International Women's Day | Melissa MJ Stapley

Melissa MJ Stapley
has joined us here at Hemp Botanics to celebrate International Women's Day 2022. Melissa and Lisa-Marie go way back to 2015 when Melissa managed accounts for us. She was our hottest account manager. She then went on to develop her ventures. Lisa describes Melissa as consistent, humble, and tenacious. It was a pleasure to have Melissa celebrate with us. Look below or listen here to see what they had to speak about and why Melissa MJ Stapley is one of our inspirations. 

MJ: My name is Melissa Jane. I go by MJ, which is very fitting for the industry. I’ve been working in the cannabis industry 7 years now, since 2015 as you mentioned when we met. My background is really in corporate leadership & sales. And so, when I got into the cannabis industry 7 years ago, I was introduced to the benefits of CBD and wanted to get into an industry where I could make a difference, be impactful and grow. I went into the sales side from the ground up and haven't looked back since. In 2017 I decided to start my business, MJ Hybrid solutions, which is an online education and training program for retailers and brands. I wanted to bridge the gap between new cannabis consumers, who were starting to see it go mainstream, and help these businesses effectively communicate with their consumers. To help consumers make sure they get the right products for their needs. As well as retailers understanding what it is they were selling. 

Lisa-Marie: I can certainly back that up as we’ve taken your training program on board here at Hemp Botanics. Any of our newcomers will be tested, essentially. But MJ Hybrid Solutions is a great platform and we would certainly encourage it. That platform is available to people in the UK as well. 

Lisa-Marie: What inspired you to develop your idea? 

MJ: I started at CV sciences, which is where we met. Remember, I went to work for Pure Ratios, which is another CBD brand, and helped launch their products into the market. While I was working there I also started working more and more with local dispensaries in California, that's when I really started to see that huge gap in trading. So as new consumers were coming in, they needed to understand what it is. What cannabis can do and what products were right for them. We were so early on with the CBD market, there weren't a lot of brands so it was easy for people to say 'Oh my product is the best and this is why you need to try my product'. As we're growing it's not necessarily about why my products are the best, it's more about how my products can help you. So I really saw a disconnect there and started working with the local dispensaries that needed CBD training. I added content I was working on and they saw a huge increase in their sales. I realised from there that this is a great idea, I need to move forward with it. I want to be able to help train and develop employees to better serve the consumers. I feel like by doing that right, we're helping bridge the gap. We're helping to break the stigma. Every consumer matters right now. As we grow in the cannabis industry, we're trying to get federal legalisation and make this a worldwide movement.

Lisa-Marie: Yeah, we absolutely love what you do. It's great to empower people and you've helped us with the training you offered us. The next question I have for you: Did you have any challenges when you entered into this space being so brand new, not necessarily having that much competition? What sort of challenges did you face in this new territory if you like? 

MJ: I think the biggest thing I ran into early on was because I was trying to push that it was a sales program. There was a little pushback for the word 'sales' as the dispensaries were really stuck on the education piece. Yes, everyone needs education and product knowledge. But I was really pushing the sales training side of it, the customer service side. People didn't understand. They'd say: 'We're not trying to just sell to consumers this is people's medicine.' A lot of people have that old car salesman mentality. I would try to explain again; I was just trying to teach people how to sell effectively. I wanted to meet the consumers' needs. When your employees are empowered and understand what they are selling, they are then going to empower their consumers and make them feel confident in their purchases. Consumers who are empowered and confident will buy more and come back often as well as spread the word. Not only will you help your business grow, you're able to actually meet the needs of your consumers. So it's being able to show people that this is the type of training I offer. I'm not trying to show you how to sell and swindle your consumers into buying products they don't need. 

Lisa-Marie: You're listening to your consumers, answering their needs. 

MJ: Yeah, Listen to your consumers and give them what they need. I think the upselling techniques are also in there but there are ways to teach people to understand that when you buy more of something per se, you might save money per capsule or per milligrams or per gram. Depending on what you're buying. It's getting people to understand that and how to relay that message to the consumer so they are getting more for their buck too. 

Lisa-Marie: Cool, yes. In your view, how would you define success? 

MJ: I think success, for me, can come down to impact. The impact you have on others, what you're doing to leave others better off. Success is also defined by your business. I'm still in business 5 years later, the money side of things and the growth of your business is huge. But the kind of impact you're leaving on others and how you're actually helping develop others to be in a better position. To me, this is what success is all about. 

Lisa-Marie: Beautiful. This is an interesting one, which I haven't asked you before. Was there anybody that inspired you to become the leader that you are today and if so why? 

MJ: One of my really good friends inspired me, Heather. We were on a trip to Hawaii at the end of 2016 and that is when I decided to move forward with starting MJ Hybrid Solutions. She did a lot of consulting and similar training within the dental industry. She would go in and work with other dental offices throughout the country. She's a very good leader, very strong and confident. That was something we sat at the beach and talked about. What we can do. She really helped inspire me over the last couple of years with what she was doing with her business so, in terms of someone I know directly, she played a big part in that as she also help a lot with the content and overviewing it. When you look at other women leaders, Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx and Jamie Lima, founder of IT cosmetics. Listening to their stories of not giving up and what they had to go to get their business to where it is is super powerful and motivational. 

Lisa-Marie: It's amazing that you have other women driving you to do so. It's beautiful that you've got such a good friendship to be able to sit down, take time out and listen. It can be hard to get strong friendships these days after everything that's been going on. To hear that is truly inspiring. I hope your words bring encouragement to women and the relationships they have. The goals, dreams and aspirations that they're trying to achieve. 

MJ: One thing I'd like to add. What's important is that we all have different strengths and weaknesses. I think that when looking up to people or mentors, understand what their strengths are. Understand what your strengths are and how you can work together. What can they do to help in one area that maybe you struggle with and vice-versa. We all have to figure out for ourselves what works for us. I may speak in a different way than you. But utilising that to your benefit is so important. It's important to understand the value in that. 

Lisa-Marie: It builds your confidence, it allows you to try and reach your goals a little faster and I've certainly found that in my situation. It's a great Synergy. My next question: What advice would you give somebody who is trying to become an entrepreneur?

MJ: I always say is that you have your 'long-term' goal as an entrepreneur. What you want to build etc. I think it's important to understand what it is but know that you will most likely have to change your steps or pivot along the way and that's ok. A lot of times we get so caught up in wanting things to be a certain way. We think that if it doesn't work out, it's done. Instead of realising that it's ok to pivot. it's ok to change up those goals. It's ok to slow down and speed up. An example is when I came back here, I started a second business with the CBD products I had helped sell before. I needed to push and move to be able to see what else I can do. It didn't work out. My training business is what was really sticking so I went back. It's super important to try different things and see what works for you. Understand that not everything will work out but you can't just stop because one thing didn't work. You can ask every successful entrepreneur. The majority of their answers are: 'I'm here is because I didn't give up. I'm no different from you, no different from her. The biggest difference is that I didn't give up. I don't have any special skills per se. I learnt. I did different things but never gave up.' How far are you willing to go and for how long? You look at successful people and for most of them, it took 15 years to get their name out there, especially leadership and development coaches. It's important to understand, it's a long game, depending on what you're doing. There can be some quick successes but it's progress. It is learning to love the progress and growth along the way. 

Lisa-Marie: That's such sound advice. 100% I aline with that. So, looking at the next chapter. Have you got any new goals that you're setting out? I know we're only just coming out of the pandemic so people are trying to regroup and rebuild from where we left off. 

MJ: I just built a personal website It's more geared around cannabis consulting. So it works in conjunction with the MJ Hybrid Solutions platform. One thing I really want to do is start working more closely with retailers and brands. I've done a little bit and seen some success from it. On top of the training program, maybe I'd like to go in and offer to revamp businesses that have opened and gotten stuck. I want to offer help creating customised programmes or overlooking for a month and working towards a revamp. That's something that I'd love to do because I like that interaction, that face-to-face and having that type of impact.

Lisa-Marie: That sounds right up your alley. I think that's going to be really interesting to see unfold. That sounds great. 

MJ: Yeah, we'll see. I mean with work right now, I have some people online training. Then I'm working on doing some more one on one consulting with them and their management. Kind of working side by side with the training program.

Lisa-Marie: That sounds really good. I think I need to move to America. Well, that's it. We're not going to pick away anymore. We've certainly enjoyed our time with you today. Thank you very very much for giving us your time and a bit of your inside scoop/behind the scenes. 

MJ: Thank you, Lisa-Marie. Speaking of women entrepreneurs. You've played a big part too the last several years in the cannabis industry since we've met. You took my calls when I moved to a new company and when I started my own thing so I appreciate you for that too. You've played a big part in that. 

Lisa-Marie: Oh, you made it super easy, you're just so on it. You're so on form it's always a pleasure to work with you. There's never a question mark over what it is you're trying to do or achieve. You're always available and you're always working and it's always just done. You can't argue that. You've got lovely energy. I'll let you crack on with the rest of your day and the rest of your week. We will connect real soon. 

MJ: Yeah, keep me posted. Thank you so very much for having me on. 

MJ Hybrid Solutions

March 07, 2022 — Roshie Rahrow