It was a journey of healing that first brought entrepreneur Adelia Carrillo to the cannabis industry. Years ago, Adelia experienced a heartbreaking and life-threatening medical complication. Facing physical and emotional trauma, Adelia Carrillo turned to cannabis. This was a decision that would ultimately change her life forever. Not only was she able to help heal herself physically but mentally as well. Today, Adelia Carrillo is the founder and CEO of Direct Cannabis Network. Dedicated to profiling the startups, entrepreneurs and innovative companies in the cannabis industry – DCN has become a renowned source for cannabis businesses. When Adelia isn't busy interviewing the movers and shakers of this industry, she is giving back to the community. A natural born leader, Adelia strives to motivate, inspire, and build a community & voice for cannabis entrepreneurs and startups.
In the beginning, what motivated you to first get involved with cannabis?
My journey began through a personal experience. My fiancé and I found out we were pregnant. And like many parents-to-be, we were expecting to go through a pretty exciting experience. Unfortunately, though, right after finding out I was pregnant, I started having pain and health issues. I then went to the doctor. The doctor told me that it would be best if I basically went through, lack of a better term, an abortion. At the time, of course, I did not want to. I was hoping there was still a chance. So I was then put on bed rest. That next Sunday, I knew something wasn't right. I told my fiancé Ali that I had a bad feeling and that we needed to go to the emergency room. He immediately took me to the hospital and they began doing testing.
Shortly after, I was then told I would need to have emergency surgery. I was bleeding internally which could have caused severe pain and possibly death. So I went straight to surgery. While we had to go through everything that we went through, the surgery did go well. At that point, I started my recovery process. And, of course, they wanted to go straight to prescribing me Oxycontin and pain pills. Preferably, I like to stay away from pain pills. Not only because of the way they make me feel but I’ve also had people become addicted and lost their lives from prescription pills. Not to mention my body just doesn’t do well with pain meds. My fiancé urged me to try something else. To take a different route to recover from this. And that is when he introduced me to cannabis.
Of course, I had known about cannabis. I had smoked when I was younger but I never really opened my eyes to the medicinal aspects of it. At first, and this was very naïve of me, I was thinking – why do I just want to get high? But my fiancé urged me to really look more at cannabis. To start exploring how cannabis could help with pain and also some of the emotional things I was going through at the time. It was a lot of trial and error in the beginning.
I tried a lot of different ways from eating cannabis, to drinking it, and even smoking it. Over time, I came to find a couple of methods that worked for me. What’s great now, a couple years later, is the CBD side of it. I’m really excited to still be a patient and find ways to help heal myself. That was the beginning. It really started as a personal journey. After 3 years of being a patient, my fiancé and I began looking at cannabis as a whole. I noticed that while there was a lot of media in the cannabis space there wasn’t much available in the specific niche I was interested in – entrepreneurs, startups, and technology. That was the turning point for me.
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
To be honest, it’s meeting the individuals behind the companies and hearing their stories. Cannabis is such a creative space. There are so many talented people and ideas happening right now. For me, that is what I really enjoy.
What was it like building Direct Cannabis Network?
It was a great experience but it was a lot of learning. Cannabis is a brand new industry. So not only were we learning a lot, the industry was also learning a lot. The hardest thing was making sure we knew what we wanted our voice to be. It was learning to almost in a sense say no to certain things that were not right in terms of what our viewers would want.
From events to article topics, it was always keeping our audience in mind. There are a lot of other cannabis media sources out there. So it was really learning how to define our niche and know what we should cover. That was a good learning experience on our end, especially because we are in media. But also to add to that, it was a great experience in that people understood what we were creating and actually liked it. People would say things like – wow this is just what we need or great work!
Not only did people start to recognize us as founders but our team members as well. It was important for all of us to remember that this is a team effort. It is not just about the founder or the CEO of the company, it’s the team. That is one of the things I wanted to implement when building Direct Cannabis Network is the teamwork behind the scenes. To represent the faces behind the whole company.
Since you are your own boss, do you have any advice for maintaining a work-life balance?
Make a schedule; it really helps with time management. But realize too that even though you have a schedule, it probably won’t go exactly as planned. You’ve got to be flexible. One thing that was hard for me, and is still hard for me, is making time for myself. It's really simple but putting my alarm an extra hour early has made a big difference.
Waking up and making that coffee, having a little time for meditation or whatever I need that day is huge. Whether it’s reading or yoga, it’s important to find something that can be a time for personal reflection and recuperation. But know that it also may not happen every single day. No one is perfect; remember to pat yourself on the back. We are all working so hard and so fast, we often don’t get to sit down and recognize what we’re doing or how we are inspiring others.
What does a day in the life of Adelia consist of today?
It starts early. To be honest, first things first, I make sure I have coffee. That is my go-to thing in the morning – I need that! But I also try and do some meditation and reading. I try to start my day off right by looking at sites like Entrepreneur and other online publications. I also use Flipboard where I have inspiring topics to start my day in a good light. Then, it goes straight to working. I start with emails and check how the website is doing. I also make sure our content that is going to be released that day is ready to go and set for the right time.
At Direct Cannabis Network, we aim to have a daily call with certain areas of the team. So Monday it may be working with Journalism and Tuesday it could be meeting with the Videography team. Typically, my day includes a conference call in the afternoon. From there, it varies but usually involves research, meetings, or more conference calls. Every day there is a new company or something going on. And because we work in media, we want to make sure that we are on top of it. For Direct Cannabis Network, it's more than just California or even nationwide, it’s thinking global.
We want to make sure we’re talking about things that are launching all over because cannabis is a global industry. We want people to be able to stay up to date on what is going on everywhere. You never know who is going to read something. They may see an article or watch a video that sparks their imagination or a new idea.
Do you have any advice for women looking to break into the industry or get involved?
My best piece of advice is educating and networking. There are so many different cannabis platforms, organizations, groups, and events. While I know it may be hard to go to a networking event because it could potentially harm your current job, it is still important to be at those events. That is where you are going to meet people. By you taking that chance to meet someone else in the industry, it could help provide the guidance or just the right steps you need to make that transition into cannabis.
Also, assess your talents. Cannabis is a quickly growing industry but we still need a lot of skills to help guide us, provide different platforms, and create tools for everyone to become more successful. Hone in on what you think you can bring to the industry. Start putting yourself out there and see what you can provide. Education, networking, and reaching out to organizations is so important. Don’t be afraid to say hello to us, send an email. There are many people who would love to sit down and chat about how they can help you find your place in this industry.
What has been your biggest struggle working in the cannabis industry?
Now that we have re-launched and stepped into phase two of our business, we are working on advertising and sponsorship. Essentially monetizing the company. The first year of Direct Cannabis Network was building the following, our brand, and our voice. Testing out whether or not the industry even needed something like us. And now that we are in phase two, it is a learning lesson because of all the restrictions on advertising.
For example, what can people working with us say or not say in these advertising placements on our website or videos? A lot of the conversations we’re having with those interested is how to do this and not get in trouble legally. And that goes for us as well. We do not want to be in a situation where we do all of this great work and then it puts someone in a legal situation. It's learning with advertising and sponsorship what we can do and what we cannot do. It’s still a gray area. That right now is our biggest challenge. Every day things are changing, so it’s trying to keep on top of it all.
What are the top 3 skills Every Cannabis Entrepreneur Needs?
The first thing I would say is passion. I know so many cannabis startups that are working their butts off – they work hard! They are trying everything they can to make their businesses work. These entrepreneurs and companies are tackling things left and right but they keep going. If it wasn’t for the passion behind it, these businesses would not be here right now. Another thing I would say is leadership. Successful cannabis entrepreneurs stand up for others and are there to guide their team and help the community. They have a lot of skills so it is hard to come up with 3 but I would say a sense of humor is key. Everyone in this industry faces challenges but a sense of humor helps entrepreneurs work through them. Being able to laugh when you make a mistake is huge. All of us are going to make plenty of mistakes while building businesses. You have to look at things as a learning experience. Ask yourself – what did I take away? Then, focusing on moving forward.