Last year, whenever women asked Jazmin Hupp about starting a medical-marijuana business in New York, she responded with a question: “Do you have a million dollars?” Hupp is the founder of Women Grow, a professional network for women with marijuana businesses, and she’s used to helping others get their start in a male-dominated industry. New York, however, was especially daunting. The state was licensing only five companies to participate in its medical-marijuana program, and each would be required to grow its own marijuana, process the flowers into a pill or oil at a manufacturing plant, and then sell the final product at four dispensaries around the state. The costs of vertical integration are enormous, and it is historically more difficult for women to raise capital than men. None of the women who called Hupp had the funding they needed — until Amy Peckham and her daughters Hillary and Keeley called her last September. “Do you have a million dollars?” Hupp asked. “Yes,” said Amy. “Yes, we do.”
The Peckham women are like characters from a Jenji Kohan script that was workshopped by a Lean In circle. They come from a wealthy family in Westchester County. Amy Peckham is a compact blonde woman who raised four children; sat on the board of Peckham Industries, her husband’s construction-material company; and started a family foundation. When the New York legislature was poised to pass a medical-marijuana program in the spring of 2014, she called her daughters Hillary and Keeley and suggested the Peckham women branch out on their own. She had been waiting for New York to legalize medical marijuana after watching her mother suffer from ALS without access to the drug. Hillary, a senior at Hamilton College, was an easy recruit: Who else was going to offer her a job as the chief operating officer of a new company?* Meanwhile, Keeley was 25 and trying to start a horticultural therapy in New Orleans when her mother called. “I wouldn’t come back without a greenhouse,” she said, so her mother offered her a job as chief horticultural officer. They called the company Etain, after a heroine from Irish mythology. Amy was named the CEO.