Sara is a startup veteran with 20 years of experience founding and funding companies and honing her expertise in finance and early-stage capital. She came to Oregon from Silicon Valley where she was a partner in an angel fund for which she built the first, data-backed portfolio strategy for investing in diverse founders. On moving to Oregon in 2014 she entered the cannabis industry, founding Hifi Farms and the Portland Chapter of Women grow where she began her exploration into developing tools and resources for fundraising founders excluded from access to capital. In 2018 Sara turned her full attention to this mission and created The Equity Capital Collective. Sara created the first truly comprehensive, technically sophisticated, and emotionally intelligent curriculum supporting fundraising as a skill set for diverse founders which she now teaches online in the Fundraising Masterclass.
Sara was recognized as an “Executive to Watch” in 2017 and a “Woman of Influence” in 2018 by the Portland Business Journal. She is a respected speaker and teacher and serves on the board of Left Coast Financial Services, the first federally approved cannabis bank, and The Dub, Oregon’s leading cannabis distributor. She lives with her partner Jon on a working hemp farm that develops hemp genetics for commercial cultivation.
When building the cannabis industry from the ground up, why is gender parity so important?
Businesses, systems and even an entire economy, are more resilient, and breeds better decisions and more balanced priorities when it is diverse. Women are critical in cannabis, not just as a social justice issue, but because we deliver a different perspective, leadership style and set of priorities into this rapidly evolving space. Building an entire economy from the ground up offers an amazing opportunity to demonstrate what we have all intuitively known for a long time, and that is that women are an essential balance to men in the creation of models that drive multiple objectives both economically and socially. Shared economic influence and power improves outcomes across aspects of our culture and that is what diversity in cannabis will do for communities all over America.
What social justice and/or criminal justice reforms do you want the US to make around its drug policy, particularly around cannabis?
The War on Drugs has been an unmitigated disaster and I think will go down in history as one of America’s greatest failures. Our legislators now have the opportunity to undo some of the damage that’s been done and ensure future generations of Americans don’t have their lives ruined because they enjoy cannabis. These issues effect the minority community in a disproportionate way, and for our company it’s important that we continue to be activists for sensible drug policy, because quite frankly the fight is far from over.
Why are environmentally sustainable business practices essential to the future of the cannabis industry?
Cannabis already accounts for a fairly staggering amount of water and power usage in places where its grown, so it’s vital for leaders in the industry to understand that environmental sustainability isn’t just a buzzword or a talking point, it’s a reflection of your personal values and business ethics. I think consumers are smart – they will want cannabis that’s grown in a sustainable way from farms that are environmentally conscious. Nobody wants to purchase a product that has a history of human misery or ecological disaster behind it, and that’s even more true in the cannabis community, which has deep roots in environmental and political activism.
“Environmental sustainability isn’t just a buzzword or a talking point, it’s a reflection of your personal values and business ethics.” – Sara Batterby, CEO, Hifi Farms
How do you incorporate gender parity, social justice, and environmental sustainability into your work and the growth of your business/organization?
Sustainability is a core principle even before it is a set of practices and methods. It is foundational to everything that we do at Hifi, from how we hire new talent to how we plan for scale in our business. I believe that gender parity, social justice and environmental responsibility are all aspects of sustainability. They are all about integration, balance and awareness, and they all come down to respect, for people, the plant and the planet. I think the first rule is awareness and a learning mindset. Curiosity leads to insight and that creates an imperative for change where it is needed. Leaders in this industry need to recognize that their skills are valuable, but their ability to recognize what is yet to be learned and how we can continue to push towards ever more sustainable and respectful ways of doing our craft is even more important.