Shanita Penny is an internationally recognized management consultant. In fact, she holds over a decade of experience in helping Fortune 500 companies solve complex issues and improve business performance. Her reputation as a strategic thinker and a results-oriented leader flourished during her time in management and consulting roles with companies such as Pepsico, McCormick and Company and JDA Software. Shanita also happens to be a cannabis consumer of over 20 years. In 2015, Shanita took a leap of faith and founded Budding Solutions. A passion for cannabis and expertise in business, Shanita transitioned her consulting business from serving corporate entities to cannabis startups. When she isn't running Budding Solutions, Shanita is working to reform local, national, and state marijuana laws.
In the beginning, what inspired you to get involved with cannabis?
I have consumed cannabis for over 20 years and have always known that in some way I’d get involved from a business standpoint. I’ve suffered from migraines for most of my life and found cannabis to be more helpful than OTC drugs, never considering the prescription drugs my doctor recommended. I also experienced what is now known as a quarter life crisis and grew through that with the help of cannabis and a great therapist.
I began researching the business of cannabis in 2013 and by 2015 I transitioned my consulting business from serving corporate entities to cannabis startups while helping my grandmother care for my grandfather who was diagnosed with cancer and chose not to go through radiation and chemotherapy. I leveraged my knowledge, experiences and cannabiz network to ensure my grandfather had the best quality of life possible and he was with us until last summer, much longer than his doctors expected.
Tell us more about your work as a cannabis activist
I am most proud of the work I have done with the Minority Cannabis Business Association in the last several months. We recently released a model bill that emphasizes ensuring that communities that have been harmed by racial disparities in drug law enforcement can benefit from the growth in the cannabis industry through business ownership, employment, and tax appropriations.
I have spent time going door to door in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill educating and sharing my personal story as well as demanding that the federal government deschedule cannabis through a “smoke-in” protest at the White House. I also try to get involved on a local level wherever my clients are doing or intend to do business.
What was it like building Budding Solutions?
It has been amazing to combine my passion for cannabis and education/professional experiences into my life’s work. It is tough, I remember explaining over and over what I brought to the cannabis industry and my worth as a business consultant when I first got started.
It is starting to pay off and I have recently been sought out because of professional certifications and experience I have in other industries. As the industry evolves it becomes clearer that these methodologies and best practices work in the cannabis industry as well. I look forward to strategic partnerships and hiring a team to take Budding Solutions to the next level very soon.
How has cannabis influenced your life?
Cannabis influenced me to become more aware of what I’m doing and consuming on every level. Cannabis has allowed me to live my best life and now I have the opportunity to share that with the world. I am proud of building a consulting business that I was able to transition to a cannabiz. I took a chance, never looked back and it was because I was so confident in this plant and what I could do with my passion for it and helping others!
Any tips for maintaining a work/life balance?
Do it! Work/life balance is different for everyone. Some might say I work every day of the week but I am living my best life and making my dreams a reality. If I’m not working on business, it’s advocacy or education or just helping to break down the negative perceptions of cannabis…my life is cannabis and I love it!
I love working sessions that include 420 breaks and networking with cannabis as opposed to alcohol. I eat right, stay active and from time to time I just say NO, to work or things that are not impactful!
Name one habit that has helped you be successful.
Under promising and over delivering!!!
What is the number one mistake you see cannabis companies making?
Operating in the “gray area.” I have turned down clients because they are not willing to comply with or fight for the regulations needed to operate the business. This is especially true in DC, where it is legal for adult residents to grow and share cannabis but not sell it, yet.
When it comes to licensing, what do cannabis companies need to know?
Hire or partner with experts, manage and maintain ownership of your vision, finally, don’t give up! Many states are capping licenses, making the licensing process very competitive so being open minded to other opportunities in the cannabis industry is important.
What is the biggest challenge you've faced working in the cannabis industry?
Trusting people to do what they say they can or will do. I learned some expensive lessons very early on and have bounced back better than I could have imagined. Those experiences and my network allow me to vet individuals and companies much better now.
Name 3 traits every cannabis entrepreneur needs
Integrity, Patience, Persistence
If you could offer an aspiring cannabis entrepreneur one piece of advice, what would it be?
Do it now, don’t wait! If you’re still working 9-5 in some other industry or for someone, you should be working from 5-9 on your projects, at least!