Meg Sanders is the Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Canna Provisions, a cannabis retailer based in Massachusetts. She oversees all operations, but has a particular passion for store design, customer service experience, and employee training.
Sanders is a cannabis industry pioneer who helped pave the way in Colorado, the birthplace of legalization. In 2010, she opened Mindful, one of Colorado’s first medical cannabis dispensaries. And she was later appointed by the state’s governor to assist officials in developing retail cannabis regulations after the historic 2012 voter approval of adult-use cannabis.
As CEO of Mindful, Ms. Sanders went on to expand operations and grow the company into one of the most widely recognized and highly respected cannabis businesses in the country; it’s now a leading cannabis producer and infused product manufacturer with medical and retail dispensaries in Colorado and Illinois. She parlayed this experience into co-founding the consultancy Will & Way with her partner, Erik Williams, and has advised startups, government agencies, investors and institutions.
As a leader in the legal cannabis movement, Ms. Sanders has been featured on National Public Radio and in Rolling Stone, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Le Monde, 60 Minutes, Der Spiegel, High Times and other prominent media outlets. Prior to her cannabis ventures, Ms. Sanders worked for more than two decades in retail and nonprofit business leadership as well as managing financial compliance for private equity companies. A native of Texas, Meg currently lives in Lee, Massachusetts.
Tell us a bit about your professional journey. How has your career led you to be the Co-Founder and CEO of Canna Provisions?
My journey has been incredible. I’m fortunate to have a unique skill set of running a vertically integrated cannabis company that includes cultivation, extraction, manufacturing, delivery and retail dispensary.
I was at the forefront of the Colorado cannabis industry, when I worked with the governor of Colorado to develop its new cannabis laws, and then opened one of the state’s first dispensaries.
From there, I wanted to help other firms navigate the cannabis industry as it grew across the United States. And I teamed up with my partner Erik Williams to consult with cannabis entrepreneurs. From our years of retail management experience, we saw the need for quality customer service and innovative retail formats in cannabis, and wanted to guide new cannabis retailers as they developed those capabilities.
Our passion for store operations and supporting emerging markets led us to the Massachusetts market, where we co-founded Canna Provisions to continue elevating the cannabis retail experience.
What does your day-to-day schedule look like?
My day-to-day is incredibly different depending on the needs of the business at the time. Retail is such an involved, hands-on profession and I spend a lot of time working directly with staff in our store. The rest of my time is shared between various construction projects we have going on, regulators, vendors and suppliers. There is so much behind-the-scenes work that goes into operating our existing storefront, while opening two new store locations.
I’m also active in my community, which provides opportunities to engage at various meetings and events. I set aside time for myself as much as possible, which includes working out on Peloton or attending Pure Barre classes.
What do you love most about what you do?
I love providing our team the room to develop professionally. Employee training is a major focus for Canna Provisions. We invest so much time into making sure each of our employees are learning and advancing. Cannabis is an amazing career opportunity and it’s rewarding to see the Canna Provisions team grow along with the industry.
What was the best piece of career advice you ever received?
To choose a partner that supported my goals.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced with Canna Provisions?
The unpredictable timeframe of actually getting through the licensing process. Cannabis retailers face the challenge of working through more legal regulations than traditional retailers do. And it’s often the biggest barrier to entry. Before opening a dispensary, the store must get licensed, which is a long, complicated process that can be difficult to navigate. That’s why Canna Provisions is so passionate about working with other small businesses to help them get licensed and up and running.
What do you look for in the employees that you hire?
The very first thing I look for is a smile! You’d be surprised how many people don’t do that in an interview. It’s important that people working here are courteous, thoughtful, and team players that like to work hard. At Canna Provisions, our budtenders are called “Guides” because they are guiding customers through their individual cannabis journeys. To be a Guide, you need to have that enthusiasm and positive energy to best take care of each customer.
What do you feel the cannabis industry needs to do to work towards a higher level of gender equity with female founders and CEOs?
I think it all starts with funding. When investors support women leaders at the same rate they support men, we will have more women leaders.
What does success mean to you?
Success means I’ve done my part to support an industry that benefits the well-being of others, from providing access to medicine, to creating jobs, to revitalizing the economy. We’re all in this industry together and I couldn’t be more proud of what we have built.
Do you have a specific person that’s inspired you or mentored you?
My partner, Erik, is a huge influence. He’s pushed me to be the best I can be.
How do you practice self-care?
If you could go back and give yourself three pieces of advice when you first started your career – what would you tell yourself?
When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.
What single word, quote, or saying do you identify most with?
“Do or do not. There is no try.” —Yoda