Last week on the infamous 4/20, we celebrated one year as dispensary owners!
While ReLeaf Health started years ago, this was the first full year of us in a retail space and the feeling was amazing!
For MOST small black cannabis companies, the million dollar profits the first year of business are the exception. Many of us, like small black business owners in other industries, will not achieve the numbers that our white counterparts do.
I would love to say that's OK but it is not. Nonetheless, to survive in any business the first year is something that anyone should be proud of and we are no exception.
How Did We Do It
When ReLeaf started, J and I were in the prime of our lives. Our two oldest girls were older and becoming less and less dependent on us, plus their friends were their lives anyway.
During that first year, I took a few trips out to Portland to see where our business would be as I planned on spending as much time out there as possible with J and I alternating coast to coast.
If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans. Much to my surprise I found out I was pregnant late in our first year of business which was focused on wholesale at the time. That definitely put a wrench in the plan where a huge burden of day to day operations was going to fall on J.
Nevertheless, it wasn't enough to make me quit my dreams of owning a dispensary. J was always hesitant about opening a retail space for obvious reasons; retail requires a lot of managing and major trust in the staff you bring on.
When our current location, 3213 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, became available it was a dream come true. Commercial real estate for cannabis businesses was hard to come by and we were pretty much set on being in a historically black neighborhood; even if gentrification would soon come (another blog for another day)
Small Cannabis Business Truths
I would love to say that it was easy sailing from the day we secured our spot. It wasn't, but here are some things I learned that helped us slowly get to where we are today.
Lending is hard to come by. I've been in the final round of many grants and investment meetings and I had to learn how to advocate for my business but be willing to walk away if the terms didn't match what my long-term goals are. THAT IS HARD. Ultimately you have to determine what's more important to you.
It's OK to open and it not be 100% aesthetically the way you want it. This was a hard pill to swallow for me. Truthfully, we just couldn't afford what I envisioned without taking out massive loans so we opened with what we needed and grew from there.
Most of your friends and family will NOT support you first. Stop expecting it and don't get mad when they don't. Another hard pill for me to swallow but you have to remember they know you the best. They know all the ideas you had that didn't come to fruition. All the things you did that failed. They will be skeptical until they see you blow up. And I don't know about you, but by then I'm good. Sorry not sorry.
Being black business owners is really no different than being in corporate America . You have to create your own seat at the table or better yet build your own table. It was a lot like high school when I was trying to get invited to certain events or be acknowledged as another black dispensary owner because we often times only hear of the "top 5" black female dispensary owners; not those that haven't hit mainstream headlines yet. Your acceptance only needs to come from you (and partners if you have them)
Being an owner but putting the needs of your family and children first is often frowned upon. You know how many times people try to conveniently omit that I am as much an owner of ReLeaf Health as J. Due to the fact that I am unable to be on the opposite coast as my title of mom comes first, people discount me. It's frustrating but it doesn't change the way the money flows. *sips tea*
You can NEVER stop learning your industry. Not just your specific store but trends, what customers want, what the new laws are or trending to be. Keep learning, keep innovating, keep being relevant. As easy as you come you can go.