International Women's Day | Meet Kikoko Founders Amanda & Jennifer
Amanda Jones and Jennifer Chapin are the co-Founders and co-CEOs of Kikoko, a cannabis botanical wellness company originally founded to help a friend with cancer. Kikoko is a female-orientated brand with a mission to provide plant-based, scientifically proven alternatives to pharmaceuticals and alcohol. The company is grounded in the principle of equality for women with its number one business rule being No Assholes. Naturally, we had to chat with Amanda & Jennifer for our International Women’s Day series. Find out how they have overcome challenges as female co-founders and how they #BreakTheBias in a male-dominated industry.
What inspired you to start Kikoko?
We unabashedly set out to create a brand for women, run by women. When we got into the industry in 2015, there were no female-centric brands and there were no low-dose products. We founded our company because of a girlfriend who had cancer. Cannabis helped her, but the products back then were so high in THC that everything made her rippingly high. We were also one of the first to come out with benefit-based products because we knew that women wanted help with replacing alcohol and finding relief for certain issues. And today, Kikoko products are all specifically developed to help with sleep, pain, anxiety, libido, mood, and play. Jen and I are also diehard feminists. We believe the world needs more women leaders, so we hire mostly women, promote them, and pay them fairly.
Have you faced any challenges, stereotypes, or biases as female co-founders? If yes, how did you overcome them?
I have to laugh at this question. Ah, let me count the ways! First of all, women only receive 2.2% of venture capital funding in the US, which is not only insulting, it is horribly biased business decision-making. So yes, we have had massive issues with raising money and it takes us probably 4x longer than it might if we were men. Additionally, in cannabis there is still a very strong “bro culture” and these relationships build business connections. It can be hard for women to break into this. We’ve overcome this by sure doggedness and determination. There are no shortcuts, unfortunately, other than sticking to your principles. We’ve raised $14 million to date, and every cent was hard-won. When we first got into the business and attended a cannabis conference, for example, one male-led brand actually hired models to lie nearly naked on a buffet table covered with deli meats for people to eat. Things have improved from there, but men in this industry need to really put their money where their mouths are and buy or partner with women-owned brands.
What advice do you have for other female entrepreneurs?
Stick to it. Surround yourself with a team of advisors that really know their stuff. Hire women, pay them fairly. Don’t give too much of your company away in the beginning. Bootstrap for as long as you can before you raise money. Invest in women-owned businesses if you have the money and offer to mentor younger women. If women don’t support other women, who will?
Which woman do you admire the most and why?
I admire any woman standing up to the patriarchy and shaking up the world. I admire the women of Ukraine. I admire the women standing up to Putin. I admire women in business who practice running their business the women’s way, with compassion and putting people over profit.
What do you dream of achieving with Kikoko?
To become the leading cannabis women’s wellness brand in the United States and eventually the rest of the world.