This week’s Q10 features T’Shura Gibbs, the chief executive officer of Zimmer and Company, the health and wellness distribution company focused on medicinal cannabis and hemp-based Cannabidiol (CBD) products. Gibbs has become a highly visible and vocal personality in Jamaica’s burgeoning medical marijuana industry, but this was preceded by a sterling reputation for customer service both as a regional director of the Jamaica Public Service Limited and in a number of roles during her 20 years of service in the airline industry.
Gibbs, a Montegonian, has dedicated herself to the service of Montego Bay, being the executive director of the I Love MoBay Foundation, and having served as president of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry. She also sits on the boards of CanEx Jamaica, CannaMexico and Northwest Construction & Development.
The well-known businesswoman is the mother of Carlesa, Alejandra, Donovan and Philippe.
Q10: Who is the single most influential person in your life and why?
GIBBS: I am going to say my mother. I gained my work ethics from her. She was a single mother, growing initially three and then four children pretty much on her own, and it was just seeing how hard she had to work to make sure we were taken care of. I grew up thinking I was wealthy and it was when I became an adult, I realised that I wasn’t but there was just so much love at home that everybody had that feeling of abundance.
Q10: Service to Montego Bay has been a big part of your life. What is your dream or ambition for Montego Bay?
GIBBS: My vision for Montego Bay is a big one. I see us elevating the people through education. I also see us lifting the consciousness of the people, especially the next generation, using various means; from teaching meditation in school to ensuring that we are giving our children the platform they need to grow. Not just sticking to traditional forms of education but identifying the strengths of our children and helping them to develop in those areas. I also see a smart city, one where we not only have Wi-Fi all over, but also where we leverage technology to improve our economy and expand our offerings.
Q10: What drives your passion for customer service?
GIBBS: I believe that if you are exchanging money you ought to get value for that money, and that value comes not just in the product that you buy but the service that is delivered. I come from a strong airline industry background and we were very customer-centric and I have taken that with me.
Q10: What was your motivation to become involved in the medical marijuana industry?
GIBBS: In May 2015, my fiancé was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Doctors don’t like to hear this but when loved ones are sick, we go to ‘Doctor’ Google, too. In consulting Google, I realised that there were cannabis products that people were saying could either help with the cancer or with the side effects of chemotherapy such as nausea. When he was not eating in his last couple of days, we started to look at other natural products to stimulate his appetite. Unfortunately, he died two and a half weeks after diagnosis so we never got to even try it. It was however, after that at CanEx Jamaica 2017 that there was a lot of discussion and argument around ganja, such as who was growing it, who should grow it, who should get licenses etc… and I sat there wondering when we grow all of this ganja what are we going to do with it and then like the universe was answering my question, the next presentation was by the Ministry of Health and they spoke about registering finished products in Jamaica. I saw the opportunity to bring these products to market, identifying the products that worked, identifying the products that were adding value to other people’s lives in other markets, bringing those products to our market and just seeing the positive impact on the lives of people here in Jamaica from these medicines.
Q10: Why have you often publicly stressed the importance of education in the medical marijuana industry?
GIBBS: We’ve grown up in an era where ganja was bad for you, ganja was bad for everybody, ganja was illegal, and you were not supposed to be associated with it. That stigma will remain unless we educate our people; from the person who is using it, to the child you don’t want to be using it, to the person who is going to be selling or prescribing it. It is important that knowledge is shared and everyone understands the benefits of the plant and its effects on the endocannabinoid system.
Q10: How do you believe stakeholders in the private sector and government can make that education happen?
GIBBS: It is through attending conferences and workshops. I have gone to probably 20 conferences in the last year and a half to educate myself. It is the government partnering with other nations that are already more advanced in the cannabis space and seeing where we can support each other with education. It is ensuring that we are introducing the endocannabinoid system in medical schools, so our doctors and other medical professionals understand that the system exists in the body and understand how it works and how prescribing cannabis derived drugs might help their patients.
Q10: How are you ensuring that Jamaicans reap its rewards from a business perspective?
GIBBS: What we have done for CanEx this year, and we did it last year, is that we are paying for 200 farmers to attend the expo so they can be exposed to what’s going on in the industry, globally. The hope and the intention is to use ganja grown by local farmers and to have products manufactured locally for global distribution. Zimmer and Company is not growing, we are not manufacturing, we are a distributor, and I believe everyone who wants to participate can do so as we create a strong value chain system. At Zimmer and Company, we are also making sure that we are not only employing Jamaicans but we are paying them well. All my 13 team members are full-time employees with proper health insurance and other benefits and are paid above industry standard.
Q10: What is your favourite cannabis product that you distribute?
GIBBS: My favourite product is the xCan21 CBD gel. It’s like a little magic potion in a bottle. It is good for eczema, scars, acne and other atopic skin conditions. The reason I love it is because of the many lives that have been transformed simply by using that little product.
Q10: What do you want your business peers saying about you 20 years from now?
GIBBS: I want my business peers to say “she was a pioneer who created a pathway for the rest of Jamaica and the Caribbean within the cannabis ecosystem”.
Q10: What do you want your family saying about you 20 years from now?
GIBBS: I want more than anything else for my children to be proud of me. I want them to know that what mummy did was to create something not just for them, but that I stood in service to the people of this great city of Montego Bay.