The day I visit, Margolis is helping the cohort prepare for The Initiative’s penultimate assignment: pitching investors at the Arcview Investor Forum in Vancouver, Canada. Margolis is perched on a cushy leather sectional, her feet propped on a coffee table and a laptop balanced on her knees as she reviews the upcoming agenda. Seated in a wide circle around her are founders from businesses like Barbari, Hana Medicinals, Leif Goods, Make & Mary, Mendi, Orevape, and a new project from the women’s cannabis network Tokeativity. Not every business in the cohort is at this meeting; some are based in far-flung cities like Oakland but will join the group in Vancouver.
Angele, the Commune’s manager and Margolis’s executive assistant, comes into the room with printed copies of the pitch decks that each business will present at Arcview, reminding the founders to send her any updates since they won’t be running their own audio-visuals at the event. Margolis is reminding people that if they are driving to Vancouver instead of flying, they should be prepared to explain to immigration why they have, for example, a car full of CBD literature.
Someone calls out, “remember your business cards.”
Some of the reminders might seem redundant to anyone who has been running a venture capital-based business for years. But for underrepresented groups launching businesses for the first time, these little clues are vital keys that help unlock doors in a white male-dominated industry.
“The cohort will come away with a network,” says Margolis. “They’re coming away with some more confidence in themselves. If I hope for anything we’ve done here — it’s everything they think about doing something, take that and multiply it times 20. Think bigger, move faster, be cocky. Women don’t hear that enough.”