Interview by Tricia Williamson
Our cover girl, T’Shura Gibbs, has served for almost twenty years in the airline industry getting her start with AJAS Aviation Services then Avianca Airlines where she served as General Manager for Jamaica before joining US Airways as Station Manager for several Caribbean Islands. She then switched industries, moving on to Jamaica’s sole electricity distributor, JPS, where served as Regional Director with responsibility for almost half of the island. After five highly successful years at JPS, T’Shura decided to trade “kilowatts for CBD” and took up the role as CEO of Zimmer and Co. She is the former President of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry and sits on the Operations Board of Junior Achievement Jamaica, the CanEx Jamaica Advisory Board and is the Executive Director of the I Love MoBay Foundation.
PANACHE: What exactly makes T’Shura Gibbs tick?
T’Shura Gibbs: Knowing that I am able to make a difference in the lives of so many people; knowing that we are creating jobs and adding to our country’s economic growth is enough to get me going.
PANACHE: What motivated you- a former regional director for an energy company to decide to get into the cannabis industry?
T’Shura: The tremendous medical benefits; I first learned about the health benefits of medicinal cannabis in 2015. In 2017 at the CanEx conference I seized the opportunity to participate in the industry after realizing the extent to which the medicine could change and improve lives and what I saw to be a significant opportunity within the Caribbean.
PANACHE: What product/ service is your company Zimmer & Co focused on now? Where can Jamaicans and travellers to Jamaica find them?
T’Shura: Zimmer is a health and wellness distribution business that right now is focused on hemp-based CBD products. Our products are available in pharmacies island wide. Some products require a prescription, therefore, requiring a visit to a doctor.
PANACHE: Given that your company distributes a range of medicinal cannabis products what has that retail experience been like for you both success and challenges?
T’Shura: One of the biggest challenges is the stigma associated with cannabis and the lack of education from both end users and medical practitioners surrounding the medicinal benefits of cannabis. We have embarked on a campaign to educate both groups which have been effective. We consider it a tremendous success every time we get a story from one of our customers about the difference the medicine has made in their lives. Hearing an individual go from living a life of discomfort and pain to happily enjoy their days and moments after taking our products gives me a huge sense of satisfaction and fulfillment.
PANACHE: What would you say differentiates your business from other cannabis companies?
T’Shura: In Jamaica, many of the companies are focused on cultivation while we focus on finished products. While some are developing the input and commodity that is medicinal grade cannabis and its various extracts, we are focused on finished products and in the process lead the way in terms of educating the medical fraternity and our target audiences about medicinal cannabis, its uses, effectiveness, and medical properties. Additionally, as a licensed distribution pharmacy; we have opted to specialize in medicinal cannabis.
PANACHE: You’ve received a US $1M investment into Zimmer & Co, can you tell us what that investment will be used for?
T’Shura: Our investment will fund working capital and the expansion of our product portfolio and the markets in which we operate.
PANACHE: What are the challenges you think the industry in Jamaica/Caribbean faces financially/ legally or opportunities that need to be pursued to truly move forward?
T’Shura: The major industry challenges include: banking issues; not enough governmental support for small farmers to enable them to fully participate in the industry, lack of education surrounding growing cannabis for medicinal purposes and speed. This industry is the fastest growing globally and is evolving daily. We salute the recent moves by the Jamaican Government but Caribbean governments on a whole need to move faster and more purposefully if we are to secure the collective benefits that exist for our region.
PANACHE: How can Jamaica’s formal cannabis market, now in its nascent stages, ensure that everyone (from the ground up) truly benefits?
T’Shura: The legal cannabis industry holds the promise of tremendous economic benefit for Jamaica. First it offers a significant source of additional tax revenues, but more compelling is the transformative power it holds when a fully engaged industry sees the benefit of the job creation and all the attendant economic benefits that come with opening up a thriving economic sector – people buying houses, renting apartments, purchasing cars, eating at restaurants, investing in the stock market, etc. The potential economic impact of this industry to Jamaica and the direct improvement it will make to the quality of lives of so many Jamaicans warrants the attention and focus it has started to receive from the Government, JAMPRO, the Economic Growth Council and other entities charged with driving growth in the country.
PANACHE: What’s your ultimate goal for Zimmer & Co in 3 to 5 years?
T’Shura: We expect to be a major player in the industry shipping products globally and providing world-leading work environment and culture.
PANACHE: We have noted that in addition to CanEx 2018 you are also a guest speaker at the Doing Power Differently Breakfast workshop on October 28 in Kingston Jamaica. Why is it important for persons to attend each of those events that you are headlining?
T’Shura: Ongoing education is key to our personal and professional development. We all have our individual stories and experiences that we can share to help others along the journey of life. CanEx 2018 was a huge success with delegates from 22 countries present; Doing Power Differently is already sold out.
PANACHE: As a working mom and entrepreneur/ CEO how to do balance it all?
T’Shura: Balancing is hard; so I try to integrate the two. I am fortunate to have a strong support system and with the advent of video calling, I am able to do homework via WhatsApp. I have two young sons (and two older daughters) who hang out in the ‘chill corner’ at my office when I am there on weekends. They stop by the office on the way home from school when I am working late and I try to take them to and from school and extra-circular activities as much as I can.
PANACHE: What is your mantra? What motivates you?
T’Shura: Our Vision, ‘Helping People. Changing Lives.’ Is not just a four letter word, it is something I believe in.
PANACHE: Any final thoughts?
T’Shura: Thank you for this opportunity. I hope our readers will conduct their own research into medicinal cannabis and in particular CBD, and talk to their doctor or pharmacist about the benefits of these products.