Bethany Stiles is most certainly ambitious. She is not only the CEO of Stiles Consulting Group, but she’s the founder and CEO of the new female-focused CBD tea brand Empress. While Bethany works with other entrepreneurs to expand their cannabis brands in the competitive Southern California market, she’s also building her own personal brand as well.
I connected with Bethany to discuss the challenges of succeeding in the cannabis space amid changing legislation, her plans for the future, and what she’s learned working as a woman in an industry that has traditionally been male-dominated. Get to know her better in our interview.
Brittany Frederick: How did you originally enter the cannabis industry and how did you decide what direction to take? This isn’t a field with a conventional career path.
Bethany Stiles: I kind of fell into the industry. I moved out here originally to try to find myself, and I knew that the cannabis industry was out here, but didn’t actually know I could build a career in it. I honestly had no direction in my life at that time and was suffering from depression and anxiety. I’ve used CBD and cannabis to quell my anxiety for years, so it made sense when the opportunity presented itself as legal and easy to access in California, and also as a potential career.
I met the CEO of a huge cannabis distribution company based in San Diego and started working for him in business development. When I thought about what I wanted to do as a career and long-term, I knew I needed to get more experiences working directly for brands in the space since that’s what I eventually wanted to create – a brand. And that’s where I started.
BF: Your industry faces a unique challenge in that, particularly in California, we’ve seen massive changes in the laws surrounding cannabis. How does that impact you on a daily basis?
BS: It’s challenging. It’s very challenging. I have to stay on my toes every day. When I wake up in the morning, I have to go through all of my Google alert emails and see what regulations have changed, see what the different states are doing and find out what company closed or opened overnight. It’s usually how I spend the first hour of every work day. It’s just catching up with what happened overnight in the industry. You never know what to prepare for. So it’s a challenge, but it forces you to be really adaptable, which is an incredible skill to hone in a start-up industry.
BF: Separately from your company, you’ve made a conscious decision to devote part of your time to helping others with Stiles Consulting Group. Why did you go that direction, when you could focus solely on your own business?
BS: I think part of it was driven by my negative experiences with other companies that I felt were very money-hungry, and then I think the other half of it was wanting to pay it back to all of the strong women and strong leaders and mentors that I’ve had that really took a chance on me early in my career.. I don’t have a college degree. So for me, it took a long time to really believe that this is something that I could do.
And by the time I really believed it enough in my heart to make it my reality, all I could think about was how grateful I was, how much gratitude I’d had for the people that gave me opportunities within the business and saw me as an asset for their company. And so everything that I create now, I feel this strong dedication to make sure that I’m giving back. This isn’t for me to build my career so that I can have some big, lavish house in the Hills. I want to help support other women achieve their fullest potential too.
BF: What do you have planned in 2020?
BS: I have my CBD-infused tea company Empress. That’s going to be really exciting. We’ll probably have a few additional products within the line besides the tea that we’ll be launching closer to the end of the year, probably in the fall. We’ll launch topicals and some other fun form factors under that brand.
I’m also working towards putting together a group of badass men and women in the industry, like a networking group that’s very action-based and the people are curated with a set of standards and beliefs that are all about empowering others. One of the things that I’m finding with all of the networking groups that I’ve come across is a lot of people get together and they talk about the change that they want to see in the industry, but don’t actually monetize their networks properly or begin in their local community. That’s what I want to help fix.
BF: You mentioned the strong women who’d helped you in your career. Cannabis is another industry that tends to be more male. So what have your experiences been as a woman in this field?
BS: It is a male-dominated industry and it’s definitely had its horror stories, but it hasn’t all been bad experiences. I recognize the part I’ve played in every difficult work situation I’ve been in, and that’s where I really want to focus so that other women can learn from my experiences in a positive and constructive way.
For a while, I tended to overwork and I felt like I had to lead with masculine energy at all times, and that the only way I’d be accepted into higher levels of management would be if I just worked all the time and had no personal life and no social life. After suffering from that burnout I lost all of my creativity, which is what originally gave me so much value and so much joy. And so I really started to pull back and more into my feminine [energy] and stop making excuses for the way that I am or how I think and how I operate.
This whole idea of just work all the time, and working a hundred hours a week, it’s not sustainable, and I think it’s sad that so much of our society puts such an emphasis on working harder. But I think through all my experiences I learned working smarter and not harder is best, and embracing who I am and becoming confident in who I am, that’s allowed me to really weed through who I should avoid in this space and who I should get closer to.
BF: Is there any particular lesson you want to impart to entrepreneurs, regardless of the specific type of business that they’re in? Because your experience can apply to more than just this one space.
BS: I’ve learned a lot of valuable lessons that I’d like to share with anyone. One of them being you don’t have to have it all figured out today. I’m such a perfectionist and I always feel like I can’t launch this product until every little detail is perfect, or I can’t launch my website until I’ve thought about all of the services that I am going to have in the future. Now I know how to just take it step by step. I think that’s been the biggest thing for me. Just take it day by day and you can always make improvements. You can always perfect things over time, but just go for it. Just start somewhere.
BF: What’s one thing you want people to know about Bethany Stiles that they don’t yet?
BS: I have a really interesting family dynamic that not many people know about. Over the past few years I’ve connected with two sisters that were given up for adoption right after I was born, that were hidden pregnancies my mom had never told anyone about. I grew up with two sisters, Julie and Violet, who are eight years and 14 years younger than me, so us all finding out about Kara and Evelyn has been an intense and exhilarating ride! It’s incredible to learn about how their lives have been and getting to know both of their sons, my nephews. I’m so grateful to have them now and although it hasn’t been easy to process, it really does feel like a fairy tale ending.