Born in the United States, raised in France, and now a California resident, Kim Geraghty has been fortunate enough to travel all over the world, soaking up culture at every turn. Diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) at a young age, Kim was prescribed ineffective pharmaceuticals that decreased her appetite and caused a lack of sleep. Kim first experimented with cannabis while in high school, and she immediately noticed a change for the better. From that moment on, she was hooked. She continued to smoke cannabis as she graduated in the top 5% of her high school, earned her Master’s degree in finance, and worked at top-tier financial institutions across the globe.
However, Kim felt her life was not complete. She was compelled to give back to the cannabis plant that had given her so much. So she gave up her generous salary and lavish apartment in the Upper East Side of New York, and relocated to California where she founded Madame Munchie, a San Francisco-based edible collective which combines a gourmet French feel with natural, California sun grown cannabis. Madame Munchie launched in early 2014 and was quickly awarded the 2014 San Francisco High Times Cannabis Cup ‘Best Edible’ award. Kim’s story is amazing, as she truly represents the newest breed of cannabis professionals.
Why did you decide to get involved with the cannabis industry?
I have been using cannabis on a daily basis since the age of 16. Whether it is for medical reasons or not, I believe that is a philosophical question. Do I suffer from ADD and depression or am I simply a human being prone to moments of difficulty? The truth doesn’t really matter to me. What matters is that cannabis has helped me enjoy life for more than ten years.
I was born in the United States, but I grew up in France. I came back once a year, however, to see my American doctor. My teachers in France couldn’t know that I was taking ADD medication because it wasn’t legal there. Once in high school, I started questioning my need for this medication and was feeling some of the secondary side effects: small appetite and lack of sleep. During school, my pharmaceutical medication often made me feel withdrawn. Around the same time, I started smoking cannabis with friends at parties. I always felt great when smoking, very relaxed and able to connect more easily with people. When I saw my doctor the next year, I told him that I wasn’t enjoying the ADD medication, or the other anti-anxiety pill he had given me briefly, but that I was very much enjoying smoking cannabis. To my surprise, he replied that many people chose to self-medicate with cannabis, and if I found that it brought me peace of mind, he didn’t have any objections to it, as long as it didn’t negatively impact my studies or my social life.
When it comes to the product itself, we don’t cut any corners.
I never looked back and have consumed cannabis on a daily basis since then. I also graduated in the top 5% of my high school, received a Master’s degree in finance, and worked at top-tier financial institutions in Paris, New York, and San Francisco. I found it much easier to make friends, often by enjoying some cannabis together. For me, the case for cannabis had been made: it was obviously helping me, or at least not preventing me from doing anything. On top of that, it stimulates my appetite and allows me to sleep great. I used it as my motivation throughout college: get this essay done, and then you can smoke a joint. It worked wonders, and it felt healthier than a pharmaceutical drug. The fact that cannabis had been endorsed by a professional healthcare person also helped me not be afraid of it.
Fast forward a few years and I’m sitting on the floor of my beautiful Upper East Side apartment, paid for by my generous investment banking salary, wondering what my life would be if I pursued the career path I had set myself on. I still smoked every day, though very few at work would have ever guessed it. I felt like I was living two lives, one during the day where I was valued enough to be paid a fantastic salary, and another at night where the act of smoking, by itself, could be enough to get me fired from my job. It was only by doing the job that was most unlike me that I was able to realize the importance of accepting my true passions. The thing I wanted to do most was to change the stigma around cannabis, and help others have access to a product that brought me so much. I was afraid of being judged by my peers and my mentors for actually being interested in cannabis as a career. But when I started talking about it at work with my very serious face and my very serious suit, I realized I could help cannabis become a very serious product. From there on, all I wanted to do was to create a gourmet cannabis brand and thus the idea for Madame Munchie was born.
How has your professional history helped you with Madame Munchie?
I worked in finance for over four years, in asset management, investment banking, and venture capital. These experiences were incredibly helpful in shaping my financial skills, ethics, discipline, and other business skills, which I continue to rely heavily on today. Equally as helpful were all the hours I spent studying art, photography, literature, and other more creative topics when I was younger. I’ve always had a passion for drawing and used to kill time in high school and at work (downtime only!) by entertaining my friends with comics. The Madame Munchie logo comes from a drawing I originally made by hand and then perfected on the computer. I always used to dream of finding a career path that would combine my financial skills with my artistic skills. In the end, I created this job for myself by starting Madame Munchie.
Even if our process takes longer or is more complex, I believe it is worth it as the end product we are building requires that extra time, care and complexity.
This multidimensional background also gave me another skill: it helped me realize how important presentation is when dealing with anything. At work in finance, I was respected and entrusted with responsibilities, because I played the part of a highly educated person dressed in a suit. But if the same people had encountered me sporting my previous dreadlocks and baggy jeans with a joint in my hand, they might have assumed I was an uneducated street kid. I realized cannabis suffered from the same problem: people were used to seeing it assimilated with ghetto back alley trades, and thus considered it as such. But if it were presented to them in the most beautiful, delicate and delicious form, people might begin to see if differently. That’s why macarons were the ultimate product choice: having grown up in France, I knew what high regards this pastry brought to mind and that it could help change the image of cannabis for good.
Where is your passion channeled right now?
My energies are going towards the growth of Madame Munchie, building a strong cannabis community, setting high standards and reaching them. I want to inspire others and I feel inspired by the incredible amount of talent in this young budding industry. I’m grateful for the pioneers from the past and want to be able to do for the next generation what they have done for us: pave the way for a better, free-er future.
Describe your work ethic in one word.
What do you consider your weakness as an entrepreneur? Your strength?
As an entrepreneur, I find it incredibly difficult to take a step back and gain some perspective. There are a million little things going on, which all need attention. But in the end, they are all part of one big vision, which also needs attention. I used to work all the time, 24/7, thinking that if I didn’t, I was letting the business down. But now I’ve realized that sometimes I’m better off taking a break, in the evenings and on weekends, so that when I return to business it’s with a fresh mind and a new pair of eyes.
Our team is a top-notch crew of passionate cannabis users, willing to put all their energy into Madame Munchie.
The upside of working on something that you are so deeply in love with is a mix of commitment and energy that I’ve rarely experienced before. I like to think that nothing is impossible, and it’s better to try and fail than to not try at all. This is the philosophy that guides me, knowing that the biggest factor of success is persistence.
How are you differentiating Madame Munchie from the competition?
Madame Munchie offers a naturally high-end product and we are geared towards the gourmet segment of the edibles market. I grew up in France and am fluent in both French and Spanish. I use these languages for web searches because they give me access to more information than if I were to only use English.
When it comes to the product itself, we don’t cut any corners. Even if our process takes longer or is more complex, I believe it is worth it as the end product we are building requires that extra time, care and complexity. We constantly choose quality first, and we hope the patients can taste the difference. Our team is a top-notch crew of passionate cannabis users, willing to put all their energy into Madame Munchie. Everyone here is very experienced, but also constantly improving themselves and willing to learn on the go.
What fuels your personal inspiration to operate in this difficult industry?
While working in finance, I read a lot of articles from other finance professionals who had left their finance careers to pursue their actual passion. These articles were one of my biggest inspirations to travel down that same path. Additionally, I’ve always received great support from my family, my friends, my team, and especially from my partner Ashley. She inspires me every day to be a better person, build a better industry, and live unafraid. Her unwavering compassion helps me grow.
Inside the cannabis industry, I’ve taken inspiration from dispensaries like Harborside Health Center and Berkeley Patients Group, as they have set and continue to set the standards for the industry. I’m equally inspired by other entrepreneurs who, like me, are risking their lives to help patients have access to natural and reliable medicine. I know I’m only one person, of many, who are trying to build this industry in a responsible way. I see the cannabis space as more than just an industry, I see it as a community providing a service to patients. Every single person working in this community has their own cannabis story, the story as to when and why they chose to come out of the dark because cannabis has had such a great impact on them.
These people are all experiencing incredible amounts of stress from working in an environment that is barely legal, just so they can provide better medicine for patients in need. I feel extremely inspired by this, knowing the struggle that everyone is putting up with so that we can build this community together.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
Don’t worry be happy.
Where do your great ideas come from?
My ideas come from all the different things I expose myself to, be it Art, museums, Lands End in San Francisco, music, cannabis, or the world. I’m extremely lucky to have traveled to more than 35 countries, and the differences in lifestyles I’ve seen all over the world have shown me that there is no right or wrong way to live life. Rules are relative.
While working in finance, I read a lot of articles from other finance professionals who had left their finance careers to pursue their actual passion. These articles were one of my biggest inspirations to travel down that same path.
What is important to you – mission, vision, or core values? Why?
Core values are extremely important. I think they are the pillars of any foundation. The mission is the path you’re walking down, so the clearer the better. And I think the vision is always with you but always changing too, and that’s ok.
What will we be seeing from you and Madame Munchie in the coming future?
Our plan is to continue to create more gourmet products and delicious flavors while at the same time continuing to maintain an unwavering commitment to high quality.
What scares you most about this industry?
The fact that national cannabis legalization is still dependent on the federal government worries me. The next presidential election could have a huge impact on the industry, especially if the elected person is not industry-friendly. I came into this industry to build a transparent and ethical cannabis business, but I constantly find myself having to hide from exposure. It’s hard to grow an industry when your rights as a business owner can still be challenged. And we are not just any kind of business, we are an established non-profit corporation. We are not doing this to get rich. As a community, we still face a lot of prosecution if our cases fall into the wrong hands.
I’m extremely lucky to have traveled to more than 35 countries, and the differences in lifestyles I’ve seen all over the world have shown me that there is no right or wrong way to live life. Rules are relative.
If you could tell a skeptic one thing about this industry to make them change their mind, what would it be?
If you’ve never tried cannabis, you can’t actually know what it is. And even if you tried it just once and didn’t like it, that’s not enough. It’s like eating a bad apple and saying that all apples are bad. There have been a lot of lies and propaganda that have wrongfully given cannabis a bad name. So before judging it negatively, try to have an open mind. It’s just a plant that actually happens to be very helpful for more people than you could imagine. Think of something about yourself that other people didn’t understand at first, but then once you explained it to them, they were able to accept.
What do you wish you had known before becoming a cannabis entrepreneur.
I wish I had known that there would be a permanent, underlying stress in your life because your business is basically like your baby.
I wish I had known that there would be a permanent, underlying stress in your life because your business is basically like your baby. I don’t have children, so I didn’t know how stressful that could be. On top of that, cannabis entrepreneurs face a unique legal gray area stress. I’m very sympathetic to all those in the community who are holding themselves up to the highest standards of the law despite this dichotomy.
Anything else you would like to share with our readers?
Don’t let anything stop you from pursuing your dreams. Work hard and seek advice from people you respect. Nothing is impossible, it simply hasn’t been done yet. And, if you’re still in the green closet, it’s time to come out. If you’re afraid of how people might judge you, like I was, then just put on that very serious face, that very serious suit, and tell them about Madame Munchie. ☺
What do you think about Kim’s story? What do you look for in a good edible? Join the conversation and comment below!