…drop what doesn’t work. This one comes from my own experience as well as my experience advising clients. Don’t fall in love with an idea to the extent that you are blinded to its negatives. Go with your gut. Move on. Trust yourself, if something is telling you no, listen.
As a part of my series about “the 5 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Leading a Cannabis Business ”, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Olivia Brown. Olivia Brown is the founder of 3 cannabis related businesses. The first was The Way Of The Flower, a cannabis infused reflexology business. Then, focusing on personal health and cannabis industry investment, she opened Professional Cannabis Consulting Inc.. Most recently, she opened a storefront partnership called The Hamilton Hemp Collective where she provides consulting and sells unique products like Cannabeds’ hemp pillows and hemp mattresses. Industry watchers say Brown certainly deserves her reputation as a cannabis industry trailblazer! She is also a trusted media commentator — a compelling public speaker who delivers clear, concise, interesting cannabis education on all aspects of the cannabis plant, cannabis medicine, recreational cannabis, and the emerging Canadian cannabis industry. Breaking the stigma, Brown says, is important to her — and this “Pot Power Lady” has devoted her professional life to — very effectively — knocking it down with a vengeance. Recent media appearances include : CTV, CBC, Cable 14 and CHCH TV,The Highway magazine, The Hamilton Spectator, The London Free Press, AM900, and CP (Canadian Press) articles in newspapers across Canada.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you share with the ‘backstory” about what brought you to the cannabis space?
I first came to cannabis as a patient. Without realizing it, I had long been using the plant medicinally — self medicating for anxiety. Becoming educated about the many medical applications, I later used cannabis to help me through serious medical issues. At that time there weren’t a lot of professional voices teaching people about medical cannabis, and it kind of became my mission to bring an educated, professional voice from a medical perspective to the cannabis industry. I studied for years, determined to effectively merge the holistic, wellness industry with the world of cannabis medicine.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
I would say one of the most interesting things about this journey has been the intersection between Cannabis and medicine! Things are starting to change, but in the early days I sure remember a lot of interesting conversations, debates really — about with doctors about medical cannabis. Now some of those very same doctors, and even hospitals, call me for advice about patients!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Funny moments can actually be few and far between — I might be dealing with cannabis but its also about health, and I deal with a lot of sick people which can be hugely stressful — but there is one moment that always makes me laugh when I think about it…. The time when one client wanted me to get an MD -yes, an actual DOCTOR — instead of a vet to monitor her dog!
Are you working on any exciting projects now?
I sure am! And things change so quickly in this industry that by the time this article comes out, I’ll probably working on ten MORE fascinating cannabis related projects! It’s hard to say which of them I’m most excited about — One that is really close to my heart, is the storefront I opened in the city where my business began — Hamilton Hemp, on Barton Street in Hamilton Ontario! It acts as my head office for the consulting business, and we also offer some really unique products like Cannabeds’ hemp mattresses, hemp pillows, even hemp doggie beds! They’re new- made here in Canada and available North America wide. The project that is probably having the biggest impact on my career right now is the switch away from one on one patient care into corporate and international cannabis consulting. One on one patient care can be really draining and it’s easy to get burnt out — so after years of it, I’m pretty excited about some consulting I’ve been doing in Trinidad / Tobago and in Jamaica and about the possibility of being brought into some major projects on the international scene. As exciting as the growth of this billion dollar industry is in Canada, there is a whole world out there, and many countries are opening up to the truth about cannabis and wanting to get on this train to success!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I don’t think anyone achieves success without a great team of supporters behind them. Of course — I literally couldn’t do any of it without the support of my wonderful husband and my amazing kids. I also want to take this opportunity to thank the people who have literally helped me get to where I am today — My Publicist Tracy Lamourie and the team at Lamourie Public Relations — we started working together three years ago, I had no media presence at all — she made sure all the local media knew about the work I was doing, and did such a great job that now they reach out to me….Jory Meisner (The Cannabis Scout / Cannabis Haven International) — he has really been my industry mentor, guiding and advising me as I developed the business side of things. Brian Johnson of BrianJohnsonDesigns.ca — who is a vital part of my team and public presence — he does an amazing job with my website, my blog, graphic design, and so much more. I’ve been very lucky to gather a skilled team of professionals who are as committed to my mission as I am!
This industry is young dynamic and creative. Do you use any clever and innovative marketing strategies that you think large legacy companies should consider adopting?
Aside from the basics — make sure you surround yourself with a skilled publicist who understands cannabis, cannabis medicine and the cannabis consumer; and of course an excellent web/graphic designer that will work closely with you to ensure timely blogs and a social media presence that reflects authenticity, honesty, and some personality. Even a big corporate or legacy company shouldn’t have a generic presence. People want to know the PEOPLE they are dealing with. And keep up on changes and innovations in this extremely fast moving industry!
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the Cannabis industry? Can you share 3 things that most concern you?
What excites me is the future potential of this amazing and still growing new industry and the fact that so many women are leaders in the space. Cannabis amnesty — removing the charges for people that were convicted in the past for a now legal plant that never should have been prohibited; and the vast revenue potential!
What concerns me mostly is the overly strict limitations and over regulation set by governments that can stifle innovation, entrepreneurs, and employment.
Can you share your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started Leading a Cannabis Business”? Please share a story or example for each.
First thing — Don’t sell yourself short. There are so many newcomers to this industry selling themselves as cannabis consultants, when they were bankers or real estate agents just months ago! We welcome all those people with all those great skill sets into the industry, but those of us who have been around awhile don’t know whether to laugh or to cringe when we see them selling the knowledge they barely have at high dollar to cannabis businesses or investors. I wish someone had made me realize earlier that I had accumulated far more knowledge in far more areas of the cannabis business than most of those people. I know that now, and that’s why I have been moving away from one on one care to consulting for large corporations and internationally.
Second thing — Be prepared for community disapproval — not everyone will agree. I’ve had issues with family and friends over what I do, been confronted by school officials who even called police — even though I was a legal medical patient — just because they smelled cannabis on me one day! I’ve had issues with banks- thats common in this industry for sure — with other business owners, and of course elected officials don’t treat cannabis related businesses with the same respect as they do other businesses — that’s changing with legalization, but it has been a long road.
Third thing — Be prepared for 18 hour days and a lot of stress. There’s always a learning curve, things change quickly, people are always demanding immediate answers from you, and especially on the one on one working with sick people side, it can really be difficult. People ask and expect a lot of you, they’re often not well and at high stress times in their lives… it’s not always easy, that’s for sure!
Fourth thing — be careful who you trust. I’ve seen a lot of grey market companies who aren’t working with a consultant approach big companies, get wined and dined and treated like gold, give the companies samples of their product with the promise of future meetings, then they never hear from those companies again, later finding they took the product back to their R and D departments, duplicated it, and cut the original maker out of the deal.
Fifth thing — drop what doesn’t work. This one comes from my own experience as well as my experience advising clients. Don’t fall in love with an idea to the extent that you are blinded to its negatives. Go with your gut. Move on. Trust yourself, if something is telling you no, listen.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
Support your employees with continuing education and mentorship.
Don’t forget the back end — have a great accountant.
Use a publicist that can help media and the public see you as the expert in your field that you are.
Remember it’s not a race — just do what is best for you — do you!
Hire family if you can (make sure they are competent though!) — and in this industry it is really important to keep up to date on all aspects of cannabis law!
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I would create a movement that reduces stigma around cannabis medicine so people like seniors and mothers can use cannabis without stress or worry about uninformed judgement.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!