Lisa Buffo, Founder & CEO of the Cannabis Marketing Association, sat down with Hope Wiseman, Founder & CEO of Mary and Main to discuss one of the biggest resources in dispensary marketing — community building. For more information go to: https://thecannabismarketingassociation.com/
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Lisa Buffo, Founder & CEO of the Cannabis Marketing Association, sat down with Hope Wiseman, Founder & CEO of Mary and Main to discuss one of the biggest resources in dispensary marketing — community building.
Mary and Main is a Maryland based medical dispensary located in Capitol Heights, Maryland. The dispensary was founded upon the research of doctors and experienced professionals and came to fruition in 2015, ready to follow their mission of providing quality cannabis-based products and cannabis education.
Read the Transcript
Lisa Buffo: Hey, everyone. Welcome to party like a marketer. The podcast dedicated to in-depth conversations with cannabis and CBD marketers who are breaking down stigma and changing the game of cannabis communications. Today, we’re talking to hope Weizmann, the founder and CEO of Marianne Maine, a medical dispensary in Maryland.
Born and raised in Prince George’s County, Maryland. Hope Wiseman has always been passionate about serving her community in 2014. Haute graduated with an economics degree from the number one, historically black college and university Spelman college in Atlanta. While on campus hope served her prestigious college community with several leadership roles in campus organizations, such as serving as the president of the economics club.
And co-founding her colleges first habitat for humanity chapter. After spending a little over a year at SunTrust as an equity institutional sales analyst, hope decided to continue striving for excellence by pursuing her dream of entrepreneurship with her financial and banking background, hope founded her company cha inc on the foundation of her vision to create opportunities for minorities.
Who have been disproportionately affected by the war on drugs in 2016, hope became the youngest black woman dispensary owner in the United States with her company cha when it was awarded a dispensary license in the 25th district of Maryland, this title has garnered her much national success that has led to media placements and speaking engagements around the country.
Mary and Main dispensary opened in Prince George’s County, Maryland and fall of 2018 and has had continuous growth ever since over the past three years, hope Wiseman has worked alongside her mother, a dentist by trade to grow her business and brand in the cannabis industry. During this time she’s faced confusion and skepticism from friends and family who have negative connotations about marijuana.
Although she continues to raise awareness about the positive effects. It will soon have on minority communities, constantly breaking the stoner stigma and the negativity that comes with it. Wiseman continues to raise awareness and educate her community about the positive impact that cannabis can have on America’s economy, and its communities, Hope has a strong desire to cultivate more research and development surrounding cannabis. She has often said that once the dismissive connotation of cannabis has been dissolved, communities will have the opportunity to heal an economically prosper. Hello hope. And thank you so much for joining us this morning.
Hope Wiseman: Hi Lisa. Thank you for having me. Yes, of course. So we’re excited and our viewers are excited to hear about your story, you know, how you got here, and to learn more about Marion main and what you do.
Lisa Buffo: So let’s, let’s first kind of talk about hope, who hope is, and tell us a little bit about yourself and particularly, you know, what you were doing before you got into cannabis.
Hope Wiseman: Yeah. So, I was born and raised in Prince George’s County where our store is right now, went to high school, actually, 10 minutes up the street from where the store is. My mom is a dental. she’s a dentist and owns her own dental practice. And her original practice location was like five minutes on the same street really that we are located on. So, you know, it’s really, it, it, it came full circle, but I was born and raised here in Prince George’s County. And I went away to school. I attended Spelman college and I was an economics major, interning at investment banks all throughout college. And then I ended up working in investment banking post-graduation. I was doing equity, institutional sales. So I was selling stock research to hedge fund managers and mutual fund managers. and you know, I really liked my job, but that’s around that time or the year I graduated and the year I was working full time, right out of school was the year that I really got introduced to the cannabis industry that was around 2014.
Lisa Buffo: Nice. So your background is in finance. Yeah. Okay. Cool. So tell me a little bit about that introduction to cannabis. What, you know, what was it? Did you have an aha moment and, you know, what kind of, what precedented the jump from finance and what you were doing to, to this space?
Hope Wiseman: Yeah. So I had just graduated. Right. And I was definitely thinking I was, I was raised with an entrepreneurial spirit, for sure. I was raised with, that type of mindset and always looking outside of the box and looking how I can build things. So, I just graduated my degree with an economics and I was working in finance.
So I was really all about the markets and how things were working and. You know how new and new emerging industry. So 2014 was around the time that cannabis started becoming mainstream. they’d seen like dr. was doing his, series on seizures and CBD oil and cannabis as a whole. you were seeing cannabis start to be recognized on major publications, like time magazine, Forbes.
and from there that really caught my attention because I had always been interested in cannabis on a recreational level. And I didn’t really understand it from a medicinal standpoint, nor did I really understand the social justice that needed to be implemented because of the war on drugs. I didn’t understand any of that at that time.
I just knew that I liked cannabis for me, but I wouldn’t even calling it that I was calling it weed back then. You know, I, I w I, I didn’t know any different. so, but what I did know when I saw those charts of the growth of the industry and how we were in its infant stages, what I did know was, wow, I’m probably never going to have an opportunity to be part of something that’s going to grow to be so big and get in on the RAV4 level. Normally industry, this big, the only people who can play in it are the big boys, you know, that have millions and millions and millions of dollars or access to millions or billions of dollars. But I realized, okay, hope I’ll have that.
You have the opportunity. If you get in early enough, you can become one of those people. You can become one of the bigger people in this industry. And I realized that I had a very small window, so. I started doing my research and I figured out how the industry works and how it went state by state, because it was federally illegal, which intrigued me.
I had never seen an industry be federally illegal, but then still, you know, recognize on a mainstream level. And in States adopting it, I had never seen that. Of course it’s never happened in our life. So, you know, I was, I was just so intrigued by the way that the industry, the economics behind it. And that’s what really caught my attention first.
Lisa Buffo: Were you seeing, were you getting requests for it in your prior job? Like were people starting to, ask about it and you saw it that way and then said, Hey, maybe I should, you know, look at this or was it something you had sort of independently been looking at. I definitely started seeing it on like, you know, CNBC and all the shows.
Hope Wiseman: So it was, it was starting to be talked about from an investment perspective, but no, at that time, it wasn’t like at my investment bank, the hedge fund managers and mutual fund managers, I was talking to were like, Hey, where’s the cannabis research? Like, no, because there were no, there were no publicly traded cannabis company that, that portal.
So, you know, that came later and, and technically, you know, the bank I worked with, they weren’t trading on the CSE, the Canadian stock exchange. So they wouldn’t have cared anyway, they’re trading on the New York stock exchange. So they wouldn’t, at, at my job. No. But it was definitely starting to be talked about within, my colleagues circles yet in finance.
It was beginning to be discussed, which definitely helped, me feel like this was something that I could really do and build a sustainable career because I realized, okay, people in my industry are looking at it. We’re still early, but I knew my 22 year old self with not, not having a million dollars, hardly having any money at all.
I knew that my time is now. And this is the only time I have. I realized that that’s one thing I knew from studying economics. If you don’t get in on the ground floor level, you have to be a big boy. And I was like, I’m a little fish. So I, this is the time that I have, and I really went towards it. That’s awesome.
Lisa Buffo: So did you first start looking into getting a license and retail operations? I mean, was that sort of your first obvious play or did you start somewhere else and come there? Yeah, I definitely was. I immediately went towards plant touching. I think I, I was seeing that window and I was like, okay, I got to just get in.
Hope Wiseman: I wasn’t thinking about all of the ancillary opportunities around and had, I had started some ancillary ideas back then by now could have been in a whole different place. So I definitely, I don’t want to say I regret I don’t regret anything because everything happens for a reason, but like I look back and I’m like, huh?
I guess that wasn’t my path because I wasn’t thinking about that at all. I wasn’t at all I was thinking about was I need to own a dispensary. I need to own a cultivation center. I need to own a processing center. I was not thinking about all of the other opportunities in the industry. So. yeah, I definitely tried now to, encourage people to look at all of the out there opportunities that the industry brings, especially because the industry has matured immensely since 2014, the whole different ball game, which I knew was going to happen. And I knew that, you know, the pace of this industry was going to grow. I mean, people say it all the time that cannabis like right now is like dog years, one year is like seven years. And I knew it was really going to be like that. So I, I was just so focused on that. I mean, hindsight looking back, I, like I said, I wish I had kind of looked at the other things around me, but I wouldn’t have been focused on what I was doing that may not have gotten here had I not been focused on this.
Lisa Buffo: And I know Mary and main is it’s a family business that you started with your, your mom, dr. Wiseman. So do you, was she your first phone call? Did you say, Hey mom, I, I want to start this. What do you think? I mean, how did tell us a little bit about those early days in that process of how you got started and how you would after that license?
Hope Wiseman: Yeah. So definitely my mom was my first phone call. once I realized I wanted to do this, my mom and I have a very unique relationship. We are mother and daughter. We have that a true mother and daughter relationship, but we are also friends. And now business partners, confidence, all those things.
So, at that time, and I think around that time was when our friendship really became real, you know, outside of like just having a mother daughter relationship. So around 2014, around the time I graduated, that’s when we really became friends. So, you know, I’m talking to my mom every day. And I called her after I took some time to introduce this to her.
Cause my mom was not like a lot of people are like, Oh, your mom must be one of those cool moms that, and my mom is super cool, but, no, he’s not like. We were never like passing j’s from each other growing up or anything like that, you know, like she’s like a real mom that would have never allowed me to smoke weed if she had known that I was doing that at the time.
So when I introduced it to her, she was kind of like at first, but she’s a medical professional. So I knew to approach her with statistics and, real measurable, tactics that, that she could understand. and she’s also an entrepreneur and my mom raised me to be an entrepreneur as well. So I knew to come with her, come to her with numbers.
And, also, you know, just at the time, because you’re getting dr. Gupta doing these, these, series and you’re getting, you’re seeing all these different things. I think she was more open to it because it was like, okay, not only is your bold forward-thinking daughter coming to you with this idea. You’re seeing it all over everywhere, the news magazines, you read articles about it. And, and I think she realized, wow, you know what I’m showing her. Look, our home state of Maryland is they’ve just passed the bill. They’re going to license companies by the end of next year, we have a little over a year to get ready, mom. And she’s seeing all these things that are happening.
She’s seeing in the bill, there’s, they’re telling you how much money it’s going to cost to do this. She’s like, wow, that’s not a cost that much, these businesses are probably going to make a lot of money. And I’m like, look, I did the numbers. Yes, they will. And I showed her all of that. And she was, I mean, she, she immediately was like, let’s go.
I mean, I don’t even, we didn’t even look back. We never looked back.
Lisa Buffo: That’s amazing. So you applied for the license, it took you about a year, I’m guessing. And then, and then you got it.
Hope Wiseman: Yeah, so we applied, so that was 2014. My mom and I had that conversation probably around the end of 2014. we applied in the Epic, November, 2015. That’s when the applications went in, we were notified that we won in December of 26, so long here, one full year later.
And then we opened our doors and there was a lot of stuff that happened in between there winning and opening the doors, September, 2018. So it was a very long process.
Lisa Buffo: Okay. And so then Sumerian, Maine opened September, 2018. Tell me a little bit about what that looks like. How do you have a cultivation at this time?
How, how big is the shop? I mean, what’s what, what was kind of the first stages to opening and, and tell me, what about, about leading up exactly to opening your doors? What was that kind of month like?
Hope Wiseman: Yeah. So, we spent, like I said, we were licensed at the end of 2016. So December, 2016. So we spent a year and a half the first year we pretty much spent trying to find a location. That’s almost all we did for a year. I was focused on trying to build SLPs and build out operations for a business that I didn’t even really, I, I had never run before. So that was funny. I look back at all the work I did pre, opening and I’m like, I could have just not did that, learning experience, you know, so I spent a year trying to learn as much as I could and had to relearn everything by the time that, you know, I actually open, but we spent a year looking for a building and then we spent, maybe not a full year, we probably spent seven months looking for a building and then the rest of the time with the building it out. in the meantime, during that time, my mom was diagnosed with Breck breast cancer. Wow. We were, I mean, and my mom is, my mom’s a warrior, like she, and she’s in the front. so she’s, my mom is not. not one of the types of people.
My mom is right in the front. She’s leading the troops, right next to me. So even when she was going through her cancer battle and all of the things that she was going through, my mom, I mean, she’d go through a chemo treatment and maybe stay home for two days. And then the next day, she’s, you know, two days she’s at the store, Boston general contractor around.
That’s just how we are. That’s how we’re built. We are fighters and warriors. So that time was like in our store managers, my mother’s best friend, and someone that’s been in my life since I can remember. so, and he’s an interior designer by trade. He worked before he worked for us. He, did events and, his main job was designing commercial, commercial buildings and doing the interior design for commercial buildings. So, I mean, that was perfect for us. So my mom Dexter, kind of took over our build-out projects and they, they were, they were awesome during that time and my mom was battling cancer through it all.
So it was, just such a character building time for our company. And I think it really built our family culture. Because we had to stick together and lean on each other so much. we, we don’t have huge financial backers. There are three owners, myself, my mother, and then dr. Larry Bryant and then our store manager at the time, it was just us four in the company and we were having to figure it all out. And we were having to do it on a shoestring budget because we didn’t, like I said, we had about $2 million to this project and that is it. And we had to purchase our building because of different reasons. And there was a lot of things. So, I mean, we were really doing our best to stay afloat and all at the same time that this was happening, I was getting this, I was getting a lot of media attention ’cause I was, you know, an article had been, published about me being the youngest African-American woman in the space. So like my media presence for the web, I’m getting interviews left and right. It was really emotionally taxing on everyone because, you know, I was having to put myself out there.
Meanwhile, I’m worried about is my mother going to survive? While we’re trying to build this business that we put all of our money into. I was emotionally drained. I was, tired and I was trying to pour so much into other people. And I was scared to enter into this new stage of my life. I was scared, like, should I be, should I have a real job right now?
You know, what should I be doing? And I really had to just lean on my faith in God and, I I I’m. So I look back I’m like, wow, I don’t know how we got through those two years of limbo. That was rough because a lot of stuff was thrown at us. I think that, we were, we were being tested and trying to be broke in and we have emerged from that.
And I mean, I’m so proud of where we are today. That’s amazing. And thank you for sharing that. I know, I know some people say entrepreneurship is like, building the plane while you’re flying it and then add, you know, stress with family and health and money. I mean, it’s, it’s really a lot. So that certainly takes a lot of courage to do, but amazing that you guys made it through.
Lisa Buffo: So, and, and to clarify, so your mom, she was a dentist is a dentist and she had practice and then. Did she totally leave that and shut that down to jump in?
Hope Wiseman: No. Oh, so, you know, she still had her practice when she was diagnosed. She had to stop practicing. she had, she got another dentist in her practice to fulfill it.
since then, then she is now in remission. She is cancer free currently. She is not practicing a full time still. So. She still runs her practice, but she has another dentist in there. she might be hiring a second dentist and have two, but yeah, so she she’s taken a big step back from dentistry, but she’s not all the way out and my mom always says, well, you know what? I always have these hands that always have that talent. I can always go back to doing that. But, I think we we’ve really found our passion and what we’re doing and. We both love helping other people. We both love the idea that we are building something, that can be passed down for generations within our family.
And we both have a passion to teach other people how to build something like that. Not necessarily a cannabis business, but maybe. For their families. We both have that passion. So, I think that she just, I feel like I’m living in my purpose. And my mom said to me that now in her late fifties, that she feels like she’s living her purpose too.
So it just makes me feel so like, I mean, I might be a little bit emotional right now cause I. Man. I couldn’t imagine. I feel blessed that I found mine so early in life, and I feel even more blessed that I’ve allowed my mother to hers before she leaves this earth.
Lisa Buffo: That’s so beautiful. That’s so beautiful.
So tell me a little bit about, about Mary and main. How did you, how did you come to the name? Tell us about your mission. and, and a little bit about, you know, kind of the brand and the feel. I mean, how did you take this energy and this passion and turn it into the physicality of a storefront in your story?
I mean, how did that transformation happen?
Hope Wiseman: Yeah. So originally we applied under the name and our holding company is still, under somewhat of the name, compassionate, herbal alternatives. cha we go by cha that’s our, like our, our overarching. and when I remember that’s how we won and everything, we were opening up the store and I remember sitting my mom and dr.
Bryant, the three principals down, and I just was like, Chi, that’s not it, I’m not feeling it. I’m not feeling it as like the actual brand name. I don’t feel it. And they were all like, why not? I said it just doesn’t. I don’t feel it doesn’t feel friendly. It doesn’t feel like us. We are. I mean, you, they are both doctors.
Dr. Bryan is an oral surgeon. My mom is a general dentist. and I was like, you know, you guys are both doctors and we definitely want that, but we want people to feel comfortable. Cannabis has already taboo. We want them to feel very comfortable coming here. Not like they’re going to the doctor and not like they’re going to the dentist.
Cause I was like, I love you both. But a lot of people don’t like going to the dentist. I was like, I don’t want people to feel like that. And I feel like compassionate, herbal alternatives gives me that feeling. So when we were kind of thinking about what we wanted to do, I thought about all of the, the feeling I wanted to evoke to invoke on people.
but the first color that came to mind with blue, because it’s calming bluish green because of cannabis, you know? So we came up with this teal color and Marion Maine came from the idea. We were kind of talking about how cannabis isn’t mainstream yet and how we’re trying to kind of eliminate the stigma and bring it to, the average person.
And not necessarily even the person who’s current from using cannabis, but someone who could really benefit from the medicinal benefits of cannabis, but is afraid to use it. And I, you know, I thought to myself, well, I would like to talk with the type of people who would come to Mary andMain that fit, that build are the same type of women and people that would shop at Jocelyn Maine.
That’s what I said. And my mom goes home, Mary and Main would be cool because like Mary Jane and I was like Mary and me, and I liked that. And that’s how it was birth. and I believe in our shop, you know, Dexter really did a good job of, of making it friendly and bill warm. We have a lot of, it’s a lot of gray tones.
But then we have this warm wood color throughout the store too. So there’s this really warm and calming feeling in our shop. And. I’ve had people say it’s almost spotlight versus headshot. it’s, it’s, you know, and I’m really trying to maintain that sense of like calmness. So when you come in the store, even when it’s busy and all that, I tell, you know, we call them experienced agents, but what most people know with bud tenders, And all of this is, is a way of marketing, right.
You know, like calling people under certain names because it gets your patients, they hear us call each other experienced agents. They’re gonna think, Oh, experienced agents. What does that mean? We’re providing you an experienced, we are here to serve. And I think those types of things are what I think the, the media presence and a lot of people wanting to support an African-American owned family, owned shop women, you know, we’re we’re women, we are a family and we’re black.
So I think a lot of people just liked the idea of supporting someone who is such an anomaly in this industry. And then on top of that, when they come, it’s like, Oh, wow, this is like, actually nice. I think I was expecting this to be a little. You know, hole in the wall or whatever it might be, but it’s not, it’s, it’s beautiful.
We have about, the building total is about 6,000 square feet and we have about three, maybe 20 503,000 of it for the actual dispensary space that people actually walk in. But, I think we’ve done a really good job at really finding that sense of calmness and comfortability in the store.
Lisa Buffo: That’s really cool. Did you come up with the, the whole concept and brand and colors, you know, yourself internally as a team, or did you guys hire outside an agency or marketing professionals to do that?
Hope Wiseman: So we definitely, hired outside so that we have a lot of skills on our team. We do, but, yeah, not creating logos and those things, that’s not our strong suit, so definitely know your strong suits and, outsource the rest.
But yeah, we definitely, thought through the concept and we knew kind of the colors theme that we wanted to go to. It’s funny because of the designer was really trying to get us to go towards pink and you know, well, you don’t know me well, but I love pink. So I was like, you know, I was like, yeah, pink.
And my mom and dr. Brian were looking like, are you kidding me? Like, absolutely not. And now I look back I’m like that probably wasn’t the most inclusive. Color, especially the way our logo and our brand is. I don’t know if pink would have been, I think pink works with certain brands, like a T-Mobile that works.
there’s a cannabis brand, a black owned cannabis brand in California called good tree. LA good tree is pink. That works, you know, but, and may wouldn’t have worked right. I’ve been to girly. so, you know, I think we we’ve all had to like weigh in and all that, but we definitely hired, outsourced and we just found, we found someone that worked really well with us.
And since then, you know, now we work a lot more internally. We have some people on our team now that have some graphic designing skills and we have a digital marketing team that we work with. For our, social media marketing, email marketing, and they do some of our inventory stuff as well in our website.
Lisa Buffo: Awesome. So, so once you, once you’ve got the store open, you’ve got this new brand, this new spot, like look and feel. Tell me about some of the ways you, you market and reach the community. How, how does Marianne Maine reach out to the residents of Prince George’s County in Maryland and tell them about.
What it is you do? I mean, what are, what are kind of the first steps? I know Maryland is a, is a medical program. That’s, that’s different than just saying, Hey, anyone, 21 plus come, you know, come in and see what we’re about. what are some of the ways you guys approach marketing?
Hope Wiseman: Yeah, so marketing, in cannabis is really regulated by the state.
So Maryland has, they didn’t come out with a lot of regulations around marketing at first, and then later realized when they started, started seeing billboards go up and all these different things, it was like, huh, maybe we gotta regulate this. So they started, introducing different legislation in these, like.
And they weren’t even bills. It was the Maryland medical cannabis commission. Introducing policy that got voted on that later would be introduced as a bill and maybe enacted by the governor. Right. So we started going to a lot of, those meetings and helping to influence it. But for us, the things that we found that have worked for us, So we can’t do typical social media marketing.
You can’t boost the ads on Facebook or Instagram, if you’re selling cannabis and even on your feed or in your story, you have to be careful about PR putting prices or really marketing per sell. So our goal, normally when we’re doing any type of marketing is to push people to our website. Because in our email list and our text message list, because those are places that we own that we control and we can do and say whatever we want, we can say, this is for sale.
Come here now to there versus you put that on Instagram. You’re getting your account shut down. So our Instagram, we focus more on educational content and just like awareness, content, branding stuff, pictures of our store. Hey, you know, see you later, come on, come in today, shop with us, but know what we’re selling on there.
we focus on those types of things on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, no actual dollar amounts. We never put a dollar sign in there. I feel like a dollar sign is a clear way to get your, Your account Clagg. any types of like too, for this, this percent off, anything like that on social media, we’ll get your account shut down.
and even you gotta be careful with certain pictures, you know, it it’s, it’s really, really nuanced. You’ve seen people with, with thousands of followers get, disabled on Instagram and Facebook and stuff. So you gotta really be careful. Like I said, we focus a lot of the social media marketing on pushing people to the list that we control in the assets we control, like our website, email and text message marketing.
as far as email, you know, we send out email newsletters with new announcements and all that fun stuff. We do. our website is constantly updated and our menu is there. So we’re constantly pushing people to our menu. And especially right now, while we’re dealing with COVID-19, you know, we, we, we, before COVID we were having a hard time getting our patients to adapt to ordering ahead online.
Now they’re very used to it, and I think they like the speed of it. And I think it will continue even after. So we push people to our menu online. And then I’ve a big form of marketing for us is our text message marketing. It has really, I at least here at Maryland and I’m hearing in other States, it’s also like this.
It has really become a something in the morning where patients wake up and they’re like looking through all their texts, like, Oh, I wonder what the sales are today. So, you know, text message marketing is huge when, when they don’t get a text or patients come in, they’re like, what was the special of the day?
You know, like what. What happened to my text? So text message marketing is huge in cannabis, which I, you know, sometimes I’m just like, I cannot believe people want to get all these techs all day, but they do. So, that that’s really worked for us. Well, we’ve seen an immediate uptick. It started using it.
Lisa Buffo: That’s awesome. so do you guys, you also mentioned that you have a digital marketing team. Is that largely in those three channels, you mentioned website, email and texts, or do you do, much digitally beyond that?
Hope Wiseman: So we, we do our texts message marketing in-house mainly, they mainly focus on our email marketing, social, social media, through all of our social channels, as well as, our website.
They also help us with SEO, things like that. So anything digital, they are pretty much anything in the, on the internet. They are pretty much working with us to develop those things right. we, we do some in-store marketing and physical marketing. We have, like we sell, hint based CBD products. We have a huge banner on the side of our store, showing that we don’t have any billboards at the moment.
Technically our County does not allow for them. However people have found loopholes. We just are not, you know, we we’re, we’re not doing that right now. We’re following the rules to a T And we do, we do some other forms of marketing. We do a lot of collaborations with local, because right now, because we are not recreational, right.
We’re not adult use. So like you said, it’s not like you can just say, Hey, anyone over 21 staff in our store. So, we, we really focus on, our local community right now, because those are the people that are going to shop with us. Those are the people that are going to come back constantly because at the end of the day, to every dispensary in Maryland, we’re also in the same products.
Pretty much we, we get, you know, we got about 20 options. So yes, there is some variety, but to an extent, I mean, it’s the same products and the same brands. So. a lot of it is of course it’s pricing, but a lot of us are selling around the same prices as well. a lot of it is location. So we just focus on the people who are closest to us.
We partner with local businesses. We are, we do a free educational classes. We focus on really just involving the community and making sure they understand what cannabis is. And we feel like that’s the best form of marketing, the free educational, Classes. And one thing we’re developing right now is a YouTube series of just educational content, just free educational content.
And I believe that, the more content you put out, whether it be curated and really planned out, or even just like documenting what you’re going through, I think people just like to feel connected to your brand. So that’s something that we’re working on as a company. and it gets difficult, you know, in cannabis because you are busy most of the time, you know, you’re trying, you’re doing a lot.
A lot of times people are just not adequately staffed, so it’s not like you have a person that can just walk around and take videos all day. You have to kind of find that balance. and I think that we have quite a few, I mean, we just have loyal patients. and we are working to kind of build that presence so that we are able to build and grow our within a state.
And then also we’re trying to grow our brand nationally. So digital having that strong digital presence. And I think a strong video specific presence is a great way to be able to expand your brand past even where you are at the moment.
Lisa Buffo: Yeah, that makes sense. I’m really glad you mentioned collaboration with local businesses and I’m, I’m assuming you mean non-cannabis businesses. We talk a little bit. Is there any specific collaboration you’ve been particularly proud of or initiative you’ve done that, that has seen success and, you know, tell the viewers a little bit about how to approach that?
Hope Wiseman: Yeah, so, I’ve seen a few things be really successful. So we on, on any. Big day for us.
So like, let’s say not this year for four 20, but for 20, our grand opening, things like that, we normally do some type of like community of it in our parking lot or parking lot is huge. we’ll have something for kids. We’ll have normally some type of musical entertainment. Maybe let some vendors come of local companies, some like CBD hemp related some not.
just local businesses. So that’s a good way to just get other businesses involved and then they’re going to bring their customers to that. And then those customers, whether they have a medical card or not are going to be inquiring about your services. So it might be a longterm, you know, acquisition process for those people that you attract.
But it, it, it starts to process, we’ve brought in fitness instructors and yoga instructors. We have a space upstairs at our store and that they bring their clients, you know, to our location and that allows for it. So. and, and that works. If you have space in your location to be able to allow industry groups or, different things to have meetings at your store, that is how you can bring, you know, cause I’ve had a few different industry groups say, Oh, I know you have that space upstairs.
It fits about 50 people. Can we hold our meeting here? I’m like, yeah, of course those are all medical patients. They’re going to probably shop with us before or after the meeting. Of course. So I think that’s a great way as well. When you’re talking about collaborations, whether they’re in the industry or not.
And then outside of the industry, when we do large events, we just try and partner with all the businesses around us. So we have, there’s a chicken spot right next to us called Sardi’s a Peruvian chicken spot. And I mean, like everybody loves it. The lines are always packed. So whenever we do an event, we always go partner with Sardi’s and, and I mean, it helps to really, really boost, you know, the turnout and all those things.
Cause if they can go right across the street and get some free sardines, And, you know, they’re gonna, they’re going to come in. So I think just finding little ways like that to collaborate with different companies and businesses. and then sometimes, you know, we of course sponsor events as well, local community events sponsor them and we work with, well, we worked with our local area, Prince George’s County.
the executive office and sponsored some of their events. So I think just the more awareness, even if people are just looking at your brand, it’s very, very helpful. and collaborating with the businesses that are directly near you, because they’re going to see the synergies in the more people. Right.
Like for sororities, they’re like, well, the more people who come to Mary and Main, the more people who are going to see Sardi’s so we want you guys to do well. And that’s, I think finding those businesses that are directly like next to you, you guys will bring synergies to each other, and you can find ways to work together there.
Lisa Buffo: That’s awesome. That’s awesome. well, you also mentioned a little bit earlier about CBD and hemp and how you sell those products as well. And I think there’s a perception out there, you know, if you’re, if you own a dispensary and you’re a dispensary marketing, it’s THC, THC, THC, and those two are very different categories.
Do you tease those out when, when you approach your marketing plan, how you advertise those products versus your THC products? And if so, can you talk a little bit about, the differences.
Hope Wiseman: Yeah. So we do, we do, we’ve kind of, we’ve just really began caring, CBD derived from hemp. So we always sold CBD drive from real cannabis that had more than, I don’t want to say real cannabis, like, but you know, we’ve, we’ve made up this 0.3% line in the sand. but yeah, so we’ve always sold CBD rich products that had more than 0.3% THC, but that conversation with people who don’t necessarily understand what that means is very difficult.
So we realized let’s go ahead and carry, hemp derived, CBD. as well as we have a lot of people who just come in the store who see the signs that they come into the store and they don’t have a medical card yet, but they are still looking for some sort of residence. We can sell them CBD products, that may work for them.
We never push it on people that we don’t think it would work for though. So, you know, we hear people’s situations cause some people need the THC in their product. for whatever reason, maybe not a strong dose of it, but some version of it. but I’d say, you know, when advertising was CBD, honestly, you’re running into almost the same exact advertising restrictions.
You can’t. I mean, because on these algorithms and bots that are looking for the cannabis related information, honestly can not decipher the difference between CBD and hemp. You’d have to go and. And, appeal the decision if your Instagram was shut down. So, I mean, it is very difficult. I wouldn’t suggest even trying to sell him online either.
at least not on a social site. I think it has to go through the same channels, the differences with CBD and him, you can sell, you can literally have a merchant processing all mine. that process is not difficult. It’s not easy either. It’s not as simple as getting a Stripe account. Stripe doesn’t allow CBD.
They don’t allow cannabis related at all. I sell cannabis courses right online. My Stripe account that’s shut down. Selling a course is not selling weed, but. They, they associate these things. So, finding a payment processor is very difficult. oftentimes you have to pay much higher fees, and, and have an account that’s like in England or something, you know?
So it’s, it’s definitely more difficult to figure out how to actually sell your products online. it’s just difficult. That’s a difficult, difficult market because it’s saturated as well. Everybody in their mother is selling CBD products and a lot of people don’t even know what CBD is. They don’t even know that their products have CBD in it.
For real. They don’t know how to read the cos. Everyone’s like, Oh, I have a COA. I’m like, what does it say? Tell me what that says. Do you know what that was at that point where you’re reading, where it says under, you know, no TAC content, you know, what does it say? You know, tell me what that reads. And I think we have to, if you’re going to sell CBD, you need to really understand those things.
And then you have to figure out the main, the hardest part about selling CBD is figuring out how to legitimize your business. So like, if you’re getting online, getting a merchant account processor, And I mean, I’d say that’s probably the hardest part about getting a merchant account processor. And then from there, figuring out how to differentiate, differentiate yourself in a saturated market and being sure that your product is really good quality.
And it actually, because a lot of people are just jumping on because it’s a good industry and it’s, you know, it’s sexy and it’s booming, you know, but it’s like we don’t need any more snake oil. There’s plenty of that at seven 11 in the gas station, you know, we don’t need you to sell that. and we don’t need you to market us fake lies and tell us that this is going to be the cure all for everything.
Like first off, this hemp based CBD is probably not even going to work that well for whatever you need some CAC to activate that CBD, but people don’t understand that. Yup. That’s true. I’m glad you brought that up. I’m glad you brought that up. And she’s very, when she says COA, she’s referring to this certificate of analysis, which is the lab test results.
That actually say what is in that product and is tests for heavy metals. They test for residuals. They test for is there CBD in this? And I know we’ve seen in the media lately, you know, investigations where they go randomly test a bunch of products in the market and a. Shocking shocking. Majority of them don’t have CBD in it.
so there’s definitely a big educational gap between the consumers in the industry that is, needs to be balanced, needs to be balanced.
Lisa Buffo: So I’m, I’m glad you brought that up. so before we wrap up, could, could you talk a little bit about advice that you would give to new cannabis business owners? I mean, now that you’re a few, you know, you’re well into this.
According to dog years, you know where you’re there, you’re doing it. what advice would you, do you give to those who are, were in your position four or five years ago? particularly when it comes to marketing and advertising about where to start and how to approach, their business.
Hope Wiseman: So I would say the very first place you have to start, of course, is the regulations.
Make sure you have a really good understanding of the regulations and figure out too. are they set in stone or are they evolving? Most likely they’re still evolving. You know, no program is really set in stone at this point. So that means that you have to, you have two things that you have to do. You have the opportunity to influence these regulations around advertising and marketing.
and you should really think about what you want and also what is feasible. You know why that there are these restrictions and come with a solution that could potentially be, accepted. And I would really be pushing forward with what I wanted to see, because I mean, I don’t think people understand how much power we have when it comes to that.
Like, we can, we can make our laws and regulations, but almost if you, you almost can. If you have the right relationships with your, state legislators, I mean, you can. So I would tell people to focus on that. at early, later in the game, we can get creative and come up with really dope marketing strategies and campaigns and all that fun stuff.
But, none of that’s going to work if you can’t, even if you have this huge idea to put up this bull billboard, you can’t even put up billboards, that’s not going to work. So I would focus on the regulations first. So that I can influence them and then to understand. So then you can figure out, I always say, as entrepreneurs we’re smarter than, well, sometimes I have to censor myself, but I’m going to say I were smarter legislators.
Cause we get our industries, we know our industries, they’re having to make up bills about everything, you know, so they have to learn a little bit about everything. We know the cannabis industry. So as long as we understand those rules, we can find the, I don’t want to say loopholes, like you’re trying to, to, to get over on anybody, but you can just find the lane okay.
That is going to work for my business. so then my second piece of advice besides no, the regulation is to figure out what works for your business and your customer base. So whoever your customer is, I would define them out to the point of like what type of music they like to listen to. Where they like to go shop when they’re not shopping with you, like literally make a whole profile and try and understand, your customer base.
And maybe there’s like have different profiles of customers. Maybe there’s four. I feel like at Marion, Maine, we have about four different types of customers. and we really define that person. Like, I feel like I know that person and almost when people can walk in, I’m like, okay, that’s the SU. You know what I mean?
That we named them, you know, and we that’s a suit. Yeah. And I know, okay, this is how we treat suits. And this is what we do for suits because they like X, Y, and Z. So I would really define who my customer is and then define how I market to that person, how I greet that person in the store. How do I. you know how I explained different things.
We have one customer profile that they don’t want to hear all that extra stuff. They don’t want to even be greeted too much. They really want you to just get their medicine and go, they want you to already know what they want. He wants you to read their mind. they’re there a little short and snappy, but as soon as you get them saying, you know, you really understand them, then those that the same patient that comes in and wants to talk for 30 minutes.
Cause they’re like, Oh, that’s my homie. That’s my friend now because they get me. So, you know, you just really have to understand your people and that takes time. It doesn’t come, quickly and easy. It takes time and it takes, it takes you going through different things, but different types of people in different types of customers.
So we’re still developing that almost two years in. We’re still developing who exactly customer base is. And honestly, as soon as we go adult use here in Maryland within the next two, three years, That’s probably going to ship a lot too, and we’re going to have to revamp. So, yeah, I think those are my two biggest pieces of advice and really understand your customer base and then build your marketing strategy directed towards those people in their core, and then understand your regulations and what you really can and can’t do. So that you’re not in a position where, you know, you think you’re killing it. And the next thing you know, you get that sign on your door. You got to close your doors because you have billboards everywhere. I remember we even 1.1 time we had like these little lawn signs that we put up and down the street that we were on.
I mean, like you couldn’t go down that street and not see a very main sign. One day, it became knocking on it. Are you guys like all those damn, all of them were like, Oh, then we tried to get, you know, those little signs that flap in the wind. we tried to put, we put those up right in our own. in our own mind up, you gotta take those down cam have visible signs without a permit, and we’re not giving permits to cannabis companies.
It’s like, okay. You know, you just really got to really understand what it is. You don’t get fined and all that fun stuff too.
Lisa Buffo: That’s a great point. And I want to follow up on your point about, the, the regulators and the legislators and how I do think we as marketers and as entrepreneurs in this space have an obligation and a responsibility to educate them as well.
I know a lot of the marketing and advertising restrictions, they’re, they’re really designed to protect. Children. So that information doesn’t get into the wrong hands, but they also need that information around how can it get into the right hands and how can this properly be communicated? And they are legislating everything.
So it is up to us in the cannabis industry, I think, to, to bridge that gap, make that handshake and connect with them and let them know, Hey, here’s. Here’s where our line is. Here’s what works and, educate them so that together, we can really build this moving forward because industry just does move faster than government.
And so we have that responsibility to turn around and educate them because we are learning. And I know us in Colorado, we’ve seen so many examples where entrepreneurs have gone in, had that conversation and things have changed and they can’t paint. Slower than we like, but they do change and they can change quickly and have measurable impact on our business.
So I just want to really validate what you’ve said, because I think that’s a really great and meaning, so point.
Hope Wiseman: Thank you.
Lisa Buffo: Yeah. Awesome. Before we wrap up, is there anything else you would like to mention? Anything else you would like to say to the viewers, either about Mary and Main or marketing that we didn’t cover today?
Hope Wiseman: Yeah. So, because of COVID and the fact that we couldn’t have four 20 events, I decided to create an event called the four 20 experience, which I held on the 19th and 20th. I had over 50 speakers from the industry and outside of the industry, but subject matter experts in their own, right. We covered topics, like in the business field, in lifestyle and cannabis policy conversations, as well as we had some science-based, presentations and workshops and panels.
I mean, it was awesome. And I’m so excited because I am turning it into a community, but we’re going to have monthly meetup events. and it’s all going to be virtual. I love the idea that. I had people from Israel’s Spain, the Netherlands, Australia, Canada, all of that. At the event we had over 500 people register.
So I’m really excited to be able to continue, a global cannabis conversation where we’re going to continue to build community within this industry, because I believe that community is how we are going to expand this industry past, where it is now. And we’re going to get it to that next level of being one of the multi billion dollar industries that, kind of has changed the landscape of what a CEO has looked like.
so I’m excited to be able to, to, to curate that. And there will be more announcements about it, but if you want to learn more about it, definitely follow me on Instagram. That is where I am the most active at. I am hope so dope. and then if you want to learn more about Mary and main, you can always find us on Instagram, Twitter, and our website, Mary and Main, maryandmain.com.
And, yeah, I mean, we are really finding ways to connect with more people. So that’s what the four 20 experience is all about. And the four 20 community is going to be, we’re going to launch it in June. And I’m just excited to, to be able to bring people together from different places to discuss topics that we really care about.
and if you’re interested in, in seeing the replay of the conference, like I said, it was over 24 hours of content. I had Angela rye hosts a conversation with myself about policy, as well as my, my vision for myself in the future of cannabis. I had, I had all different types of people throughout the industry come by and different conversations on, licensing, ancillary products.
CBD hemp farming. we had a, how to roll a joint class, cooking with cannabis, exercise and cannabis. We had someone lead a workout and then talk about his use of a former NFL player who was the first, active NFL player to advocate for cannabis. I mean, we had everything. So if you’re interested in the replays, you can also pick that up at the link in my bio, on my Instagram.
So that was a mouthful. I’m sorry, but definitely just keep following me. I’m I’m not done. I am in the beginning of my journey. So keep following. I want to help you, get to where you’re going. I want to help you figure out how to market your business and how to start your business.
Lisa Buffo: Awesome. Well, thank you so much, Hope. It has been such a pleasure to have you today. Let me see. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for listening. Did you like this video? Give us a thumbs up and subscribe to our channel on YouTube, Spotify, and Apple music. You can learn more at thecannabismarketingassociation.com and find us on social media at, at @cannamarketing and at @cannabismarketingsummit.
And don’t forget to buy tickets to our annual virtual cannabis marketing summit. This June.
Meet Your Host
LISA BUFFO, Founder and CEO of Cannabis Marketing Association
Lisa Buffo is an award-winning entrepreneur and marketer with a passion for launching companies with experience in both the cannabis and technology industries. Lisa is the Founder & CEO of the Cannabis Marketing Association, a membership based organization focused on education and best practices for industry marketers with the vision of rebranding cannabis at the national level. She was named one of 2019's 40 Under 40 Rising Stars in Cannabis by Marijuana Venture Magazine in 2019 and named “The Marketing Guru” by Women & Weed magazine and is a featured speaker and media source in publications like Forbes, The Guardian, and VICE. You can find her on Instagram @libuff and Twitter @libuff21