For the ESSENCE Best & Black Owned series, Work & Money Editor Marquita K. Harris and her team learn about the ups, downs, and in-betweens of running a business.
While some twentysomethings are still acclimating to adulthood and figuring out how to survive without the usage of their parents’ health insurance, Hope Wiseman, 26, has been busy making history. The Spelman graduate, business mogul and entrepreneur can now add youngest U.S. Black dispensary owner to her already impressive résumé.
The Maryland native began her career in investment banking before surprisingly making a drastic shift into the cannabis industry. In 2017 Wiseman founded Mary & Main, a dispensary created as a safe space to inform consumers on the truth about cannabis, the benefits of medical marijuana, healing herbal treatments and much more. Below Wiseman digs into how she launched her business.
How does a girl from Prince George’s County Maryland end up the youngest Black dispensary owner in the USA?
I come from a long line of women entrepreneurs so I was raised with an entrepreneurial way of thinking. Once I got into college, business became more of my focus and I became an economics major which ultimately led me to a career in investment banking. It was my inherited entrepreneurial spirit coupled with my economics and finance background that allowed me to be inspired by the growth of the Cannabis industry.
Take us through the early stages of founding Mary & Main.
I had seen the CNBC Cannabis reports and was amazed at how mainstream it was becoming with people along the likes of Dr. Sonja Gupta bringing awareness to the medicinal benefits that the plant offers. I thought to myself, how can I be a part of this? I began to do my research and realized that the laws surrounding the industry were extremely complicated and simply difficult to find. Finally, I uncovered that my home state of Maryland had passed a bill legalizing medical cannabis and would be issuing licenses within the next year. I knew then, that was my in.
What does a day at Mary & Main look like?
You are greeted by our friendly receptionist as you enter our bright and modern waiting room. You’ll walk along our “M&M wall” full of fun Mary and Main logos while you check out our specials, announcements, and full menu on the screens in the lobby. Once it is your turn, an Experience Agent will walk you inside of the Experience Room where you will find educational materials and ancillary products. Your Experience Agent will go behind the cash register and begin to ask you what you are looking for, or what you are aiming to treat today, and will begin to compile your cart for purchase. All of our Experience Agents are trained to be able to walk you through your desired result and coach you throughout your journey to finding what works best for you and your ailment.
What would you like everyone to know about medicinal marijuana?
Medical Cannabis is a holistic plant that has many medicinal benefits. There are over 100 different chemical compounds that make up the cannabis plant (most notably THC and CBD). These chemicals along with terpenes (aromatic oils that color cannabis varieties with distinctive flavors like citrus, berries, mint, and pine) work together to produce the relief that patients experience while using cannabis. Some of the conditions and ailments that are commonly treated by cannabis are epilepsy and seizures, glaucoma, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Chron’s, anxiety, insomnia, severe pain, nausea, PTSD, muscle spasms, inflammatory issues, and more.
How does Mary & Main differ from the many dispensaries nationwide ?
Mary and Main is an African-American, women, and veteran-owned dispensary in a predominantly African-American area of Maryland. Because we are directly connected to our community, we focus on education as we believe it is the key to reversing the negative stigma that has been imposed on the industry, especially when it comes to Black folks. We focus on teaching our community about the benefits of the plant, how it works in their bodies, and the history behind the illegality of the industry.
Being a young Black entrepreneur in an industry like yours, did you witness any discrimination?
As a Black woman in this industry, I experience discrimination on a daily basis. I believe because I am not only Black, and a woman, but also much younger than many of my peers, I must go the extra mile to prove myself worthy. In order to combat this….I go an extra 10 miles. Nothing can stop me.
For any young woman of color looking to enter an unconventional career in business, what’s one piece of advice you would give them?
You always hear the term, “Be Yourself” but I would like to add on to that. I believe the key to maintaining your identity while entering into uncharted territory is to find others that have done what you want to do, or something similar if it has not yet been done, on a high level and mimic their journey. Success is not built overnight and can sometimes be confusing on how to obtain it; however, when you mirror the path that others took to get where you want to be, you are much more likely to define a path of your own.