Mass Talent – Ashley Esper

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This week in Mass Talent – I had the opportunity to speak with Ashley Esper, CMO at Nature’s Remedy in Massachusetts.  Nature’s Remedy is a vertically integrated single state operator in the Massachusetts Cannabis industry. Founded in 2015 – they currently have two dispensaries operational in Millbury and Tyngsborough. They have manufacturing and Cultivation in Lakeville, MA where they have an ever-changing menu of about 40-50 strains in production. On top of cultivating great cannabis – they produce edibles, tinctures, concentrates and are the exclusive producer and distributor of Airopro vape cartridges.

Ashley Esper joined Nature’s Remedy as one of the original employees prior to them having any dispensaries or operational assets and is now the CMO of a company that has just under 200 employees. Before cannabis, Ashley was working in public accounting with Ernst & Young doing work involving taxes and she just felt unfulfilled. After some research around alternative medicine to help cope with her Crohn’s disease, joining the cannabis industry seemed like a no-brainer – so she took action and reached out to the founder of Nature’s Remedy, a cannabis operator close to home. Since joining, Ashley has had the pleasure of wearing a variety of hats and taking on tasks and jobs that she never could have imagined doing – from license applications and store design/layouts to product branding and brand copy.  Ashley is a perfect example of the tremendous growth one can see if they join the cannabis industry for the right reasons, work hard, and open themselves to the idea of wearing multiple hats.

Q: What brought you here and what is keeping you here?

I started my professional career in public accounting, and soon after I realized I wasn’t going to be fulfilled on that path. I’ve lived with Crohn’s Disease, a chronic autoimmune disease, for over 10 years, and have tried and failed a long list of pharmaceutical medications. Eventually I decided to take things into my own hands and began researching alternative medicine, which is when I started learning about cannabis. Immediately, I became fascinated with the medical uses of marijuana and have also seen first-hand how it has helped people around me with various conditions. So after realizing I wasn’t satisfied with my career at that time, I decided I needed a career that contributed to improving people’s lives on a deep and meaningful level. I quit my accounting job and reached out to the founder of Nature’s Remedy. Looking back now, if it weren’t for years of dealing with hospitalizations and flares from Crohn’s, I definitely wouldn’t have been as interested in the cannabis industry or ended up where I am today.

And what keeps me here – a lot of things. The bigger picture around destigmatizing cannabis, helping both consumers and the community understand how the plant can be used in a variety of different ways for a variety of different people. I also love the passion and enthusiasm everyone has for what we do as an industry. I’m grateful to be a part of it and hope I can make an impact inside and outside of the industry.

 

Q: What Pre-conceived notions you had on the cannabis industry and how those changed since you got in?

When I first entered the cannabis industry, MA was a medical only state. At that time, I thought one of the biggest challenges would be public perception of the product because cannabis wasn’t talked about as frequently. That turned out to be true in many ways and is still true in some capacity today, even after MA legalized recreational cannabis. But over the past few years, I’ve seen positive improvements in public awareness and education about the industry and product. People recognize we are a legitimate business in a legitimate industry. For myself and Nature’s Remedy, we really prioritize educating our customers and the public. The more information we can get out there, the more people can understand and accept what we do- that knowledge is really powerful in breaking down preconceived notions still held by many.

Q: What work experiences or situations before cannabis prepared you for this industry?

My ambition and work ethic did more to prepare me for the industry than any specific work experiences. I had multiple jobs through college and always prioritized building a diverse skillset. If I didn’t know how to do something, I would teach myself or reach out to an expert; I really just took every opportunity available to me to learn. I think that mindset enables me and others in a similar position to wear many hats in a business, which is particularly useful in the cannabis industry.

Q: What are the Biggest Challenges in the Massachusetts cannabis industry?

The strict regulatory environment is one of the largest challenges to existing operators in MA. It permeates every aspect of a cannabis operation, from advertising and marketing to how we allow customers inside our dispensaries. Recently, we have seen the regulations ease up in some areas, allowing us to still safely operate but with a little more flexibility to be creative and differentiate.

q: Where do you see the Massachusetts industry heading in the next 3-5 years?

We will see a lot of positive changes and a more saturated adult-use retail environment as more dispensaries open up. In terms of product, I believe MA will be an industry leader in innovation and branding. We continue to see improvements in patient and customer education surrounding the intricacies of cannabis, which helps the industry evolve and become more sophisticated with products and services.

In 3-5 years, my hope is that the industry in MA continues to provide access not only to safe and effective products, but also to information. I think we will have some of the most advanced and educated consumers in the country when it comes to cannabis knowledge.

Q: what Tips or advice do you have for newcomers who want to get into the industry?

Get your foot in the door. If you have a positive attitude and are eager and excited to learn, you will be recognized. Research as much as you can about the industry and what is going on at a local level. Find out what businesses are opening or expanding near you and don’t be afraid to reach out. Don’t worry about a lack of cannabis experience, instead focus on what strengths and skills you have that you can leverage.


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