CEO Whitney Heckford (MyBud.ca and High Haven) is often described as a Canadian canna-business powerwoman and visionary – and those words could not be more apt.
She grew up in a family of entrepreneurs, and before she turned her attention to the business of cannabis, she ran a respected consulting business where she worked with both startups and larger enterprises, successfully raised capital for several start up companies, and connecting investors to companies that needed working capital. Her work in finance introduced her to several companies in green energy, in health and medical – and in the cannabis space. Heckford says that as a result she “fell in love with the green space and focused all my energy on my passion; cannabis.”
Though she brings with her the hard skills she learned from a successful career in the business world, Whitney is certainly not a cookie cutter corporate type who came to cannabis looking to profit from the plant. In addition to her work on the business side – she’s recently been outspoken about how her identity as a gay woman has led to some issues in corporate cannabis boardrooms and at the funding tables – and she’s passionate about blazing trails to create a more diverse industry for those that follow.
“As a lesbian, I get two different kinds of reactions in this male dominated industry,”
She explains. “They are either intrigued and make inappropriate comments, or they are disgusted. As mentioned in some of my other interviews, I was previously engaged to a woman. I had an investor basically ghost his responsibilities when he found out, and left us high and dry for capital he said was coming in. It was around Christmas time, and we were devastated. I ended up spending my wedding fund to buy him out of my company.”
Rather than allowing these experiences to discourage her, Whitney says, detractors have fueled her determination to succeed.
“I think with the struggle, it’s also opened my eyes to the glass ceiling we face. I plan on using my success to build and grow other female lead companies as well as participate in a lot more community work for the LGBTQIA+ community. No one should be deterred from their dream because of their gender or sexual orientation.”
In addition to the contributions she is making towards creating a more diverse cannabis industry, Heckford has recently been making some strategic power moves with both of her groundbreaking canna – businesses.
In a recent media release picked up by the Canadian cannabis business press, Heckford formally announced the addition of Aaron Wright to both companies with the titles President and Head of Development. When SKUNK magazine asked her what compelled her to make this choice, she said “Aaron is a dear business colleague of mine. He comes from a long history of sales and cannabis, and 100% believes in the vision. My vision through both of my brands is to end the stigma that is attached to cannabis and to plant based medicine. There’s no doubt in my mind he will take this company into the stratosphere!” She says, smiling.
When asked to speak on what her brands bring to the marketplace, she says that MyBud.ca – initially a social media and networking platform, has developed into so much more. “My inspiration was actually through my social channels,” she tells Skunk magazine. “I have a lot of individuals and companies that reach out to me asking for my help, for education. I soon realized there wasn’t a lot of solid information out there that was clear. I’ve always been one to help people, so this was a no brainer.”
Whitney recently told Los Angeles’ Prosperi Press that she’s now “turning the brand from a social network for cannabis users to a platform that will empower plant based medicine as a whole, giving individuals the opportunity to speak to leading experts in cannabis and psychedelics,” while also providing “a top tier marketplace and payment processing” for cannabis related businesses.”
High Haven is the quality line of discreet cannabis accessories and apparel that “you’ll want to show off!” enthuses Heckford. More importantly, she points out with pride, High Haven is differentiated by the strong social justice aspects of the brand. Determined to create a line that was both unique and compassionate, she actually traveled to the factories of Shenzhen, China with blueprints in hand and a vision. “It was incredibly important, when selecting manufactures to chose ones, especially overseas, that they treated their employees with fairness, dignity and respect. This was a mandate and an absolute for me.” Heckford insisted on visiting every factory, not only taking tours but speaking regularly to workers to make sure this was the case.
Whitney pauses and takes a moment to reflect on her journey when asked about her personal history with the plant. She says when she got her first job in the cannabis industry, she “absolutely fell in love. Cultivation was my passion and it found me. I became obsessed with learning everything about it. Nutrient ratios, strains, cross pollination and breeding. I loved it all. I was also heavily medicated at the time. As someone that has struggled with depression and insomnia – I tell people this is the simple truth : cannabis changed and saved my life.”
Professionally, Tracy Lamourie is the award winning CEO and Creative Director of Lamourie Media. Personally she is a long time activist and member of Canada's cannabis community. In her writing work she often combines her interest in cannabis and her interest in media, working to ensure a positive representation of cannabis consumers and cannabis business across North America and beyond.