JEFFERSON VANBILLIARD | POSTED ON MAY 23, 2019
If you’ve ever wondered if you have what it takes to make it in the cannabis industry, Nichole West has a harsh reality check for you.
You probably don’t.
“One of the hardest parts of my job is telling someone who’s spent everything they have on this idea that you can get rich from cannabis that they are wrong,” West laments. “One of the worst ways to start a business is a shotgun marriage, where one person has money and the other has the product. The reality of what it takes to succeed in this business will end up kicking your ass.”
West began honing her skills in the industry in 2009, when she opened her first medical dispensary in Long Beach. From there, she moved on to Colorado, where she helped to open Sweet Leaf, a medical/recreational location that provided legal cannabis to anyone age 21 or older. Unfortunately for her, as well as several other employees, the state had other plans. Serving a 30-day sentence for a Class 4 drug felony can make anyone rethink their current path, but West doesn’t back down from a challenge.
After the dust had settled and her time had been served, West focused on creating and influencing everything she could in the realm of legal cannabis. From writing for several publications throughout Colorado and California to hosting workshops and classes that focus on the legal aspects of dispensary and brand ownership, she became an encyclopedia of knowledge.
These days, West has become a proverbial black belt in the art of “verbal judo” as her latest venture, Inclusive Cannabis, looks to set the industry straight when it comes to the thin profit margins most companies will eventually face. “Let’s imagine I walk into a company that says they’ve got the ability to grow pounds of cannabis at a cost of $500,” West says while taking a break from her jam-packed schedule. “I can look at their figures and know almost immediately whether or not that’s a reality because, at the end of the day, the sad truth is that most of the people getting into our industry aren’t prepared for the obstacles they’re about to face. I’ve yet to see a grow operation that took the time to figure in the cost of bathroom supplies; things that seem so minor to us can end up costing you everything when you don’t factor in the total cost of your product.
“A lot of companies try to do too many things; they start with an idea that they can just grow good cannabis and see a bit of success,” she continues. “Next thing you know, they have an edible or a concentrate that they’re trying to market, and the truth is that their product isn’t great and they should have just kept growing flowers. Most of these businesses don’t understand what a good investment is because they’re looking at our community with dollar signs in their eyes.”
To put it more bluntly (pardon the pun): “You aren’t going to make drug-dealer money when you’re doing things the legal way,” West says.
So what’s her advice to people who are looking to stake a claim in the cannabis industry? “Honestly, choosing your team wisely is the best decision you can make,” she says. “Anyone can learn how to grow excellent weed, but what will set your business apart is the people you have in place to represent you.”