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Talent in Cannabis: An unexpected, lifelong passion for cannabis with Kathleen Hegedus

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In this Talent in Cannabis, we spoke with Kathleen Hegedus, Director of Sales North East at Kiva. She was born and raised in the North East, but started her cannabis journey in California. When it was time for Kiva to expand into the North East, she was excited to get back. In this interview, Kathleen dives into:

  • How she went from being a ‘square bear’ to a passionate cannabis consumer
  • The theme of her career has been outward-facing relationships
  • How her prior cannabis experience and first cannabis role were pivotal to her success at Kiva
  • Her cannabis ‘why’ and the thing that drives her every day
  • The growing theme of “collaboration over competition” she sees on the East Coast
I have never in my life met a more dedicated, resourceful, and creative group of individuals and community than in cannabis. Many people have been positively affected by this plant, which makes it a powerful and connected community.

– Kathleen Hegedus

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What were you doing before working in cannabis? 

The roles throughout my career have always been relationship-driven. Before cannabis, I was always in business-to-business or business-to-consumer roles, whether it was in sales or traditional marketing. My work has mostly been connected to health in some way —usually helping an organization or individual with a service or product offering.

When I first graduated from St. Mary’s College in California, I started to work for a group benefits insurance company called The Hartford. While that might not be nearly as action-packed as the cannabis industry, it was great for jump-starting my understanding of how health and disability insurance plays such an important role in people’s lives. I learned how to read and build contracts and worked with large and small companies. I’ve had experience in a variety of industries, including boutique fitness and tech.

Regardless of role or industry, at the core of my career has always been the intention to support individuals and businesses to grow or find solutions to challenges they and others face. And that’s what interestingly brought me to cannabis.


What drew you to the cannabis industry? 

I would no doubt say growing up I was a self-described ‘square bear’. It wasn’t until I was going through a big life transition (cue personal and professional stressors and change that woke me up nightly with no clear explanation) that I truly discovered the power of the cannabis plant. 

So as one does, when going through a big life moment – I went to my trusted group of girlfriends and they immediately educated me on the way cannabis could be helpful in not only providing me a restful night’s sleep but also some peace of mind. 

I learned through my personal experience of seeking support that cannabis, while widely recognized for its therapeutic properties – was not often recommended in a traditional healthcare setting. 

I’ll never forget how they walked me through applying for a medical card (Prop 215 Days of course) and still to this day get a good chuckle at the Google searches I must have typed out that evening as I did my first deep dive into the “therapeutic benefits of Cannabis”. 

I went into the Apothecarium dispensary in San Francisco, asked so many questions, and left feeling empowered with a mind full of information and a collection of new products. It was such a positive experience and so easy to navigate. I wanted to share the information with everyone I knew.

Once the regulations were dropped in California, I knew it was time to get into the industry. I remember having a conversation with Brian Dewey VP of Sales and Distribution at Kiva to figure out how to get more in the know. I found a role at a vertically integrated company in Humboldt, called CBDAlive.

Kiva confections worker making edibles - flowerhire blog talent in cannabis profile kathleen hegedus
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What’s your cannabis ‘why’?

I’ve never felt more inspired, seen, and excited to make a change in the world than I have since moving into the cannabis industry. The dedication, resourcefulness, and creativity of the individuals and groups within this cannabis community are unmatched. The belief and commitment by so many for so long and at such high stakes to bring safe access to the plant is just at times hard to put into words. It’s truly the driving force and inspiration that gets me up every day. Knowing that what we are collectively creating is helping someone’s grandmother receive pain relief for her arthritis or to give someone a better chance to sleep through the night.

And I think there’s a special thing about doing something that isn’t easy but is the right thing to do. Even in the face of resistance, the cannabis community is always persevering, and it’s a powerful and inspiring movement to be a part of. 

What was your first role in the cannabis industry?

My first cannabis role was at CBDAlive based in Humboldt, CA. It was the perfect first step for me as I dove into full education/learner mode. I also had the benefit of witnessing how the supply chain of product manufacturing worked as everything from cultivation to manufacturing and through the wholesale/retail sale was in-house. It gave me a chance to learn, get to know the plant, and learn the science behind different product creations. They were very intentional about product ratios and who those ratios would serve based on treatment plans or desired effects.

Your current role is at Kiva. What led you there?

FlowerHire had reached out to me a few times with some great opportunities at reputable companies. We had gotten to the offer stage, but it did not get me excited enough to leave my role at CBD Live. 

I always kept in contact with FlowerHire, and finally, David, the CEO of FlowerHire, reached out about an opportunity at Kiva and pushed to get me in front of their team. From the moment we first met, the energy, feeling, and fit of meeting the team were like meeting someone who was a good friend. It felt like we had known for a long time — it felt so right from the beginning.

That journey started at the beginning of 2019, and it truly changed my life and has been a journey ever since. Kiva is the first place in my entire career that I truly felt seen from the moment I started on day one.

If you had asked me 10 years ago what would light me up, I never would have thought it would be cannabis. But it truly is. I am a lifer. No doubt about it.


Which skills and experiences helped you transition into cannabis?

All of the experiences that I had in other industries set me up to enter into cannabis. The things that resonate are resilience, adaptability, being nimble, and flexible. 

I worked at a studio where I had to sit in the seat of the business owner, which gave me empathy for the day-to-day challenges of a business owner, like retail business and cash flow, staffing, events, and marketing. And, now, to be able to see how challenging those same things are in cannabis brings a level of empathy. Having that understanding and drawing those parallels has put me light years ahead.

Having previous experiences allows you to say, “Here are some of the tools or scenarios that I’ve encountered, and while this might not be an exact fit, how could we shape this differently to get us to where we need to be?”

I’m not sure if this is a “skill”, but it’s good to have a sense of humor because some things just don’t make sense.


Where do you see your career going in cannabis? 

Future planning… Does this mean I’m manifesting?! When I think about what I’m most excited about both professionally and personally is the ability to build. Build community, campaigns, projects, initiatives, and teams with individuals connected to the plant. I hope to continue to build in whatever capacity I can, always growing and learning.

In moving back to the East Coast, I am both excited and grateful to be a part of the collective growth and momentum we are experiencing. Moving closer to family (as I was born on the East Coast) while at the same time being able to build our brand presence ‘coast to coast’ has been a true joy. 

For now, I’m focused on building and hope that we continue to see opportunities to keep that growth going whether nationally, internationally, etc.

What are one or two things you’d like to see change in the cannabis industry?

Gosh – I love a Cannabis Wish List! There’s of course the ultimate wish list item… To see legislation to reduce struggles of safe banking, logistics, and of course the long-standing impact of the War on Drugs that continues to plague the industry.

On a personal level, a wish for change I have is also to see the continued support and development of the community as a pillar of growth. The importance of having diversity of thought, background, and opportunity. What excites me most is that in markets like NY, NJ, MA, and beyond we are already seeing the efforts by so many for “collaboration over competition” to drive the changes we want to see. That makes it seem like change is most definitely on the way!


If you like this, you may like these Talent in Cannabis Profiles:

Amanda Reiman and her dedication to social change

Mike Gray and the importance of cannabis genetics

Otha Smith – renewable energy sales to cannabis entrepreneur

Herlena Harris – the winding path to cannabis

@madebykiva | #kivapride (with Kathleen Hegedus)

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