7 Lessons on Success & Entrepreneurship from the High-Stakes World of Cannabis
There are entrepreneurs, and then there are trailblazers. Every entrepreneur has to cope with risk and uncertainty but cannabis entrepreneurs, and the businesses that serve the cannabis industry, face risks and restrictions that few other businesses encounter.
The Realities of the Cannabis Landscape
Imagine building your business in the shadows of an industry that’s highly regulated, extremely uncertain, heavily stigmatized, and not fully permitted. Now, imagine doing that without the tools most entrepreneurs take for granted.
Cannabis marketing and advertising options are severely limited or restricted by local, state, federal, and platform regulations. Google prohibits the advertising of recreational drugs. Most email campaigners won’t allow cannabis content. And, if a social media platform deems your content illegal, unethical, or suspect, they can shut down your account. The list of marketing constraints goes on and on.
It doesn’t stop with marketing either. Accounting, taxes, funding, banking, payroll, and traditional financial responsibilities are significantly impacted by the fact that federal banking laws make this a cash-only industry.
An Industry Ripe with Change
For the cannabis business owner and supplier there is no such thing as the status quo, no such thing as certainty. There’s always more to learn, new regulations to deal with, and more changes on the way. Even when you experience prolific growth, there’s the underlying possibility that it could be taken away. The industry could be gone tomorrow, or it could get a legal greenlight and change forever.
So, who would look at this landscape full of restrictions and think, “I want to work in this industry?”
What Type of Person Willingly Enters the Cannabis Market?
When it comes to cannabis, you can forget the stereotypes — including the ones about everyone being a stoner. There isn’t one type of cannabis entrepreneur; they come from all walks of life, backgrounds, and experiences. Like any other type of entrepreneur, they have their reasons for getting into the industry. Some love the challenge, others love the plant, some are attracted to the money, and others see it as an opportunity to make their mark in a new industry while serving others.
The businesses that support the cannabis entrepreneur also play a role. Many B2B companies have been unable to help cannabis due to shareholder fears and legal objections. Those that have agreed to participate are working to help these entrepreneurs develop a safe, legal, and sophisticated industry, one that could potentially be as big as the technology sector someday.
As suppliers of liquid temperature-control equipment used to power the legal cannabis processing industry, JULABO has learned a great deal from the industry and our association with the entrepreneurs, consultants, lobbyists, and distributors that work to safeguard the industry and its customers. The cannabis industry has made us a better company. It’s made us more creative, more efficient, and better partners for our customers; and, on more than one occasion, it’s inspired us.
Stories from the Frontlines of Industry
Our cannabis customers remind us to look past limitations and focus on the people, the possibilities, and potential power of the plant itself. We wanted to share some of their unique stories and perspectives on how to thrive in the midst of uncertainty.
We are hoping that this story will be the first in a series from the frontline of various industries, not just cannabis. Our partners and customers have so much wisdom to share. We get excited about their innovations and their vision for the future whether it’s discoveries in nanotechnology, biotech, pharmaceuticals, aerospace, automotive, chemicals, semiconductors, beverages and brewing or some other industry. We champion their efforts to improve the human experience.
Meet Growing Labs: A Female-Owned Cannabis Equipment Distributor
Growing Labs is an online distributor of laboratory supplies for the cultivation, analysis, and extraction market. They have a lot of cannabis customers in states where medicinal and recreational usage is legal.
Growing Labs’ enthusiasm, passion, and can-do attitude are infectious. We recently had a chance to sit down with its leaders Amanda Bishop and Katie Greer to talk about what it’s like to be in the cannabis industry and what it takes to succeed.
Bishop and Greer are business partners, cousins, and kindred spirits; between the two of them, they have six children. They’re smart, determined, and driven by a commitment to serve their customers. Like most entrepreneurs, they gambled on their own talent, and it’s paid off. And like most entrepreneurs, they’ve learned a lot along the way.
7 Lessons in Entrepreneurship & Success from Growing Labs
- Know your value and how you can help.
- Bet on yourself; be self-reliant.
- Trust your knowledge.
- Focus on relationships first.
- Don’t judge others.
- Push past the fear.
- Let optimism and gratitude guide you through uncertainty.
Know your value and how you can help.
Before starting Growing Labs, Bishop and Greer worked together at a scientific and laboratory supply company where they often attended trade shows and events. They started to notice more people asking questions about cannabis and looking for help. The emerging cannabis industry was coming to the scientific supply industry for guidance but few of the big suppliers were willing to help. It dawned on Bishop and Greer that they could help these entrepreneurs find the equipment and supplies they need while gently guiding them through the fundamentals of science.
Bet on yourself; be self-reliant.
With few scientific suppliers willing to gamble on cannabis, Bishop and Greer decided they would have to create something on their own. “It was important to us when we started that we were doing it on our own,” Bishop explained. “We didn’t want to work for anyone else, so we bootstrapped the whole thing. There weren’t any business loans,” Bishop added. Bishop, Greer, and two other partners built Growing Labs by taking risks, including second mortgages, in order to create their vision. They didn’t rely on investors, they relied on each other.
Trust your knowledge.
No one starts a business knowing everything, but chances are you know a lot more than you think. Neither Greer nor Bishop studied science in school, but their work experience led to knowledge and that knowledge led to expertise and confidence. The leaders of Growing Labs didn’t let a lack of formal education in science stop them, they trusted the fact that being self-taught might actually be an asset that helps them simplify and explain things so that the non-scientifically trained can understand.
Bishop used her experience to guide the Growing Labs platform, which now hosts more than 12,000 products online. Instead of trying to figure out a new model, she trusted what she knew and looked to other successful companies like Amazon, which allows customers to shop and compare items with simplified shipping options. “Our goal was to be a one-stop-shop backed by a great experience,” Bishop explained. Growing Labs platform focuses on the customer first, offering things like free shipping, order updates, and one-on-one guidance and communication. It showcases what Bishop and Greer know and do well, which is taking care of the customer.
Focus on relationships first.
Bishop and Greer field the questions and inquiries from the website themselves in order to build the relationship and the trust. “People come back to us repeatedly because they know we’ll help them,” Greer explained. Relationships are key to their success, while Bishop was setting up the e-commerce platform, Greer was busy reaching out to manufacturers who could help their customers. “It was difficult at times, when they didn’t know who we were, we had to earn their trust,” Greer explained. After many interactions and one-on-one conversation sharing their mission, knowledge, and vision, Growing Labs established partnerships with the top suppliers in the industry, including JULABO.
Don’t judge others.
Finding manufacturers was only part of the problem, Greer also had to find new ways to qualify the seriousness and legal status of customers. “You can’t judge anyone by how they sound or look in this industry,” Greer added. Both Greer and Bishop were quick to point out that the cannabis industry is very inclusive and has been very accepting of them. “We’re seeing more women getting into cannabis, which is great,” Greer said, adding that, “In biotech and other fields, you have to prove yourself as a woman. You’re often thought of as the pretty, shiny object at the tradeshow that’s just there to get someone’s attention. I’ve had customers in other industries ask to speak to my boss, and when I transfer them to Amanda, they then want her boss — meaning a man.”
Push past the fear.
Paranoia is a bad trip for anyone, especially an entrepreneur. “Early on, we’d hear stories about people who lost their houses and then we’d think about our kids, it’d keep us up at night,” Greer said. Since no one really knows what the future holds for cannabis, the speculation and fear are a waste of time. Greer and Bishop are cautiously optimistic. “Eventually the big guys will get in the game if it’s legalized. It could become like Big Pharma or Big Tobacco. The large equipment and product distributors will want in on the action too,” Bishop explained, adding that while others ramp up, they’ll be busy strengthening their position and relationships.
Let optimism and gratitude guide you through uncertainty.
The future looks bright for Growing Labs. It’s clear that they love what they do and are driven by a bigger vision. “I think of all the people who get addicted to opioids and wonder if there’s a better solution. I think of the cancer patients, people in pain, and the research discoveries that could be waiting, and I get excited. It’s a plant, and we should look at its potential. We have an opportunity to do some good,” Bishop noted. As the hemp and CBD market is growing, and as more states come online, Growing Labs remains optimistic through it all. They’ve learned to take the uncertainty as part of the territory. They focus on how thankful they are that they took a chance when they saw the opportunity, and how grateful they are for everyone who supports them and believes in them.
There’s a lot we can all learn from Growing Labs, and if you have a new cannabis license, are looking to expand your operations, or need supplies, pay them a visit online. If you’re interested in learning more about JULABO USA, visit us at julabo.us. If you’re a current JULABO customer that would like to tell us your industry story for a possible profile, comment below.
The information presented is solely intended for businesses engaged in the lawful cultivation, manufacturing, processing, and/or distribution of cannabis or hemp-based products in the US or Canada. JULABO USA’s products are to be used for lawful purposes only. Nothing contained here is intended to assist, condone, or promote any violation of any law. JULABO USA makes no representation regarding the legality of cannabis or hemp-based products under the laws applicable to you or your business.