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Get To Know Dr. Frances Gilman

Posted on June 26, 2019

Get To Know Dr. Frances Gilman

Dr. Frances (Franny) Gilman is senior vice president at Socati in Missoula, Mont. Franny began her post-doctoral career in 2015 with Blue Marble Biomaterials, a manufacturer of natural and sustainable specialty compounds for the global food, fragrance and cosmetic sectors. Since then, Franny has risen in the ranks from consulting microbiologist to lead of the transition process following Socati’s acquisition of the Missoula manufacturing facility.

Can you tell us about the path that led you to work at Blue Marble and now Socati?

I come from an academic background as I received my PhD in microbiology. As part of my studies, I worked in Greenland researching microorganisms in soil and how they contribute to climate change. Toward the end of my graduate career at the University of Montana in Missoula, I began to look for other opportunities. I saw that Blue Marble was hiring for a microbiologist and I applied.

I thought I’d lead an academic life forever, but what flipped the switch from academia to the business environment was that we are a sustainability-focused company. Given my background in climate change research, it felt great to work for a company that cared about the environment and to create products that could have a lasting, positive, real-world impact

How has your role changed since the acquisition by Socati and what makes you most excited about it?

Since the acquisition by Socati, my role has shifted to building a strong, functional team to increase the manufacturing capabilities at the Missoula manufacturing facility. Although I’m focused on building our team, it was great that the entire Blue Marble staff was kept on following the acquisition. The team we had, augmented by Socati’s expertise, and now the new hires, really sets up the company to succeed.

I’m also excited that the acquisition provides for more focus. Pre-Socati, we worked with a lot of different industries, but I believe its advantageous to singularly focus on the hemp industry and hone in on our expertise in hemp extraction.

What do you think people should know about Socati’s R&D process that leads to such high-quality products?

Our team is very familiar with Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) as well as operating under a Safe Quality Food (SQF) program. We understand what infrastructure needs to be in place to make safe, consistent and high-quality products. What really sets us apart is that we’re designing processes and ingredients with the end consumer in mind – and are focused on creating something that the final consumers will be happy to have in their products.

Can you tell us how your work helps to create more sustainable products?

One of the strengths I believe the Missoula manufacturing facility brings to Socati is our goal of creating more natural or sustainable products. My team has an eye for what we can tweak to make processes more environmentally friendly. For example, we’re extremely careful about what solvents we use for our extraction process. Whereas many solvents are petroleum-based, we make sure we use bio-based solvents. We’re also cutting down on waste, also known as sidestreams, coming out of the process – and we’re working to turn any waste we do generate into more valuable products.

What do you think other women should know about working in the R&D field and/or the hemp industry?

While it is a male-dominated industry, something for women to keep in mind is we can’t let this intimidate us. On LinkedIn, there are a lot of women who speak about this and have created women-led industry groups. What’s incredible is women in the hemp industry aren’t focused on bringing other women down – even those that might be part of businesses that are considered competitors. Instead, we want to create a supportive environment to ensure women are growing and thriving.

Furthermore, much of the market is being driven by female consumers. So, we need female voices involved in product creation in order to succeed in the marketplace. We’re heading in the right direction, and it’s exciting to be a part of this movement.

Where do you see the future of the CBD industry heading?

I believe the CBD industry is here to stay. There is a big demand for CBD and hemp extract as an ingredient. But uses of the ingredient in more regulated industries with larger, global partners require that hemp extracts must be manufactured in such a way so as to generate consistent and high-quality products. I foresee a growth in not only personal care products like lotions, but also in nutraceuticals. And at Socati, we have the capabilities to help meet this demand with a product that is consistent and high-quality.