Five years ago, Melissa Jean (“MJ”) Stapley was rebuilding her career and life after losing almost everything in her real estate career after the market crashed. Stapley knew she wanted to follow a dream of getting involved in a new industry where she could help others while being part of a new growth sector in business. She just wasn’t sure where she would land – until a friend told her about the benefits of CBD for sleep aid.
Stapley, who had suffered from insomnia for most of her adult life, tried CBD and was not only able to finally get a good night’s rest, but also was able to stop taking sleeping pills. For the record, she tried cannabis in college, but it was not really her thing. But after her successful CBD experience, she thought she would work in the cannabis industry to gain some real-life experience and continue researching this new industry. She spent some time working in sales positions for cannabis product companies, visiting corporations, dispensaries, and investors.
That experience led her to launch her own cannabis company, MJ Hybrid Solutions, which provides online training for dispensaries, product companies, and cannabis sales professionals.
I recently caught up with Stapley, who filled me in on her journey and mission to bridge the gap between cannabis and the new consumer by creating a platform for organizations to educate their teams on the science of cannabis and improve their sales and customer services skills.
Year Founded: 2017
Background: During her research, Stapley realized that while there are many cannabis education companies offering certificate programs, there were not really many companies focusing on corporate training programs and leadership platforms. So, she decided to put her degree in Organizational Leadership to use and create a new business venture featuring one of the first cloud-based cannabis education and sales training platform. She already knew that smart companies invest in corporate training programs for their teams, so why not create similar programs in the cannabis industry?
Stapley knew she had found her niche and that her approach would set her apart from other cannabis training organizations, paving the way for MJ Hybrid Solutions to be the preeminent leader in corporate cannabis training.
Merging Science, Tech & Sales: According to Training Magazine’s annual Industry Report 2018, “Total 2018 U.S. training expenditures – including payroll and spending on external products and services – declined 6.4 percent to $87.6 billion.” But that didn’t discourage Stapley. She knew from her own corporate leadership experience that all organizations are willing to invest in the right training that will bring true value. So, she set out to create a training platform catering to the cannabis industry with a focus on science and sales.
To do this, she vetted her key team players who would be instrumental in creating the training programs and platform. She enlisted the knowledge of Jean Talleyrand, M.D, a family medicine physician for over 20 years. Dr. Talleyrand, who founded MediCann in 2004, also now writes the cannabis education materials for MJ Hybrid Solutions. Meanwhile, Kyle Boyar has a background in neurobiology and analytical chemistry and is now a cannabis scientist helping MJ Hybrid Solutions write and review the science of its training materials. Stapley writes and researches the sales and customer service training, utilizing her education and corporate experience.
In the Cloud: MJ Hybrid Solutions is leading the industry in cannabis education that incorporates sales and customer service training in the cloud. The company offers a variety of membership options, from utilizing standard modules to purchasing a license agreement, which provides customized branded training modules. This cloud-based training makes it easy and efficient for any organization to offer consistent and on-going training for employees and leadership teams. Organizations have their own unique link that provides access to support and administrative features to manage their entire training program within the MJ Hybrid Solutions platform. Everything is mobile and accessible while being tracked, monitored, and contained within the platform. This makes it very user-friendly and easy to extrapolate and allows and use of the data for other corporate reporting mechanisms for each end-user.
Stapley said MJ Hybrid’s clients see the benefits and value of having cloud-based training on cannabis science so their teams can continually improve their skills.
“MJ Hybrid’s streamlined corporate training platform makes sense for corporations that already invest in corporate training programs,” she said. “As the cannabis industry grows, companies are realizing the real need to train and develop their teams for consistency and continuity of their success within this ever-changing industry.”
Acceleration: In 2017, MJ Hybrid Solutions completed a 16-week cannabis-specific business accelerator program through Canopy San Diego that is designed to spur business development and prepare startups to raise outside capital. Throughout the program, the companies are exposed to nearly 100 potential mentors, representatives from local venture firms, and local angel investors.
Although she had some experience in the cannabis space, Stapley said the Canopy accelerator program gave her valuable insights in investing, raising funds, and executing her business plan. She credits Canopy with making introductions to Seed Invest, an equity crowdfunding platform. In her first round of funding for MJ Hybrid Solutions, Stapley raised about $123,000 from Seed Invest and $75,000 from Canopy.
“I highly encourage other cannabis startups to consider the Canopy program,” said Stapley, who has also worked in the for-profit education space. “It is an excellent educational program that reaches qualified investors and has built-in support that is of real assistance to founders.”
Keen Investors: Stapley is currently focused on building sales and gaining traction in the industry while she looks for more investors for MJ Hybrid Solutions. “It’s critical that cannabis investors have regulatory and legislative experience as it’s still a risk,” she explained, adding that the company is seeking investors that can proceed through federal prohibition.
Industry Trends: Stapley believes that biosciences and bioceuticals, which can be considered vitamins, herbal and food supplements in the cannabis space, will be the next big thing in tech for cannabis. “As we continue to live longer, science and tech is always searching for ways to help alleviate the need for big pharma and create better wellness for all ages,” she said. “Many cannabis science companies are creating alternative options, and lots of funding is going in this direction to create faster delivery systems and more accurate dosing systems; this is all part of the new science and tech of cannabis.”
San Diego Canna-Tech Space: Stapley believes the San Diego cannabis industry will continue to grow and be sustainable on many levels because the region is becoming a cannabis tourist destination, which in turn, she said, will drive science and tech ideas into actual business ventures.
“San Diego is really embracing the ‘green economy,’ hoping to capitalize on revenue from taxes and tourism,” she said. “Meanwhile, bioscience and general tech industries will continue creating all kinds of new technology and job sectors. All of this will create new intersections of non-cannabis and cannabis companies, which will drive the development of more canna technology. And, once the federal law is changed, it will enable the industry to grow more steadily and with longevity.”
Editor’s Note: Canna-Tech is a new series by Fresh Brewed Tech and the Direct Cannabis Network (DCN) spotlighting San Diego’s growing cannabis industry. Through this series, we will explore local tech and science companies on the leading edge of cannabis, from software tools to manufacturing, cloud-based platforms, digital advertising, AgTech, FinTech, mobile health and more.