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Lisa Bigioni and her Journey as a Cannabis Lottery Retail Winner

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In December of 2018, Doug Ford announced the new policy for Ontario  cannabis retailers – a lottery for the first 25 store licences in the province that would take place in January 2019. Although that lottery was disappointing for many retailers who were shut out, for Lisa Bigioni, 2019 started with a bang.Lisa

Lisa was sitting with her husband one evening, smoking a j when she checked her phone and couldn’t believe her eyes. She had won the right to apply for one of the first cannabis retail licenses in the province – and she chose to set up shop in Niagara Falls. The store opened in June 2019 and she told me the grand opening was one of the best days of her life.

Before winning the lottery, Lisa’s career was in IT and Higher Ed — corporate sales and senior management positions. A cannabis consumer most of her life, Lisa admittedly, didn’t know much about the road to legalization and what went into it. After being thrown into the world of cannabis however, Lisa has reverence for everyone who got us here today.

JR: What are you most proud of with the launch of your business?

“It was a new ball game with regulations. A huge learning curve. I was running on 2 hours sleep, there were lots of tears, and a significant amount of money invested”

I loved asking this question to Lisa because as an aspiring business owner,  she told me how much she learned in such a short period of time, and it motivated me – we can do anything we put our minds to, even if it’s something completely new that we have no background or experience in.

It wasn’t just learning about the industry at large (legalization and regulations) but understanding cannabis biology, history, entrepreneurship, and what her store was going to sell.

“I come from corporate sales so I had to become comfortable with a whole new level of risk and I’m still learning how to run my own business.”

JR: How Do You Stay on Brand?

Stok'd cannabis

For Stok’d, store design was a significant part of the strategy. It was about creating a store experience, a warm and welcoming environment that the customers connected with and felt comfortable walking into.

“The passion of budtenders is unmatched. It’s not like selling jeans, it’s so much deeper than that— my staff resonate with the brand. You can expect down to earth staff and a relaxing vibe when you walk into Stok’d.”

JR: What obstacles do you have to overcome particularly as a woman entrepreneur, in launching your cannabis retail empire?

“Certainly imposter syndrome. I had to constantly ask myself, am I really someone who is running a cannabis store?”

Yes, Lisa you are!

We discussed how to overcome imposter syndrome and simply, you just keep going. You don’t stop. You don’t doubt yourself.

Stok'd

It’s important to strengthen your mind and talk yourself out of feeling like a phony. You got to where you are because of hard work, focus, and passion. You belong where you are.

For Lisa, it didn’t seem right to just stop and give up. Being one of the first lottery winners in Ontario was thrilling and she loved every minute of it.

Lisa also spoke about the challenge of figuring out how to navigate the market and seek answers when you’re not sure how to move forward, underscoring that when you’re not sure which way to go, you’re forced to think creatively, strategically, and logically to jump the hurdles that come your way.

Stok'd

JR: What advice do you have for other Alpha Women looking to open a cannabis retail store in Ontario?

  • It’s important to recognize and understand your reasons for entering the industry.
  • It’s about the environment, passion for the plant but also the motivation to be part of the growth of an emerging and changing industry.
  • Be an advocate and fight for change.
  • Be transparent. If you don’t see the value in something then don’t do it. Make your own choices.
  • Be professional.

JR: Have you noticed any trends with regards to which categories of cannabis products women are asking for?

It’s all across the board —flower, pre-rolls, vapes, edibles, drinks, lotions, face serums, bath salts and bath bombs, charcoal masks, and my current favourite, the CBD relief stick. 

The CBD relief stick features a high concentration of CBD, blended with Coconut Oil, Shea Butter, and therapeutic essential oils such as Arnica and Wintergreen. Lisa shared with me that she uses this daily to relieve back pain.

Retailers are not allowed to provide medical advice to customers so non-cannabis consumers who don’t come into retail stores aren’t necessarily aware that these kind of products exist. It’s unfortunate because they could be really beneficial.

Charcoal MaskJR: Let’s talk about these charcoal facemasks for a moment…

Charcoal face masks are amazing because they can help draw out the buildup of impurities such as dirt, oil and pollution on the surface of your skin. Paired with CBD, it’s a whole new product, as CBD contains a potent antioxidant effect and is a natural anti-inflammatory. It can help counteract the signs of aging and will reduce the appearance of swelling and puffy eyes.

Thank you Lisa for an awesome discussion about cannabis retail and sharing your experiences with us! I can’t wait to visit Stok’d!

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