Rosie Yagielo is the founder of HempStaff. Spending the majority of her career in training, sales, and recruiting – Rosie realized the need for her expertise in the cannabis industry. Teaming with a consultant in Colorado, Rosie founded HempStaff. A professional training and staffing agency for the medical marijuana industry, HempStaff matches employees with employers. Providing live training courses from Colorado to Connecticut, Rosie and her team travel the country educating people on how to enter the cannabis industry. Passionate about helping others, Rosie is dedicated to helping people connect in the cannabis community.
Starting out, what motivated you to get involved with cannabis?
It was one of those multifaceted things. I spent the majority of my career working in training, recruiting, and sales for hotels. I was up in the Fort Lauderdale area for about 15 years. Then, my husband and I moved to The Keys. I was going through a previous knee injury at the time. I knew that being on a hotel floor was no longer going to be good for me. So, when we moved to The Keys, I had my knee replaced. At that point, there was this decision of what I was going to do for the rest of my life. I was 50. Was I going to try and go back to the hotels or take a different direction?
During this time, I was also watching the cannabis industry grow and explode in Colorado. Before long, there were discussions in Florida about getting it on the ballot. This was around 2012 when it started happening. In the back of my mind, I was trying to figure out if this is something I could do. Watching the cannabis industry progress I realized I could do this. This is what I do – I train and recruit. Even though I’m not sure medical marijuana is going to be in Florida right now, I can still put together a program together that can help people get jobs. Because that’s me, I want to help people.
On a personal side, I’m also an organic girl. I don’t take medications over the counter because it is my choice. I was given way too many pills as a kid. I believe people want something more natural that isn’t killing their liver. Here in Florida, where this is such a senior population, people want to be active. And this is especially true in The Keys. Everyone is on the water and loves to be outside. They don’t want a medication like an opioid that is going to keep them couch-locked. So they look for something more organic. People don’t want something that has been created in some lab to put into their body. So, my inspiration for getting started in this industry has really come from a number of areas.
Can you tell us a little bit more about HempStaff?
I put together a program with a consultant in Colorado who had experience in the industry. Having worked everything from a trimmer to a site worker to the general manager of a dispensary, she had a lot of insight. With my background in recruiting and training, I knew we could put together a great program. I also knew there were a lot of people already in the industry looking to take that next step in their career.
I was also aware that a lot of people wanted to get into the industry but didn't have the resources. This is what propelled me to start HempStaff. When we do our training, my team and I go to the state we are training in. It is not online. We believe in being hands-on. We discuss the specific regulations of that state as well as the job opportunities. And, of course, we also talk about the recruiting aspects.
We help people with their resumes and provide them with a template to make it easy. Some folks have never had to write a resume before. Others have these fantastic 3-page long resumes but it’s from their previous job and doesn’t translate to this industry. So we work on all of those aspects. But we also help educate potential patients. We have people that are coming to our classes to deepen their own understanding. For example, they may want to get their medical card. Often, these people don’t want to have to depend on someone else at a dispensary to give them knowledge, so they are getting it themselves. Our classes are meant to help.
What does a day in the life of Rosie consist of today?
A typical day for me, I’m generally in the office from 9-5. But usually, my computer is on from 8am to at least 9pm, five days a week. It may only be a couple of hours on the weekend. Generally, I'm handling calls and emails from potential students that are taking the class, want to take the class, or have taken the class and are looking for some advice.
I also receive a lot of calls from companies looking to find qualified candidates. We tend to be headhunters on the higher end. A lot of business owners that want to get into the industry in new states know what they want to do but not how to do it. So they are calling me to find a master grower from Colorado because they need someone with 4-5 years of experience for example. Businesses are very specific in what their needs are and we have to go out and find that candidate for them.
We tend to recruit the master growers, processors, and dispensary managers. That is what we tend to be hired the most for in the headhunting arena. My recruiters have a lot of those folks in their database because as these new states come on board, that means new applications are open and people are looking for these very specific highly experienced folks. So, I kind of handle these calls all day long along as well as working with my recruiters in the different districts.
Any tips on maintaining a work-life balance?
I live on an island, so on the weekends, I may only be working 3 or 4 hours a day. We go kayaking as a family or listen to live music. Luckily, there is always something to do. We definitely enjoy our occasional weekends off into Key West. Living close to the beach, we do spend a lot of time in the water or on the water when we are not working. But I joke all the time with my family that I thought I worked a lot when I worked for Marriott. But even though it is a lot of hours, it is fun! I enjoy the fact that I get to give back.
What do you do on a daily basis to grow as an entrepreneur/person?
I am a reader. As a company and as a team, our goal is to constantly be in touch with what is going on in every state whether there is a program or not. So a lot of our job is research. My class changes every time I go back to a city because things change in that state. We’re going into Baltimore in 3 weeks for example. But right now my day consists of updating the presentation and manual because things have changed in the last 2 months since I’ve been there. Every time I teach a class, things are updated. We want to make sure that everything we put out is the most up to date and accurate information.
If you could offer a first-time cannabis entrepreneur one piece of advice, what would it be?
Network. The network is the most important thing. Take a state like Florida for example. Two years ago, everyone thought the legislation was going to pass. So, there was a huge network. Everyone was everybody’s best friend. When it didn’t pass, a lot of folks left. It went from a huge network to something much smaller. But my idea was already bigger than life in my head. I never meant it to just be Florida when I started HempStaff; I meant it to be nationwide. But then again, that is how I am. I am a big-picture kind of person.
One of the things that we do for our classes is that if people are able to pass a test (a 20-question multiple choice exam) they can come back to any of our other classes for free. Why? Because I want them to come back and network with each other. I want them to look around the room and know the people who they may be working with. That is really important in this industry, that network. My goal is to help people succeed. Whether it is the business owner, the candidate, or both. Those are the kinds of days where I walk out of my class with tears in me eyes. In my mind, I call it the canna-connection. Those are the moments that keep me going and working on a Saturday.
What excites you as a woman in the cannabis industry?
I love watching women soar. When I first started talking and researching, there was an 80/20 split of men and women. 80% of the industry were men, 80% of the consumers were men, and 80% of the cardholders and workers were men. The number of women in the industry has now jumped up to about 30% in the last few years. We’ve gained a 10-11% and that’s fantastic! Cannabis is gender neutral. Women can grow, men can grow. Women can be crazy and try to start a company out of the blue in a state that doesn’t even have a program yet like I did!
Describe to us the most exciting moment of your entrepreneurial journey.
There was an event that I went to. And I don’t want to name the person’s name because he is known in the industry. But he was speaking and I caught 5 minutes of his time after the event. This about 3 years ago. I pitched him HempStaff. I asked him – what do you think about this idea? He looked at me and said, “I think you can do anything you want to do as long as you put your mind to it.”
It was a simple statement but for whatever reason that day coming from him, it really hit me. That this was a feasible thing. I thought I needed him to help me. But he looked me straight in the eye and told me I didn’t need him. That I could absolutely do this thing on my own. Because of that, he gave me my wings that day. I didn’t even know I needed my wings that day but for whatever reason, that was the lift. That was the moment I decided to really write my business plan out. To get out my notebook and make this thing a real business plan. So, I did and here we are.