budtender at Buds and Roses dispensary

The cannabis industry is growing fast, but how can you get involved and make a positive impact? (Buds & Roses dispensary in Los Angeles)

Thinking it’s about time to break into the cannabis industry?

With 2016 expected to be the biggest year yet for marijuana policy reform, there’s hardly been a better time in history to consider starting a cannabusiness.

From dispensaries to deliveries, it seems that there is something for just about everyone in this industry.

With nation-wide sales projected to reach upwards of $6.7 billion in 2016 and more states ready to legalize, we are looking at exponential growth.

Before you decide to invest your entire life savings or uproot your family, though, there are a few things you’re going to want to know.

#1) Finding your niche early on is essential

Tommy and Nick from Black Rock Originals

Cannabis entrepreneurs come from all backgrounds, but many of them share one thing in common: a love for this plant. (Photo from Black Rock Originals)

Determine early on the direction you’re going to take. What unique value do you want to bring to the cannabis space?

Maybe you want to open the best dispensary in town, or you’ve got a product idea that cannabis consumers are going to love.

There are so many ways to come in and add value to this new industry!

Other business opportunities include:

  • Real estate
  • Marketing
  • Public Relations
  • Business consulting
  • Legal
  • Security
  • Software systems
  • Event planning
  • And many more!

But how do you even approach the industry?

Nick Levich of Black Rock Originals, a company specializing in purpose-built cases engineered for active cannabis consumers, has some great advice:

“If you’re going to take the time to join our industry, do the research, become an expert on whatever corner of the industry you’re going to work in and tread lightly at first.”

By defining your niche early on, you’ll be able to develop a clearer vision of what value you or your company will provide, where you want to go and how you plan to get there.

And of course, be willing and ready to pivot and re-calibrate your strategy when something’s not working.

#2) Know the legal terrain in the cannabis industry

lady justice and cannabis leaf

To be successful in the cannabis industry, you’ve got to stay on top of the constantly shifting laws and regulations.

If there’s one thing to keep in mind when starting a cannabusiness, it’s that markets and regulations can vary drastically. What flies in one state may not necessarily fly in another.

Cannabis entrepreneurs – especially those who work directly with the plant – must jump through legal hoops that are often frustrating or unfair compared to other industries.

Know the laws or proposed regulations inside and out and be prepared to collaborate with cannabis advocates and activists in an open-minded way to help achieve a better marketplace and better laws for society.

Cannabis still faces tremendous obstacles, so if you want to be part of this industry be ready to join the movement, too!

#3) Be prepared to combat years of propaganda

Holly Alberti at ArcView

Holly Aberti pitches her vision to a panel of judges at an ArcView Investor Forum. No pressure.

Cannabis entrepreneurs today face challenges not only from the legal side but the social side as well – another reason to collaborate with and get curious about the activist movements in your state.

After nearly a century of misinformation and blatant propaganda, the social stigma of cannabis is still very much alive and well.

As long as this stigma lingers, people will be afraid to go near cannabis, people will be afraid to vote in favor of legalization, and countless individuals will continue to be denied access to this plant.

Senseless policies aren’t just bad for business – they’re bad for everybody.

According to Holly Alberti, founder and CEO of in-home direct sales company Healthy Headie Lifestyle, patience is crucial.

“Having patience is very helpful if you want to fully understand that we’re up against years and years of propaganda, and reefer madness,” she says.

Patience is important, but the driving component here is education.

In fact, Alberti’s entire business model is based on just that: in-home demos and consultations to help cannabis newcomers find their ideal vaporizer.

So if you really want to make an impact like Alberti has, get curious about the plant, its history, and the people who gain value from it – get ready to change lives!

#4) Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box

Success in the cannabis industry – or any industry – requires a certain level of ingenuity.

With cannabis extra creativity is needed because, let’s face it, the plant is still federally illegal (vote YES to legalize!).

So whether it’s advertising constraints or not being able to depend on a bank, you have got to stay positive, nimble and ready for any challenge.

As Holly Alberti points out:

“You really have to be a kind of MacGyver, you have to figure out how to navigate through these additional speed bumps.”

According to Tommy Joyce from Black Rock Originals, marketing is one of these major speed bumps for cannabis operations.

Social media is a prime example. Joyce and his team create amazing products for cannabis consumers – they don’t even touch the plant yet still have to be extra mindful about what they post on Facebook for instance.

In addition to the risk that Facebook could shut down your entire page at any time, your business might also have a demographic totally afraid to associate with you in social media land.

“Cannabis is still taboo to a lot of people,” Joyce says. “So putting out content that more and more people are willing to share is a challenge.”

But Joyce actually sees this challenge as more of an opportunity. That opportunity could come by way of inspiration like the video above or even through forming strategic partnerships with influencers in the cannabis space – way more exciting than your average social media strategy.

The point is this: to be a successful cannabis entrepreneur today requires that you’re able to think creatively and strategically.

So be prepared to problem solve, a lot.

#5) Realize it’s not an overnight process

cannabis clone

Just like the plant itself, growing a business in the cannabis industry takes time, love and care.

The cannabis industry may be expanding rapidly, but if you’re thinking it’s the next get-rich-quick scheme, think again.

Although there’s certainly economic opportunity present within the industry, there’s also the reality of what it takes to run a cannabusiness.

Just ask manager Maka Kalaí of Organic Alternatives, a 100% wind-powered and environment-friendly dispensary in Fort Collins, Colorado.

“One of the biggest misconceptions about being a marijuana dispensary is that it’s just printing money so to speak. People think they can just get into the industry or start a dispensary and make more money than they’ve ever dreamed possible, and that’s not reality,” Kalaí says.

As with any business, there is a lot that goes into making an operation successful, whether that be from the legal side or the financial side.

These things take time and constant effort to build.

#6) Demonstrate perseverance and flexibility

Tommy and Nick enjoying the sunset

The sky’s the limit if you can stay focused and flexible while playing in the cannabis industry. (Photo from Black Rock Originals)

Running a cannabusiness today requires that you’re able to adapt to ever-changing requirements and situations with ease.

“To do it well, you’re constantly reinvesting in the business and making upgrades to facilities to do what it takes to offer the best product possible,” Kalaí says of the persistence factor.

As for flexibility: if you want to achieve staying power here, you’ve got to play well with others and never cut corners when it comes to quality and assurance.

Being a cannabis entrepreneur today is not for the faint of heart. But for those who are truly passionate about this plant and are up for the challenge, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.