While it is legal in California to have a business that sells marijuana, it is not easy to make that business succeed. The laws that regulate the cannabis industry are strict and continue to evolve, providing a moving target that is challenging for legitimate businesses to hit. In addition, high taxes make it difficult for those with licenses to compete with those growing and selling marijuana illicitly.
Still, there are some entrepreneurs who have managed to thrive in the challenging environment. Marlo Richardson is a business advisor, a serial entrepreneur, and the founder of Business Bullish. And she is one of the entrepreneurs who is making a cannabis business succeed despite being what she refers to as “an anomaly.”
Thriving in a male-dominated industry
“Let’s just say that less than one percent of those holding licenses to operate in the California Cannabis industry are black and women,” Marlo explains. “Of all the rooms that I’ve been in, I am typically the only woman in my position.”
While Marlo says she has met a few other black women who own retail cannabis dispensaries, she is the only one that she knows of who is “vertically integrated,” meaning she owns a business that is engaged in indoor cultivation, manufacturing, distribution, and retail sales. When Marlo engages with colleagues in the industry, she finds they are typically white or Asian males.
“It’s not easy,” Marlo confesses. “As with any profession, I’m sure people doubt my abilities as a black woman in this industry because I’m not what they are used to seeing.”
To silence those doubts, Marlo allows her products and brands, which are currently sold in more than 200 stores in California, to speak for themselves. As a result, she is becoming known as a business woman with whom many people want to work.
Attracting the right partner
Those who are familiar with the world of hip hop may already be familiar with one of Marlo’s brands. Her Napalm Cannabis brand, which was launched in 2020, got press in Forbes due to the popularity of her partner, Alvin Joiner, who is actor, songwriter, television personality, and rapper known as Xzibit.
Marlo learned from her experience with Xzibit that the right partner can bring you credibility and relevance, boosting your brand and your business.
“I have been approached by other celebrities to create brands for them as well,” Marlo says. “So, while being a black woman in this field is an anomaly, there are people that look at quality and performance and see me as someone that they would want to work with.”
Others with whom she is working include Brandon and Marcus Watson, well-known faces in the world of boxing, and Takela Corbitt, entrepreneur and owner of BlaqHaus restaurant.
Creating satisfied customers
Marlo knows she is not the only brand that her customers have to choose from. So she makes sure that their first experience is a great experience.
“The products that I bring to the market are higher quality than the average business is providing,” Marlo explains. “We use indoor cannabis and no chemicals ever.”
In addition to providing memorable quality, Marlo’s brands also utilize design to provide a memorable experience. Visit the Napalm Brand website and you will find products encased in collectible keepsakes.
“We focus on creating a unique packaging experience for our buyers,” Marlo says. “The quality and design of our products is nearly impossible to duplicate.”
Reports show that at the beginning of 2021, California has issued more than 10,000 commercial cannabis licenses to businesses in the state. With close to 1,000 of those businesses being manufacturers who are competing for attention in the market, having a stand out brand is a challenge. Marlo Richardson provides a model for how to overcome that challenge and grow a successful business.