Starting a cannabis business with limited funding

Angelique Moss
Apr 17, 2019 · 5 min read
(Photo by Cannabis Culture via Flickr. CC BY 2.0)

Cannabis in all its forms, from marijuana to industrial hemp, is the basis of a booming industry. Analyst reports project huge growth both in the U.S. and globally. In the U.S., marijuana is only legal in certain states while hemp and hemp-derived CBD is now becoming legal nationwide. As more and more businesses launch, it is clear that many will benefit financially from the popularity of cannabis.

Starting a cannabis business can often be quite expensive leaving many unable to participate. However, there are ways to start your own cannabis business without a great deal of funding.

Starting a legal grow operation or marijuana dispensary requires not only the typical funding necessary for agricultural or retail businesses. It also comes with requirements for expensive licenses that are distributed on a limited basis and often with high taxation. While the 2018 Farm Bill opens up the possibility for hemp and hemp-derived CBD product businesses that are not viewed as cash cows by local governments, growing hemp for profit and producing CBD products still requires significant sums of money.

However, there are lower cost business concepts accessible even to those without significant funding or even advanced training comparable to that needed for agricultural or retail operations. Such businesses are typically about cannabis or related to cannabis but do not involve interaction with cannabis. In addition, given the many online services now available at a low cost, web-based businesses offer a particularly open opportunity for resource-constrained entrepreneurs.

Cannabis tours

In states where marijuana is legal, cannabis tours have become a popular tourist and newbie option. Real businesses have been built based on this concept such as Colorado Cannabis Tours which offers a variety of bus-based excursions with visits to cannabis dispensaries and breweries. While Colorado Cannabis Tours and similar businesses often offer services that do require significant investment, the concept of a cannabis tour can lead to inexpensive business options for local experts.

For example, in a city where multiple dispensaries open to the general public are in walking distance, small-group tours can be conducted at little to no cost to the organizer. The tour could begin at a public gathering spot, such as a park, continue with the same kind of verbal delivery along the way you find with other such tours and then lead to the individual exploration of each business en route. The biggest expense is likely to be advertising but one might start with personal networks and social media. In fact, leveraging online tools is a must for low-cost business startups.

Cannabis media

Speaking of online tools, cannabis media businesses can be launched at a low cost. While successful operations do ultimately require some form of funding to grow, the initial stages do not have to be expensive.

Take PotNetwork News, a wholly-owned subsidiary of PotNetwork Holdings, Inc. (OTCMKTS:POTN), as an example. It focuses on cannabis industry news. Though currently ramping up operations with likely access to significant funding if needed, PotNetwork News began operations as a fairly simple website that is essentially based on an off-the-shelf blog design. They went on to report from industry events including video interviews taken at the events. Now they are releasing an industry magazine that is distributed to business people and influencers around the country.

While PotNetwork News does original reporting, you could report the news secondhand blogger style. Starting a blog or basic website using DIY tools like Wix, Wordpress.com or Squarespace may take a bit of time but is a low-cost way to begin. If you’re able to attend events, basic videos and photos could be produced with your mobile phone. A print magazine would be more costly but even that might be finessed with a publish on demand service like Lulu or Amazon’s CreateSpace. You could then offer a print publication via online orders and individually printed publications.

If in the process, you build a real audience, then funding becomes much easier to obtain. Until then, you can try monetizing your site by joining an ad network for marijuana companies. Every step described here is explained for free online by both enthusiasts and the companies providing the services. Spend some time with your favorite search engine and you will discover there are many free or low-cost tools for launching your own DIY media company.

Cannabis t-shirts

Speaking of publishing on demand, the related concept of print on demand covers a much wider range of options based on offering products online that are then produced one at a time in response to individual orders. Check out these cannabis t-shirts available from CafePress. This company is one of many that allows you to upload a design and then sell t-shirts and many other products with little to no upfront expense. They just take a cut of the proceeds or a standard fee, charge for payments and cut you a check.

Ideally, you will have your own website, as explained in the above media section, and from there the sky’s the limit. Believe it or not, serious fashion companies like Ecko Unltd. began with t-shirts and you can too. Again, simply use a search engine and the phrase “print on demand” and you will be introduced to a whole new world of possibilities.

Get creative

All the above low-cost business ideas share at least a couple of things in common. One, there are creative responses to limited funding that can be pursued in a reasonable and high-quality approach. Two, such businesses do require some sweat equity and long-term commitment to become real businesses.

But if you are serious about business, regardless of your funding level, you will be putting in a lot of work before reaching success. So you too can become a cannabis entrepreneur without significant funding if you are willing to use your imagination and put in the work.

This story is published in The Startup, Medium’s largest entrepreneurship publication followed by +443,678 people.

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Angelique Moss

Written by

London-based entrepreneur, writer, and traveller. The world of business, finance and investments, is her preferred cup of tea.

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