Starting something new (especially a business!) can be overwhelming, intimidating and downright scary.
And every business will face some unique challenges as it grows. But there are certain roadblocks in startup life that are common among entrepreneurs.
So it helps to get advice from those who have been in your shoes.
DCN decided to reach out to the DCN community of business owners, experts, advisors, and entrepreneurs to find out their best advice for new entrepreneurs.
Derek Kesek, Founder of Hempearth
Never let anyone tell you that you can’t do something or create your destiny in their minds. Your Best Response? “Watch Me”.
Andrea Burnett, Founder of 4twenty Group
Be ready to pivot…fast. Know that the industry has so many variables and ups and downs so you need to be nimble to be successful. Know that the model you started with may not be the one you ultimately end up with. We see the cannabis industry like we see the plant: constantly evolving and rapidly growing. And PLEASE get into the business for the right reasons. This is a magical plant that helps millions of people struggling with health issues. It’s not about making a fast buck.
Bill DeZenzo, Co-Founder of Taxnexus
#StayCompliant, and keep the family-like atmosphere of the cannabis industry alive by continuing the mutual respect shared today.
Nikki Rose, Owner of Lit Cards
This industry, although growing substantially, is still the road less traveled. You will hit roadblocks just because you are a part of it, but you will also find people who are even more supportive in spite of that. This is a community to be proud to be a part of because anyone in it knows that it’s not always easy. Ignore the judgment and continue to blaze your own trail along with some other badass trailblazers.
Danny Keith, CEO of Cannabis Club TV
Take a chance on your passion, life is short and it is ok to fail.
Lelehnia Du Bois, Founder/Partner, and Publisher of Humboldt Grace / Sensi Media
If you are coming into the industry learn about the culture and the plant. Find ways to integrate the decades of experience the cannabis communities have into your business. You will build better business relationships, brands, and products no matter what you are creating.
Amy Donohue, Founder of Hybrid Social
“If you are going to work with others, GET EVERYTHING IN WRITING, no matter how well you know someone or how much you respect them. A contract not only protects you, but it makes you look like you know what you’re doing. ”
Ana Barajas, President of Geovana
You have to ask yourself, why are you doing this? are you in this only for the money? or do you want to make a difference? Your answer should be both; this is a business, but you have to be responsible for the products that you sell and the message that follows. Respect your competitors and listen to your consumers.
Joshua Mezher, Founder of A Pot for Pot
Start a business what you can build and grow yourself. Look for the ancillary opportunities, and don’t kid yourself it’s going to be harder than you think.
Chris Abrams, Founder of MJ Life Insurance
Treat people like you want to be treated. Everyone we come in contact with; we treat them with kindness and respect. This will go a long way as you build a business and establish relationships with peers and your client base.
Mark Grindeland, CEO & Co-Founder of Coda Signature
Stay focused on execution. It is easy to get distracted by all of the noise in the industry. IPOs, acquisitions, partnerships, media coverage etc. None of that matters if you are not able to deliver on your promises to your customers and your employees consistently.
Eliza Maroney, Co-Founder, Director of Marketing of Lucky Box Club
Be ready to do some serious homework. You can’t just throw money at consultants and expect them to do all of the work for you! Listen more than you speak and BE KIND to one another. Entrepreneurs are all around you: use that and find innovative ways to collaborate!
Joshua Caruso, CEO of The Honey Flower Collective
“Be accountable and hold others accountable for there actions.
Never give up even when it looks like the ship is sinking keep your head in the game.
Take most everything with a grain of salt. Things will be rocky before smooth sailing.”
John Sidline, President of Canna Newswire
This is an industry built on the foundation of one goal: making people feel good, however, those people define “good” for themselves. There are a lot of really good, kind and ethical people working in this industry — far more so than the charlatans and scammers. But at the same time, it’s a very challenging industry to break into. There are few (if any) get-rich-quick schemes in cannabis. You have to be prepared to endure financial sacrifices for an extended period of time in order to make a name for yourself and achieve a measure of success. But once you do, the rewards are worth it. I mean, when all is said and done, you’ll be making people feel good!
Brad McLaughlin, CEO of BudTrader
The farm act passed the Senate today. Selling weed, owning a cannabis brand or owning a dispensary is just the scratching the surface of what cannabis/hemp can be. Cannabis/Hemp has started a 2nd industrial revolution. It will disrupt healthcare, fuel, food, construction, clothing, media, alcohol, big pharma, politics, energy, the environment and more. Create new and fresh business ideas. Don’t do what already been done. The opportunity lies in creating something new and different.
Kathryn Awada, CEO of Azara
As much as you can pull from other industries cannabis is unique in the sense that it was built from a community up. This is not a corporate industry, it could stand to be professionalized a bit, but it is unique none the less. Healing, community, education, and advocacy are what got us here and it is more than just a plant.
Heather Lambert, Co-Owner of ˈärdər botanicals
I want to be completely honest with anyone looking to get into cannabis because I was unprepared for how hard it was going to be when I first started. It seems that just about every institution; banks, insurance companies, even social media give canna-businesses a hard time. You pay higher rates for everything, you jump through so many hoops, and still run the risk of getting accounts shut down because “someone” in one of those companies decides they don’t like cannabis, and they want to take it out on your business that day. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself envious of all these happy people on Etsy, or Shopify who can just set up shop and start selling whatever items they have without a problem.
I don’t say any of that to discourage new entrepreneurs (if I can do it, so can you!), but I want you to be prepared for any outcome. Have backup plans for your backup plans. Despite the struggles, being in cannabis has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Not only has it helped me personally, I see the immeasurable difference it can make for people who have access to it. The more businesses there are, the more the plant becomes normalized and accepted for its incredible healing properties.
Dan Schmink, CEO & Founder of Deviant Apex
1) Pass to the left 2) Don’t be the catchall consultant that positions yourself as an expert until you’ve built your proof of concepts. The industry is very much community driven and actions completed projects, and closed business speak more than outside-cannabis experience, regardless of the industry or scale.
Patty Roe, CEO of Pink Haze
Yes, cannabis equals money. A lot of money that you will spend before you make any. It takes time to build anything and this new industry has regulations that change with the wind. Enter the industry because you think your values will contribute to the integrity, success, and prestige of this new world.
A.C. Moon, Inventor/proprietor/master grower infusionist cook teacher of Croptops Greenhouses, Harvest Moon Munchies co & Cannalife Academy
“Have thick skin, good instincts and be mentally stable…this isn’t just a career, it’s a culture…a way of life! Every day we are given opportunities. Know your animal and plant i.d…..the difference between a shark, a whale, hemp and t.h.c…are miles apart.
Again…don’t be afraid to reinvent yourself….be determined.”
Jake Levin, Co-Founder & COO of Best in Grow
I’ve found that like many things in life, just showing up is 80% of the game. The cannabis industry has so many terrific networking events, conferences, panels, and meetups. Almost universally, the people at these events are eager to offer insights and make connections. It’s an exciting time to be in cannabis, but I get the sense we are nearing the end of this “rising tide lifts all boats” mentality. As new people and money continue to flood the industry, people will become increasingly guarded and more likely to view others as competitors, rather than partners. But, showing up with a give-first mentality is sure to make the right impression and will serve you well.
Henry Finkelstein, CEO of Cannabis Big Data
It is definitely NOT too late to get in the industry. But before you jump in feet first, make sure you clearly understand (and validate!) the value you’re adding with your skill set. If you’re not crystal clear on your value, it’ll be very hard to communicate that to others.
Kyle Speidell, Co-Founder, and Co-CEO of The Green Solution
“The one piece of advice I’d give a new cannabis entrepreneur would be to set up your business with a mind to fluidity. This industry is unique – it’s high-speed, with ever-changing market conditions and constant roadblocks. The words “traditional business” can’t be found in the cannabis entrepreneur’s vocabulary. The mission and goals you begin with will change drastically from year to year.”
Jenny Germano, CEO/Founder of ICS Consulting Service
The ups and downs are totally normal. Remember to do this journey of yours for you and not for the money but to grow as a decent human being. You can give back to the community by just being your true self. Do not do it to be popular or accepted or to fit in. Keep your eye on the prize and do not let anyone keep you from reaching your dreams. Protect your dreams because some people will want to take them from you. Work hard and stay humble – remember where you came from and use it as a benchmark when you get to the place you are trying to get to. Lastly, every day is a new beginning and failure is the only way to success.
Jennina Chiavetta, Founder of Legacy Nursery
Create your own momentum and be authentic. Everyone creates their own reality. Entrepreneurship for me is a constant gut check. People build up paralyzing excuses without realizing it. Anyone can be successful if they stay in the “yes” mind frame.
Ilan Freeman, CEO & Founder of Hakuna Supply
The one thing I feel the most strongly about becoming a cannabis entrepreneur is to run your business with corporate social responsibility. This will undoubtedly be one of the largest industries in the world and we are at the forefront. Let’s make sure that we are creating business for the right reason (to help others, to help our planet, increase community interactions, etc.). As a person & business, if you do things with a good moral purpose, you will feel more accomplished and others will want to work & grow with you for that.
Brandon Wiegand, Director of Operations of The+Source
This is one of the most difficult businesses I have ever been involved with, but also one that I get the most personal satisfaction out of. Don’t cut corners, don’t ignore the rules and regulations… you can be a boy scout (or girl scout) and still run a very successful business. The cannabis community is tight-knit and built on collaboration – you’ll do better lifting others up then tearing others down. Most importantly, remember to have fun!!
Jessamin Swearingen, Head Instigator of Gaudium Enterprises, LLC
Remember that we’re all making a difference by de-stigmatizing cannabis. It won’t happen immediately, but it’s a wonderful opportunity to be a part of something beautiful.
Heidi Groshelle, Partner of Ingrid Marketing
Be ready to be knocked down, frustrated, and proud of what you accomplish in spite of the changing regulations and business hurdles.
Peter Calfee, CEO & Co-Founder of Gofire
I got to where I am today by surrounding myself with incredible people; my advisors, my team, my investors. The more you invest in others, the more you learn. Surrounding yourself with people of all backgrounds will help you grow as a person. I owe my current stance to all those I have learned from over the years.
Rick M Batenburg III, SVP Investor Relations of Cliintel Capital Management Group
“This industry is moving with incredible ferocity. People are constantly innovating and pushing for change. Throughout all of the haste, never stop expanding your knowledge base. Keep reading, and more importantly, stay humble.”
Bridget Renee, Marketing Director of KindTyme
“When it comes to marketing, it’s easy to build your strategy on the same activities as other businesses in your space. It might seem like a great idea to go to the same events, use the same social strategies, and/or try the same advertising outlets, but you’ll never be noticed if you don’t stand out!
In the first few years, make sure to reevaluate every decision you make for marketing. Don’t be afraid to cut out activities that aren’t making you money or supporting your brand vision – there’s no shortage of marketing opportunities out there!”
Monique Jackson-Fitzgerald, CEO of InnDica
People who are new to the industry and even the old timers need to get out and interact with the cannabis community. If you are in legal and compliance, get out to some of the fun events and see what your work is allowing to grow. If you are in events and PR, go to a few of the compliance seminars and learn what challenges are faced by your event sponsors. We should use our unique opportunity and position in a new and growing industry to form lasting bonds that can be both personal and professional. Get out there and crush your goals in the new year.
Jessica VerSteeg, CEO of Paragon
I would remind new entrepreneurs in the industry to stay focused. There are so many opportunities in the cannabis industry right now and it’s easy to open all doors and get pulled into a million directions. The more focused you are on the course you set out to achieve, the more successful you will be. Also, pay attention to compliance regulations because they are always changing in this space. You either need to have enough money and manpower to change regulations or have enough discipline to follow a strict regime of self-auditing your business to stay ahead of compliance rules.
Christie Lunsford, CEO of The Hemp Biz Conference
“I’ve been giving the same piece of advice for new cannabis entrepreneurs for the last ten years. Pace yourself. There’s so much to learn and so much opportunity.
Strap in and enjoy the ride.”
Lisa Snyder, Founder & CEO of Tokeativity
Go out and find the companies you are passionate about and ask to work for them. Tell them how much you love the company and why. Companies are always looking for people who are passionate about their mission. Align with that and you will be on your way!
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