Michele Parrotta: “Trust your gut”

Next be genuine, people will see right through you right away, I chose to be as genuine as I can be people seem to respond well to my honesty. Let’s face it being on social media and heading a company is much different at 57 then at 27, so I try to be as transparent […]

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Next be genuine, people will see right through you right away, I chose to be as genuine as I can be people seem to respond well to my honesty. Let’s face it being on social media and heading a company is much different at 57 then at 27, so I try to be as transparent as possible.

As a part of my series about strong women leaders in the cannabis industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Michele Parrotta.

Michele Parrotta has always been known as “Mimi,” — even as a little girl. Though she says she has been a cannabis user for 41 years, the “Cannabis” was added many decades later — when she left a many decades long, successful career in the hospitality industry just when her peers were looking at retirement to jump into not just an emerging new industry, but one that many thought was geared to the young. She was even profiled in a high profile Chicago Tribune article, inspiring others to find their paths and new career moves. Just a few years after entering the industry at the age of 55, Mimi is a true cannabis influencer, not just working with brands, clinics and advising people on cannabis use, but as the founder of the exciting new brand, MimiCannabis.com -and Tommy Chong of Cheech and Chong himself told her she is doing great work and not to stop !

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

I was in the Restaurant and Hospitality Industry for over 30 years and I have used Cannabis for 43 years, I really wanted to be a part of legalization and was not sure because of my age if I would get a chance to before I retired — turns out I had lots of time, so I specifically went looking for Cannabis related employment. I ended up Managing a Medical Cannabis Clinic and really enjoyed it, to learn about Cannabis medically is amazing!

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?

Well to say it’s all in the name really applies to this question. When I named my business Mimi Cannabis it’s my nickname (short for Michele) Mimi was also to represent the individual Mature Cannabis Patient or Recreational user as kind of a play on Me Me, that was fine — but putting the word “cannabis” in your business back then proved to be challenging for obtaining business bank accounts, credit cards, places to advertise etc. Now don’t get wrong — it has gotten better, but I quickly learned that the stigma surrounding cannabis is still alive and well …and it sometimes takes time for the world to catch up. I have since jumped all of those hurdles and hope that in some way I am blazing a trail for someone else in the future.

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?

Again, I would say the same answer as my previous question. I think it’s pretty funny now that the word “Cannabis” could be taboo in the Cannabis Industry. It has gotten a lot better as we enter our second year of legalization and I think we will see it progress nicely as we move along.

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

I think both my family and my in laws were quite surprised that I was starting a business at the age of 55 — that was kind of crazy enough! But when they realized it was going to be in the Cannabis Industry they were even more surprised. There were lots of concerns and questions at the beginning. Now they are very supportive and think it’s really amazing and they are always cheering me on.

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?

I am very grateful to many people along the way mostly my immediate family, but not everyone wants to see you succeed and once you realize not everyone has the best of intentions when it comes to your business, you really appreciate the people who support you. My PR Representation Tracy Lamourie, CEO and Chief Strategist of Lamourie Media has helped me think about the big picture and not worry about the small stuff. Social Media was very difficult for me, I am a very private person and it was difficult to put myself “out there” at age 55.

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

I am currently working on many new projects that have to do with Wellness, Medical Cannabis and Recreational Cannabis some I can discuss, some I cannot due to non disclosure agreements. What I can tell you is that I am sourcing merchandise for the Mature Cannabis user people who might be dealing with sight or mobility issues. I am also currently working on a huge initiative a Mentorship Program I will be introducing in 2021 that I will be mentioning in from time to time

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?

Great gender quality can be achieved in many ways, firstly women not supporting women due to jealously is the worst think we can do, if we can’t support ourselves how can we expect others to support us, we need more Mentorship Programs, that mix men and women together so we can learn form each other and have a greater understanding of our differences in the way we think and do things. We will never truly grow our industry unless we share our knowledge and stop looking at that as a threat to our businesses. Three things that can be done — individuals looking for ways to support other women and mentoring them, companies thinking about gender equality in hiring practice and society supporting women in business generally more.

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.

First off have a strong business plan although in the ever changing Cannabis Industry you still have to have it even if you are adjusting and tweaking along the way.

Secondly, trust your gut if it doesn’t feel right don’t move forward remember there is a difference between taking a chance and making a really bad decision. I made this mistake when I chose to see the good in too many people. Guess what not everyone is good for you and your business and that’s okay.

Thirdly, never refer to yourself as a healer or anything in that realm, it will come back to bite you hard, I personally have not made this mistake but I have seen others who have…..and it doesn’t work out very good for people.

Next be genuine, people will see right through you right away, I chose to be as genuine as I can be people seem to respond well to my honesty. Let’s face it being on social media and heading a company is much different at 57 then at 27, so I try to be as transparent as possible.

Lastly, be prepared, this is a brand new industry and things are moving, shaking and changing on a daily basis. I mean “The Cannabis Act” in our Country is changing all the time because it is all so new, but you are always learning and that is the best part.

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

The 3 things that excite me is easy, the industry is changing every day and there are so many opportunities are plentiful for keen and smart entrepreneurs, secondly the Cannabis Industry is for the most very ageless, I don’t feel any age discrimination, boomers and seniors are very well respected because lets face it we have used Cannabis the longest a fact no one can argue. Lastly, it excites me that the older generation are really getting on board and finding out the benefits of Cannabis and Medical Cannabis. This goes a very long way in the fight against ending the stigma surrounding Cannabis.

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?

Concerns, yes I have many firstly the Canadian Government as the middleman, realistically they should just take there taxes and be done with it, profit margins are tight in the retail stores and they should be able to buy directly from the growers and pay taxes and collect tax like every other business, this truly is not “free enterprise” If I owned a shoe store I would not have to buy the shoes from the government so I hope to see some changes there so that our citizens can run solid profitable businesses. Secondly, and oversaturation of retail stores and not enough education, unfortunately due to regulations our retail stores can only discuss certain things with their customers which can be tricky when people are self-medicating. Lastly consistency for regulations, I think in some ways we are in a phase of “not sure where that falls” I hope to see more consistency as we move along.

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?

I am in Canada where we are federally legal across the board with a few exceptions depending on the province you live such as be able to grow plants or not. We are doing “okay” but we still have a very long way to go. If Cannabis could be completely legal right across North America it would make thing much better for the Industry.

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?

Cannabis does not have the same chemicals as tobacco, yes it does have resins and carcinogens and can be hard on the lungs but there are so many safe ways to use cannabis without harming your lungs, the same cannot be said for tobacco products. I also think and this is just my opinion that cannabis does not have the carbon monoxide as cigarettes many patients and myself included who use to smoke cigarettes find they do not get as winded and short of breath, again just my opinion.

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

My inspirational quote would be “ Age has no barrier, do it anyways” for obvious reasons

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. 🙂

It would definitely be a Mentorship Program every industry needs one it’s a great way to give back and keep our industry strong and build it for the future. That’s why I am starting Mimi’s Mentorship Program in 2021

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

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