Woman of the Year: Jill Ellsworth, Willow Industries
Jill Ellsworth is an entrepreneur at heart.
As the founder and CEO of Willow Industries, she is guiding the cannabis decontamination business to new vistas with an unwavering focus on ensuring consumer safety and providing high-quality products. She was awarded the 2023 Green Market Report Women’s Leadership Award for Woman of the Year.
Ellsworth’s entrepreneurial journey began in the food and beverage industry, where she established one of the first cold-pressed juice companies in Santa Barbara and later in Colorado. Drawing on her background as a registered dietitian and holding a master’s in food science and nutrition, she saw an opportunity to bring her food safety expertise into the legal cannabis space.
“I literally had this thought. I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m gonna find a way to clean weed.’ And so that is what we do,” she recounted.
The inception of Willow Industries was met with initial skepticism, Ellsworth said. “I originally started it, and no one gave a shit and there was no adoption and I was like, what are we doing? This is so awful.”
Still, despite the challenges, Ellsworth remained resilient, always urging herself to “always keep going, always keep going. Because if you go to bed and you wake up and you feel like you can do it one more day, like one more day turns into seven years.”
Ellsworth’s dedication to her venture bore fruit as Willow Industries began to see significant adoption and success. She says the company’s unique value proposition lies in its approach of partnering with cultivators, providing not just technology but also a comprehensive support system to ensure high-quality and safe products for consumers.
Beyond her professional accomplishments, Ellsworth is also an advocate for women in business. As a female CEO in a predominantly male industry, she acknowledges the challenges women face, noting that she has often found herself as the only woman in a room full of men. However, she believes that her longevity in the industry commands respect and hopes to inspire more women to start their own businesses.
Ellsworth’s determination and success are fueled by her “awesome” team. She is a firm believer in fostering strong relationships, both within the company and with external partners, emphasizing that maintaining positive relationships can pay back “in spades.”
A key to her leadership style is making sure her team is happy and fulfilled in their careers. She also focuses on continuous innovation and exceptional customer service, drawing inspiration from companies like Tesla.
Looking ahead, Ellsworth has big ambitions for her brainchild. “I want to build a really great business with a team that thrives and is happy and healthy,” she says.
“I want to be the gold standard for kill-step technology. I feel like we’re setting ourselves up nicely to come out of this just like that.”