Diane Czarkowski: To Build Your Medical Marijuana Business, Get Outta the Basement

By Diane Czarkowski

When my husband and I first became entrepreneurs it was in the construction business. He found his love for the trade by completely remodeling an average ranch home in Boulder, Colorado, into a classy bachelor pad. We were just dating then, so that was OK.

By the time we were engaged, he would spend every spare minute in his basement. He added a bathroom, redesigned the kitchenette and completely relocated the electrical box. It was his comfort zone – a place where he knew exactly what he had to do and how to do it.  There was never a shortage of things to do and it kept him busy.

As we launched our real estate development company, it became apparent that we needed to think more strategically. We were a team and we needed to plan out how the business would evolve over time. When he would get caught up on the job site, my favorite phrase became, “You need to get outta the basement!” It was my way of telling him he needed to get out of his comfort zone and work on building the business. We grew the company and were very successful, but it took a commitment to participate in activities that would help us grow the business.

This same concept applies to the medical marijuana industry. As pioneers in the MMJ business we need to push ourselves to get out of the day-to-day routine and do things that will help our businesses and industry evolve. I know sometimes it is difficult to find five minutes even to take a bathroom break, but you have to find the time. Call it “continuing education” or “networking” or “industry events” or “advocacy” or “community outreach” – the idea is to set aside some time every week to get out of your daily routine.

We also need to embrace a term I often used in the high-tech industry – “coopetition.” It means exactly what it sounds like: cooperating with the competition. Meet your competitors, examine their strengths and learn their weaknesses. Know how your business is different from theirs.  Establish a way to communicate with one another in a respectful way.

It might sound counter-intuitive to talk shop with your competitors and spend some of your precious time learning about their businesses. In this industry, though, we already have too many adversaries, from politicians to law enforcement to people opposed to the very idea of medical marijuana. We need to make more friends. Let’s start with being cordial to our fellow pioneers. They might be the ones to keep you out of harm’s way in the future. And remember: We’re all in this together.

The great thing is that you don’t need to devote an inordinate amount of time to becoming more involved with the industry. I’m involved with one group – the Women’s CannaBusiness Network – that meets for breakfast just once every month. Sometimes we have a specific topic of discussion, but more often it is a time to gather and talk. We have managed to build a real community – one that is completely supportive of the MMJ industry’s efforts – in just a few hours each month.

So whether you visit a neighboring cannabis business or go out for breakfast occasionally, you should all strive to get outta the basement once in a while.

Diane Czarkowski and her husband founded Boulder Kind Care, a medical marijuana business, in 2009 and sold it earlier this year. Currently, she is consulting for other medical marijuana businesses in the United States.