Charlotte Hanna: “Don’t expect to get rich overnight!”

Don’t expect to get rich overnight! There is so much hype right now about cannabis, which I think gives people a potential misconception about how much time, effort and capital it takes to launch a cannabis start-up. Patience, hard work and persistence are key components of success. The reward will follow, but it certainly takes time. […]

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Don’t expect to get rich overnight! There is so much hype right now about cannabis, which I think gives people a potential misconception about how much time, effort and capital it takes to launch a cannabis start-up. Patience, hard work and persistence are key components of success. The reward will follow, but it certainly takes time.


As a part of my series about strong women leaders in the cannabis industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Charlotte Hanna, the founder of Rebelle, the new cannabis brand and store that just opened in Great Barrington, Massachusetts.

Charlotte Hanna is the founder of Rebelle, a new cannabis brand based in the Berkshires in Mass. that enables those directly impacted by the criminalization of marijuana to directly benefit from a now-legal, lucrative industry. In 2018, the serial entrepreneur founded Community Growth Partners, the only woman and minority owned vertically integrated cannabis companies in Massachusetts. Hanna worked for 30 years in real estate, finance and philanthropy and was the VP at Goldman Sachs and the principal at Charlotte Hanna Design. Over the years she has helped launched sustainable urban farming initiatives and similarly innovative economic development programs around the country as a grantee of organizations like The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. In 2019, she was named one of the Seven Women in Cannabis to Watch by Entrepreneur Magazine. Hanna earned degrees from American University and New York University where she was an Annie Casey Foundation Research Fellow. She is married with two teenagers and lives between Brooklyn and the Berkshires.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the cannabis industry?

I’ve been a consumer for a long time. I’ve never understood why as a country we criminalized drugs in general and specifically cannabis; it’s a plant that has many beneficial properties for the body. It exists for a reason, and I’m excited to help new consumers learn about all of the healing benefits you can find in things like tinctures. Cannabis is part of my overall wellness routine, along with supplements and other herbs, I take every night.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

This is the most dynamic industry I’ve ever been in. I’ve never experienced anything like it. To be successful, you need to be agile and adaptable. For example, I thought I had closed a major financing package earlier this year. Then the market crashed, COVID shut everything down and the progress we had made on our project came to a screeching halt! I had to pivot and renegotiate a new deal with a previous investor and pursue an entirely different path in order to get our retail shop open.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Haven’t had a funny mistake yet!

Do you have a funny story about how someone you knew reacted when they first heard you were getting into the cannabis industry?

Well, as a mother of two adolescent boys… I kept the business a secret for a long time. I struggled with how to explain to mu children what this “mystery” business was that I was building. I practiced my speech for a long time and thought to myself, if I can explain this to my boys and to my mother-in-law, then I can speak to the whole world about it. You can imagine their faces when I sat them down to tell them, “kids, mom is getting into the cannabis business!” I really like being at the forefront of this cultural change that legalization presents.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Early in my career, I worked with an incredible woman named Ruth Brinker. We built urban farms in San Francisco and trained homeless women to farm organic produce. Ruth reinvented herself a few times in her career and going through change throughout her life kept her young, engaged and fresh. I’ve emulated her ability to pursue change, and I’ve always lived my life that way. If you can reinvent yourself, you can do anything. I’ve had many different and incredible career experiences in my life — from working on the streets with the homeless, to working on Wall Street to working as an entrepreneur — all of these disparate experiences coalesce so elegantly and perfectly in this new cannabis business we’re building.

Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We are forging ahead with our Massachusetts cultivation buildout and retail expansion plans. As we bring additional projects online, we have partnered with Roca, an incredible outreach organization that helps at risk youths with services such as finding employment. Though this collaboration with Roca, we will be able to hire people that are looking to reform their lives and give them an opportunity to get involved in this thriving industry.

Despite the great progress that has been made we still have a lot more work to do to achieve gender parity in this industry. According to this report in Entrepreneur, less than 25 percent of cannabis businesses are run by women. In your opinion or experience, what 3 things can be done by a) individuals b) companies and/or c) society to support greater gender parity moving forward?

It’s absolutely still a male dominated industry and that can be challenging, but it’s also a time for women to feel empowered. There is something inherently feminine about cannabis; after all, cannabis is a female plant!

I’m confident we will begin to see more female leaders emerge in the industry and see a shift in gender parity. It’s already happening. As a women and minority owned business, we are among the burgeoning group of female run businesses. It’s time to embrace the change!

Ok. Thank you for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. Despite great progress that has been made we still have a lot more work to do to achieve gender parity in this industry. According to this report in Entrepreneur, less than 25 percent of cannabis businesses are run by women. In your opinion or experience, what 3 things can be done by a)individuals b)companies and/or c) society to support greater gender parity moving forward?

I’m confident we will begin to see more female leaders emerge in the industry and see a shift in gender parity. It’s already happening. As a women and minority owned business, we are among the burgeoning group of female run businesses. It’s time to embrace the change!

You are a “Cannabis Insider”. If you had to advise someone about 5 non intuitive things one should know to succeed in the cannabis industry, what would you say? Can you please give a story or an example for each.

1.Be prepared for hurdles and roadblocks that are out of your control — for example the state licensing and regulatory process can take longer than expected.

2. Don’t expect to get rich over night! There is so much hype right now about cannabis, which I think gives people a potential misconception about how much time, effort and capital it takes to launch a cannabis start-up. Patience, hard work and persistence are key components of success. The reward will follow, but it certainly takes time.

3. Educate yourself — on the industry, trends, strains, methodologies, on everything. There are so many resources available; utilize them.

4. Don’t cut corners. Make sure you follow all procedures and protocols. Compliance is key, especially in cannabis.

5. Have fun! The industry is booming and it is most certainly a rollercoaster. Embrace the highs and lows, literally!

Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the cannabis industry?

1. The opportunity to help people from underserved communities jumpstart their career in cannabis.

2. The opportunity to educate people on the amazing medicinal benefits of cannabis and helping to change the stereotype of what it means to be a “stoner.”

3. The opportunity to be at the forefront of impactful change and be part of history! It’s compelling to think we are laying down the foundation of a new industry that will benefit and shape future generations.

Can you share 3 things that most concern you about the industry? If you had the ability to implement 3 ways to reform or improve the industry, what would you suggest?

1. My main concern is cannabis is remains an illegal, schedule 1, controlled substance under federal law. Aside from causing obstacles for businesses trying to access banking, it also means that people, such as veterans who can truly benefit from cannabis to help with things like PTSD, can’t get medical cannabis through the VA due to its federal illegality. That has to change.

2. The uncertainty of future laws and regulations is unsettling. While it is exciting to envision cannabis legal at the federal level, it also presents questions about how, or what if, future federal regulations could impede on state’s rights and the unknown implications that could have on the industry?

3. It’s concerning that people still remain incarcerated for minor cannabis convictions.

What are your thoughts about federal legalization of cannabis? If you could speak to your Senator, what would be your most persuasive argument regarding why they should or should not pursue federal legalization?

My cannabis operations are in Massachusetts. Massachusetts as collected over 120M dollars in tax revenue from recreational cannabis sales! And the industry is still in its infancy. As more States come online with legalization, it’s inevitable it will become regulated at the Federal level.

Today, cigarettes are legal, but they are heavily regulated, highly taxed, and they are somewhat socially marginalized. Would you like cannabis to have a similar status to cigarettes or different? Can you explain?

I believe it is inevitable that cannabis will be legalized, taxed and regulated in the near term. From an economic standpoint, it just makes sense. Think about how much tax income legal states are generating; the Feds are missing out! I don’t believe that cannabis will ever be socially marginalized, in fact just the opposite. As cannabis becomes more mainstream and destigmatized, people are learning about the many benefits of the plant. And there are so many alternative ways people can consume and enjoy the benefits.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I don’t really have one at the moment.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Our name — Rebelle — is derived from the notion that people want to rebel. (Rebelle is the French word for rebel.) They want to challenge the status quo. I’ve been an observer and student of change for a very long time. I seem to find myself working on change — whether it’s culture change, organizational change or system change. Some people resist change but I embrace it. So, to me, Rebelle is all about helping people find the change that they need — however small or significant it may be. I believe that cannabis can be a conduit to help people transform. Rebelle is a movement to think about ideas in new ways, appreciate the beauty in nature and release some of the weight of the world that many of us carry today. So, I hope the brand can help people find their change that that they are seeking and be a “Rebelle” — whatever that means for them!

How can people reach/follow you on social media?

Our Great Barrington retail shop is open!

Website: www.letsrebelle.com

Instagram: @lets_rebelle

Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you only continued success!

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