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 Melissa Stapley of MJ Hybrid Solutions.
Meet Melissa Stapley
Melissa Jane (MJ) Stapley, founder of MJ Hybrid Solutions, started her journey in the cannabis industry in 2014. She left her corporate management career and joined to the cannabis industry to work for CV Sciences, a CBD manufacturer. After discovering a need for cannabis employee training, MJ combined her passion for sales training and cannabis education to develop the MJ Hybrid Training System.
With her 12 years of corporate sales experience and 3 years of cannabis industry expertise, MJ created a training for cannabis employees that is both scientifically accurate and helps employees better sell to customers. Her mission is to legitimize the cannabis industry through proper employee education and training.
In our interview with Melissa, we asked a variety of questions to learn more about MJ Hybrid Solutions, and what it takes to build a business in the cannabis industry!
DCN: Melissa, 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 MJ Hybrid Solutions?
Melissa Stapley: MJ Hybrid Solutions is an online sales training and cannabis education platform for dispensary staff and cannabis professionals. The MJ Hybrid Training System develops employees to better serve customers and increase business profitability. Our purpose is to legitimize the growing cannabis industry through proper employee education and training.
DCN: What ignited the spark in you to launch your business?
Melissa Stapley: I have always had a passion for leadership and developing others and I was working as a sales manager for a product manufacturer and just saw the huge need for properly trained employees. In a previous industry I had created a sales training methodology and so I got it out one day and started writing and refining it to be specific to the cannabis industry. I did a couple in person trainings with a dispensary to test it out and they noticed a huge difference in their sales just from a couple quick trainings and so from there MJ Hybrid Solutions was developed.
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?
Melissa Stapley: When I first got in the cannabis industry it took a little time for them to understand, but I made sure to educate them and they all became supportive. So when I decided to start my company they were happy and thought it was a great idea.
DCN: How is your organization/business helping the cannabis industry in a positive way?
Melissa Stapley: When I first created the MJ Hybrid Training System, my purpose was really to help bridge the gap from the stigma of marijuana and the new cannabis consumer. As it becomes mainstream, new consumers are coming in to dispensaries with very little education on the plant and honestly most of them just want to know what product is best for their needs.
My sales training approach (or methodology) really helps employees be able to ask the right questions, be able to get to know their customer and be able to help guide them to the best possible products without overwhelming them. Customers will have a better, more positive experience and want to continue coming back.
I got into this industry because I wanted to educate the world on cannabis, and now by creating this training program to help others better serve customers, I’m not only directly helping and educating my own customers but help them educate and serve their customers and to me that is a much bigger impact and getting us closer to educating the world on cannabis and changing the stigma.
DCN: As we go into fall of 2018, what is one huge accomplishment that you or your team achieved last year that you would like to share with our readers?
Melissa Stapley: In our first year we graduated from the canopy San Diego cannabis accelerator, raised some money, and hit our goal of working with 20 dispensaries at the end of 2017 just with our MVP (minimum viable product)
DCN: What are some challenges you faced early on and how’d you beat them?
Melissa Stapley: I’m a sole founder so early on a did a lot of things myself and had to manage every task from writing content, filming, creating the modules, sales, marketing, etc. it was very difficult and we grew fast at first, but then had to slow down to really rebrand and develop our modules the right way. And I also didn’t raise the full amount needed to grow at the pace I wanted to so had to step back and slow some projects down the I was hoping to do this year. Things don’t always go as planned and its easy to get frustrated, however, keep going and pushing and things will work itself out.
DCN: Did you raise capital to fund your business or what creative strategies did you use to execute on minimal cash flow?
Melissa Stapley: Both, we raised a little bit of funds but also had to get creative for a while with certain strategies. We focused a lot on referrals and partnerships early on to help get our name out there, get sales, and see if our training was efficient and effective.
DCN: What did you give up to get where you are today?
Melissa Stapley: I sacrificed a great paying job and growth with a company that I fully believe in, CV Sciences, and you sacrifice a lot of your personal time and social life but I believe in what i am doing and am enjoying the process along the way.
DCN: What is the best piece of advice you can give to others looking to launch a company in the cannabis industry?
Melissa Stapley: Take your idea to a potential customer or someone in the industry and try it out before you go spend a lot of time and money making it look great. You need to make sure that you are solving a real need and it works. Have an mvp and test it out.
Don’t be scared to try it before its perfect, just get out and test it and make it better as you grow. And although the industry seems to be moving fast, start ups and businesses in the industry are growing slow. It takes time and nothing happens overnight. There will be lots of ups and downs and times where you question it but keep pushing and be persistant.
DCN: What’s the hardest part of founding and running a startup?
Melissa Stapley: The uncertainty that comes with it. When you start you might have a great month and then two really bad months, it takes time and lots of patience to grow consistently. And everyone will love to ask you how your sales are doing or if its successful without understanding what it takes to get there, the time and effort. Its easy to let those distractions get to you so you have to learn to cancel out the noise, keep your head down, and keep moving forward.
DCN: Is there anything that surprised you about being an entrepreneur in the cannabis industry?
Melissa Stapley: I think we have a great support system in this industry and everyone is rooting for everyone to succeed because we are all helping to shape the future of cannabis and end the stigma. So great to see so much diversity and love in this industry. Everyone has a story of why they chose to come into the industry and it’s so awesome to hear.
DCN: What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
Melissa Stapley: Persistence, specialized knowledge, and desire
DCN: How do you stay balanced?
Melissa Stapley: I love to work out, and watch sports when I can. Love to hang out with my friends and family as well.
DCN: What book has inspired you the most?
Melissa Stapley: Think and Grow Rich
DCN: Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire the most?
Melissa Stapley: Norml.org
DCN: How can we as an industry continue to make a positive difference in society?
Melissa Stapley: We have to keep fighting and not let the obstacles that keep coming up stop us. Continue educating and being open to others about cannabis. Be willing to help and support each other and fight for those who have been treated unjustly. We have to all have a voice and use it for the greater good of the industry.
DCN: Thank you, Melissa, for sharing your story and offering such real and insightful advice to DCN readers!
For those looking to learn more about MJ Hybrid Solutions, please check out www.mjhybridsolutions.com, social- instagram @mjhybridsolutions twitter- @mjhybrid facebook- mjhybridsolutions