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Q&A with Mimi Lam, CEO of Superette Cannabis Retail


Mimi Lam has had a stellar career in the Canadian cannabis industry, ascending quickly through strategy and corporate development roles to CEO of the cannabis retailer Superette in only 2 and a half years. With the distinction of being the only female CEO of a cannabis retail business in Ontario, Mimi is an inspirational entrepreneur and businesswoman.

AW: Tell us about your professional journey starting with how you made the decision to go into the cannabis industry after getting your degree in International Business from Carleton.

ML: A lot has happened since Carleton! The journey of learning started at Mistral Venture Partners, a venture capital firm focused on seed stage investments, as an analyst. I fell in love with the entrepreneurial spirit and interacting with groups taking ideas to the next level in new or disruptive spaces. I got a peek into what it took to have resilience as a startup, fundraising as a private company, and the foundational pieces that all companies need.

Next, I switched gears a bit and went into investment banking at Macquarie Capital. I got the opportunity to dive deep into things like mergers and acquisitions, public equity financings, as well as how to drive company strategy amidst industry and market movements. I also gained a tremendous amount of technical skills (shoutout to Excel and PowerPoint!) and built a toolbox for quantitative and qualitative analysis.

Mimi Lam in her first Superette retail location in Ottawa

Taking both of these experiences, I jumped into the cannabis space and joined Tokyo Smoke in early 2017 in a strategy and corporate development role. I looked at the cannabis industry and saw it as an opportunity to make history. It was also the perfect avenue to marry my itch to be part of a new company with a diverse set of hard and soft skills, all combined with a holistic understanding of market movements and strategic growth.  Adult use cannabis was not yet legal, but I was curious and saw the potential of being at the forefront of an industry that would develop in Canada and all around the world. A lot of the companies starting were focused on cultivation, but as a consumer I was attracted to Tokyo Smoke’s brand and consumer approach to the industry.

After Tokyo Smoke went public and sold to Canopy, things got a little more exciting and here we are with Superette!

AW: Being a leader can often require a lot of bravery. What in your personal life enabled you to be such a brave woman and how do you cultivate bravery?

I’d like to believe being brave is a combination of being stubborn and resilient. Over the last several years and in professional settings, I have stood out for my gender, race, and age. I have been underestimated and overlooked, but I saw them all as life lessons and the nudge I needed to grow a thick skin. I learned how to start believing in myself, to fight for what I am passionate about and to surround myself with people I trust and believe in.

AW: As an entrepreneur and in the vanguard of cannabis retail, I’m sure you have met and surmounted some pretty heavy challenges, especially as a woman. Tell us about your top 3 greatest challenges you have faced while launching and operating your business.

Ottawa Superette – 1306 Wellington St W Ottawa, ON K1Y 3B2

Challenges and navigating them are the fun part! That being said, they are endless. Some of the ones that really stick out are:

  1. Planning within a quickly evolving landscape – the regulatory framework is constantly developing, and we always need to make sure that our growth is planned with optionality and flexibility in mind and that we have the right foundation set up for explosive growth at the right times
  2. Getting our story out there as a small, private company – the cannabis space is having a moment. There are a lot of people and businesses doing really cool things, there are also many companies that have been around for years and command a lot of attention. We are still small and new, but we are proud ambassadors of the legal cannabis industry and are always eager to share what we are up to.
  3. Managing diverse stakeholders – we work with many different groups at the same time (investors, team members, various levels of government, industry partners) and often in high-intensity situations or time-constraint environments. It’s Important to focus on communication and aligning expectations

AW: As the Co-Founder and CEO of Superette, what are you most proud of?

Our company has done a LOT in a short period (our Ottawa flagship store has only been open since April 1st)! I can point to the unique brand we are building, the retail experience we are creating, and the friendly vibes we are sharing with the Canadian adult-use market.

None of this would be possible without the Superette team.The energy and passion our people bring, day in and day out, is truly what makes our company special. Together, we face the unknown and activate on crazy ideas. It’s been an incredible journey.

AW: What new and innovating things are you planning for Superette in the next few years?

Superette has some really cool things up our sleeves! The beauty of being in the cannabis industry is that we are writing the playbook as we go. Superette’s story has just begun – as a cannabis retail brand, as a retail brand, as a brand. Over the next few years, you’ll start seeing more of us across North America and hopefully, you dig our vibe!

AW: What is unique about the Superette retail model that you feel differentiates it from your competitors?

At Superette, we believe buying cannabis should be comfortable, simple and fun! We looked at what was out there, and what we saw was a sea of sameness, a lot of tech-forward elements, use of the same premium materials, and a focus on luxury. We wanted to bring to market something different: a space that is accessible to both new and long-time consumers, that also allowed for the organic discovery and different customer desires.

We drew inspiration for Superette from familiar retail environments: 1950’s diners, convenience stores, and other traditional retailers. Our bodega rose, subway tiling, diner booths and counter, and milk crates really bring that nostalgia to life in an eclectic, playful way, and the store is intentionally lo-fi. We want to create more human connections throughout the cannabis purchasing journey, recognizing that not everyone likes buying from screens – cannabis has always had a high-touch human element to it, so let’s keep that alive! Every element of the store is intentional and authentic to the Superette brand – from red and green shopping baskets that indicate whether or not you need help, to our fry baskets that deliver your cannabis purchase, to diner-style milkshake cups for merchandising.

Fun fact: “Superette” is actually another word for bodega or corner store and is commonly used in certain parts in the world. With the state of legalization, why shouldn’t buying cannabis be as normal as buying a cup of coffee or a paper at your corner store?

AW: With the next wave of cannabis products formats soon to be released what do you feel will be the formats that will appeal most to women, and why?

The next wave of cannabis products and resultant increase in variety is very exciting because everybody’s relationship and preference for cannabis products is different. And in general, cannabis consumers are becoming more educated and more discerning.

Here’s what I think will be the formats that appeal most to women:

  1. Vape pens – easy, discreet, stylish. Fits into your wallet, gym bag, or clutch.
  2. Edibles – Something simple and sharable: pastilles or mints
  3. Good old-fashioned flower – Nothing’s better than rolling a joint and passing it around good company.

AW: How do you keep fit mentally and physically?

I make it a priority to stay very active, which helps both mentally and physically. Pretty much every morning, you can catch me doing yoga, biking, boxing or doing some HIIT. Starting the day right is very important to me and helps maintain my energy levels. Oh, and I love podcasts! You can find me listening to How I Built This with Guy Raz or Freakonomics.

AW: What are your favourite methods of consuming cannabis, and do you use cannabis for different purposes throughout the day/evening?

During the day, my cannabis use is for social purposes (eg. sharing a joint with the team and friends) and in the evening, I prefer vaping; because it brings out the terpene profile of flower and capsules for the precise dosing.

AW: Where is your most favourite place on earth and why?

I feel connected to nature, so put me on any mountain in beautiful British Columbia – hiking of course.

AW: What excites you most about the next 5 years of your career?

The uncertainty. I literally have no idea what the next 5 years look like and that is a fantastic feeling.

AW: Do you have any words of wisdom for other women who are thinking of joining or launching a business in the cannabis industry?

Go for it. Any fear or hesitation you have is temporary.

Leslie Andrachuk

As a bilingual pioneer in global digital publishing and marketing, Leslie is happiest when creating new things and inspiring her teams. She is passionate about changing biases that hold women back from realizing their true power and is grateful that at this point in her career she has the skills to make real change.

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