Understanding the nuances of various customer journeys in the cannabis space has become increasingly pivotal among companies trying to gain a bigger share of a burgeoning market through brand recognition, exclusive partnerships and product offerings.

But understanding trends and habits of potential customers is one thing. Launching a marketing strategy to acquire those customers is another.

Since Valda Coryat took the reins in December 2019 as chief marketing officer at Florida-based Trulieve—one of the fastest-growing and most profitable multistate operators in the U.S., with an 11-state footprint and more than 160 dispensaries—the company has continued to thrive in ways big and small.

Specifically, Trulieve acquired Harvest Health & Recreation in a deal that had a $2.1-billion all-stock price tag when the agreement was first announced in May 2021. In addition, the company has launched brands like the Cultivar Collection, Muse, Sweet Talk, and Momenta, and struck exclusive partnerships with celebrities like Wiz Khalifa and Survivor: Africa winner Ethan Zohn as part of its strategic expansion.  

Trulieve also set in motion a nationwide Supplier Diversity Initiative earlier this month that focuses on providing education and professional development resources while creating mutually beneficial business partnerships with a supplier base reflective of the customers and communities the company serves.

Those moves and more have been driven, in part, by key company insights that have helped shaped marketing plans that resonate with targeted demographics, Coryat told Cannabis Business Times.

As one of two women on a nine-member executive leadership team at Trulieve (in addition to CEO Kim Rivers), Coryat said her confidence in her professional life stems from her upbringing. And, regardless of title, building credibility is essential to gaining respect from work peers, she said.

But Coryat is somewhat of an outlier as a woman executive in the space. For example, a recent demographic survey conducted by Nevada’s Cannabis Compliance Board revealed a significant gender gap for the state’s cannabis industry workforce: Those who identified as members of a board of directors were 83.7% male and 14.1% female (some respondent chose not to answer).

On top of her work to further Trulieve’s strategic vision, Coryat details what it means to be a woman leader in the space and more in this Women’s History Month Q&A.

Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for style, length and clarity.

Tony Lange: As you look toward the latter three quarters of 2022, what are some of Trulieve’s planned undertakings that you’re most looking forward to? Why?

Valda Coryat: I’m excited about our latest brand-building initiatives via integrated marketing campaigns that drive awareness, engagement and sales. A recent example was Trulieve announcing its partnership with Ethan Zohn to become the spokesperson for Momenta, which supports not only the wellness-focused brand but also our growing reach in new markets like Massachusetts and West Virginia.

I’m equally excited about diversifying our product offerings coast to coast to serve the needs of a broader array of consumers, both retail and wholesale. Trulieve’s exclusive partnerships with respected brands such as Wiz Khalifa’s Khalifa Kush are an extension of those efforts.

TL: How does Trulieve’s nationwide Supplier Diversity Initiative reflect your company’s vision for the cannabis industry?

VC: We believe that cannabis is truly for all! Trulieve’s supplier diversity initiative exemplifies how the entire company stands behind this truth from both a consumer and business standpoint. This program creates accessible pathways for more entrepreneurs to participate in this growing industry—even if they’re not directly touching the plant. There’s an opportunity for nearly every business function, from marketing and software services to cleaning supplies, training, construction and other ancillary services, to be a part of this community. Ultimately, we believe that our business partners should be as diverse as the communities we operate in.

TL: How has your background across the consumer, retail and foodservice verticals translated to your marketing leadership success at Trulieve to help the company drive its strategic expansion?

VC: From an expansion standpoint, understanding the nuances of various customer journeys is instrumental in building marketing plans that actually resonate with a target demographic. These insights also inform decisions around entering certain markets and how to scale or pace expansion opportunities.

My experience across different verticals allows me to look at each cannabis consumer segment across our markets and identify marketing opportunities that naturally align with their lifestyle. For example, within foodservice, convenience or “ready-to-eat” offerings coexist with at-home meal solutions for the same products. One product format doesn’t meet the needs of a singular consumer since each person has different needs at various points in the day or week. For edibles or cannabis-infused beverages, this affects the SKU mix as much as it does the marketing plan that informs consumers how our specific offering meets their needs.

TL: As a woman executive of one of the largest cannabis companies in the world, do you feel a personal responsibility to help pioneer a path for other women to participate and succeed in the industry? Explain.

VC: While I certainly feel this responsibility in my current role, I’ve also advocated for gender equity in the workplace throughout my career. The challenges of the cannabis industry are similar to those in banking, technology and high-growth sectors. I hope my leadership approach galvanizes more talented women to enter the industry and make an impact in their own way.

TL: Where do you find confidence in your professional life?

VC: My confidence in my professional life stems from what my family instilled in me from a very early age. Being encouraged, challenged and celebrated by family is such an integral part of who I am that I just step forward boldly. I carry that experience with me in everything that I do.

I am fortunate to be surrounded by so many strong female family members who were tremendous role models. It doesn’t hurt that the men in my family were also committed to raising strong women by ensuring that their daughters and nieces had opportunities to grow and compete for generations.

TL: Working among a strong executive leadership team at Trulieve, what’s your best piece of advice for those seeking respect among their work peers?

VC: Building credibility is essential regardless of your title. This comes down to delivering on what you promise consistently and ahead of schedule, if possible.

TL: Who do you admire most as a trailblazer for women’s rights during the past century? Why?

VC: This is a tough one to answer since I admire so many female leaders, including Eleanor Roosevelt, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Madeleine Albright, Barbara Jordan, Angela Merkel and Rihanna.

If I had to choose one, I’d say Malala Yousafzai because she risked her own life to advocate for girls’ education at such a young age. I am a very forward-thinking person, and I admire all the change enacted by many of today’s young women, including my own daughters, in ways big and small every day.

TL: What obstacles (if any) have you had to overcome that were there simply because of your gender?

VC: While I consider being a mother to three great humans my greatest achievement, I have to admit that it impacted my career. After going on maternity leave three times, I’ve had to prove that I was the same capable and ambitious person I was before. Additionally, it can be tough to see colleagues who were once peers advance beyond where I am today because they did not have to take a “break” from their careers.

TL: Why or why didn’t your upbringing have an impact on where you are today as a corporate leader?

VC: My upbringing was my foundation. My family’s pride and support have always been the wind beneath my wings. Culturally, we think in terms of the family and wider community. My achievements are not only my own—and this mentality is reflected in how I lead, always thinking beyond myself as an individual.