Article by Shavon Lindley, Forbes
When it comes to leadership, women are on the verge of a collective evolution. By interviewing over 150 rising female leaders from a vast range of backgrounds, experiences, and industries, I have uncovered six common pillars of leadership that propel women forward and upward, personally and professionally. They are: Owning Her Purpose; Owning Her Voice; Owning Her Emotions; Owning Her Feedback; Owning Her Conversations; and Owning Her Evolution. Each Forbes article I write will feature the story of a woman who has leveraged one of these key pillars in her own journey and sharing the opportunity in how you can do the same.
My first job out of college was as a financial planner. It was a job I liked and did well and for which I was handsomely compensated. So how did I end up here, fifteen years later, writing this column? The answer is simple: I owned my purpose.
Often I find the women who truly own their purpose are the ones whose career evolutions are the most compelling—and Toronto native Melissa Rolston’s story is exhibit A in this regard. A photographer by training, Rolston stumbled rather accidentally into a completely unrelated field, healthcare, which then led her to work in still another, somewhat controversial industry: cannabis.
After working for a year in the cannabis industry, Rolston really zeroed in on patient care. She recalls with exquisite emotion the moment two years ago when the mother of a pediatric oncology patient with whom Rolston had been working for months called to tell her the child’s tumors had shrunk by half. “I remember hanging up the phone, closing my door, sitting down and sobbing because I was just so truly and purely happy,” says Rolston.
The journey from illness to health—using holistic tools and resources including but not limited to medical marijuana—became Rolston’s life’s passion (I’ve neglected thus far to mention Rolston is just 24) and the springboard to her current venture, TeamMD. TeamMD, a virtual “full-spectrum” education company specializes in chronic pain and chronic degenerative disease management and aims to “redefine the patient care experience through education, compassion, and lifestyle choices.”
I have to say I was eager to uncover Rolston’s own personal secrets to succeeding as a young, female entrepreneur. Launching and sustaining a startup is challenging for even the most seasoned business veterans—so how does a twenty-something woman without professional training in the field overcome the extra obstacles of ageism, sexism and low expectations? Read on to find out how Rolston turned her evolution into a revolution for young women in the cannabis and medical education fields.
Tip #1. You never know when opportunity might strike, so get ready to run with it.
“I moved to Toronto to pursue photography. But while I was hustling print work I picked up a side job as an executive assistant to a gentleman who was starting up as a Licensed Producer which, if licensed, would distribute medical marijuana to patients. As we awaited licensing, we ended up starting one of the first patient acquisition clinics which focused on medical cannabis. I developed such personal connections with the patients, that when I was moved to a dispensary to help transition them to the new medical regime (MMPR at the time) I discovered a new passion which fed my soul,” says Rolston.
Once she discovered this passion for patient care and comfort, Rolston made the bold decision to put down her camera and switch gears to health care full-time. She found huge personal satisfaction in helping fill a void for patients who’d lacked access to the medicines they needed. Having tapped into that need in the marketplace, Rolston helped found a virtual medical clinic at the ripe old age of 23.