Andrea Dobbs co-founded Village Bloomery, a beloved cannabis dispensary in Vancouver that is now re-opening as a cannabis retail store in Kitsilano. Her journey is unique and one you will want to read about, driven by the fact that she is a prominent female entrepreneur in her 50’s in the cannabis industry.
It’s a long story but long story short- I tried cannabis when I was 17 for the very first time. It was with my first boyfriend and it was a lovely experience. I felt very empowered and connected to myself and also very free. I held 3 jobs at the time, I was a gymnast and I enjoyed socializing with my friends and family. I tried cannabis a few more times but each time made me feel really sleepy so I decided it wasn’t for me. I tried it once or twice in my thirties and that was also not a fit (in hindsight, dosage and cultivar intel would have been really helpful).
Fast forward a few more years and I’m 48 years old. I’m exhausted and navigating perimenopause. I was raised on plant based therapies so when I came back from the doctor with a handful of suggested prescriptions for sleep, mood and libido, I chose to explore the plant realm first. Cannabis quickly entered the scene and after a few mishaps I’ve never turned back.
Hmm…top 3 in each phase. In 2015 the challenges involved:
a) Finding a landlord that wasn’t trying to make “special deals” that included profit share etc..
b) For me personally I had a steep learning curve around the flowers. I was comfortable with processed products like tinctures and topicals but the flowers were intimidating to me. I’ve since come to love the flowers.
c) Coming to terms with the fact that while my intentions were to open a shop where women and curious people could explore high quality cannabis in a well designed space, I was encountering an overwhelming number of people with life threatening ailments who were frightened and vulnerable and looking for support to engage in cannabis therapies. Those are the tangible pieces.
There were tons of political challenges for sure, but I feel like those were more manageable for me. For the re-launch I’d say that finding our footing in a regulated space has been challenging in that our model was so hands on and tactile. It involved lots of beautiful products you could handle and touch as well as fresh craft cannabis supplied to us through reputable self regulated cultivators and it was served deli style! We’ve had to dig deep and explore what the core of our quality metrics are and how we can authentically share those metrics with others.
We’re encouraging a positive feedback loop where we can work together to allow cultivators to know what it is they are doing right and where they can improve. The other two, current major challenges are:
a) Purchasing pre-packaged cannabis sight unseen is pretty interesting.
b) The perceived gold rush mentality of some industry entrants. It’s a little unsettling for me to listen to the data collectors and big box retailers talk about cannabis (a plant that I love) as a simple commodity.
Great question. Years ago I might not have agreed that I am brave because I’m often afraid! Now I know that if you address your fears and follow your gut, you are brave. So yes, I know I’m brave. I am beginning to practice bravery consciously. It’s in the little things. It’s speaking up in the moment using my own voice. Meaning use the words that feel right in my mouth vs using the words I think the powerful people in the room want me to use. Allowing myself to express my humour when I feel it bubble up. I used to feel that if I was funny or silly I wouldn’t be taken seriously. Cannabis is part of that practice.I am actually curating my own cannabis practice…some people practice yoga I’m practicing cannabis. I’m using it to explore my own ideas, my creativity, my vulnerabilities and my sensuality. That is scary and exciting.
If I ask myself how bravery has earned its place in my life it’s simply that I was raised by a very brave woman. She left Sweden with her two children (my brother and I) to live in Canada with our father. That went sideways pretty quickly as it was the 70’s and the age of psychedelics and my father didn’t fare well. He became a drug induced schizophrenic so my mother had to pivot and discover safer environments for us to exist in. Her solution was to live communally with other mothers so we were essentially raised by a collaborative of European Canadian women who had lots of ideas around what empowerment, justice and inclusion really meant. Those women infused all of us kids with a zest for life that included bravery.
Social justice is incredibly interesting as is the inclusion discussion. The fact that we have so much room for improvement is exciting and the politics that surround said improvement is what drives me.
It’s going to take time. But the cat is out of the bag. We have experience, culture and genetics. We have the quality of light and the terroir and we have incredible talent that are committed to finding their way. BC has taken an interesting approach and while it doesn’t look like it makes lots of sense now, we do have the ear of the Province and they do care about the future of cannabis in BC. It’s going to take some time.
As for the super powers in the mix…I’m cool with that. I know that in order to make big change we need impactful change makers. I’m not so cool with some of the attitudes some of them carry around sheer commoditization of the plant, but I am confident that in the long run, cannabis will win.
That we’ve created incredible relationships with incredible people. Our staff are all vibrant and intelligent people with brave hearts and a thirst for knowledge. Our customer base is diverse and open and constantly helping us to evolve as humans. On a personal note, I’m proud that I got to see how beautiful cannabis can be. When I first looked at bulk cannabis I was kind of freaked out by it. It had such a strong aroma, it was wild and wooly and it clearly carried with it a high frequency. As I grew into the space I learned more about each cultivar and I can honestly say I’m a huge flower fan today and I’m an avid advocate for freeing the flower!
We’re going to catch our breath, spend some time getting to understand how this new system impacts our customer base and then we’ll be ready to scale up! We feel we can bring something of value to the space and we’re looking for opportunities to connect with others who resonate with what we’re doing. We’re also really interested in bringing some of the amazing growers we connected with forward into the space and then there is product design and hemp farming! Really the sky’s the limit. We want to participate in areas where we can move the good to the earth agenda forward.
I can’t say that there are any real competitors out there right now as we’re all new to the space and we’re all finding our footing. That said I do think that having a woman at the helm is a differentiator. A 50+ woman at that! It’s not rocket science…it’s just having a balanced approach to how we process things. I think having a man of colour at the helm is also a differentiator because let’s face it, people of colour have been impacted differently by prohibition and that perspective is valid.
I don’t want to feed into the “products for women” other than products that are produced to address menstrual and/or menopausal issues, but I am excited about future products! My daughters hold me accountable to not falling into the pitfalls around the social constructs that are gender and gendered marketing so I’m looking at products through a different lens today that I might have 5 years ago.
I’m excited about topical products because they are such a low impact way to explore Cannabis. I’m excited about new tools that are being developed to support people to enjoy flowers on their own terms. I’m excited about chocolates and other wonderful edibles! I’m also really excited about the products that are being developed for athletes and fitness enthusiasts…hemp powered beverages etc.
I struggle to do that, I’m not gonna lie. I meditate. I cannabis. I connect with my partner, my kids, my dog. I go to the ocean when I feel like I can’t do this anymore. I hike every weekend with some wonderful women friends. Cannabis is a big piece of this. It allows me to center when I need to center. It allows me to laugh and play and create when that is what I need. It makes the moments where I am free to connect more meaningful. I’m very grateful that I have been able to create a relationship with the plant on my own terms.
Initially I only felt comfortable with tinctures and those were perfect for me. Today I am about smoking the dry flower (not too dry though, lol). I think vape pens are a nice option for public spaces and or spaces where a joint is not welcomed. I also really like edibles…chocolate is a favourite. I smoke during the day, I take CBD every morning and I use a tincture for sleep.
That’s a hard question. I love being on the couch with my mom, my kids , my partner, my cat and my dog! I also love being on a particular beach naked in the sun! In both of those places I feel completely accepted and free. I feel wise, grounded and loved.
Everything! I’m excited to see what these next years look like. I am probably most excited to see how human beings will be impacted. I am hopeful that we as humans will be more willing to be joyful, curious and vulnerable. Cannabis has been a wonderful tool in my tool kit and has made me a more loving person. We could use more of that in our society. That’s not very career oriented but I admit that career isn’t on my agenda! I’m just in the process of growing up and this is where I’ve landed for now. Who knows? In 5 years I could be a farmer!
I’d suggest understanding the WHY? Know why you want to be involved. If it’s financially motivated be real about that and go for it. If you have something more nuanced that brings you to the table learn to voice what it is that you have to offer. And be ready to pivot. Working in this industry is like walking on tectonic plates so stay sharp! With clear communication, a clear vision and the ability to pivot when necessary you might actually get somewhere!