Women of Cannabis: Donna Klauenburch, President of Thrive Hydroponics Inc. 30 A Mill Street in Healdsburg.
Looking closer at the cannabis movement in Sonoma County, I have found that families have been working together, passing on knowledge of the plant for generations with a focus on its roots in herbalism. Wives and husbands, sisters and brothers, fathers and sons, grandparents and grandchildren, mothers and daughters are all the foundation of our local industry.
Bringing family values, camaraderie, compassion, and sharing of knowledge are just a few of the benefits of having a multi-generational industry. I met Donna Klauenburch last year through Women Grow, now Women's Cannabis Business Development (WCBD). Donna and Thrive Hydroponics sponsored multiple events and showed great enthusiasm for building the local female cannabis entrepreneur community. Her zest for cannabis is contagious and her dedication is illustrated by her successful business, Thrive Hydroponics in Healdsburg.
Donna lived in West Sonoma County for over 35 years and raised her family on a large ranch off the grid complete with extensive vegetable and herb gardens, fruit orchards and a solar system that powers their home. So you can say they were original back to the landers. When Donna first moved to Sonoma County she studied with local legend Rosemary Gladstar at the CA School of Herbal Studies in Forestville. She has a degree in Environmental Studies with an emphasis in Environmental Education, she is a certified nutritional consultant from Bauman College in Penngrove and taught there as well. Done also has a Masters degree in Health and Nutrition Education. She developed a line of whole-leaf, organic medicinal herbal teas called Pool Ridge Herbals which she sold locally and online for many years and used extensively with her clients. For five years she owned a resort and spa in Guerneville, CA.
When and how did you get into hydroponics?
“As long time residents of Sonoma County and with a strong background in herbalism, nutrition, gardening and business we have been part of growing and alternative lifestyles for many years. After we sold our resort and spa in Guerneville I was very restless and was looking for something exciting to get in involved in. While on a trip to Washington DC, my middle son ( I have two sons and a daughter) called with a business proposition. He and his best friend, who was also like a son to us, wanted to open up a hydroponics store in Sonoma County and they had a great sales pitch.”
Tell us about how Thrive got started, and how has Healdsburg received your store?
“The year was 2007 and there were just a few good hydroponics stores in the area. Healdsburg did not have a store at the time and it was one of the places we were allowed to open because our vendors were very particular at the time about where they would open new stores. We loved Healdsburg because there was such great food and it is such a beautiful location and somehow I was convinced to go into business with them and help start this endeavor. We expanded quickly at first- first with one small warehouse and then two and then three. Then with the help of my oldest very computer savvy son, we opened an online hydroponics store and this got busy very quickly. We moved our online business to a 10,000 sq. ft store in an industrial park in Healdsburg and then when the 7,200 sq. ft warehouse became available next door, we moved Thrive there. We sold the online store to a publicly traded company about five years ago, but Thrive stayed at the same location.”
In the quickly changing landscape of the California cannabis industry, do you have plans to expand Thrive Hydro?
“Currently, I am using the skills I developed from running our online store with over 16 employees shipping across the United States and the world to expand our business beyond Sonoma County and we have customers across CA and WA state, Colorado and as far away as Maine. This year the changing landscape is quite evident and actually very exciting for all of us. So many of our customers are doing large scale indoor and outdoor permitted grows, greenhouses and I even have one client who is running his business in a converted Indian casino on reservation land. Everyone is getting so savvy and smart and the level of professionalism is outstanding. It makes my job so exciting and interesting. I continue to run Thrive with my son and he has very high energy, enthusiasm and knowledge for the industry and really has so much ability to help our customers out.”
How is it for you as a woman working in a hydro shop?
“I have ten years of wonderful relationships with our many vendors and I truly believe that our vendors really appreciate working with a woman president of a company. I know that I give as a high a level of service as is possible and our large commercial growers are very, very happy to be working with me. I take care of them every step of the way and I take care of the things that I am good at so they have time to work on the things that they are good at. Since many of my customers are working just about around the clock, it is wonderful for them to know they can trust me to take care of them so they have fewer things to manage.”
As an established local cannabis business woman, what would you like to see in the future for the Sonoma County cannabis industry?
“My son and I are very excited about the future of the industry in Sonoma County and across the United States and even internationally. At first, we had a lot of concerns, but it is turning out to be more exciting than I could ever imagine. I love being involved with Women’s Cannabis Business Development and Sugar- it is the best educational and networking group around and a whole of fun. I am really looking forward to years of working with Women’s Cannabis Business Development and other organizations in Sonoma County and across the state.”
Written by: Sugar Laytart