Industry Insight By Jolin Zhou|22 March 2024

2024 International Women’s Day – An Interview With Victoria Williams

Topics in this article:
female leadership social equity Wake N Vape

This is Artrix’s latest series exploring female leadership within the cannabis industry, we delve into the stories of trailblazing women who are shaping the future of this rapidly evolving sector.



In this series of interviews, we have Victoria Williams here. As a pioneering figure, Victoria Williams is notably recognized as the first African American woman to feature a product in an Illinois dispensary. Her leadership in launching the first predominantly Black-owned craft grow and the acclaimed Wake N Vape, underscores her knack for business and her deep understanding of market needs.



Beyond her business acumen, Williams has been instrumental in promoting social equity through initiatives like Responsible Vendor Training and authoring pivotal cannabis-focused literature. Receiving the Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award from Joe Biden’s administration highlights her impactful contributions and underscores her role as a leading figure in advocating for change within the cannabis industry.




Victoria Williams - Artrix

Victoria Williams




Q: Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the cannabis industry?


I JUMPED into the Cannabis industry to break barriers. I JUMPED into the Cannabis industry to provide opportunities for others.



I was dating someone who was interested in the legal cannabis industry in Colorado. Shortly after having my third child, we traveled to California to explore business opportunities in that space. We frequently flew back and forth between states to gain knowledge about the cannabis market.




Q: Can you share your “tough” moment?



I once threw 150% in everything into helping a company take off, lending them not just my expertise but also my financial support. Despite pouring my heart and resources into their success, I was left on the sidelines when it came to getting compensated. This not only hit my finances hard but also took a toll on my mental and physical health.



The ordeal was a harsh wake-up call about the dangers of overextending myself for others without securing my own interests first. It taught me the critical importance of setting clear, firm boundaries and ensuring I’m properly valued and compensated for my efforts.




Q: As the first African American woman to feature a product in an Illinois dispensary, what challenges did you face?


Initially, gaining trust and credibility in the industry was a hurdle, as some doubted my ability to produce a quality product.



Additionally, I faced difficulties in communication, with people sometimes being slow to respond to emails or answer phone calls.



Moreover, competing with bigger companies that offered similar products posed another obstacle, as they often had established partnerships and brand recognition.



However, I overcame these challenges through perseverance, dedication to quality, and building strong relationships with customers and industry stakeholders. By consistently delivering exceptional products and fostering trust within the community, I was able to carve out a niche for my brand and ultimately succeed in the market.




Q:In your experience, what are the most significant barriers women face in the cannabis industry today?


  • Access to Capital: Many women entrepreneurs struggle to secure funding for their cannabis businesses due to limited access to capital compared to their male counterparts.



  • Representation and Leadership Opportunities: Women are underrepresented in leadership roles within the cannabis industry, which limits their ability to influence decision-making processes and shape the direction of the industry. This lack of representation can perpetuate gender biases and hinder the advancement of women in the field.




Q: How does receiving the Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award impact you personally and professionally?


The Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award symbolizes not only personal achievement but also a commitment to serving others and making the world a better place. It is a humbling honor that I will cherish for a lifetime and a source of motivation to continue making meaningful contributions to society.




Wake N Vape



Q: Wake N Vape is committed to empowering women in the cannabis industry. Can you elaborate on the initiatives or programs you’ve launched to support this goal?


Certainly! At Wake N Vape, our commitment to empowering women in the cannabis industry is at the core of everything we do. To support this goal, we have launched several initiatives and programs aimed at providing women with the resources, support, and opportunities they need to succeed:



  • Women in Cannabis Networking Events: We organize regular networking events and seminars specifically tailored to women in the cannabis industry. These events provide a platform for women to connect, collaborate, and share experiences, ideas, and best practices. By fostering a supportive and inclusive community, we aim to empower women to thrive in their careers and businesses.



  • Educational Workshops and Training Programs: We offer educational workshops and training programs designed to equip women with the knowledge, skills, and resources needed to succeed in the cannabis industry. These programs cover a wide range of topics, including business development, regulatory compliance, marketing strategies, and financial management, tailored to the unique needs and challenges faced by women entrepreneurs.



  • Advocacy and Policy Engagement: We advocate for policies and initiatives that promote gender equity and diversity within the cannabis industry. By working with lawmakers, industry stakeholders, and advocacy groups, we push for reforms that create a more inclusive and supportive environment for women entrepreneurs and professionals.



Through these initiatives and programs, Wake N Vape is committed to empowering women in the cannabis industry and creating a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive industry for all.




Q: How do you see social equity evolving in the cannabis industry, particularly in Chicago?


My role in assisting the first social equity infuser in Chicago was both rewarding and eye-opening. Social equity in the cannabis industry is a critical issue that requires ongoing attention and action. While progress has been made in recent years to address disparities and inequities, there is still much more work to be done to ensure that marginalized communities have equitable access to opportunities in the cannabis industry.



Social equity’s future in cannabis hinges on relentless advocacy, meaningful policy changes, and genuine community involvement. We need to amplify efforts to break down financial barriers for those historically sidelined, offering the funding, education, and support they desperately need. It’s also about tackling stigma head-on, educating the public on cannabis’s complex history with communities of color, and pushing for social equity programs that live up to their promise.



This journey is a collective one, demanding commitment from all industry corners to forge a fair, inclusive future. Together, we can turn the tide, ensuring the cannabis industry reflects the diversity and strength of our communities.




Q: You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a women movement that would bring the most amount of good within the cannabis industry, what would that be? 



Dreaming big, I envision sparking a women’s movement in the cannabis industry that’s all about unity, mentorship, and empowerment. Imagine a vibrant community where women support one another, share wisdom, and build each other up. It’s not just about creating spaces for us to connect—though networking events and workshops are key—it’s about forging mentorship bonds that bridge experience gaps and guide the next wave of female leaders.



Victoria Williams with Artrix’s girls



Q: Looking towards the future, how do you see the role of women evolving in the cannabis industry?


Envisioning the future, I see the cannabis industry as a vibrant canvas for women to not just participate but truly lead and redefine norms. It’s more than a sector growing in leaps and bounds; it’s a space where we, as women, can anchor ourselves as pioneers, innovators, and visionaries. From the ground floor of entrepreneurship to the strategic tables of policy-making, our roles are expanding, reflecting our diverse talents and perspectives.



As we break through stereotypes and navigate societal shifts in perception around cannabis, we’re not just making room for ourselves—we’re building a legacy that champions diversity and opens doors for the next generation of women in cannabis.


Further Reading


2024 International Women’s Day – An Interview With Jessica Min