t lose all ambition. Instead, I was so well rested that I felt more awake the next morning. I felt better. Isn’t that what we all want? To feel better. To feel less stressed. I knew I had to change direction and refocus my career to share the power of this plant with everyone. I shifted gears and went full force into sharing medical marijuana with the world.
Ganjly: How many employees do you have in Altitude Products and what kind of traits do you look for when hiring new members?
Krista Whitley: I started the company with my own money on my couch. It wasn’t an option not to be profitable on day one. I didn’t have a nest egg or back up plan. The only plan was success. Up until we hit the two year mark we worked from my living room. Then last fall we finally hit the tipping point and moved into a 12,500 sq ft facility in North Las Vegas. Today we have a team of 50 making the magic happen with our CBD products nationwide and with THC in Nevada and California. Hiring is tough! Everyone sees all the fun we have and thinks we don’t work. We hustle, grind, and are on 24/7. A lot of folks can’t handle that and they don’t last. For the leaders who appreciate the fun comes with hard work, they thrive on our team. I always look for master problem solvers who are incurable optimists. Things are going to go wrong. You can only plan so far in the cannabis industry. Most days I feel like I looked both ways to cross the street and got hit by an airplane. The rules of our game change all the time. I love it. I love what I do.
Ganjly: What is the most challenging experience you have had in the cannabis industry so far?
Krista Whitley: A dear friend of mine calls it “the idiot tax”. Every industry has bad actors, but man! When I did my first capital raise a well known leader in the cannabis space told me it was “cute” I wanted to make money. Another former strategic partner just flatly lied and took us for half a million dollars. One former client ended up in a federal penitentiary for fraud. Out of the kindness of their hearts folks will introduce me to people they don’t know very well because they want to help me and the people talk good game. I am so discerning now. I stopped accepting those introductions. Unless you are willing to give a kidney to the person you are introducing me to, don’t waste your time. People will show you who they are over time, so let them. Prove it out. Don’t rush in. Kick back and watch. The con artists won’t be around in a year. It’s the reason I am so ride or die to the people who execute well. KUSH Bottles gets it done. HERB delivers results. Nison Co will get you in every industry publication. Focus Distribution in Nevada is as ride or die as they come. Seek out people who genuinely love helping people. And then stick with them. You couldn’t pay me to switch.
Ganjly: What is your proudest moment since you started down this path of being an entrepreneur in the cannabis space?
Krista Whitley: Women Grow Summit 2018. It’s snowing in Denver and we just got off the plane. Like usual, my tribe and I rush to drop off our luggage and get to the hotel conference room for my rehearsal. The speaking coach is this amazing force to be reckoned with Maureen McNamara and I was so relieved to see her. So, I get the mic in my hand, it’s my turn, and I BOMB. Bomb. Like total, utter, worse than my first ever speaking gig 20 years ago. So bad that Maureen calls it like she sees it, sends me off to have lunch with my team, and try it again. A couple of drinks, a steak, and a slice of cheesecake later and there I am trying it again. I crushed it. The next day when I was in front of those bright lights and hundreds of peers I gave that speech TED talk style and owned every second. It was brilliant. I was on fire. This story sums up my entire entrepreneurial career. Fall flat on your face, check your pride, and go back better than ever before. I wish more women owned their ability to bounce back with enthusiasm. I can out fail any leader and that confidence helps me to be bold in my decision making. They don’t always turn out that well. but I fall flat on my face less and less these days. When failure becomes your friend instead of your foe, you can rule the world.
Ganjly: Do you and Altitude Products have plans for new products, services or events and would you be willing to drop any hints about what we can expect from your company in the future?
Krista Whitley: My entire life I have struggled with my weight. For several years I have been working on a THCV strain and product that is going to change the world of weight loss. When people discover that they can use cannabis to stay at a healthy weight without the negative side effects of pharmaceutical options or the hanger that comes with crash diets, it is going to normalize cannabis in a way that we have never seen before.
Ganjly: What is your advice for hopeful cannabis entrepreneurs who are considering joining the cannabis industry? What are the positives and negatives they should expect?
Krista Whitley: Bet big and bet on yourself. Go all in on your dreams. You only live once. Living well isn’t about seeking constant joy. My life is not about chasing happiness. My life is about doing great things to give back in a bigger and better way. I want to make a difference. I want the trail I blaze to burn so brightly that my granddaughters never have to worry about being called “cute” in a business meeting. Expect an ever evolving ecosystem and roll with the punches.
Thank you, Krista, for taking the time to answer our questions! To learn more about Altitude Products and their awesome products, visit the company website at Altitude Products.
To check out our awesome review of their luxury Weekend Box CBD, visit here.
We featured Melissa Romero, Altitude Products’ Vice-President. Read her story on marketing in the cannabis industry here.
Photo Credit: Shannon Dorn with Dope Foto