Finding Your Cannabis Industry Niche With Social Entrepreneurship

Well, hello there, and welcome to Cannabis Business Made Easy, I'm your host Brandie Bee. Creator of The Elevated Advocate where cannabis advocates become entrepreneurs.

I’m here to help you increase your credibility, grow your influence, and make your impact in the cannabis industry.  

In today’s episode, we’re talking about the concept of social entrepreneurship and how it can completely revolutionize the way you think about success in your cannabis company. 

And if you’re sitting there thinking “social what now?” Don’t worry. I’m going to tap into my inner business geek and break it down from A-Z. 

I’m going to assume you already know what an entrepreneur is. Broadly speaking, that’s any small business owner with a penny and a dream. But, in business school, I was taught that there are several different types of entrepreneurship and business owners usually fall into one of these four categories: 

    • First, we have small business entrepreneurship. And this is the overwhelming majority. It’s people like you or me, with anywhere between zero and a few hundred employees. In cannabis, these are craft farms and maw and paw dispensaries. 
    • Then we have scalable startup entrepreneurship. This is what leaps to mind when I think of silicone valley. These people think big and go deep. A “scalable startup” takes an idea and searches for a repeatable business model that will turn it into a highly profitable company. In the cannabis world, this may be someone like Headset, Weed Maps, and Confident Cannabis. It’s pretty standard in the tech industry because it’s easy to start small and scale quickly.
    • Next, we have large company entrepreneurship. There are very few of these in cannabis due to the legalities, but they will emerge. Believe me. These are likely to be big ag organizations or pharmaceutical companies positioned the second the light turns green.
    • Finally, we have social entrepreneurship these organizations start by identifying a social cause and build a business model around it that can fulfill that need.  

Now that I’m on the other end of business school and I have my degree, I want to call bullshit on that theory. You can be a social purpose company while being any of the other three. So today, I want to focus on how a socially conscious business model can help you identify your purpose, gain more clarity on your product, and identify your niche. 

So, we’ll start with the basics. What is social entrepreneurship?  

Social entrepreneurship (or altruistic entrepreneurship) is the act of doing business for a social cause. They may still be a company that excepts money for a service or product. But the big difference is that they measure their success differently. Instead of focusing on profit alone – success to social entrepreneurs means that they have improved the world (however they define that to be). 

As you might imagine, many cannabis advocates gravitate towards this mode naturally because it provides a framework for businesses to find their success in the pursuit of helping their community. 

But these business owners are a special kind of breed. They’re compassionate risk-takers who genuinely put people and planet before profit and approach the market altruistically. 

That’s not to say that they don’t need, want, or make money. Many social entrepreneurs are quite wealthy. It’s just to say that monetary profit becomes a tool for entrepreneurs to accomplish people-centered goals for their community. It maximizes social benefit and gives society positive world-changing solutions when and where they are needed.  

**And as a side note, I think a lot of people mix this up with a non-profit organization, but it doesn’t have to be necessarily. A social startup might be:

    • A Community Project. 
    • A Co-op
    • A Social Enterprise. ...
    • Or Social Purpose Business.

The point is that if you offer a product, service, or solution of any kind, and you feel strongly about a cause, you can apply the social entrepreneurship principle to your company.  

A couple of my favorite examples of socially conscious businesses in the cannabis industry are Americans For Safe Access and Equity First Alliance. Americans For Safe Access allocates resources for advocates fighting to legalize cannabis in their community. 

Equity First Alliance connects the communities disproportionately disadvantaged by the war on drugs with the services they need to establish thriving businesses in the cannabis industry.

These are great examples of non-profit style businesses that started with a cause and worked backward to design a business model that meets that need. 

Although Sativa Science Club (my cannabis leadership accelerator) is technically a for-profit company, I had a similar strategy. If we plan to legalize cannabis on a national (or even global scale), a great deal of research and education is needed. I knew that people would be looking to business leaders for that information, so I created Sativa Science Club as a means of fast-tracking access to accurate and up to date information for business owners across the country. I hope that this will make an impact come voting season. That ripple effect that educating an educator can have is what fuels me. Federal legalization is the destination. Education is the vehicle. And the profit is just a nice bonus that, honestly, just goes back into making better resources for my community.   

And there are so many other for-profit business models that could make you great money while helping you move towards your big-picture goals in advocacy.  

So let’s do this quick little case study to get your wheels turning. Because I want to show you how just how easy and impactful approaching a cannabis industry from a social entrepreneurship perspective can be.  

So one of my students, her name is Ivy, “hey Ivy, Shout out,” She was nice enough to let me share this story with you. 

Ivy was going through a pretty tough time when she joined us last year, and she and I got to talking. She’s a yoga instructor/ nutrition coach and she wanted to find a way to combine what she loved (yoga, cannabis, nutrition, and holistic health coaching) but she was having some trouble differentiating herself and finding the right client fit in a really noisy health care industry. 

If you are in the health care field at all (and I know a lot of you listening will be), you know that the industry is INUNDATED with all kinds of fitness and health gurus who will tell you that they can help you feel better if you follow their routine. 

But Ivy didn’t want this for her company. She wanted to know that she was making a real honest impact on the clients she reached. She wanted her work to be more meaningful than just trading services for money. So I had her do a little exercise. I asked Ivy if money were not an object... If instead, she could be paid with a sense of gratification about something. What would that sense of satisfaction be? She thought about it and came back to me the next week with a story about her most amazing breakthrough moment with a client in need. Her sister had battled cervical cancer a few years previous, and Ivy was able to help her stay positive, recover, and get back on her feet. This experience so moved her that she decided to make coaching her full-time thing. That’s what started the whole chain of events that led to her holistic health and yoga training.   

And I said, “BINGO GIRL! that’s your WHY.” How would you feel if you could help women recover from cervical cancer (or any cancer) every day of the week? If five years from now, you can look back and know that you’ve played an integral role in the recovery of dozens of women and their families with your skills and expertise. I mean flip that, what would you pay the universe for that feeling?  

This was such a beautiful “aha” moment. And from here, the creative floodgates opened. Once you know your central purpose, that one feeling you want to wake up to every morning. It all becomes so much clearer to see. Over the last year, Ivy has been developing a coaching service for women affected by cervical cancer (and their families) She offers something similar to full-circle doula care supporting and advocating for her clients as they go through treatment. When they're done, she helps them get back to living a life that is healthy and free. Her packages include everything from resource allocation and therapeutic support to nutrition coaching, yoga lessons, and cannabis therapy. She even educates at high schools about the cancer-causing STI, HPV. 

Now that she has a very clear cause, it is so much easier to measure her success and serve her niche. Because she focuses her energy on one thing (services that will benefit women with cervical cancer) It’s much easier to identify where she needs to focus her creative energy. She can also locate her audience much easier. She knows exactly where to go to find the resources that will best serve her community. She never has to wonder what to write a blog about, and she can visually measure her impact quite easily. Next year, she plans to put it all online where she can sell her services more cost-effectively. Suddenly Ivy’s life got a whole lot easier. And so did the lives of the clients she reached!  

Not only that but, as her business grows, it’s a constant source of motivation for employees. When you’re all striving towards a goal, it turns into so much more than a business. Suddenly your team comes in ready to change lives every morning. How much more powerful could that be!? 

So my homework for you today, if you own a business, your planning to own a business, you sell a product. I want you to ask yourself the same question I asked Ivy. If currency were the world’s absolute BEST sense of gratification for a job well done, what would that job be? How can you leverage your cannabis product or service to make a difference in an underserved or disadvantaged community? Is a social entrepreneurship perspective the missing puzzle piece that will help you simplify your vision and find your niche? 

If you do decide to apply this thinking to your cannabis company. I’d love to hear your story. Make a post about it on social media and #SativaScienceClub for a chance to be a featured story.  



Americans for Safe Access
Social Equity Alliance




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