Amandine Ayala is a cannabis entrepreneur and creative based in Amsterdam. In 2017, she launched AMP Smoking, a cannabis lifestyle brand geared towards women. Amandine was inspired to create a welcoming space for women to find cannabis education, gorgeous products, and help stop the stigma. As a solopreneur Amandine has faced her fair share of challenges. From balancing workloads to embracing uncertainty as a one-woman show, her first year in business brought new obstacles and barriers. However, her intentions remain the same - to help share cannabis education, build connections, and make a difference in the lives of others.
What inspired you to enter the cannabis industry?
Starting my own business has been a dream of mine since I was 15. Different ideas came to me over the years but never the drive, motivation or passion to really go for it.
Until I created AMP Smoking.
Please allow me to summarise the story. I had never worked in the cannabis industry before but had been in a very committed long-term relationship with cannabis. I went from smoking weed to escape my reality to loving my reality and making it that much better with smoking weed.
Today, I smoke with intention. This shift didn’t happen in one night.
However, I am so grateful for my journey. It taught me so much about myself, about health and well-being and about the cannabis plant. Cannabis had helped me so much I started doing more research and discovered its incredible healing powers and its ability to save the planet. I was astonished by the numerous benefits this wonderful plant has: on our health, on our lives, on the world’s future.
It was obvious what I needed to do then – empower women cannabis consumers and their loved ones by sharing the great benefits of the Cannabis Lifestyle, in its different forms. and all beautiful things. So I quit my full-time, well-payed job as a Sales Manager in the financial industry to do just that. We’re already one year on, and I cannot see myself moving on from the Cannabis industry.
Tell us more about AMP Smoking.
AMP Smoking exists for women who love Cannabis and gorgeous things. We really wanted to create a soft, safe space to provide education about the plant, to spread its healing powers and share beautiful accessories for elevation.
It’s a gentle community, and all your entourage is welcome. As a cannabis consumer, you know that education is key. AMP Smoking was created to spread the love via our inspiring stories, and everyone can contribute to change the world’s mind and end the stigma.
What kind of cannabis products do you offer?
We offer Cannabis Lifestyle products.
Think CBD wonderfulness, beautiful smoking/vaping/dabbing accessories, divine beauty products, gorgeous art, delicious infusions. We choose our products carefully, to be in line with our values and deep love for our mother Earth.
For example, our CBD product range is 100% organic.
How has cannabis influenced your life?
In so many ways! And oh so positively.
Cannabis has helped me deal with anxiety, depression and sleeping disorder at various times in my life. While at university it sparked my life-long friendship with my best friend, Frankie: the joints we smoked, the gravity bongs we hit, the space cake business we created and (literally) ate to the ground, the rolling lessons I received, the night missions to get our hands on some green, the high ridiculousness – Cannabis brought us together in so many ways.
Today it is still very much part of my life, only in a more subtle, balanced, holistic way. Cannabis supports me on my creative and spiritual endeavours and is no longer a permanent escape to my imaginary life.
I never used to admit I was a cannabis consumer. Today I cannot shut up about it! I’m that person at a Sunday barbecue telling people all about the plant’s benefits, which often goes hand in hand with very personal anecdotes. Cannabis has helped so many people around me you see! I cannot wait until everyone is on board and we can finally benefit from this magical plant the way we deserve to. Until then, I shall keep telling our stories.
What have been your biggest hurdles operating in the cannabis industry so far?
The first thing that comes to mind is legislation. Being based in Amsterdam, it’s easy to underestimate this aspect at first. In truth, cannabis is very much of a grey area here legally speaking. On top of this, the legislation in neighboring European countries is still very much in support of prohibition, which can make it difficult to reach our beloved clients despite AMP Smoking’s products being 100% legal in Europe, the USA, and most of the western world.
What comes hand in hand with prohibition and legal grey areas is sometimes judgment. It was very tough for me at first to deal with people’s judgment when I would shyly announce I had just quit my full-time, well-paying job to launch my very own Cannabis Lifestyle brand. I most certainly got over that.
Lastly, I have to mention a big hurdle of mine which is not necessarily linked to the Cannabis industry and will most likely be common to a few other entrepreneurs: working alone. I went from constant client meetings, networking, conferences, events, teamwork, project task forces, to, well, myself and my computer. And myself. Having the discipline, organization, structure, as well as utter resilience and creativity to do this every day, from scratch, alone, has been challenging. Did I mention the alone part? Ok, my cat was here too…
How have you been able to overcome these challenges?
This is where it gets interesting.
I practice a well-oiled routine, which took me months to master (and I am constantly incorporating new learnings and habits to keep this interesting and fun, too). The first thing I do in the day, regardless of the time I wake & bake, is going for a walk. This wasn’t easy at first (who wants to get out of bed when no one can/will fire them over it?!) but this single daily habit has changed my life.
I do not have coffee, I do not shower, I do not even brush my hair. I put on some trainers and head out immediately (sunglasses preferred). And I walk. From 15 mins to an hour depending on my mood, physical state and mental clarity that day. Most of the time in the park, but sometimes just around the block. That time alone, truly alone, with my thoughts, dreams, plans, that time remembering why I do this and why I got up this morning is what sets my day straight.
My morning walk is paired with a strict no-phone rule for the first hour of the day, meditation most days, and other superb tricks I’ve taught myself over the past year to make working with myself an awesomely rewarding experience.
This routine has also hugely helped with dealing with others’ judgment. It’s simple: mental clarity allows me to remember and honor mine why. Consistent work means that every day I get the opportunity to help, to contribute, even if just a little. And no dirty look, no ill-intentioned comment can ever take that away from me.
As for the legislation, I’m still figuring that one out. My approach so far consists of education and positivity! I take it day-by-day, and can always rely on my growing, supportive network for tips and tricks.
Name the top 3 skills every cannabis entrepreneur needs
#1 Resilience I recently read in an interview that resilience is not a skill, but a trait – oh my! That is such a demotivating idea to have! As much as I believe some people will be naturally more resilient than others, resilience is something you can absolutely teach yourself. As a skill, you can work on it every day and with a lot of practice, eventually master it. I truly believe that. So if you wouldn’t call yourself resilient off the bat, and are planning to start your own cannabiz, get to work! Success rarely happens overnight, and there will be days you want to throw it all away and cry under your duvet in the fetus position. That’s ok. The next day, resilient you will get up and do it all over again. With a gorgeous smile on your face.
#2 Adaptability The cannabis industry is budding (pun very much intended), meaning it’s constantly changing. To stay relevant, it is more important in this industry than any other right now to think ahead and be resourceful. If you are able to see opportunity where others see failure, and to experiment as a result, you are onto something. Something big, maybe even something magic. Approach the process with curiosity, and adapt to the industry to the tides and wave
#3 Boldness Starting a Cannabis Business is pretty bold in itself, I’ll give you that. To become and remain successful in this industry, you need to be willing to take risks and to act innovatively. Be bold! Fear is part of the process, and your job is to trust yourself and take action – basically telling fear to stick it!
What is the best advice you've received recently?
‘Having a bridge job is ok.’ Leverage it for financial freedom and to give yourself space for your creativity to flourish, without (too much) drama and pressure.
I was already doing just that but beating myself up real good about it. It’s ok, really.
Any tips for maintaining a work/life balance?
Firstly, you’ll need to figure out what your true priorities are. Those are not the priorities you think you should have, nor the ones people expect you to have. Once you know what you want in life, what makes you most happy, what gives you energy like nothing else, keep clear boundaries. It’s ok to say no. You simply cannot do everything, see everyone, go everywhere. And that’s ok! A friend wants to stop by with 10 minutes notice and you are in the middle of writing/selling/creating/networking? Decline politely, you’re busy.
Keeping clear boundaries are the most loving thing you can do for your partner, family, friends, clients, and for yourself. Don’t overstretch yourself and your schedule, commit only when you know you’ll make it. Stick to your priorities no matter what.
What are your favorite resources/tools for your business and why?
Google Alerts is a must-have to keep up-to-date with the latest developments in the industry, including legislation, new products, and competitors. It’s free and easy to set up – my daily go-to for purposeful online exploration.
Women of Cannabiz has also been a genuine source of valuable information and undeniable support. It’s amazing how much a reminder that we’re not alone can do for you.
If you could offer an aspiring cannabis entrepreneur one piece of advice, what would it be?
To be clear, there is so much I would tell an aspiring cannabis entrepreneur, but this is by far the most important piece of advice I could give them. The truth is (I found out the hard way): if you’re not true to yourself you’ll just end up frustrated and disconnected.
It is very tempting, especially when you’re starting out in this business, to fall in the trap of: “this company or that company is doing it and they seem so successful and people love them and their products/services and I don’t know what I’m doing really and they probably know best so let me do what they are doing.” Non.
Firstly, unless you know the CEO personally, you can never really know how successful an organization is. Nor how much they suffered to get there if they are. Secondly, even if it works for them, it may not work for you. Checking out the competition is very important, for strategic purposes and for inspiration. Leave it at that. The rest is about you. It’s all about your why actually. What you truly believe in, who you want to help, and how you intend on doing so. And even when it doesn’t work, you will at least have the consolation that you stayed true to who you are and had the courage to put yourself out there.
Sometimes it’s hard not to take it personally, I know. You may even have another ‘crying-fetus-under-the-duvet day’. That’s ok too. But trust me when I say, that will feel a whole lot better than if you pushed yourself to be someone you’re not, to do something you don’t believe in. And the day success knocks on that door of yours, it will be all you. And that’s just magic.
What are your next steps for AMP Smoking?
A true dream of mine is to open a physical space for all.
The Internet is a wonderful thing in the sense that it allows you to reach people you wouldn’t otherwise be able to reach. Whether geographically-speaking or market segment-wise.
Something I feel very strongly about today and that I only really realized in the past year, since launching AMP Smoking, is that I’d rather reach fewer people and reach them real good. I want to help people. To have a cup of tea and a smoke with them. To find out about them. To hear their story. And, if I dare to say, I want to make their lives better.
That’s why our next step is a physical space. Possibly in Amsterdam. A real cozy boutique that I picture like a warm, welcoming living room. Did I mention there is a cat?