Wonder Women Of Weed is a weekly column featuring accomplished female leaders in the cannabis industry.
This week, we’re presenting Sara Gullickson, CEO and founder of DispensaryPermits.com, a national agency that has become one of the longest-standing firms in the marijuana industry, with multiple license wins in 15 different U.S. states, an operations division and an application templates business. Sara has participated in numerous, state-level legislative and regulatory processes for cannabis.
Sara Gullickson resembles a haute couture rep in town for fashion week. Wearing black-on-black and red-soled Louboutins, Gullickso said her aesthetic has both benefited her professionally as well as drawn unwanted attention.
Though strides have been made toward gender equality, Sara acknowledges how important appearance is in business. It can help build respect at first glance, she said during a chat with Benzinga.
“It’s all about adapting, respecting your audience, your potential clients,” she said. “People on the East Coast do things differently than they do on the West Coast. Sometimes you have to be a chameleon.”
At 27, the Minnesota native did just that. Instead of following the crowd, she took a chance and started her own cannabis-consulting agency.
“I’ve been through the wringer in this industry, which hasn’t stopped me. It’s only made me stronger,” she said. “The most important lesson I’ve learned is that there is only one me. I might not be for everyone, but when business vision, ideals, morals and ethics align, the sky is the limit.”
In an industry tagged as unconventional, unbounded by corporate norms, Sara has built a brand rooted in sophistication and professional aesthetics. Her cannabis expertise has allowed her the ability to transcend the green bubble and become an industry representative on other business platforms.
“I’ve always been an entrepreneur, starting my first business at 25. I’ve always looked at things differently,” she said.
A Holistic Approach
Gullickson's perseverence led her, at the age of 21, to leave her home state of Minnesota and move to Arizona. She attended Arizona State University, eventually earning an MBA with an emphasis on marketing. She then started a small marketing firm with spa, salon, health, plastic surgery and other lifestyle and wellness clients. Not long after Gullickson's move southwest, she got the chance to brand and market a new cannabis company coming to Arizona from Oakland, California.
“When I got that contract, I had no idea of what branding and marketing a cannabis company entailed. I had come from the Midwest, from super-conservative Minnesota, so I had never seen something like that before,” she said. But as a child, Gullickson had seen her parents turn to natural options in an attempt to treat a disorder her sister had — one that traditional Western medicine was unsuccessful in treating, she said.
“This looks very similar. It looks like people looking for natural wellness options,” she said of medical marijuana.
When Gullickson was a youth, she was not allowed to drink soda or consume sugar or meat.
“Our household was highly holistic, so the progression toward cannabis was natural for someone like me.”
'Don't Be Intimidated'
Gullickson realized she could take her passion for politics, her passion for the cannabis plant and her passion for helping people and capitalize on them in a way that supported her lifestyle, she said.
"I wasn't making any money at first, but I kept doing this because I knew I was helping people, and I loved the feeling of walking into a boardroom full of wealthy men who knew nothing about what had become my industry and, at 27, being the expert. I really took that as motivation," she told Benzinga.
The 27-year-old entrepreneur shared her advice for women entering the cannabis business:
- Be educated.
- Do your due diligence.
- Become a real expert; don’t just claim to be one.
- Once you’ve become an expert, know your worth. Don’t sell yourself short.
- Put systems in place to uphold this. So, for instance, if you are one to give out too much information to non-clients, don’t answer your company’s phone.
- Remain focused on what you do best. Don’t become a Jack of all trades and master of none.
- Don’t be afraid to sit with the big boys.
“Don’t be intimidated to go into that meeting, sit at the head of the table, and tell everyone how the meeting is going to go. And demand that respect from the moment you get through the door," Gullickson said.
"Always keep a balance. Playing with the big boys does not mean you should give up your feminine energy or your soft side."
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Photos courtesy of Sara Gullickson.
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