Cannabis has been a part of my life for a long time and has played a major role in my entrepreneurial journey. I love everything about it – the science, the medical benefits, the culture, the smell, the way it makes me feel, and the opportunities that exist for entrepreneurs.
Stepping back, my story begins in 2008 when a couple friends and I started a late night cookie delivery store as sophomores at the University of Missouri.The company was named Hot Box Cookies, which was a double entendre for warm cookies served in a box and “hotboxing” a car. Many of the customers early on were cannabis users, as were quite a few of the employees (the company has since evolved to focus more on gift giving and catering). April 20th (“4/20”) was, of course, one of the biggest sales day of the year as we sold six cookies for $4.20.
At that time, much of what I knew about cannabis and its culture came from my visit to the coffeeshops in Amsterdam and my friends who were always happy to teach me. Unfortunately, I saw several of these friends get arrested for various minor cannabis related offenses. All of this happened during the running one of my favorite television shows, Weeds. Ever since the final episode when Nancy got her dispensary/café up and going, it has been my dream to own a dispensary of my own one day.
In case you can’t tell, I really love cannabis!
My first official involvement in the cannabis industry came in 2011, when I began to attend cannabis activist events in Columbia, Missouri. Since then, I have visited many dispensaries all around the country observing, learning, and trying to figure out best practices. In 2018, I became the Director of Operations for a multistate operator and opened dispensaries in both California and Maryland. There, my main role was to hire/train a team and create systems for a medical dispensary in Maryland.
After some time at that company, it felt right to venture out on my own and create something a bit different. Two partners and I co-founded a new brand, Feel State. Our niche is retail and we are working to create a dispensary that offers a personalized experience, runs as efficiently as a fast food chain, provides customer service similar to that of a fine dining restaurant, and is one which employees love to work at. The ultimate goal is to create a franchisable model to help mom-and-pop stores maintain the ownership of their dispensary while providing the necessary branding, strategic, and operational support.
We see this need based on the large scale consolidation going on in the industry and a lack of opportunity for people disproportionately harmed by cannabis in the past as well as the average small business owner. From past experience, I know it can be very challenging for a small business to be successful and if you don’t have the wherewithal to go head to head with the bigger companies. I want to change that by helping as many small business entrepreneurs as I can be successful In the cannabis industry.
I also want to help educate patients, doctors, and the general public about the many benefits of cannabis and to make a difference in the community by supporting groups such as veterans, elderly, sustainability-focused organizations, and those disproportionately impacted by cannabis laws in our country.
One of the best things that has come out of my time in the cannabis industry is the relationship that has formed with Minorities for Medical Marijuana. Feel State is a proud corporate sponsor of this nonprofit organization which helps underpreresented groups obtain ownership in the cannabis businesses as well as providing advocacy, education, training, and outreach to underserved communities. I have been fortunate to be a speaker at their St. Louis and Chicago Boot Camps and help aspiring operators with starting a business, dispensary operations, as well as navigating through the application process in both states.
I am thrilled that cannabis is finally legal in Missouri. From a patient perspective, it is especially exciting to have the opportunity to experiment with multiple products and consumption methods (i.e. vaporizing raw flower and tinctures) while documenting my own cannabis use as well as trying out non-intoxicating forms of cannabis (such as topicals and other products containing CBD and THCA). On the business side, this is just the very beginning of it all. My goal is to help the industry evolve with delivery services and, ultimately, cafés. Additionally, I want the budtender position to become recognized as the most important job in the industry (and high paying, too!).
My belief is that everyone, including competitors, can help each other out as we all still have a lot to learn. Working together will help shape the cannabis industry in a positive way for future generations.