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Mass Talent – Alex Mazin

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This week in Mass Talent – I had the opportunity to speak with Alex Mazin, the President and CEO of Bud’s Goods and Provisions in Worcester. Alex started his professional career in the healthcare industry but always had that entrepreneurial itch. He started his first cannabis related venture while still working in healthcare, so when he was approached in 2015 to help open and run a cannabis business, he was all-in. He and his team made the conscious decision 2 years ago to ditch vertical integration and go all in on retail, and more importantly – a retail experience. They focused first on location, and then worked tirelessly on the details and little things, until the experience came to life.

Bud’s Goods and Provisions takes Nostalgia / Americana and revamps it with a touch of 21st century technology and performance. Fun but serious, kind but sarcastic – the perfect juxtaposition. And Bud’s definitely puts an emphasis on fun – Alex and his team really wanted to give their store the “kid in a candy shop” type of experience.” That means carrying the best products the MA market has to offer, and having a knowledgable and exuberant staff.  Bud’s opened on Halloween for online orders only, and opened their doors to walk-in customers this past Monday.  They’ll be targeting the South shore and the Boston Metro area next, but in the meantime – head on over to Bud’s for an experience you won’t soon forget!

Q: What preconceived notions did you have about the cannabis industry and how have they changed since you joined?

A: To be honest, had I known what I was getting into I probably would have doubted my ability to succeed. I wouldn’t have thought it would be possible (to build and launch a cannabis company). Now, I take it day by day and when I look back at what it requires to get to where we are and what it will require to get to where we are going – I’m shocked I accomplished it, but I’m proud and amazed at the same time. 

It took a lot of different skill sets I didn’t previously possess – from becoming somewhat of a politician in order to navigate local municipalities and state regulations, finding and hiring a team to help me put it all together, to finding investors, becoming a lawyer without a law degree, and designing a building without an architecture background. 

So, I appreciate where we are today Because as a business operator I was thrown into something I had no idea about – when you think about it,  4 years ago nobody knew what the cannabis industry was or how difficult it would be.  In my opinion, if you’re just coming at this industry with the approach of “I need to get to my destination immediately,” and you don’t appreciate the journey, this is not the road for you.

You have to become accepting of challenges Because they are inevitable – and they are challenges that you can’t predict, so It’s almost like you have to have an expectation for yourself rather than for the industry. My expectation for myself – never give up and be grateful to be a part of this industry.

Q:​ ​What work experiences or situations before cannabis prepared you to work in this industry?

A: I’ve worked every day of my life since I was 13 years old and I think that experience has prepared me for any job.  At the end of the day, all it takes is hard work and the mentality to persevere. It’s not rocket science – it takes dedication, passion, and hard work to succeed in cannabis or any industry. If you don’t give up you’ll get to where you’re going or wherever you want to go, but the beginning is always the hardest so you need to start first, and then just keep going. 

The second piece is having really good communication skills and using those to build relationships in the cannabis industry. We’re still so early – so the traditional business skills of relationship building are integral at this stage. Show up – show your face (speaking more to a Pre-COVID world), and don’t hide behind emails. To me, showing your face is so important and I truly think it’s one of the reasons we are where we are today.  There was always a face and a name for people to connect to – whether it was at the state level. The municipal level, or the consumer level.

Q: What are some of the largest challenges or obstacles in the Massachusetts Cannabis industry?

A: Being on the retail side of the industry, we are a people facing service, so one challenge is finding good people to add to the team. Customer-facing roles are essential to our success, these team members are a representation of Bud’s and our brand identity.  They act as an extension of the brand and are a major part of the customer’s experience in the store. 

Q: What brought you here (the cannabis industry) and what is keeping you here?

A: I started my professional career as a consultant in the healthcare industry – working with a larger BioTech/Pharmaceutical company. My job had a focus on emerging markets and technology. Towards the latter half of that career, I started my first venture called Vapor Case, which was a case for devices like the PAX. This experience helped expand my education and understanding of the cannabis industry. 

In 2015, I was approached by a family friend to build a cannabis business and brand. Their daughter had just been diagnosed with MS and they wanted to help this industry because cannabis had helped their daughter. So that’s what brought me here. 

What keeps me here is that I love it. The passion and excitement I feel in this space is unlike anything I’ve felt in an outside industry or role.  I love the skills I have developed in this industry and it’s really pulled me to be the best business operator I could be. I get to see what the company does every day and it’s special. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be part of something this special – and I’m going to fight every day to ensure this opportunity isn’t lost or taken from me. I want to be a part of it, but I also want to make it and I want to leave my mark on it as well.

Q: What tips or pieces of advice do you have for folks looking to get into the cannabis industry?

A: One piece of advice I would definitely tell people is,  don’t just look at current companies or existing opportunities; it’s not just about growing or selling cannabis. There are other avenues in this industry that are still completely untapped. Look at services and businesses to support cannabis companies instead.

You want to start thinking of where the industry needs to go, then you need to jump in to learn what pain points are so you can figure out what the problem is that needs solving. If the goal is to build a business – business is all about solving a problem and there are many problems in cannabis.

Another piece of advice – Understanding the regulations and how an industry like this works from a state standpoint is really important knowledge to have to be part of this industry.

Q: Where do you see the industry heading in MA in the next 3-5 years?

A: With what we just saw happen last week, 5 states legalizing cannabis, and based on where we think the election will pan out, the Massachusetts market will continue to expand. 

Retail will continue to grow, home delivery will finally come online and change the dynamic in MA, and we may even see some Social consumption lounges coming to the state soon. Maybe we even start to see normal restaurants and businesses begin to collaborate with cannabis businesses.

But ultimately what you will see – especially with New Jersey moving to legalize cannabis this year, is a rapid expansion in the Northeast. Current Massachusetts companies will pursue the Northeast region and try to have dispensaries and operations in different states.

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