“I am a female, but I feel very powerful in the sense that I could be in a room full of my male colleagues or CEO and feel as an equal,” says Michelle Mendoza about her place in the industry. It’s a place that she has worked over nine years to get to. It has been full of many challenges, and other hurdles that she’s cleared valiantly.
Michelle Mendoza is the Vice President of Innovation at Sweet Flower. Sweet Flower is a chain of dispensaries in California that carries top tier products, and provides a beautiful ambience and store experience. They also prioritize BIPOC brands. “Our retail should mirror what our communities look like. From what we put on the shelves to who we're employing. There's a lot of conversation around social equity and BIPOC brands and operators. I think a lot of people talk, but we've kind of made it our mission to do,” says the Sweet Flower VP.
Michelle’s journey in cannabis started by way of education around 2013-2014. A friend who was starting up a dispensary in West Hollywood wanted Michelle to come aboard. “She said, ‘Hear me out before you say no. I want you to help me; come run this dispensary,” says Mendoza. “And I said, ‘You're crazy, cause I don't know anything about cannabis.’ And she said, ‘No, no, no, I need you. You can learn everything.’ So she happened to get me at the right time. It was my first leap in, and then I kind of dove head first into learning everything I could about [cannabis],” says the Sweet Flower VP.
Working in a medical dispensary, Michelle saw how people used cannabis to better their quality of life or heal. She instantly knew there was something greater in and about the plant. Fast forward to now, and Michelle is in charge of product selection and curation for one of California’s biggest and best cannabis stores. It’s literally her job to make sure that people have access to the very medicine she watched change their lives.
Though rewarding, Michelle Mendoza’s nine years in the cannabis industry have not come without personal hurdles. Asked about challenges faced, she replies “I would say an internal challenge that I faced was self-belief that I could do this.” She continues to say “There's always a lot of eyes on you when you start to make waves. I'm now a female executive at a major retailer. There's a lot of eyes and people that sometimes want to take you down a peg here and there. I try not to pay attention to it; I have a mission. I know what my mission is and I try to stay on it.”
In the future, Mendoza hopes to see more diversity and more access to information, shelf space, and opportunity to succeed in this industry. “There's a lot of neighborhoods and communities I think that really need to be made right and whole by this industry. I hope that each individual state will take that into consideration as they're drafting their policy. And not just that, but people hold the states accountable for what they're drafting. Just do it right.”
Follow Michelle on Instagram here.Credits:
- Photography: Jessica Miller
- Agent: Dara Siegel
- Hair & Makeup: Shideh Kafei
- Wardrobe: Ashley Guerzon
- Props Stylist: Shelby Kay
- Production: Shabnam Azadeh