Each week we highlight entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry for our viewers to learn more about the leading cannabis executives of our time. This week, we highlight Abraham Villegas of the Medical Cannabis Community.
Meet Abraham Villegas
Abraham is a father, husband, and entrepreneur with a lifelong interest in sales, and marketing. For as long as he can remember, he was the kid in grade school selling candy, toys, and anything he saw others take interest in. As an advocate and proponent for cannabis, Abraham operates a digital marketing agency, and a media company where he helps the world connect around similar interests. In addition, Abraham sits on the board for the Illinois Chapter of NORML, where he focuses on fighting for consumer rights and the expansion of legal access.
In our interview with Abraham Villegas, we asked a variety of questions to learn more about the Medical Cannabis Community organization, and what it takes to build a startup in the cannabis industry!
DCN: Abraham, congratulations on being featured as this week’s entrepreneur of the week and for all that you do! Can you please share with our readers your elevator pitch for Medical Cannabis Community?
Abraham Villegas: The Medical Cannabis Community is a media-based company focused on helping people obtain access to legal cannabis through community development, digital advertising, educational multimedia content, and market research.
DCN: What ignited the spark in you to launch your business?
Abraham Villegas: In 2013, I was exploring cannabis job opportunities in Colorado and the West Coast, only to find out my home state of Illinois was ramping up its own medical program. Eager to find more information about cannabis and its medicinal properties, I stuck around but came up short in finding reliable environments where I could learn, interact and connect with others.
To make use of my time while the state program started, I virtually volunteered my skills in California to obtain more experience. Having considered myself to be tech-savvy, it did not take long to figure out that if I was having problems finding the information I needed online, the people who these programs were designed for would surely never come across it.
In the summer of 2015, I resorted to Facebook, where I would soon find a small group of advocates who were publishing information and updates via a group.
I volunteered to join them, quickly became friends, and the rest was history. Since then, our small group has gone through the trials and tribulations where we have grown, evolved, and pivoted many times to have finally found our calling and rightful place in the world. We now operate in over 4 states with plans to expand across several more as the walls of prohibition quickly begin to crumble.
DCN: When you finally decided that you wanted to launch a business in the cannabis industry, what was your experience like when telling your family and friends? Were they supportive?
Abraham Villegas: I can’t say my friends and family were really surprised. Worried? Maybe. Concerned? Perhaps. But supportive? Without a doubt.
While I was giving up what seemed like a comfortable corporate marketing job already in the cannabis industry, I was in need of a change. My work commute was long, my family was growing, and thus I became committed to realigning my priorities. Being an entrepreneur at heart, I saw the opportunity and ventured off to start a web development & social media marketing business. I knew it was a now or never opportunity, so I took a chance against all odds. Doing this allowed me to dedicate any extra free time I had toward building The Medical Cannabis Community even further, and providing as much value as possible to our members and supporters.
DCN: What is unique about your business?
Abraham Villegas: We focus on member experiences first. From the very roots of our foundation, we are building relationships and communities through basic human interaction. Few media organizations, educational platforms, or businesses for that matter focus on developing the type of highly engaged communities we have created, nurtured and cultivated.
DCN: What are some challenges you faced early on and how’d you beat them?
Abraham Villegas: Time, capital, mindset, and direction were the biggest challenges. Already being hard pressed on time with new family needs and having started a company, time was not an abundant resource. And like almost every other start-up, neither was the capital.
Dedicating either resource to building what would end up becoming another brand, was not ideal, and I was not really sure what the next step was for me. It was a stressful time and a real strain in many instances where I figured quitting would be the easier option. I was in over my head, but I knew with conviction that we had started to make a real impact in our communities, and if I continued to focus on that as a priority, things would eventually fall into place.
I overcame 3/4 of those challenges by starting to actively exercise, invest in business training programs and educational learning. I also started hiring help through my friends and family, which allowed me to focus more time on upgrading or optimizing our systems and process. As for the 4th challenge, thank goodness for credit cards.
DCN: How did you come up with the name of your company?
Abraham Villegas: I didn’t put too much thought into it really, and thus went with simple concepts.
My first business contains my 2 initials, followed by “social strategies” which simply identifies the concept of the services offered.
The second brand, which pivoted toward education and media-based focus, is self-explanatory in what it represents, being The Medical Cannabis Community.
DCN: What did you give up to get where you are today?
Abraham Villegas: The list is long, but to keep it brief, I gave up several hobbies, countless vacations, and almost all past time activities to instead invest those resources in helping people obtain legal access to cannabis. I sacrificed a lot of time, social life and opportunities to build a life for myself where I could provide for my family, have a sense of purpose, and give back to my community. The sacrifices have been worth it thus far because they have allowed me to build a meaningful life that can provide me with long term happiness.
DCN: What is the best piece of advice you can give to others looking to launch a company in the cannabis industry?
Abraham Villegas: Exercise, and actively invest in your own education, whether by reading, listening to audiobooks, podcasts, or training programs. Surround yourself around people who support you and want to see you succeed. Most importantly, learn how to rewire your mindset, and from there, how to protect it. We are not what we have been programmed to be. We are, however, what we program ourselves to be.
DCN: What’s the hardest part of founding and running a startup?
Abraham Villegas: That hardest part of founding or running a startup is killing the voice of fear in your head that says you will or cannot succeed. We all have the voice in our head that gives us a million reasons why things will go wrong. But we must instead rewire ourselves to focus on feeding our attention to the voice of confidence that reinforces our ideas, visions, and beliefs. There is no manual or script on how to best go about carving out your own path, so having the right mindset is absolutely crucial for any chance of success.
DCN: Is there anything that surprised you about being an entrepreneur in the cannabis industry?
Abraham Villegas: This is such a new industry, that I continue to be surprised by it each and every day.
DCN: How do you stay balanced?
Abraham Villegas: Exercise, audiobooks, and unplugging from the internet to spend time with my family. I recently started seeing friends more often and have started to reintegrate my social life back into the picture.
DCN: What book has inspired you the most?
Abraham Villegas: I recently listened to The Alchemist: A Fable About Following Your Dream and enjoyed the nuances of the book which presents an interesting concept about following the signs and omens in your journey. It was a good book, so I listened to it twice.
DCN: Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire the most?
Abraham Villegas: Outside of my company, I really admire the companies and organizations we work with. There are too many to name, but one thing that became a top priority for us was to align ourselves with companies who shared similar values and beliefs. We have been able to do so, and as a result, love working with all the organizations we partnered with because we know our relationships will ultimately continue to help more people obtain safe and legal access.
DCN: How can we as an industry continue to make a positive difference in society?
Abraham Villegas: We can all continue to make a positive difference by focusing on inclusion, diversity, and eco-friendly industry solutions.
DCN: Thank you, Abraham, for sharing your story and offering such real and insightful advice to DCN readers!
For those looking to learn more about the Medical Cannabis Community, please check out, www.TheMedicalCannabisCommunity.Org
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