Tips for Success From a Cannabis Industry Professional

cannabis

Alyza Brevard Rodriguez cultivated her own brand and identity before she even knew she had one. Coming from nothing, she put herself through college, joined the Navy, opened a wellness studio, got married, had a baby and transitioned into the cannabis space, all while getting her doctorate degree. 

The leader of multiple brands and the host of a leading industry podcast, “Coffee and Cannabis,” the word hustle is an understatement for Rodriguez. She is also the first black, LatinaX, LGBTQ, female, disabled veteran cannabis operator in NJ.

Cannabis Regulator spoke with Rodriguez to get all of her advice and tips for success to share with those looking to venture into the cannabis space.

The Trials of Getting a Cannabis Retail License

Rodriguez’s extensive background has helped prepare her for the arduous journey of applying for a retail license in New Jersey, and she also has a pending social consumption license. While she was more than qualified for a social equity license, she chose not to go that route. 

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Alyza Brevard Rodriguez.

“All of it was a preparation, that’s what it comes down to,” says Rodriguez. “Ironically, when you’re navigating entrepreneurship and trying to follow this dream that you may have or an idea of the life you want, it doesn’t happen overnight. Not just with cannabis, but with anything.”

Between many long nights, concerns that arose and some losses along the way, Rodriguez explains that it is a roller coaster process in getting your cannabis license. While it’s difficult to start a business in any market, cannabis makes it especially challenging with all of the changing regulations and laws that differ state by state.

“Another part is we don’t have money to play around with. We are truly going all in and trying to change lives,” notes Rodriguez. “Some folks have money, but for some of us, this is our entire world. I’m a real entrepreneur and the fact is that this is what we do — we figure it out.”

At the Mercy of New Jersey

With any business that you open, some of your biggest struggles may be just the lack of know-how or funding. But with a cannabis business, Rodriguez explains that you are at the mercy of the state and surrounding cities. 

“When looking for a location to open, you have to be zoned in a certain type of way and sometimes you even have to do a traffic study,” she says. “That’s not typically what you have to do for other businesses. It’s one thing to tack on the additional costs, but now all of those extra studies are another burden to you. And who knows that they have to do that?”

Unfortunately, since the cannabis industry is still so new, there is no playbook to explain what you have to do in order to open a business. There is so much that needs to be thought out once you get your license, such as the location, city zoning specifications, funding and construction. According to Rodriguez, the best thing you can do is hire a product manager who knows what they’re doing. 

“Hire someone who has the know-how to help you navigate those unfamiliar areas,” she advises. “That’s really what contributed to my success — my know-how and a team of people that know all of the things that I don’t.”

Raising Money From Minority Investors

Part of what makes Rodriguez’s journey so unique is that she decided to only raise money from minority investors to prove that they don’t need to be pigeonholed. Instead of just making rich people richer, Rodriguez would rather do business with people whose goals align with her own.

“I feel like it allows for the success to trickle into other families and folks that are beyond myself,” she says. “I’m a woman and person of color, but wouldn’t it be nice if I had another investor who was of color or a vet? This one venture was able to help more than just myself and my partner.”

To help encourage others interested in starting a business in the cannabis space, Rodriguez offers some words of advice: “My advice would be to start immediately. Start seriously from day one and be intentional with everything that you do.”