When recreational cannabis was still illegal Nancy Whiteman In 2010, she quit her high-paying consulting job to cook in Boulder, Colorado.

Four years later, the state legalized the retail sale of marijuana, and Whiteman’s gamble paid off. The 64-year-old founder of the edible cannabis company Wana is now one of the richest self-made women in the US. net worth $225 millionaccording to Forbes.

“I like to say I went from the most traditional industry to the least traditional,” Whiteman said CNBC Make It in 2018. “I wanted a business where I could build value and it didn’t depend on me. I also like to cook.”

Much of Whiteman’s fortune comes from the sale of Wana for $350 million in 2021 to Canopy Growth, a Canadian cannabis company based in Ontario. It owned 100% of the company at the time of the acquisition — and was paid an initial payment of $297.5 million in cash, according to the sale announcement.

Today, Whiteman remains Wan’s CEO. It all started with the father of her daughter’s boyfriend hinting in an interview that he works in a somewhat illegal industry, Forbes reported. earlier this month.

That “got my full attention,” Whiteman told Forbes.

Initially, Whiteman and her then-husband John Whiteman decided to team up with a friend’s father and experiment together in a local commercial kitchen. Within a year, the couple decided to go it alone, investing between $50,000 and $60,000 of their own money to start Wana out of their kitchen.

Without outside funding, Wana did market research by visiting pharmacies to see what was popular, and the couple often had to cover the payout with their personal cash, Whiteman said. She also picked up odd jobs in marketing consulting to make ends meet, she now tells CNBC Make It.

She and John divorced in late 2011, but decided to remain business partners. Colorado legalized the sale of cannabis for dispensaries in 2014, and as national interest in the edible grew, so did Wan’s annual income.

By 2017, it had climbed to $14.5 million — from just $100,000 in the first year, Whiteman told CNBC Make It in 2018. A year later, Whiteman bought John’s remaining stake in the company.

The dishes are becoming more popular, Whiteman said. They now represent 12% of the cannabis industry, Seattle-based data company Headset found last year.

Courtesy of Wan

In the 13 years since Wana launched, 23 states and Washington DC have legalized the recreational use of cannabis. National Conference of State Legislatures.

Last year, the US hemp industry was valued at an estimated $13.2 billion Grand View Research. Dishes make up 12% of that market, the Seattle-based data company said Headphones found last year.

Some experts they warn that booming growth is slowing, in part because many people are struggling to create and sell their own food. U.S. cannabis sales skyrocketed in the early days of the pandemic, but revenues stalled and then declined in 2022.

That’s the challenge for Wana, which is now leaving California — America’s largest cannabis market — and is in the process of exiting Oregon.

“We happened to enter the market just as wholesale prices started to really come down,” Whiteman told Forbes. “We ended up in the unenviable position of a very expensive product in a market that was experiencing price compression for services.”

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