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?


Gaining trust in the industry was tough because some doubted my product’s quality. Communication was hard, with slow responses to emails and calls.



Competing with bigger companies was another challenge since they had established partnerships and brand recognition.



I overcame these issues through perseverance, quality dedication, and strong customer relationships. By delivering exceptional products and building trust, I carved out a niche and succeeded.




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. This limits their ability to influence decisions and shape the industry’s direction. The lack of representation perpetuates gender biases and hinders the advancement of women in this field.




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


The Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award represents personal success and a dedication to helping others. It is a great honor that I will always value. This award inspires me to keep contributing positively 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 host regular events and seminars for women in the cannabis industry. These gatherings help women connect and share ideas. We aim to build a supportive community where women can thrive in their careers and businesses.




Educational Workshops and Training Programs: Our workshops and training programs are tailored for women in the cannabis industry. We cover business development, regulatory compliance, marketing, and financial management. These programs equip women with the skills and knowledge needed to succeed.



Advocacy and Policy Engagement: We advocate for gender equity and diversity in the cannabis industry. By collaborating with lawmakers and advocacy groups, we push for reforms. Our goal is to 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 rewarding and eye-opening. Social equity in cannabis is crucial and needs ongoing attention. Despite recent progress, there’s still much work to ensure marginalized communities get fair opportunities in cannabis.


The future of social equity in cannabis depends on advocacy, policy changes, and community involvement. We need to break down financial barriers for historically sidelined groups by offering funding, education, and support. It’s also about fighting stigma and educating the public on cannabis’s history with communities of color. Social equity programs must live up to their promises.


This journey demands commitment from the entire industry to build a fair and inclusive future. Together, we can ensure the cannabis industry reflects our communities’ diversity and strength.




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? 



I envision sparking a women’s movement in the cannabis industry focused on unity, mentorship, and empowerment. Imagine a vibrant community where women support one another, share wisdom, and uplift each other. It’s not just about creating spaces for connection—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?


The future of the cannabis industry is a vibrant canvas for women to lead and redefine norms. This space is not just growing; it’s a place where women can anchor themselves as pioneers, innovators, and visionaries.



Women’s roles in the cannabis sector are expanding, from entrepreneurship to policy-making. These roles reflect diverse talents and perspectives, contributing to the industry’s evolution.



As women break stereotypes and navigate societal shifts around cannabis, they are not just making room for themselves. They are building a legacy that champions diversity and opens doors for future generations of women in cannabis.



Further Reading


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

Author: Jolin Zhou
A dedicated content contributor at Artrix with a talent for exploring the cultural and economic aspects of the cannabis industry. Focused on product hardware, manufacturing, concentrates and oils, and market strategies in the cannabis vaping sector. Combines thorough research with real-world insights to inform and engage readers.